Yomiuri on “Lehman Shock” and Japan’s foreign crime: Concludes with quote that “living in harmony with foreign residents might be just a dream”


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Hi Blog.  The Yomiuri is in full trumpet about foreign crime again — this time concluding (in an article that does develop the causes of some severe NJ suffering) with a quote from an elderly somebody about coexistence with foreigners being perhaps but a dream.  A friend of mine offlist was quite critical of yesterday’s NYT article as an “anecdote-laden piece of fluff”. Okay, but check this one out:  Nothing but anecdotes and nary a reliable stat in sight.

One thing I’m not quite getting is the connection between Lehman and foreign crime.  Is Japan’s economy so fragile that one event could ruin it?  Don’t businesses make their own decisions, or sovereign countries have responsibility over their own fiscal and monetary policies?  Or is this another way of pinning Japan’s woes on foreigners?

As one submitter JK put it:  “I’d like to start off 2011 by taking a step back to 2008 where リーマ ン・ショック which has been the whipping boy for many of Japan’s ills. Add to the list another societal woe: Foreign crime. In a perverse way, I am surprised that this has taken so long to make it to press.”

Had a quick but unsuccessful look for the Japanese original online at the Yomiuri.  Anyone else find it, please send article and link?  Thanks.  Arudou Debito


Foreign crime hits local areas / ‘Lehman shock’ felt in surge of thefts by Japanese-Brazilian teens
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 4, 2011), courtesy of The Club and JK


A dozen foreign workers were silently sorting out used motorbikes, bicycles, TVs and washing machines piled up in a secondhand store’s storage yard guarded by fences up to three meters high on the outskirts of a commuter town in central Kanagawa Prefecture.

About 10 kilometers from the yard, there is a district with a large number of people from Southeast Asian countries. One resident said that the secondhand shop would buy even stolen goods.

“Now we are doing our business properly, only with customers whose identification we have confirmed,” said the 53-year-old shop owner, a former Vietnamese refugee who acquired Japanese nationality 20 years ago.

“Last year, when the business slump severely hit us, many stolen items were brought in here–even a power shovel,” he said.

“Last year, many foreign temporary workers got fired due to the recession. As a result, many young foreign residents began to support themselves through crime because their parents could not earn any more,” the 24-year-old son of the shop owner said.

There are 55 districts in Shizuoka, Aichi, Gunma and a dozen other prefectures where many foreign factory workers and their families have settled since around 1990.

Many families in such communities do not send their children to school because of language barriers and different views toward education. As a result, young foreign residents who are not in school tend to flock together during the day and sometimes run wild in the area. They are seen as a major reason for the deterioration of public safety in such areas.

In a bid to solve this problem, the central government and local governments have dispatched interpreters and assistant language teachers to primary and middle schools to help the children of foreign residents study.

Such efforts helped decrease the incidence of juvenile delinquency and crime in Oizumimachi, Gunma Prefecture, which has about 6,400 non-Japanese residents, after such problems hit a peak in 2007.

However, the bankruptcy of the U.S. major brokerage house Lehman Brothers changed the situation in many other areas of Japan that have large numbers of foreign residents. It ignited a global recession, negatively affecting Japan’s firms and eventually depriving many foreign factory workers of their jobs.

In the Homigaoka district of Toyota, Aichi Prefecture, where nearly half of the 8,000 residents are Brazilians of Japanese descent, many boys can seen hanging around at night in front of convenience stores, even in the cold of winter.

“After Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy, our shoplifting damage jumped to 100,000 yen per month–three times higher than before,” said the 58-year-old owner of one convenience store in the district.

Another convenience store owner, 30, said: “Most of the 30 shoplifters we caught in a month [at that time] were Japanese-Brazilian boys.”

Kazuto Sergio Matsuda, a 55-year-old company employee, who moved to the Homigaoka district about four years ago, reached the point at which he could not stand by and watch this situation any longer. So he became the first Japanese-Brazilian member of the regional anticrime patrol in April 2009.

Through the patrol activities, Matsuda saw many Japanese-Brazilian families falling apart when fathers who had lost their jobs did not come home for many days as they searched for work, prompting mothers to go to out to work for a living and driving their children to juvenile delinquency as a result.

