Osaka Nishi Yodogawa Police “Beware of Suspicious Foreigners” poster


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Hi Blog. The NPA is once again ramping up its public calls for surveillance of “suspicious foreigners”.

The previous wave of this basically started with Tokyo Gov. Ishihara’s now infamous “Sangokujin Speech” in 2000, when he called on the Nerima Self Defense Forces to round up suspicious foreigners “committing heinous crimes” in the event of a natural disaster. He made no distinction how one would determine “suspicious”, however, or how people would not resort to racial profiling.

They never broke the mold. That wave continued through World Cup 2002 (although it mutated into “hooligans”) onto police nationwide (particularly the Kanto cops) putting up posters warning the public against “suspicious foreigners”, whatever that meant. After protests, some police amended their notices to focus on the crimes, not the nationalities, but still exceptions popped up from time to time in prefectures with beaches (such as Ibaraki), warning people to “protect our shores” (complete with visual invasion motif).

Now, according to Reader JL, who found this notice up in his apartment, the Osaka Police are once again warning people about “suspicious foreigners”, for they might be illegal laborers or overstayers. Here’s the poster, dated June 2009. Osaka Fu Nishi Yodogawa Keisatsusho:
(click on image to see it larger and legible)

Again, how will people distinguish without suspecting anyone who looks foreigner as “suspicious”? Will our boys in blue ever learn some sophistication?

Probably not. It’s been nearly a decade since Ishihara’s speech. And fear campaigns are very helpful with budget approvals. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

32 comments on “Osaka Nishi Yodogawa Police “Beware of Suspicious Foreigners” poster

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    That poster is ridiculous. It starts with a request for cooperation in stopping illegal labor — something that might possibly be worth putting on a poster — then jumps to “confirm the visa status of foreigners when hiring them, because the employer can also be punished” (this is posted in a private apartment building, not the local Hello Work!), then goes full steam ahead into “if you see a suspicious foreigner, call 110 right away!”

    Very clever how they segued into that. If a poster like that were in my building, I’d be in the superintendent’s face right away talking about 名誉毀損 (meiyo kison, defamation of character). The poster itself might not be legally actionable, but there’s no way the police shold be able to put these things in people’s residences.

  • This poster is not a request for members of the public to report suspicious foreigners they see on the street as you imply. It is directed at employers who encounter foreigners who have overstayed their visa or don’t have work permits.

    — Yes, but the headline is still “If you see a suspicious foreigner, call 110 [Japan’s 911] immediately”. And it’s up in public places (such as the submitter’s apartment complex, which is not a place you go looking for a job), not merely work places. It’s not directed merely at employers. It’s directed at the general public.

    Again, NPA, define “suspicious”, please. How does this not increase public unease towards foreigners as potential criminals? It’s part and parcel of the same style we’ve seen for years now. Follow the links above and see the similarities.

  • Oh, it goes much farther than this, Debito. Just two weeks ago, they were handing out plastic fans with all kinds of stuff on how Osaka was ramping up efforts to stop illegal overstayers. By they, I mean people wearing bright colored jackets handing out fans in front of our train station. What made me feel even more uncomfortable was that one of the Japanese staff at my work brought it in with them. It feels really nice to have a fan listing the types of jobs a foreigner may legally get a visa for in Japan sitting in your office. If it’s still there, I’ll try to get a picture of it for you.

    — Or better yet, a fan!

  • Jochen Berland says:

    I don’t understand the premise – what is wrong with looking out for suspicious foreigners in the first place? Even if the poster said that, it is a good thing. Japan is not like any laissez-faire western country mind you.

    But – as Tony pointed out already – this is merely a translation error. Someone had some poor Japanese skills and jumped to conclusions. Tony’s translation is correct and thusly makes the poster even *more* reasonable.

    Whoever interprets this as racist or whatever probably suffers from the paranoia inherent with most left-of-center nutcases.

  • That poster is facing the elevator door when I go to leave for work every morning. The fact is the average person doesn’t have enough common sense or knowledge of law, to decide whether a “foreigner” is an illegal over-stayer or is breaking any law. If the police are encouraging the general public to report about purse snatchers, bank fraud, and suspicious foreigners, which is not (to my knowledge) against the law, then what stops them from calling the cops on me making some “cultural mistake”? Just a shame their intentions whatever they are seem to be positive in some respect, but they go about it with ambiguous, xenophobic posters.

    — Take the damn thing down.

  • Morning all.

