Hiragana Times July 2006 on NJ police brutality by Osaka cops



Hi Blog. Another in the ongoing series re Japan’s judiciary. Retyping from document, sorry for any typos. Only time enough to render English version for now. (And yes, the comma-less sentences, poor syntax, and mediocre writing are in the original; no wonder many Japanese find English hard to read!). Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Hiragana Times July 2006, No. 237, pages 25-27
Courtesy of James

At about 2AM on March 1, 2006, James, an American living and working as an English language teacher and his Japanese wife Sachiko were outside on the street near their apartment building in Osaka. That night Sachiko had been out having dinner with her former co-workers. When she arrived home, she thought James was asleep and went out again to go to the corner convenience store to buy some food. James followed her outside as he was aware that that part of Osaka wasn’t safe late at night.

While Sachiko was telling James where she was going, approximately six policemen arrived in two police cars, and two more police were on foot running towards them. “So a total of eight police suddenly surrounded us,” James recalled.

The couple produced proof of their identities. “I immediately began to explain that this was our residence and that I was Sachiko’s husband. The police completely ignored them [sic], and did not listen or care at all,” James said.

James says he believes the large height difference between them (he has a large build and is 6’3″) added to the fact that they were new to the neighborhood and were speaking in English at such an early hour was bound to catch attention, and his assumption is that someone called the police.

James points out that he had not been drinking or arguing and was not acting in a loud or noisy manner. “I never provoked the police at any time,” he says. “I was calm and polite to them. I was never disrepectful to htem.” James was then forced into a police car and the couple were taken to the “T” police station.

The police refused his request for an English interpreter. “They attacked me and were beating, hitting, and kicking me all over my body. They rammed my head into concrete wall, kicked my back, and punched my neck and head area numerous times. Two of them then held me against the wall, while another one began choking my neck with my own necktie. I screamed for help.”


“They all threw me down hard on the floor, and then ordered me to get up and sit on a chair. I was already in great pain all over my body. I held up my hand and said, ‘please help me stand up.’ One of the policemen was just shaking and spitting at me like a crazy person. He became angrier and then he pulled me up by the hair. He then began to hit the back of my head with his fist again. He kept on repeating ‘this is Japanese police system,’ at the same time he was yelling and laughing at me. I gave up all hope. I thought that they were going to kill me. Everything around me became black, I vomited and felt nausea, experienced double-vision, and coughed up blood. I cried for a doctor and a hospital, but they refused my emergency request.”

Did the couple receive an explanation as to why they had been taken into custody? “Sachiko was told that this was just the Japanese police system,” James says. “My wife and I both tried to explain, but they ignored our explanations. This is Japan, and here you are a suspect for the simple fact that you are a non-Japanese. And you are guilty until proven innocent. They can even hold you for three days without even letting you call a lawyer, and they can also lock you up for 23 days without even charging you with a crime.”


James says he still experiences trauma and nightmares due to the attack and has been unable to return to work due to the injuries he received. He also made a point of obtaining a doctor’s medical certificate the day after the ordeal.

To try to redress the situation, the couple has reported the events to the American Consulate, Amnesty International, the United Nations and the Osaka Prefectural Government’s Human Rights department, all of which are monitoring and investigating the case. “It has also been exposed that the same ‘T’ police station has been investigated for similar human righs abuse and violence towards other non-Japanese citizens in the past.’ James says.

James says he asked for the policemen’s names and police ID badge numbers, but they all refused to tell him. “They never even apologized to me, told me my rights, what I was charged with, and they finally never even arrested me. And yet they forcefully detained me and beat me for three hours. They simply tossed us out of the police station at about 5AM. I have been told by numerous organizations that this is a clear violation of the penal code Articles 194 and 195.”


James assumes and has been informed by the Osaka Bar Lawyers Assocation that the police were planning that he would retaliate or use violence so that they would then have an excuse and justification to immediately arrest. “I never resisted or did anything to justify their violence. I was a victim of police brutality,” he says.

James believes Japanese police have too much power, and points out that there is really no way to file a complaint within the police department, since they have no internal affairs sections. “So they are judge and juror, and know no one is watching their action, so they are free to do whatever they feel like.”


27 comments on “Hiragana Times July 2006 on NJ police brutality by Osaka cops

  • Wow, that is pretty intense.

    While studying in Japan I did take a course on the Japanese criminal justice system called “The Struggle for Justice.” That is indeed what it seems foreigners in Japan are in many cases struggling for.

  • You know, I’m fascinated by Japan, am planning to study abroad there next year, and wouldn’t be opposed to living or working there for some period in my future. But articles like these terrify me about what treatment I might receive. To think that a civilized, first world country can have issues like these is terrible news for those like myself (and most readers here) who are interested in experiencing all that the world has to offer.

  • Disgraceful.

    A clear example of racist and downright criminal cops.

    These guys behave like this as they think they can get away with it.

    No wonder none of us trust the NPA.

  • Alex – Japan is generally safe and the police are GENERALLY not a problem, so you should come and live here and see things for yourself.

    However, be aware that the cops here view all foreigners suspiciously. To them, you’re just a potential criminal no matter you’ll be paying their salaries through any taxes you pay here. There’s little understanding of foreigners and their backgrounds. Indeed, I would venture to say that few have any non-Japanese friends at all (unlike in most Western countries where people are exposed to various diversity) so know no other world than Japan and cannot relate to non-Japanese. Sad.

  • This is an extreme case of police brutality. I wonder if there has been any follow up to this case? Are the investigations likely to bring a result?
    I guess the J media wouldnt touch this.