“I think children also are victims of the global recession. But if we simply ignore this situation, they will become increasingly isolated from their community when they’ve grown up,” Matsuda said.

The 79-year-old leader of a community group says he also feels that relations between longtime Japanese residents and Japanese-Brazilians have become more distant and remote.

“We need efforts to compromise with each other. But it’s extremely difficult for us to communicate with them because there are so many delinquent children,” he said. “Living in harmony with foreign residents might be just a dream.”


18 comments on “Yomiuri on “Lehman Shock” and Japan’s foreign crime: Concludes with quote that “living in harmony with foreign residents might be just a dream”

  • The mendacious of this article is baffling to me.

    It’s so mean spirited it’s beneath contempt. Shame on you, Yomiuri. Is this little islander mentality and blame the victims the best we can hope for from the world’s biggest circulation newspaper?

  • An anecdote is a second-hand tale. An interview is important tool of journalism. There are three interviews in this story and two of them actually represent the NJ perspective (correction, ex-NJ in the case of the shop owner). It’s a shame that the last quote is anonymous but that man has a right to his opinion, and the Yomiuri to relay it.

    In my opinion this is pretty good story and the NYT story was an excellent one.

  • “Lehman Shock” is just the loan-word Japanese use for global financial destabilization. Maybe some of the less informed Japanese really think the failure of a single investment house brought all of this down though.

    I’m amazed that a foreign-born owner of a quasi-legal chop-shop would even waste time talking with the press. “No comment”, and a door in the face would have been a smarter business move.

    Actually all of the quotes were anonymous, except for Matsuda-san.

  • The article failed to describe how divided the Japanese-Brazilian community is in these areas. Some of them are living in Japan for a long time and, they, themselves, discriminate against their own folks. Others who are supposedly “well-educated” discriminate against those who are not…The Japanese-Brazilian community in Japan is divided among the same lines as any excluded community in Brazil. That does not justify the discrimination experienced in their interactions with the Japanese society though. Among the Japanese-Brazilians, living in Japan, there are those who affirm their commitment to integrate in the Japanese society, those who just reject Japan as a whole, but want to stick to it, and those who remain swinging between these two extremes. I think that it is quite difficult for the mainstream Japanese (“monocultural/monolingual”) to understand that, even less deal with those complicated micro-social structures, and, more complicated still, to analyse them.

  • Tony, only journalists still believe in journalism.
    Manipulated biased information is the rule of any news source nowadays.

  • More garbage from the Gomiuri. Blaming “Lehman” for delinquincy in Japanese provincial towns?!? Now that’s a stretch!

    How about “Yamaichi Shock”? That was the biggest economic disaster of all, triggering Japan’s two decades of economic malaise. Funny how Japanese journalists don’t blame the Japanese brokerage firm for social evils . I guess Yamaichi wasn’t foreign enough.

  • If you want to see another interesting NYT article, check this one out about Europe and its immigrant problems. It ran the same day as the other one on Japan:


    Apparently Europeans are having second thoughts about the immigrants that they brought in to do the 3K work back when they had a labor shortage. After hearing Germany’s Merkel talk about how multiculturalism has been a “total failure,” can anyone blame the Japanese for being wary? When they not only read articles like the Yomiuri one, but also see what’s happening elsewhere with immigrant populations, I don’t blame them. FYI I lived in Japan for many years and am married to a Japanese woman. The difference between me and these people is that I “went native” and basically assimilated as best a Caucasian can. The fear that Japanese people have — which is borne out entirely in Europe’s experience — is that bringing in less-educated immigrants to do menial work risks creating an underclass with no hope of assimilation. That can bring big problems down the line.

    Of course, the other question is just how much effort the Japanese authorities put into assimilating these people and their kids. The fact that school is not compulsory means they aren’t trying at all, since Japanese school teaches people how to be Japanese. Obviously much of the failure must be placed on their heads as well.

  • There is no way to take this article seriously. The writer has taken a complex collection of issues and boiled them down to a sound bite. The result is a superficial collection of poorly related people, places, anecdotes and conjectural leaps. The education angle alone begs for a full page article.