    Wouldn’t it be a good idea to make up several posters:
    a ‘beware of suspicious Japanese who kill foreigners and get away with it’ poster. From the committee to prevent the defamation of character of the more than 1 million legal law abiding tax paying non citizens of Japan.
    a beware of police who force confessions poster, a beware of police who lose evidence poster, a beware of police who are too lazy to defend the public peace poster (bosozoku spelling?)
    a beware of police who lie about crime rates to get bigger budgets poster

  • If you read the flyer, Tony has it right. It’s obviously meant for employers. However, the way this flyer is laid out, it’s not quite that clear and can easily be mistaken for “any suspicious foreigners.”

    What would you define as suspicious then? You could argue that to some people being foreign in itself is suspicious.

  • More on this
    What is to prevent someone on to make up really nice A4
    brochures double sided in color about one, some or all of the issues I mentioned in the previous post. These then could be downloaded by individuals and printed on home ink-jet printers. Some people could print a few or a few dozen and pass them out nicely and politely by taking 5 minutes to do so at a transit station or on a street corner.

  • Whoever interprets this as racist or whatever probably suffers from the paranoia inherent with most left-of-center nutcases.
    I’m left of centre and take a look at the work I do to clean up YouTube. What do you do to clean up anything? Lumping and insults do not help. Are all French people cowards? No. All Germans are hard-working and strict? No. In fact, the paranoia is from the right. Did the centre of left invade Afghanistan AND Iraq over nonexistent weapons? No, it was the right. 4Chan is the place for flames unsupported by even a tiny shred of evidence.

    — Let’s keep the discussion on track.

  • D.B.Cooper. says:

    Here’s the view of an extreme left-of-centre nutcase.
    Any police force is the first line of defence of state power. It is not there to protect the people but to defend vested interests and minority privilege. It is undemocratic and in varying degrees unaccountable. As we are seeing, the methods used to control us include intimidation by goon squads and the more subtler attempts to divide working people along all sorts of arbitrary lines.
    Refuse to collaborate and in any dealings with the cops cooperate to the minimum to stay out of trouble.
    And just because I’m paranoid it doesn’t mean there’s not plenty of evidence of a police force growing bolder by the day as blogged on this site.

  • It is TRUE that the poster IS aimed at hiring people
    but it is ALSO true that the part of the poster that
    more jumps to the eye is (with the “attention/important” mark
    and written in large letters and more visible style, NOT by chance) :

    If you see a SUSPICIOUS foreigner call 110 at once.

    As other posters say,
    the “SUSPECT” word, what does it mean ?
    Everything and nothing.
    That’s not a good way of writing a poster that goes to
    the PUBLIC. That sentence should be omitted or completely

    And more.
    That sentence has not been put there just by chance or mistake.
    If somebody thinks that then he/she is too naif.
    It’s the sentence that you, even if in a hurry, will read for sure.
    More because it does have that nice MARK before it =)

    Who are you gonna call ?


    Police: “Leave that huge bag on the ground and hold up your hands !!!”
    ” We just got a call for a suspicious gaijin and we got you thief !”

    Strange gaijin: “Well, I was about to throw away the garbage…”

    Police : “And where did you steal it ?”

  • Jochen Berland Says:
    “July 3rd, 2009 at 12:36 am
    I don’t understand the premise – what is wrong with looking out for suspicious foreigners in the first place? Even if the poster said that, it is a good thing. Japan is not like any laissez-faire western country mind you.”

    Bullshit. Just look at the picture. The foreigner is an evil-looking devil and the employer just made small mistake, and he looks so damn cute we can all forgive him right?

    And just how are Japanese people supposed to know who is a foreigner and who isn’t? Answer me that please.

  • Mizuho Bank has had signs up for quite a while which I think give a more subtle version of this kind of message. The signs say “Frequently patrolled by Police.” Underneath is kanji saying the same thing. (See here.) The problem? The signs have the English at the top, and Chinese at the bottom. No Japanese at all. Normally, bilingual signs in Japan have Japanese at the top, usually a larger type size, and then one (or possibly more) language(s) below. This sign has no Japanese at all. Japanese can understand from the Chinese what the sign says, which if anything makes it worse.

    The clear message: criminals are foreigners, not Japanese.

    Reminds me of the days when cops used to stop me on the street for the crime of riding my bicycle while being foreign. What bothered me most was the scene that was set: a few cops stopping a foreigner riding a bike on the street, checking the serial number, radioing it back in to see if it was reported stolen. Frankly, it was an annoyance only from a time-wasting and sensibility-offending standpoint, but what really got me was that I was being turned into a poster boy for stereotypes: the Japanese walking along the street would see me being gone over by the cops, and would probably say to themselves, so it’s true what they say.

