Shock/Horror on Japanese TV show, where Japanese under new Arizona laws could be treated as foreigners, with ID checks! Kibishii!?


IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito

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Hi Blog.  In line with the current theme of the GOJ targeting NJ, here’s some idea of just how ignorant Japanese are of what happens to foreigners in Japan, e.g., Gaijin Card Checks.  Submitted as a comment in November 2010 by Marius, it deserves resurrecting as a separate blog entry today:

This is an excerpt of a variety show called “Manaberu News” (date unknown, sometime in 2010) discussing new laws to catch illegal aliens in Arizona (permanent carrying of ID and criminal penalties if caught not doing so) signed into law in April 2010, which critics have argued increases the probability of racial profiling and wanton detention of suspects.

The show mentions the requirement for foreigners in Arizona to carry ID 24/7, and how they could be arrested for not doing so.  We get gasps all around at how “kibishii” this is.

arizona omg by percyjpnprb

COMMENT:  I find this amusing, less because the ditzy Japanese panelists don’t seem to realize that once outside of Japan THEY become foreigners, more because nobody there seems to realize (or, for the purposes of balance in this admittedly short segment, have it pointed out) that this practice of random search with criminal penalties is already standard procedure in Japan.  NJ have been profiled this way for at least two generations now, regardless of whether or not they’re tourists!

No shock/horror here except for the ignorance.  Most people I’ve ever talked to in Japan (save for bureaucrats and employers of NJ) even know that there’s a Gaijin Card system in existence for tracking and targeting foreigners, not to mention a separate regime for registering (or not registering, as in Juuminhyou) them.

Lack of public awareness of this issue is part of the problem, and it enables the Japanese police, as we have seen on, to feel like they can take liberties with their law enforcement as soon as a foreigner is involved.  “Do unto others…” should also entail that regular Japanese folk consider what might happen to them if THEY were foreigners (but as this show demonstrates, for many that is simply pin to konai).  Arudou Debito

45 comments on “Shock/Horror on Japanese TV show, where Japanese under new Arizona laws could be treated as foreigners, with ID checks! Kibishii!?

  • Debito:

    I am sure that you are right that lack of knowledge, for some, plays a role.

    However, for many Japanese, studies seem to show, the issue is really more tied to xenophobia.

    (You might consider a paper for:

    As such, when Japanese sees Americans taking actions that are controversial, it reinforces their sense of superiority towards an “inferior” people.

    However, when Japan takes similar steps, they tend to vie the actions as necessary, because of the threat from inferior foreigners.

    Some Japanese (a minority I believe) will see the equivalence principle that you are proposing.

    However, many Japanese will see a different principle — that Americans are taking unnecessary measures (and thereby displaying their uncivilised natures) towards equally uncivilised people.

    Japanese, in contrast (many Japanese will say), are taking necessary steps towards an inferior group that poses a demographic threat to the purity of the Japanese nation.

  • ‘ ”Do unto others…” should also entail that regular Japanese folk consider what might happen to them if THEY were foreigners…’

    Aside from the distinction of nationality being a totally ridiculous construct to begin with, the idea that Japanese people can’t imagine that everywhere they go on the whole earth that is not within the absolutely miniscule boundaries of this nation is “gaikoku,” making them “gaikokujin”, is evidence that argues for the elimination of borders and the restrictions of movement they impose. The average person has little understanding of what borders mean, so are unable to make rational decisions about them.

    — By “average person” do you mean Japanese person or people in general? If it’s the latter, I can think of plenty of societies that understand the concept of borders. Start with several European societies. But anyway, back on track.

  • It is very clear from the start that the subject of discussion is US law. Given that context, I find extremely odd how none of the Japanese panelists seem to realize the host is talking about THEM when he mentions “gaikokujin” at the 17 second mark, and it doesn’t genuinely seem to sink in until it is explained at the 33 second mark.

