Osaka Minami public campaign: “exclude bad foreigners” like yakuza, enlists enka singer as spokesperson


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Hi Blog.  Here we have a part of Osaka Chuo-ku making public announcements protecting their municipality against “illegal foreign overstayers” and “illegal workers”.  Using invective like “furyou gaikokujin haijo” (exclude bad foreigners), it’s rendered on the same level as the regular neighborhood clarion calls for “bouryokudan haijo” (exclude the yakuza).  I see.  Foreigners who overstay their visa and who get employed (sometimes at the behest and the advantage of the Japanese employer) are on the same level as organized crime?  And you can pick out Yakuza just as easily as NJ on sight, right?

This campaign has been going on for years (since Heisei 17, five years ago), but the Yomiuri now reports efforts to really get the public involved by tapping an enka singer to promote the campaign.  How nice.  But it certainly seems an odd problem to broadcast on the street like this since 1) I don’t see the same targeting happening to Japanese employers who give these “bad foreigners” their jobs, and 2) numbers of illegal overstays caught have reportedly gone down by half since a decade ago.

Never mind.  We have budgets to spend, and disenfranchised people to pick on.  Nice touch to see not only sponsorship from the local International Communication Association (how interculturally sensitive!), but also “America Mura no Kai”, whatever that is.  Yet another example of state-sanctioned attempts to spread xenophobia and lower the image of NJ — this time by gangsterizing them.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


June 3, 2010, MB writes:

Hi Debito, First of all let me say that your efforts are really appreciated and I really think that you help many people !!

By the way, I just found this article:

which is connected to the

Every now and again, local districts around the country will appoint an honorary chief of police for the day who will usually attracts media coverage for some regular campaign. Minami in Osaka recently chose enka singer Reiko Kano to go out and raise awareness among local residents. You must be wondering what issue was she given to promote Perhaps bicycle parking or warnings about ATM bank fraud? Osaka sees a lot of purse-snatching so maybe she was passing out fliers about that. Actually, it appears the Minami police decided to use the singer to put people on the alert for illegal immigrants. The fliers, put together by police and a local residents group, read 「Stopザ・不法滞在」 (“Look out for illegals”). Police say they caught 150 last year. That’s down 50% from 10 years ago but there are concerns that fake passports and fake gaijin cards are getting harder to spot.

I just thought that maybe it could be of interest for the blog. I must admit that this movement to “clean” Minami in Osaka is not all that bad BUT I especially didn’t like this:

7) 不良外国人の排除
8) 暴力団の排除

Maybe I’m over-sensitive but using 排除 with 人 it doesn’t sound too good… it’s just above the Yakuza….comparing a person without a visa to a gangster is not very nice.

All in all it seems that the campaign aims also to promote Osaka (and Minami) as a touristic spot thus they aim at “cleaning” the city and give a nice image to the “foreign tourists”…


16 comments on “Osaka Minami public campaign: “exclude bad foreigners” like yakuza, enlists enka singer as spokesperson

  • “Amerika-mura no Kai” might be an organization either originating from or based in the Amerika-mura area of Shinsaibashi, in southern Osaka. Shinsaibashi is to Osaka largely what Harajuku is to Tokyo, or at least that’s what I gathered when I visited it about a year ago. The irony is that I saw several groups of foreigners trying to blend in with the local crowd, fancy dressing and stringent make-up and everything.

  • Being compared to the Yakuza? I thought they were always glorified in Japanese cinema as being the embodiment of the Japanese Way, a symbol, like a cowboy is for Americans, a real man’s man, even if they are gangsters.

    I guess things change for whatever fits the moment.

    — Not at all. “Bouryokudan suihou sengen” have been part of regional government slogans for as long as I’ve been here. Movies not withstanding. We get enough in popular culture in the US, say, for outlaws or mafia, but making them into cultural icons doesn’t make them social ideals.

  • James in Nara says:

    America-mura is actually just a section of Shinsaibashi that has a lot of foreigner oriented restaurants and clubs. It’s home to a great pizza-by-the-slice place that tastes just like something in the states. It’s also where a lot of ex-pats hang, hence the name America-mura.