    The sign at Mizuho, like the sign in this blog post, sends the same message: foreigners are criminals.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    Luis, I’m right there with you on the bicycle situation. I’ve experienced it dozens and dozens of times — the “just let them check it; it’s only a fem minutes” crowd forgets that it’s humiliating and defaming to have cops surrounding you and questioning you in public like that.

    JL, have you spoken to anyone in your building about this sign? Are you in any of the tenants’ associations? Someone (the superintendent, perhaps) had to have given the police permission to put this sign up. Go to that person, and find out why it was allowed.

  • Would someone mind translating what’s on the little black tags hanging off the “suspicious” foreigner? I can’t quite make out the kanji…guess it’s time to go get new glasses.

    I ask because what bothers me about this most is that the foreigner looks perfectly friendly and polite, there’s nothing suspicious about how he’s drawn except for the ominous face that shows his secret evilness. So essentially what the visuals of the poster are saying is that even a sweet friendly foreigner is a potential criminal, i.e. just the fact that he is NJ means he is suspicious.

    Maybe the black tags give reasons why the guy is suspicious (I think one of them might say “has no Alien Registration Card), but the at-a-glance message is still pretty biased.

    — Clockwise from 10 o’clock: Passport (ryoken), Alien Registration Card (gaikokujin touroku shoumeisho), Status of Residence (zairyuu shikaku), and Residency Period (zairyuu kikan). In other words, things to check whenever you see a foreigner, no matter how sweet he comes across to you. Only when you look more closely, you see the “job offer” poster in back.

    If I may reach for one improvement, I might add that they’re not portraying the “gaijin as Pinocchio” (he looks no different than any sweet Japanese youth; except for that evil lurking balloon, heh heh); perhaps because those begging for jobs are now Nikkei and other Asians. But don’t be fooled, employers! Overstayers are automatically lurking evil balloon types. Never mind those employers who have evil lurking balloons of their own.

  • David in Osaka says:

    Wow, I was very shocked to see this as I live in Himezato,across the street from Nozato……

  • Tony, InJM and Jochen,

    For goodness” sake, try clickng on the poster above to see the whole thing, because on this page you only see the part of the poster talking about not employing NJ who don’t have the appropriate status (I don’t also see any problem in the government requiring that employers check the status of foreign nationals who). If you click on the poster you get to see the juicy bit about reporting in “suspicious” foreigners.
    Debito, it’s a shame that you couldn’t get the extract of the poster focused on the more relevant part.

    — Sorry. Thought common sense would dictate that this is but an excerpt, click on the image. My bad. I just shrank it.

  • David in Osaka says:

    One thing I had just realized. I’ve been living in Osaka now for 5 years,in the area in which this poster is found,I’ve never heard or seen such posters until recently. And it just so happens that just this year alone I’ve been noticing an increase of other foreigners in the area,none of whom are asian,all are westerners,and some like myself have a Japanese spouse and kids.I know of no businesses in the area which hire or even have ever hired non-asian foreigners,with he exception of English schools,none of which are big schools such as ECC or the former NOVA,most small English school around here are either foreigner owned and small such as mine or they are run by Japanese and have no native speaking teachers at all. The only other NJ element living around here(that I’m aware of) are a small number of Koreans,and few Indians who own their own business.Makes me wonder if this is REALLY about hiring practices…….

  • Now, in my comment above I said that I had no issue with the poster covering illegal work (and overstaying), but I do have an issue on how it’s portrayed, with the kind, innocent looking old man as employer and the supposed foreigner who looks straight but is actually devious as shown by the balloon face above him. This just enhances the stereotype that Japanese are innocent, maybe even naive as many of my Japanese colleagues etc. tell me, and that foreigners are two-faced and always looking for the opportunity to take advantage of the innocent Japanese.

    Another bit of info about the reporting of “suspicious” foreigners. My son (of Japanese and caucasian parentage), who has to pass the local police station daily to go to his swimming practice, told me the other day that he felt offended by one of these rolling script LED signs in front of the police station reading about reporting in any “suspicious” foreigners. Now, this is in a small city in southern Miyagi, where there are only a few caucasians, some Chinese, some Koreans and some Philipino. When is it when one of us is going to be reported, and then questioned or even being asked to come into the station for questioning, for supposedly casing out houses to break into where all we were doing was taking a walk around town casually looking at the scenery.
    Things are going too far where you are practically indirectly told that you are a possible suspect and your neighbours are told that should think of you as being “suspicious”, and this is even more so for my son who has the birth right to be here in the first place.