    Being American, if I were to hear that Brazil (just for the sake of an example) had enacted new laws requiring “foreigners” to carry ID at all times, it would hit me right away that foreigner = me. I don’t know where I’m going with this, I just find the reaction of the Japanese panelists really odd, since they don’t seem to realize (and it has to be explained to what I assume are fully grown, educated adults) that people in other countries consider Japanese to be “foreigners” or that the the word “foreigner” applies to them given that the topic of discussion is US law.

    — Because the default logic is that a foreigner is a foreigner, a Japanese is a Japanese. Anywhere. It’s not a legal status relative to location. It’s an identity and self-identification issue. Ergo applicable anywhere.

  • C’mon, Debito; we all know it’s not do unto others; it’s “do unto the Japanese as you would be done by; the racially superior people can do to you what they bloody well like”.Until this attitude is punished with $trillion a day fines at the UN, the law will not change. What you have to understand is that the asses on the TV show don’t regard this as tit-for-tat (you check us, we check you); they regard the law as one for them and another for us. Which is why we need the hard-fisted gaiatsu that is so sorely lacking.

  • When I tell Japanese people about the injustices that non-Japanese suffer in Japan everyday, the average response seems less of “I didn’t know that, how shocking, such injustices must be stopped at once” but rather more of “I didn’t really know that, but I don’t really CARE about that, such practices are needed because there are many bad foreigners doing bad things, so it’s not Sabetsu (Sabetsu is Racial Discrimination, something which Japanese people never do, of course) it’s simply Kubetsu (Intelligently Discerning the difference between the rights of people who have a low-chance-of-being-criminals [Japanese] and people who have a high-chance-of-being-criminals [Non-Japanese]) and I think such practices need to be continued. I don’t care how those practices make non-Japanese feel.”

    And even when I reply with, “Well, if the same thing were to be done to you, how would you feel?” the average response is “This wouldn’t happen to me in Japan, I’m Japanese.” to which I have to do a face-palm and re-phrase the question, “Well, if OUTSIDE OF JAPAN the same thing were to be done to you, how would you feel?” the average response is, “Of course, I would feel very angry, this kind of thing should not be done to a Japanese person.”

    So finally, when I replay back to them the fact that their answers conflict: “it’s OK for these actions to be done to Non-Japanese in Japan, but it’s not OK for the SAME actions to be done to Japanese in Non-Japanese countries” the average response is “Well of course, different rules should apply: Japanese are different from gaijin.” “だって、日本人と外人全然ちがうだもん。”

    News flash: souls are born into bodies in countries around the world, and the ideas that are floating around and being valued within that country at that time usually become the ideas that float around and become valued by most people raised in that country. To put it simply, bottom line, most people raised in Japan have been infected with the idea that “Japanese deserve more rights than gaijin do.”

  • I read the following in a Chinese joke book once: “What -ese does a Chinese become when he goes to Japan? Foreign-ese!” Doesn’t work as well in English…

  • If we look at what Japanese do in Japan on a more simple basis I think that we get a grasp on mentality on a deeper level.

    Just take a look at food. I am Italian and I shiver any time I see how much Italian food (not only) is mangled by some so-called chefs that like to modify recipies at their own whim. We are in Japan, so why not prepare our Tiramisu’ with maccha, or pasta with natto… we may agree or may not that is good, but that is not my point.

    Do try to modify some really traditional Japanese dish/food and see the shocked reaction. Simple example, go to a traditional tea house and ask for sugar to put into “maccha”.
    I have been redargued about wanting some mayonnaise and shichimi to put on my tonkatsu, because that was not the way to eat it. When in Italy the same person drinks, normally, cappuccino after lunch (ouch).

    Sorry to talk about things that seem far away from this thread argument, but my point is, as some other posters above say, that in Japan anything is OK, when applied to things that are not autoctone (foreign), while anything that is traditional or autoctone is sacred and revered (Japanese).
    I think that shows the respect and consideration given to what is different. It also explains the usual double standards that we see every day here. I also think that it is, nowadays, too deeply rooted inside, so no much constructive thinking is done about it. Strict rules apply to foreigners but the same rules (if foreigners try to apply to the Japanese) do not apply to Japanese.