    “Many families in such communities do not send their children to school because of language barriers and different views toward education. As a result, young foreign residents who are not in school tend to flock together during the day and sometimes run wild in the area. They are seen as a major reason for the deterioration of public safety in such areas.”

    Is this true? What does “many” mean? So the Ministry of Education and boards of education in these areas can’t put together educational programs in these areas to fulfill the needs of the tax paying residents, and it is the tax paying, needy children and their families who are to blame?

    Somebody’s nephew needed a job and they gave him a pen and a pad of paper to write something for the paper is my guess.

  • It always amazes me how Japanese forums attract ‘look at the disaster immigration has produced on xxxx’ types.

    My reality is obviously different from some, or maybe latent racism blinds them to the real picture. Now a 50 year old,
    I grew up in a UK, where Afro-carib immigration was in it’s early years and was yet to see the mass migration of the Ugandan Asians in the 70’s, the Britain of my early years was a monocultural bore fed on overcooked veg, meat and potatoes and a nostalgic yearning for the good old days of Empire.
    The UK I see now, admitted I’m a Londoner, is a multicultural place of energy, creativity and on the whole tolerance. London has to be thee megacity of the world. Largely due to the numbers and variety of migrants from the world who have chosen it as their home and have been accepted by those there before them.
    Sure there have been, and there still are, some ‘growing pains’. The blatant racism of ‘No Dogs, No Blacks and No Irish’ period in the late 60’s and early 70’s. The race riots of the early 80’s and the problems of 2nd/3rd generation British Asian muslims (who are only a minority of that 3% of the British population) integrating fully into British society.
    Please get a grip on reality, I hardly think that an article centred on the political leader of a country which was practicing industrial levels of genocide against Jews, Gypsies and Slavs less than 70 years ago and has a long historical tradition, from the teutonic Knights to the 19th Century racist theories of Germanic superiority, is part of a balanced debate on the pros and cons of immigration.
    Often when you meet these non-Japanese who defend Japan’s right to exclude immigrants from coming here, usually white males, a little scratching under the surface, lubricated with a few beers, brings out their own racism against black/brown peoples

  • The barriers to people from foreign countries living in Japan are put there purposely by Japanese who are anti-foreigner. It has nothing to do with Lehman Shock or the general 2008-10 jobs recession. Before Lehman Shock (9/2008), there were a whole different set of excuses for why foreigners were problematic.

    There is always some excuse. The reason changes, the sentiment stays the same.

    In Edo, it was that the Black Ships had to go to Nagasaki first. During the pre-war era, it was rabid jingoism making it impossible to have foreigners in Japan. With MacArthur, there were numerous excuses about upsetting the uneducated populace and longstanding cultural practices. Of course, language barrier is an ever-handy excuse, even in industries that operate globally and rely on English.

    When the global economy inevitably picks up, the power structure will simply come up with another excuse.

    — Hey Hoofin, leaving Japan recently seems to have steeled your reserve. 🙂

  • Mark Austin says:

    It’s not such a bad article. Some police arrest statistics would have helped, as would a broader range of interviewees–how about one of the supposedly feral Japanese-Brazilians?

    But the crucial irony that the article ignores is that Japan brought in loads of Brazilians and Peruvians of Japanese descent to work in its manufacturing sector in the 1980s–presumably figuring that they were the least bad sort of foreigner because they had some Japanese blood–but failed to make proper provision for the education of those workers’ children. That was shortsighted, to put it mildly, as well as mean-spirited.

    The global recession hits, the foreign workers are laid off, and their unschooled kids turn to petty crime. What a surprise.

    I guess having Japanese blood doesn’t count for as much as GOJ fondly imagined it would.

  • John:
    “They could’ve mentioned that non-Japanese children have no legal right to be educated as well… but they didn’t.”

    I think you meant the opposite (“no legal right“) of what you wrote: non-Japanese children have no legal duty to be educated in Japan.

    Non-Japanese children have access to the public school system just like Japanese children. But unlike Japanese children, parents of non-Japanese (and Japanese children possessing additional citizenships) can have their children opt-out of the 義務教育 {gimu kyōiku} (compulsory education) system.