  • The Shark says:

    Advice from the Shark:

    1) Don’t go to Roppongi at all!
    2) Even if you look foreign, try your best not to look foreign!
    3) Behave like the Japanese!
    4) Try not to carry any bags. Then there is nothing that could be searched (that’s why we have ‘takubin’ in Japan).
    5) Don’t look like people who are doing drugs. Remember: it’s the image you present that determines whether or not you’ll be stopped.
    6) As soon as a police officer stops you, first ask for his ID. Write down all the details for future reference. If he refuses, tell him you’ll call the police because you cannot confirm whether or not he’s a real police officer. Then you got him in a Catch-22!! You could use his own trick on himself as well: that is, if he refuses to show you his ID you have reasonable suspicion that he might not be a police officer. That’s why you need to call the police.
    7) If you ride a bicycle, avoid police officers.
    8) If you have a Japanese child, that’s your joker. If they stop you for a bicycle check, just tell them your child needs to go to the loo or needs to take some medicine or whatsoever. I guarantee you: they will not stop you in the first place because they wouldn’t wanna mess around with Japanese children. Also you ‘look’ less criminal with a child next to you (even if you’re foreign).

    … I could go on and on but I think you got the idea! It worked fine for about ten years now (as far I’m, the Shark, is concerned).

    Also notice: it’s not just Japan. According to recent news, Italy just passed new legislation regarding both illegal and legal foreigners in Italy. According to the news, even the Vatican heavily protested these new laws.

    Also the victims (of police action) are not just foreigners in Japan. Japanese citizens as well. That guy who spent 17 years behind bars (I feel sorry for him!) or that SMAP guy who was just singing or naked or something like that …
    … my point is the police in Japan is not like the police in the UK for instance where there are ‘Police and Community Consultative Groups’ etc. There is a need for accountability of the police (but I doubt it’s gonna happen in my lifetime)

    If you were a cop yourself, what kind of criteria would you use for urine tests? Would you test a 40-year-old housewife walking out of the supermarket? You wouldn’t! Come on, you would also go to Roppongi as well!

  • I notice they don’t mention the Japanese ’employers’ who forcibly keep victims of people trafficking in slavery.
    “Fueled by its massive sex industry, Japan is one of the largest destination countries for international trafficking.”

    One of the ways they stop trafficked women and children from running away is by reminding them that they are in the country illegally and that they will get punished if caught.

  • the keystone cops in osaka are at it once again. boy these idiot cops in osaka never stop do they. here they worry about the few NJ over here when they should be more worried about all the mafia thugs over here instead that have completely overrun the city. but they could care less about them

  • @Turner and Debito

    All right, no fan so far (I’ve been preparing for the JLPT tomorrow, so forgive me). But, I did find out what the fan was all about. It was part of the activities surrounding the 外国人労働者問題啓発月間, which apparently lasted the entire month of June. If you go to this link and scroll down to section 4 – 1, you’ll find the mention of posters and what not.


    Not exactly sinister. 😉

    These are the posters:

    If I find the fan, I’ll let you know.

  • betty boop says:

    interestingly – i linked to the above two. found that some of the site is in english yet this stuff about foreigners is not.

  • @ David in Osaka

    I live in Nozato, and I agree with your comments above about the area in general. The poster was put up in June in my apartment building which is near Nishiyodogawa-High School. There is as you said no real reason the police had to put up this poster.

    — Then take it down wherever you see it.

  • The Shark says:

    The Shark’s apartment buiding also has a poster. It just says, however, ‘To protect the children in this area, if you notice any suspicious person, call 110’. No reference to foreigners whatsoever. You see, it can be done differently! (Poster was designed by the Kanri-gaisha)

    A good practical idea might also be to make friends with the so-called 防犯ボランティア guys (in English we might call them ‘Lay patrol volunteers’ or something like that). They are often easy to talk to.

    Have any long-term foreign residents ever thought of becoming 防犯ボランティア people as well? Surely, if you don’t have a criminal record it should be possible in general.
    Who is organizing that? The police? Or any neighbourhood association?
    The Shark might just give it a try.

    … and if the Shark should suceed, the Shark promises to report people only based on what they do (and not how they look like)

  • “6) As soon as a police officer stops you, first ask for his ID. Write down all the details for future reference. If he refuses, tell him you’ll call the police because you cannot confirm whether or not he’s a real police officer. Then you got him in a Catch-22!! You could use his own trick on himself as well: that is, if he refuses to show you his ID you have reasonable suspicion that he might not be a police officer. That’s why you need to call the police.”