    I think that there is also the tendency to absorb parts of other cultures and make them as “Japanese” as possible. I do not know if that is, at a deep level, done because, in their deep, anything Japanese makes people feel more secure and safe.

  • j_jobseeker says:


    I like how you throw their logic back into their face, even though the reaction doesn’t surprise me. However, if you really want to paint them in to a corner about the issue, the issue shouldn’t be about being Japanese vs. being foreign, it should be about presumed guilt or innocence—to confront them on their philosophy of Kubetsu. Because that is really the issue here when it comes to NJ in Japan and I bet if Japanese were confronted by the fact that in another country, strict rules are to govern them as foreigners who “have a high-chance-of-being-criminals” in said country, the outright insult to their Japanese-ness would probably cause them to blow a gasket. And the “coup de grace” should be really sticking the point that outside of Japan’s borders they become *gasp* a Gaijin—as the kanji spells out: “someone from outside (said country).”

    Ah, they’ll never admit to it… but it’d be fun to try.

  • Unbelievable. How people do not know that this is an everyday fact of life for all NJ living in Japan is beyond me. What more can be done to get the word out? Or is it a case of ignorance is bliss?

  • This past week I was out drinking with my neighbor, as I frequently do. Towards the end of the evening, another person in the bar challenged my friend as to why he was out drinking with a “foreigner”. “After all”, he suggested, “you don’t even speak a common language.” For about 30 minutes, my friend defended our relationship with this other guy.

    I couldn’t have been more proud of his attitude and his friendship. In talking to me later, my friend and I discussed, as best we could, how our relationship was different and better than many other “peer to peer” relationships. We acknowledged that we could be more honest in talking to each other, without worrying about social rank, professional courtesies, etc. Over time, we have each gained a better understanding of our respective cultural views.

    I’m quite sure that he no longer views every foreign looking person as an alien being. Perhaps the best way out of the stereotypical view of foreigners can be accomplished on a person to person basis. With more and more outsiders coming into Japan, and insiders going out, it is likely that mutual respect will grow. Centuries of isolationism can only be overcome with a lot of time.

  • >Or is it a case of ignorance is bliss?

    My money’s on this one.

    Not only is it more comfortable to avoid dwelling upon unpleasant aspects of one’s own culture, but moreover, and frankly, I think a (probably sizable) majority of our cultural hosts devote as little time to thinking about us (or even acknowledging our presence) as they can possibly get away with.

    Not to imply in any way that this is an exclusively Japanese attitude. I mean, how many people living in McMansions in Texas or Arizona or So.Cal give a damn about their leafblower man or the guy that cleans their pool once a month? How many American supermarket shoppers buying lettuce or melons or onions really, honestly, in their hearts, give a damn about the plight of the people who picked that produce?

    Human nature. Just a little more distilled, potent, and in-the-Outsider’s-face, I guess, when 98% of the occupants of a given cultural space regard themselves as belonging to the same ethnic group and culture and thus as the only really LEGITIMATE and noteworthy occupants of such space. The rest of us are just blips on the landscape, figures to laugh at on TV, or strange-smelling bodies taking up too much space on crowded commuter trains.

  • Sigh… Look, I live in one of the more pricey neighborhoods of Tokyo where there are no “guest houses” or anything. My last job was about 12 minutes bike ride from my apartment. At one point I would get stopped at least once a week by police asking for my I.D. and checking my bike. So on average, I was getting stopped about 4 times a month in the tiny neighborhood I’d been living in for 3 years. When I told my friends about this…SHOCK! They really seemed to think I was trying to make up a fantastical story for them. One night I even had a cop try to sneakily follow me home on his bike, until I stopped my bike and turned around and stared him down. He then meekly (but suddenly) turned his bike around and rode off.