  • @Scipio, I think you re a bit hard on Germany-I d like to think the country of Luther and Kant, etc hasnt been as bad as you paint it, in fact for most of its history eg. the 30 Years War etc the German states were the battlefields of other countries.

    Ancient history aside, Germany has attoned for it’s more recent Nazi past, and is now a well respected an integrated part of its local and the world community.

    Japan on the other hand…..

    — Back on topic, please.

  • 1) If the “Lehman Shock” brought Japan down (according to Yomiuri), then from a logical point of view, it must have been Lehman as well that made Japan what it used to be.

    2) It might be fair to say that there is a link between poverty and crime in general, but there is nothing to suggest that the Lehman Shock turned Japanese-Brazilians into criminals. Doing so might indicate that Japanese society prefers to distant themselves from any problems rather than acknowledging that Japanese society too is not perfect.

    — Following that logic further, the reason why the Nikkei Brazilians etc. were given preferential visas, according to policy architect Keidanren’s Inoue Hiroshi in documentary SOUR STRAWBERRIES, was because they had the right blood. Now that blood would logically seem to have a criminal element. We’ll claim Japanese blood relatives (as in emigre Nobel Prize winners) whenever it’s a good thing, it seems. Kind of like the father telling the mother saying, “He’s YOUR son,” whenever the couple wants to assign blame for their kid’s bad behavior. Anyway, it’s a silly logic, and it illustrates just how problematic the attitude behind the Yomiuri article is.

  • Brazilian guy says:

    I’m brazilian and I can say that the Japanese mass that came to Brazil about 100 years ago and their descendants (nikkei, or “japanese-brazilians”) are generally peaceful and there are few crimes committed by them around here.
    But why is that? Isn’t the nikkei here basically the same kind of nikkei in Japan? Same cultural background, similar looks, same language?
    The answer is simple: They are seen here as normal people, as citizens, as human beings, as workers and consumers, as parents, children, family.
    But what about in Japan? They are seen as parasites, as trash, cheap labor, their kids are seen as bad influences to the native japanese kids, their families are seen as gangs, and they get blamed for every japanese mistake, by the japanese ignorance and backwards behavior about different cultures, even though they are the ones sustaining Japan in their own backs.

    I want to see the japanese people doing the nikkei’s work, and I guess I’m going to see that pretty soon, seeing how things are going.
    Is either that or being another unemployed in the Pure Republic of Proud Japan.

  • …Lehman brought ruin to Japanese towns…? am i missing something or is that a seriously misguided idea? Wasn’t Japan already in recession before this?

    How can people seriously think that the collapse of a single corporation have such far-reaching affects as to cause only a very specific group of people to turn into criminals? Is it just me or is it taboo for the Japanese to even consider that their own social and economic policies could have been responsible for some of the problems described here?

  • I`m not sure if the Yomiuri`s article is not only reflecting a trend towards a new kind of “dekasegis”, that is, the replacement of Japanese-Brazilians (And other Nikkeijins from Latin America) by Chinese, Vietnamese, Malay, Filipinos, etc…That is, “Asians”. Down here in Aichi we can observe things like “Kenshuseis” from China attending weekend Japanese classes, almost regularly, at local international associations. We cannot say the same for the Latinamericans…The “Kenshuseis” acquire a working knowledge of Japanese much faster than some Nikkeijin, although they`ve been here for many years. The “Kenshuseis” are here to stay a few years and, if they learn the language, they might apply to return later on (Pressure ? Incentive ?). The “Kenshuseis” are cheaper than those who have a work permit, like the Latinamerican Nikkeijin…In spite of all discrimination faced by them. the “Kenshusei”, they seem to be better off to take the “dirty jobs” down here.

    Don`t you think that it was quite strange that, basically, only Nikkeijins from Latin America were offered money to return home, at the time when the crisis began ? How about the other foreigners ? Have you seen the intention to repatriate the Chinese “Kenshusei” at that time ?

    — I did think it quite strange, and here’s what I wrote about it at the time. http://www.debito.org/?p=2930


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