    Debito – do you think this is good advice? In ‘Japanese Only’, I believe you said that when you achieved Japanese nationality, you ‘lost’ your driving licence in order to apply for a new one as incontravertible evidence of your nationality. The reason for this was that otherwise ‘any cop who is having a bad donut day could claim you had forged the amendment on the back of your licence and take you in for 23 days questioning’.

    Potentially, if The Shark’s advice is followed, could one be taken in for 23 days questionning for obstructing the police?

    — Suggest you reread the section in “Japanese Only” (thanks for reading!). I was concerned that without my koseki (proof of my nationality) properly written and laminated on the front of my license (as opposed to just denoting it on the back), if I had an ID Checkpoint and no Gaijin Card anymore, I would be called to book. Either way, at that time, my koseki would be rendered one way or another on my Driver License. I just wanted it to be rendered unsuspiciously. I got my wish, as you read, by technically “losing (as in mislaying) my license”. So they reissued me with another one.

    Here’s the story you’re referring to in an earlier written incarnation.

    The Driver LIcense still sufficed as proof of Japanese nationality in place of the Gaijin Card (doesn’t work for NJ, however; no koseki to write there). However, Driver Licenses are now being produced without koseki written on them. That’s bad news for people like me. I will have no proof of my nationality except my passport, or my koseki touhon, both of which are unwieldy to carry.

    As for Shark’s advice, yes, you could be taken in for questioning. But as a NJ you could be anyway no matter what. It’s the cop’s prerogative and there is no check against it. As I talk about in tomorrow’s Japan Times article, if you want to protest and don’t want to be frogmarched off to the nearest police box (they can’t take you there against your will without an arrest), 1) don’t ever touch the cop, 2) don’t move or make motions to get away (just stand there), 3) don’t raise your voice. Just stand there in silence. That’s all you can do.

    And yes, as Shark says, do ask for ID and write down the cop’s particulars. You might try his suggestion to call the police, too if he doesn’t comply. But if he shows, so must you, if you’re a NJ. That’s the law as it stands now.

  • @Mark in Yayoi

    I am not in the tenants association as it doesn’t exist. The super is there when I am not, and my wife isn’t interested in getting involved. I have however considered going to the local police station (not koban) and making a complaint in person.

    As for taking down the sign, I don’t see it as making any difference other than it giving unwanted negative attention to my family and myself. If I wasn’t in this situation, it would have been shredded.

    — If you can’t even protect yourself from being a victim, there’s not much more advice I can offer. Others can comment, but that’s all from me.

    But it does make a difference. By not taking it down, you’re weakening yourself , meaning you only empower people who do things like put this sign up. But that’s my approach.

    I think an active approach works, however, if only to keep me from feeling powerless in the face of ignorance and bullying police. This is going to catch up with you mentally sooner or later if you don’t do something about it sometime. And by thinking that you’ll get in trouble with the missus or whatever, you’re again not helping yourself as it doesn’t affect her the same way that it does you…

    Sorry, I said, that’s all I was gonna say. But that just slipped out. Gomen.

  • Both posters in my building were removed by the superintendant on July 7th 2009. I guess the word got to his superior. I also mentioned this problem to the owner of my apartment unit and he said he would as well make a complaint on my behalf. Worked out for the best in the end.

    — Excellent. Well done. Fortunately the people who put it up didn’t believe that public safety and following police requests trumped all –including the concerns of only one NJ resident.

  • “And just how are Japanese people supposed to know who is a foreigner and who isn’t? Answer me that please.”

    Yes, the message is “Damned foreigners. They are so evidently different that you can’t expect them to obey the law.” This obviously says something about the way Japanese view immigration. I mean, that wouldn’t be the message in any official literature in the western world, now would it. Would it?

    “Individuals with Different Ethnic/ Cultural Backgrounds

    Drivers should be alert for individuals whose ethnic or cultural heritage or language differences may impair their understanding of pedestrian rights and responsibilities.”

    Page 48.

    — Enough Straw Men. You created a point that was not there. And it happening elsewhere doesn’t justify the practice.

  • youve quoted something from a driving license/driving manual.
    what does that have to do with police posters saying beware of suspicious foreigners,or foreigners being stopped in the street for drugs tests??

    — Again, it’s a Straw Man. An argument not made that he tries to destroy. Don’t feed the troll.

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