    Look, the average Japanese person is polite, but in general, this place doesn’t want foreigners. Alas, the country’s population is forecast to shrink by 30% by 2060, so it will be ‘very’ interesting to see how violent and nationalist things get as the country empties out and more foreigner from Asia become more apparent.

  • Let me put it another way. If I “had” been living in Japan illegally, at this point I would have been kicked out of the country about 50 times over. I should mention, sometimes I’d get checked 3 times in one week. Once I even got really angry and told the cop, “Look, this is a small area, you know me. I know you. You see me all the time. Please stop checking me all the time, you know who I am! Please!” I said all this in Japanese. The cop, who I really did know by that point, just sheepishly smiled and continued checking my bike.

    I’m sorry, but I will never ever take a japanese person seriously again who complains to me about immigration in the U.S. There’s just no comparison. Hell, I could get beat down and sexually assaulted in Japan and I’d have to have photo evidence and two witnesses to even have a chance in a Japanese court versus a Japanese citizen. In the U.S., if a Japanese person simply goes to the cops and tells them what happened, they can get an American citizen quickly arrested and possibly convicted. No comparison.

  • @Debito,
    I absolutely love this clip, and always have since I first saw it on
    It is the perfect antidote to all the idiots who say that ”gaijin’ isn’t derogatory or discriminatory, it simply means ‘foreigner”, because, as this clip clearly shows, the racism is inherent in the language since even when not in Japan, the Japanese do not regard themselves as ‘gaijin’. Surely therefore, this proves that in the minds of the Japanese, ‘gaijin’ doesn’t harmlessly mean ‘foreigner’, but is a pejorative.
    Anyone defending the ‘gaijin’=foreigner lie should go back to school by way of reading Brian Friels ‘Translations’ or Orwells notes re: ‘double speak’ at the back of ‘1984’. Words inform thought, thought informs actions.

  • You really have to wonder what is going through these people’s heads. For some reason I get the picture that the slightly dim looking woman at the 22 second mark is imagining a white American guy getting hassled by American cops and thinking “that’s right”, hence the nodding.

    I wonder what her initial reaction would’ve been she had actually managed to understand from the start that the actual target of such a new law would be HER. Personally, I think there would be a whole lot less nodding…

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    It must be quite shocking to many Japanese who don’t even know what is going on with Team Japan over the treatment of foreign residents. I bet Ronald Takaki would be flabbergasted–if he were still alive at present–at the sight of his ethnic brothers who are treating NJ just until today just like whites treating people of color in the 19th and 20th century of America. I wish someone would publish the Japanese version of “Iron Cage[s] (See and

  • Good! Inga o hou! In October, while returning from Shanghai, I was separated from my 10 year-old son upon arrival at the immigration desk (he’s Japanese; I have eijyuken)–told to go the other line. Upon separation, both the immigration agent and the gawking Japanese passengers laughed. I won’t write the images that went through my head…never been so angry.

  • @Carl,

    so very true, we dont stand a chance here in japan as a foriegner when it comes to legal rights. Ive heard the retort, “oh, but in the U.S. I experienced this and that” by Japanese. Thing about that is you can move to California or some other state where the majority is Asian. Where are we gaijin going to go in Japan? The xenophobia is everywhere.

  • Baudrillard says:

    @comment 16, oh the Japanese know about the iron cage all right; they are living in the postmodern “iron cage of rationalization”, “a life that holds no surprises”.
    I see you are referring to Max Webers iron cage; he couldve been talking about Japan and the gaijin cards;
    “Weber was ambivalent towards rationalisation; while admitting it was responsible for many advances, in particular, freeing humans from traditional, restrictive and illogical social guidelines, he also criticised it for dehumanising individuals as “cogs in the machine” and curtailing their freedom, trapping them in the bureaucratic iron cage of rationality and bureaucracy.[2][49][56][57
    I think Japan has got, after reading the above, half assed rationalization, as they still have the traditional (they think, tho its fake tradition), illogical social guidelines, but mixed in with the iron-clad, borg like rules to trump all other rules. Rules that MUST be obeyed. How many times have we all heard in Japan “Because it is a rule…” -now thats rationalisation!