  • Mark, I think you are right about policemen having no foreign friends. I wonder how often they make a trip abroad, or even a bit further away. A few years ago I read “The Japanese Police System Today” by L. Craig Parker (M E Sharpe, 2001), and the author knew the chief of the Okayama Prefectural Police quite well – and what I remember is, that this police chief was not even allowed to leave Okayama Prefecture in his free time! (Sorry, I don’t have the book here now, so cannot give page numbers.)

    So if the police bosses cannot even travel through Japan, how should they get to know even foreign countries?

  • This is incredible. It seems the article is from July 2006 – a long time ago – so does anyone know if there is any update or how the matter resolved?

  • Ouch. This James should have made a website, along with pictures of the damage, copies of doctors reports, the whole ten yards. The woman who bought the nasty flip-flops from Walmart did something like that and I think it really helps a case by getting it public.

  • [quote]InJM Says:
    April 17th, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    Ouch. This James should have made a website, along with pictures of the damage, copies of doctors reports, the whole ten yards.[/quote]

    Exactly, it would help and if possible put on YouTube too. Can UN or other organization do something about it? Nope! Why? Because they will interact with J land internal affairs, so if GoJ don`t change the system (they won`t) it will stay as it is. Pressure from outside is always ignored by Japan but if comes to their citizens abroad than they scream and want to change anything. I think all Gov. should take example from Japanese one in such case.

  • Not quite the Japan the english teachers flock to the country for is it? Just terrible. Even though I would never get involved in any incident and avoid the police like the plague, here these people were just going to the convenience store! What can you do?

  • I want the name of that station. And I say we picket outside the station in broad daylight. Call some media people. Write all the protest signs in Japanese. The guys is a teacher? I bet his students love him. Have them, and their parents come out. Sue the entire government.

    This isn’t supposed to happen in a civilized society.

    (Wait, where am I again? Oh yeah…. nevermind.)

  • hello everyone yes it was in 2006, but it feels like yesterday because the osaka cops have not changed a bit in fact them have actually got worse and more corrupt. and by the way the police station is in toyonaka. the reason that it was not included in the original manuscript was to protect the legal rights of the magazine, which of course was japanese owned, thats the reason i guess.or maybe hes worried about going to jail for freedom of speech.. james in osaka

  • Kakui Kujira says:

    Interesting comments about the police not knowing any NJ. Many years ago one of my female friends was seeing a policeman for a while. But he was told by his superiors that having a foreign girlfriend could get he fired!

  • If there was any story that might re-iterate Japanese inferiority-complex towards “fourain peplez takin dar womanz” this might just do the trick.

    Overall don’t all of you think that it would have done the man better, to not only document everything afterwards (any types of media, video probably best) and go around to all the kobans and police stations til he found the men who did this to him? Seems it is just as futile and time cosuming as trying to contact the United Nations Human Rights group

  • Does anyone else see even a passing resemblance to the Police and the pre-war way of thinking toward foreigners thinking? It seems that these policemen think they are the protectors of all things sacred from the evil foreign influence.

  • One side of the story. Just because it is written by this person does not mean all the facts are true. People should not automatically say, “wow, that was terrible. Those cops should be arrested”.

    Do Japanese cops sometimes harass non-japanese? Hell yes.

    Should we all assume this story is completely accurate. Hell no.

    –I guess the Hiragana Times taking a risk by publishing this story has no bearing on its accuracy? Or is the Hiragana Times just not as trustworthy as other refereed journals or published sources?

  • I don’t care if it is the LA Times. That doesn’t make it accurate or unbiased. My god. I think the newspapers and sights can be very biased whether it is the Hiragana Times, Los Angeles Times or Japan Times.

  • the hiragana times investigated the facts before the story was published and they confirmed the accounts with other third party sources. they are not going to print just anything with-out double checking other references, etc. some people in japan just for some ungodly reason believe that this kind of injustice will never effect their life, until it suddenly does!
    this is 2008, but japan is light years behind in there human rights/civil liberties….

  • I’m not from Japan, but I’ve been following closely Japanese society issues such as these and I must say I’m shocked!

    I’m sure there are people that will claim there’s only one point of view being reported here and that the police department’s account may be not reported or even overlooked. Granted, we probably don’t have all the facts, but if the old maxim that goes, “there are 3 sides to every story-your side, my side, and the truth,” where the truth lies somewhere in the middle, you’ve got to admit the truth to this story is pretty unconscionable.

  • This story is very sketchy. Sorry, James, it sounds bogus. They beat you at the police station just for the fun of it? Were they asking any questions that you refused to answer? What were the questions?

  • so you mean if a person refuses to answer the polices questions then they have a right to beat someone? you must not have lived in japan for along time, or you must live on planet mars….

  • Bad, your reply is very sketchy. You give no legal reasons why a police should be beating someone they brought in for questioning, not to mention that it sounds like they did not arrest him! Do you realize a detainee has the right to remain silent (whether or not the gentleman in this case did so)? The right to remain silent means that a detainee is not required to answer whatever questions the police ask and does not indicate a policeman should force an answer through a beating. Period. Full stop, and all that jazz. What difference would it make what the questions were?

    Who knows, there may be some details missing in this recounting of the events, but I am sorry to inform you that it is a FACT that such things have happened, on a varying scale, to foreigners and Japanese alike, whether you are willing to believe it or not.

  • “While Sachiko was telling James where she was going, approximately six policemen arrived in two police cars, and two more police were on foot running towards them”

    Police can’t be that fast, can they?
    In the time it takes to say ‘I’m going to the conbini?’


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