  • Yeah, as an ex-Osakan myself, I expect that “America-mura no kai” is just a special group set up around America-mura, which is a youth fashion district with no particular connections to the Western Hemisphere other than a Statue of Liberty on top of one of the stores. Kind of like how they have groups for the Dotombori and Sennichimae shopping arcades.

  • Indeed, I was in Amerika-mura on Saturday night attending a birthday party. It was a mixed group of nationalities, in fact. I’m forced to wonder what might have happened had we encountered one of these patrols. Would they have visually appraised our behavior to see if we were “bad”? How would they have determined which of us were Japanese?

  • Rachel beat me to it. That’s exactly what “Amerika-mura no Kai” is. Just thought Debido would like to know.

  • I’m certainly as guilty of this as anybody, but it’s important to be careful not to assume that visibly non-ethnic-Japanese people are “foreigners”. Sure, you get some tourists blowing tons of money and trying to pass, but there are also Japanese with foreign ancestry who are plenty tired of being mistaken for outsiders. One of the perceptions we’re hoping to break here is the “Japanese citizen = Japanese blood” misconception, and we can do better among ourselves than to assume it.

    Am I going to have to flash my ARC the next time I go shopping in Amemura? This kind of public relations campaign, even were it warranted by increased illegal immigration, would only serve to raise awareness among those who have no business investigating it, and its only effect can be the criminalization of minority skin tones in the minds of the population.

  • I live in Osaka and I was just in America-mura the other night. It’s basically a bunch of bars and live houses and super-fashionable shops, and foreigners do congregate there as well as Japanese. I wound up at a big Halloween party at Sankaku Kouen in America-mura last Halloween. There was a crowd of probably a couple hundred made up of mostly foreigners but with plenty of Japanese. The party went on until around 2 or 3 a.m. until the police from the kouban next door came and kicked everybody out.

  • Yes, Amerika-Mura in Minami, a couple blocks west of the major shoutengai, is about as close as Osaka gets to Roppongi. (Nowhere close, actually)
    If a bunch of Japanese xenophobes are looking for a target in Osaka, that place would be it. A few gaijin bars scattered about, shops that sell cannabis-themed goods, Japanese people with strange clothes loitering, African people standing outside shops selling clothes and trying to make a living. (Oh, noes!)

    The real crime happens a couple blocks east of the shoutengai, where offices of certain “legitimate businessmen with missing fingers” and the “legitimate drinking, entertainment and massage establishments” they own/patronize/employ illegal immigrants at are located. But that’s too difficult a target for retired old wannabe cops.

    I can say that there has been a pretty successful campaign to clear the major shoutengai of catch-sales artists and such, though I think it’s the private security guards who actually do the dirty work, clearing out stupid young punks blocking the pedestrian flow, pirate DVD sellers, etc. You know, people who are actually breaking laws and making a nuissance. I guess now they need a new target. It’s a dumb move. If they start using the tactics of the Tokyo cops, there’ll be an uproar. I assume that Kansai gaijin are more likely to live here long term, speak Japanese, and know their rights than those found in a random sweep of Roppongi nightclubs.

  • What the hell is a 不良外国人. You ask Japanese people and there will be 一致した answer to come of it. Pretty much all foreigners are assumed to be 不良 so unless they prove otherwise. (That is, prove that they are blindly in love with all Japan has to offer and are damn grateful for the opportunity.)

    I just can`t stand how Japanese think that this is some sort of a paradise that everyone is just dying to get into. I also loath the term 出稼ぎ when used in the context of foreigners. People use the term even for professionals whom are making a living here that could also be made in their home country. It is like they assume that we are here only to suck what we can from Japan and then leave.

    I have only been here since I was 19. I am now 23 and speak Japanese like a native kansaijin and hold kanken 2kyuu. I have no future to look forward to in Japan. The place is full of either old people or young people whom are dying from overwork.

    It is ignorant movements like this that just give me no hope for having any kind of future here that I will enjoy as a foreigner.

    Hell, I do not even think that I would want to live here as a Japanese anymore.At this point in time I am seriously considering jumping ship and going back to graduate school in Canada.