    Gaijin, as we Japanese all know, are unpredictable and are therefore spoiling the mundane predictability of safety Japan. Also, they and certain “bad” Japanese raise questions about things like Fukushima, which is ruining an otherwise dreamy day as planned of happy consumerism of green tea, sake and bonding via hostesess and shared so desu ne’s moving freom one controlled experience to another(sorry, sarcastic digression mine).

    @17, you, as the gaijin actor have to have ones responses prepared, ones lines learnt for situations like this when entering the Japan Theatre of the Absurd. I would have laughed at them,or even with them, as I smilingly ask them what their nationality is (they might be Koreans, why should I know?).

    Dont get mad, get even. Or laugh at their absurdity. Or act dumb, wasting the immigration guy’s time like asking over and over”So, my son is Japanese, so he can go with me right?” Maybe get a few of those nasty bystanders to translate for you (even if you speak Japanese)-they may as well make themselves useful to you, and they might even learn something to take home with them about the injustices of this system- an over rationalized and thus dehumanizing one that separates families.

  • BTW: I haven’t been stopped for my gaijin card in many years (even in big cities). Tall, blonde hair, blue eyes (ahem, “Charisma Man”, Debito). Got a new teacher for my school here in bucolic Japan. He’s from Puerto Rico and arrives next month. Let’s see what happens…

  • @Chad,
    That’s a hideous way to be treated, but, unfortunately, as the Japanese wartime treatment of POWs and many a Japanese variety TV show demonstrate (most famously Endurance), (not to mention the manga and pornography) there is a strong bias towards getting off on the humiliation of others in Japanese culture.

  • @Debito,
    As a postscript to my last, this taste for humiliating others can be seen as a direct result of the tatamae/honne, and lack of fairness issues that you have written about before. It has a psychology very much like domestic violence; if you are abused, you will learn that that is the normal way to behave, and abuse others with any power that you have later. I think that the issues you have written about before describe a society based on the power of bullying, and I would argue that it is the reason why bullying others (in this instance NJ) is seen to be acceptable. You could make the case there the Japanese suffer from far too much ‘secondary psychopathy’.

  • Andrew in Saitama says:

    I’m reminded of the time back in my eikaiwa days when a student asked me if I had noticed “any differences between the Japanese and foreign students” at my university in Australia.
    I can still see him trying to process my response:
    “The Japanese students were FOREIGN students.”

  • That’s just stunning Chad. Was this person at immigration official staff with a badge and number?

    With him (or her?) displaying such appalling and insulting behavior toward a person (you – rightly or wrongly as you’ve been here so long) the Japanese are supposed to be “Yokosoing” at the border, why didn’t you politely and calmly ask for and ID number, and lodge an official complaint later? (I know, I know, wanna get the hell out of there and just get home)

  • Hey Chad, On returning to Fukuoka I automatically went to the foreigner line but the immigration person sent me through the Japanese only with my Japanese daughter and wife!

    Nobody laughing or angry or otherwise.

  • I know it’s above their thought processes but surely if you are travelling as a family, everyone can go through together. I’ve been through Kansai Airport numerous times and I really can’t tell the difference between the two sections. Maybe only the non-Japanese side has workers who speak other languages?

    Going through Vancouver on my way to Toronto with my wife and kids, we never had any issues and certainly we didn’t have to be split up. We all went through as a family and it made my wife feel a lot better.

    What’s the big friggin deal with Japan?

    — I have the feeling that Narita feels like it is a special place (a modern Dejima out in former rice paddies it had to claw away from farmers who still don’t accept the appropriation). From the start it has had a bunker mentality against domestic elements, but bring in the foreign element and you are entrusted with a special policing role — to keep Japan safe and leakproof (look at all the security both coming in and going out — you’ll see it best by going there by bus to depart).

