Japan Today on Spa! magazine’s expose of “Monster Gaikokujin” (tourists and residents)


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog.  It seems the “NJ blame game” I mentioned earlier this year is still continuing in the Japanese media.  Japan Today reports tabloid magazine Spa! coining a special word to describe “monster gaikokujin” wreaking havoc and laying waste to Japan.  Of course, Japanese tourists are ever so well behaved, and they don’t do things like deface a world heritage site and the like.  And Japanese overseas don’t commit crime.  Never ever.  But imagine the howls of protest in the J media (and the J embassies) should the Italian media decry “mostruoso niapponese“.  Ah well.  More bad social science by media that seems convinced that the Japanese language is some kind of secret code unintelligible to the outside world.  Twits.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


‘Monga’ in our midst

Japan Today, February 11, 2009.  By Magda Lupescu.  Courtesy of SH, MS, and many others.


“They get into jacuzzis at onsens still covered with body soap, punch out taxi drivers and so on. Here we pursue the mode of life of the foreigners who swagger in our faces during Japan’s recession!”

This week’s issue of Spa! (Feb 17) then proceeds with a four-page polemic against foreign tourists and residents titled “Report of Monster Foreigners on the Rampage.”

Spa! employs the word “monga” for this phenomenon, a neologism of created by combining “monsutaa” (monster) and “gaikokujin” (foreigner).

The article’s opening page is topped with a dorsal view of the British tourist who went skinny dipping in the Imperial Palace moat last October, just seconds prior to his arrest. How ironic, the magazine notes, that the same month the gentleman took his swim the Japanese government established a new Tourism Agency under the umbrella of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.

The first half of Spa’s article is devoted to mutterings over the misadventures of foreign tourists, whose irritating peccadilloes range from utilizing their flashes (which is prohibited) at Tsukiji’s early morning fish auctions to haggling tenaciously over the prices of optional extras in an erotic massage parlor.

One “maid” employed by a shop at Akihabara relates her own tale of woe: While distributing flyers on the street she was pursued by a group of five or six cackling black males, exclaiming “Meido-san! Meido-san!” as they recorded her image with video cameras.

“I was terrified, fled for my life,” she shudders.

A kaiten-zushi shop owner, meanwhile, is convinced the plastic bottles of water from which South Korean patrons sipped while seated at his counter really contained shochu (grain spirits) that they had “ripped off” from somewhere.

An accompanying sidebar titled “What is the source of the increase in foreigners who wander off the beaten track?” complains that foreign-language guidebooks fail to instill proper decorum and frequently guide readers to places that are irrelevant, while downplaying spots that foreign visitors are likely to enjoy—such as the Mitsuo Aida Museum in Yurakucho and Museum of Swords (Token Hakubutsukan) in Yoyogi, Shibuya Ward. (Neither museums’ websites however, provide maps in English and it appears the latter’s has not been updated for about one year.)

The same sidebar also complains bitterly that in its introduction to Yanaka Cemetery in Nippori, the Michelin guide mentions Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the last Tokugawa Shogun, in the same breath with Oden Takahashi, a notorious murderess who was the last woman to be executed by decapitation — while completely overlooking other famous individuals interred therein.

The second half of the article swivels its guns toward foreigners living in Japan, featuring such “monga” as a satyric Turk who reveled in enticing local women to participate in his Roppongi orgies, and Filipinas who have overstayed their entertainer’s visas by a decade or longer.

Vernacular articles focusing on misbehavior by foreigners have regularly appeared in Sapio, a bimonthly magazine with a strong nationalistic slant published by Shogakukan. But Spa!, until fairly recently at least, has been largely indifferent to foreigners here, preferring to cover behavior by the natives. As such, its entry into the fray came as something of a surprise.

Spa!, known as Shukan Sankei until 1989, is published by Fusosha, a wholly owned subsidiary of Fuji TV. The Audit Bureau of Circulation put its weekly sales at 113,397 copies in the first half of 2008.

10 comments on “Japan Today on Spa! magazine’s expose of “Monster Gaikokujin” (tourists and residents)

  • Courtesy of MMT:

  • “But imagine the howls of protest in the J media (and the J embassies) should the Italian media decry “mostruoso niapponese“.”

    That’s because Japanese tourists on average tend to be regarded as very well behaved.


    However, I haven’t heard “howls of protest in the J media” when foreign news outlets have criticized Japanese tourists as a whole when individuals do misbehave. For example, Japanese sex tourism is a constant theme in the overseas media, and the “J Media” generally covers it in either a matter-of-fact way, or with contrition.