    I admire your patience Debito. There is very little about this society that appeals to anyone other than those whom have always had the fascination with it.

    I actually live in Osaka so I will check all this out during the week.

    Keep up the good fight. Wish I as a person could have been more help.

  • “I just can`t stand how Japanese think that this is some sort of a paradise that everyone is just dying to get into. ”

    Ha! I have often wondered the same thing. It tickles me senseless when the government introduces some new idea to open things up to highly skilled professionals from other countries. The underlining thinking is that people are justing waiting for the opportunity to come here.

    Similar in some ways to the anti-terrorist measures that Japan has so fervently adopted (fingerprinting, et al.). One can’t help but ask “is Japan really the terrorist target it wishes it was?”. I dare say it isn’t.

    This whole campaign is based on the assumption that ‘bad foreigners’ can be spotted just by being on the ‘look out’ for them. The majority (90+% according to the NPA stats I last read- sorry no link) of overstayers are of Asian descent, but because of Japan’s binary view of the world, i.e., there are Japanese and then there are gaijin, this simplified thinking is causing spot checks mostly on those that are visibly foreign. Waste of time and waste of money.

  • deepspacebeans says:

    These few campaigns have always left me somewhat flummoxed. I remember some small group of “concerned citizens” trying to plaster these sorts of posters in Shimotakaido while I was on exchange at Meiji University. They managed to get one posted in the bloody entrance hall of the apartment building which the school contracted for the purposes of exchange student accommodation. It stayed up for a week or two until I got sick of looking at it every day and quietly lodged a complaint to the landlady. She apologized, saying they just asked her if she would post it on the message board and she agreed without paying too much attention to the content of the message.

    What exactly do these groups expect your everyday citizen to do? How are we supposed to identify these bad foreigners? Are we going to be instituting some sort of citizen’s alien registration card check to anyone who looks suspicious? Perhaps they could be so kind as to point out what a furyou gaikokujin looks like so I may be sure to rush out and alert the authorities as soon as I see one wandering the streets.

    Or maybe, just maybe, they could stop wasting everyone’s time and let the local authorities actually do their job, which they already manage to do with enough (joyful, in some cases) rigor that it undoubtedly annoys every single South East Asian person living in the country to the point where they have to wince every time they attempt to pass a police box on a bicycle.

    — No no, enlisting the public to help with policing shows the public how much effort the authorities are making… /sarcasm

  • While it is a good thing to make sure that overstayers get caught and punished accordingly, this method of reducing crime(and this isn’t even the worst crime anyway) is simply not the way to do it. It is good that they want to make Osaka a better place, but how about they focus on the burglaries or much more lethal crimes instead of turning the town into Arizona?

  • (株)飛日空 says:

    I think Level3 may be right. After their successes, the association is probably now looking for new targets to justify and broaden its influence over the community. The fact that foreigners have been picked means that they are still a relatively weak enough demographic to be targeted. Keep the majority suspicious of the weak and visible minority and people will want to seek the safety of the community association ganbatte’ing for them. Foreigners are made scapegoat pawns for political maneuvering, again. The open ended interpretation of 不良外国人 is intentional. You want the suspicion to be as abstract as possible if you’re gunning to spread FUD.

    And all of this promoted by an organization that calls itself the ミニミ国際交流協議会 or the Minami Association for International Relations. If I didn’t think I’d live to see something Orwellian expressed in Japanese it would be too soon. At least the name of the organization mentioned in Debito’s second link is more direct: ミナミ歓楽街環境浄化推進協議会 or the Minami Quarter Association for the Promotion of Neighborhood Purification. I also like how they list 不良が気黒人の排除 just above 暴力団の排除 in their manifest declaration.

    — FUD?

  • (株)飛日空 says:

    Ah, sorry.

    Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. Also known as scare tactics, either accomplished by threat or making the opponent doubt his standpoint. Not only used in lawsuits, but also in politics and military propaganda.
    The company’s FUD spreading caused many supporters to abandon their cause, except for the few that could see through its scaremongering propaganda.

    It’s used a lot on and I used it out of habit.


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