    And besides which, “Spa!” is hardly representative of mainstream media coverage in Japan. Negative stereotypes of foreigners abound in tabloid articles overseas.

    Nothing to see here.

    — If existence of negative (and unfair) stereotypes abounding in overseas media too is the best defense you can come up with for saying it’s okay to happen here, then the obvious counterargument is “two wrongs don’t…”. Moreover, negative stereotypes of Japanese (including tourists) in the overseas media are very much taken up in the J media. And that’s very often in media “more mainstream”, as you put it, than “Spa!”. Examples in book JAPANESE ONLY, for one.

    As for the image of being very well behaved as tourists, great, but so what? Tourists of any stripe misbehave. So do residents. So can anybody. Criticize the misbehavior, not the nationality. But when the criticism goes too far in the media, criticize the lack of balance too. This is all commonsensical. Trying to make an argument for exceptionalism for Japanese people then not for Japanese media is a hard sell.

  • I can just see the scathing Just Be Cause you’ve got planned for this one. Of course it’s targeted at the wrong group but why let that stop you?

    The right way to approach this, especially since it got coverage in a forum you have connections with would be to write a Japanese editorial/rebuttal. I would suggest documenting cases where the Japanese got angry about how their tourists were portrayed. I would start with the group who got hauled in for their drunken orgy in China a few years ago first. Pointing out that this isn’t a “foreigner in Japan” problem but a “foreigner in any country” problem, and that the Japanese are just as guilty as anyone, might bring some understanding to the issue to the people you would need to convince – the Japanese – not just regurgitate it to the English speakers who are well aware of how we are often portrayed.

    — Jerry, can’t you make your very salient point without bashing me? If I had a forum for writing this in Japanese for a Japanese audience, I would consider taking up this topic for it. But blaming me for not having a regular Japanese column is unfair.

  • Agreed with Jerry, minus the bashing. I sincerely believe that Japanese people need to hear this in Japanese. Have you gotten any offers to write a j-column in any of the papers or other outlets? You’re certainly very capable from other things I’ve read on your site 🙂

    — Thanks. I agree that this needs to be heard in Japanese. But I’m one guy with only so much “world enough and time”. I have been asked to contribute a column to Japanese newspapers before (two in Asahi Watashi No Shiten and one in Kyodo, plus lots in less highly-profiled media), but only as one-offs. Sorry. It’s not as if I’m turning away invitations. 🙂

    People who feel strongly about this too are encouraged to write to the J media in Japanese as well. It’s not as though I’m holding anyone back from expressing themselves in Japanese.

  • Have you written to Spa!? Perhaps they accept letters to the editor. Perhaps they would be happy to hear another point of view.

    I kind of agree with Jerry on this one. This kind of post just makes me angry, not at you, but at the way NJ are represented in the J. Media. That said, I can’t see the purpose of this post. I don’t like to feel angry and it has already been well drummed in that the J. media likes to harsh on us NJ.

    On the other hand if someone brought this to the J. media or even the J. public I can see that it might spark a debate and maybe effect a change down the road. To be honest, this idea has been on my mind recently because of the things we are told in the news are often kept out of the J. media or at least downplayed. Things like the high levels of mercury in tuna and hijiki to slaughtering and eating dolphins, to international uproar about whale fishing. Then there are the more upsetting issues like child prostitution, child pornography and human trafficking. I find it ironic that they complain in the article about Filipinas overstaying their visas but they don’t mention the poor souls who are not allowed go home, who have their passports kept from them. From someone who worked in a ward office in Tokyo I have heard that it is common for Filipinas to beg to be sent home.If they have overstayed their visas they will be deported but if not they have to stay.

    Basically what I am saying is what we all know – the news is unbalanced. I’m not sure that discussing it amongst ourselves is going to change anything though which is why I think Jerry is right, we have to bring it to the J. media or create a forum in Japanese to let the Japanese people know what is going on.

    — Go for it!

  • Wonder how the Japanese media might be feeling about the recent article in The Onion that’s been making the rounds. Yes, the one about the twisted porn. Although the Onion does have a big point in its favor. It’s a satirical magazine that doesn’t pretend to report the truth. The anti-gaijin rags don’t make the same claim, do they?

    Anyway, if they’re taking examples of weirdos from abroad doing uniquely gaijin things that no Japanese ever do, I suppose it’s fair play, but still racist. (naked guy in moat)
    Just as there is no shortage of stories of Japanese tourists taking upskirt photos, having depraved sex holidays, and the like in foreign media.

    But don’t they take “examples” that are really just apocryphal anecdotes pulled from their imaginations? (the Koreans water is imagined not only to be shochu, but also imagined to be stolen? The maid is afraid for her life because the otaku trying to take pictures are black, rather than fat Japanese nerds? That’s not far from “I was afraid for my life because he was a threatening gaijin, so that’s why I felt the need to choke him to death, even though he was an unarmed pudgy middle-aged dude.” yielding no jail time to the murderer, but that’s another facet of the whole xenophobia problem, isn’t it? Though it does show us where this thinking can lead.)

    Don’t they criticize the gaijin tourist for breaking some taboo that plenty of Japanese also break, despite the fact that the tourist’s “rudeness” is an honest mistake of culture, while the Japanese taboo-breaker is supposed to know better? (not scrubbing yourself down like a nuclear fallout victim before entering the bath? haggling over prices at sex shops? Sure, no Japanese ever do such things.)

    Criticizing the foreigner in Japan who is controlled by Japanese criminals? That’s especially rich. (Filipina hostesses are here entirely on their own with no connection at all to the Japanese underworld? Not managed by Japanese Mama-sans, not getting paid by Japanese clients,many of which are probably the very right-wingers who buy into this garbage? Not prisoners of Japanese gangsters who have taken their passports?)

    That’s all a double-standard at best, but mostly just plain lying in the Stephen Glass tradition to make up details in stories for the purpose of selling more magazines to right-wingers, who see this “evidence” as further justification for their racism. Becoming the source of more imaginary anecdotes. It’s a vicious cycle. Low class. And deserving of scorn…

    — Please send us a link to the Onion article.

  • I believe this is the article Level3 is talking about:


    I’m sure you are not going to get very incensed about how “racist” the Onion article is, and neither am I. We probably both see such things in context. So why not the same treatment when it comes to some crappy tabloid rag that is as alarmist about “bad” Japanese as it is about “bad” tourists?

    “Just as there is no shortage of stories of Japanese tourists taking upskirt photos, having depraved sex holidays, and the like in foreign media.”

    Let’s not forget that the Japanese media report on these incidents too…

    — Thanks for the link. You seem to have a problem making links of your own. The Onion is a satirical paper. Spa! is not. And Spa! is reporting that foreigners are doing these things with the tone of because they are foreigners. This should be decried wherever published because it’s simply bad science. Again, focus on the misbehavior, not on the nationality, which would happen in the J media if the miscreants were Japanese. How many times does this have to be repeated?

  • I do not see how the onion article is racist even in it`s satirical context unless you make no distinction between the Japanese nation and those who call themselves `ethnically Japanese`.

    Also, you cannot make that comparison because the onion is pointing out ONLY Japan. Remember although we in Japan are forced to see the world through Japan/everything else spectrum, the rest of the world does not see it`s outside world as only Japan. The Spa! article is talking not talking about foreigners. It is talking about non-Japanese. Unless speaking in the legal sense there is no actual expression in Japanese for `foreigner` because the word 外国人 just doesn`t mean it.

    Or is this difference a generation gap disclosing itself infront of my eyes?

    I read the SPA! article during my break at the convience store where I work. (The same place that has that trusty old poster in the back office on how to not be a victim of scams by islamic or dark skinned peoples who speak katakoto japanese.)

    It is appauling but not as off the top as that Gaijin Hanzai bullcrap from before so I said nothing to my manager.

    That magazine doesn`t sell well in our store anyways(family mart)…(all copies are still on the shelf)

  • “That magazine doesn`t sell well in our store anyways”

    Maybe that tells you something.

    Don’t get me wrong. The article seems to be apalling, and it does single “foreigners” (the term “NJ” is at least as problematic as “gaijin”, so I’ll stick with the near English equivalent, thanks) as a single group.

    My point is that these things have to be taken in context. SPA! is a tabloid rag belonging to a fairly minor media organization in Japan. It (like, say, the Daily Mirror) is designed to create controversy and increase exposure. By highlighting the issue and attempting to publicize it, we are just feeding the monster here. After all, as a result of this thread you did go and read the magazine (and no doubt glanced at an ad or two). Some who read this blog may actually have bought the mag even though they don’t agree with it. That’s how shock journalism works. But by engaging with SPA! you are giving them a status they don’t deserve.

    If the Onion can be put in “context” as satire which plays on racist assumptions about bent Japanese sexual preferences, then SPA! should be put in “context” as a tabloid whose other stories are just as trashy…


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