    It’s a bit superfluous, as there are plenty of ports of entry into Japan now (so the borders are much more porous than they were back in the 1960s, when Narita was built), but institutions have a habit of retaining mentalities and memories (especially once the Japanese police get control over an area: perpetual campaigns) a lot longer than people, or common sense. Hence more eagle-eye-ism at Narita than say, KIX or Chubu. Is my theory, anyway.

  • @Andrew in Saitama.

    To you they were foreign students, because you’re (presumably) Australian; but to your Japanese student they weren’t. They were compatriots. Nobody becomes a foreigner (or “gaijin”) in the eyes of a fellow citizen merely by moving to another country. Otherwise I’d have to consider my fellow Brits in japan as foreigners, which they obviously aren’t.

  • Two years ago, when we came back from holidays in Europe with our baby, we all took the reentry line for foreign residents of Japan. The line was very short (almost nobody as usual), but when we arrived in front of the immigration agent, he my wife she was Japanese and should go through the Japanese line while I could go through with him. She was very surprised at the aggressive tone of the agent and she was clearly angry (“what the hell! who does he think he is!”). So we went to the Japanese line (we didn’t want to be separated). Fortunately, I was not asked to go back to “my” line.
    Wouldn’t it make more sense to be more flexible with the lines when there are many people waiting? I thought decreasing waiting time was one of the objectives of the Immigration.

  • @Debito
    Can’t remember the page number, but ‘Modern Japan as History’; Andrew Gordon,: Narita airport is the most heavily guarded location in Japan, by way of police numbers, with larger numbers on duty than for the Imperial Palace or the Diet building.

  • @Joe

    Maybe the British and Japanese share similar ironic bias in this respect. One recalls hearing of the stereotypical British traveler abroad complaining about “the damn foreigners” without realizing the irony of his statement.

  • Andrew in Saitama says:


    Remember from Monty Python’s Flying Circus? “To improve the British economy, I would tax all foreigners living abroad”?

    My university was pretty diverse – education was seen as an export, and there were plenty of Malaysians, Singaporeans, HK Chinese, etc. The Japanese students were also foreign.

    I once tried an experiment – when asked about “foreigners”, I replied that I didn’t know, I am Australian and that the person asking the question was a foreigner. She was shocked.

    You know you’ve been in Japan too long when…
    … you think that “foreigner” is a nationality, ethnotype, or adequate description of appearance.

  • @TJJ

    Still, I stand by what I said. To the Brit, the “locals” are “damn foreigners”. They’re not British. Like I said, your definition of “foreign” has nothing to do with where you happen to be situated, but everything to do with what colour your passport is and how that compares to the folk around you.

  • @Joe

    “Foreigner” has at least two definitions in English:

    1. Not legally part of the nationality under consideration
    2. An outsider to the group, from the perspective of the speaker

    of which you are using the second exclusively, which is not particularly useful for this blog, as no one could, under that definition alone, consider themselves to be a foreigner. But this blog is not really about how you, Joe, view the world from your perspective. It’s about how foreigners are treated in Japan, which necessarily means that we are solely concerned with what Japanese government and civil society view as foreigners. You might try to convince the Japanese authorities that you are not a foreigner because you are British, and therefore not subject to the Japanese rules and regulations, and I wish you luck, but I’m going to go out on a limb and predict frustration on your part. :p

  • The rest of the story: we had to hustle-butt as the plane was over an hour late and my wife was waiting with the rest of the kids outside of customs. As soon as I was told to go to the other line, 30 Chinese HS students rushed for it (I got in between them). At that point, my son was on the other side of the desk laughing at me (he knew the deal). Once the Japanese line emptied, the agent from that desk called us over. The signs ARE clear at Okayama Airport: “Japanese/Tokubetsu Eijyuken”, so I can’t really complain, but it’s a sh*tty shake, nevertheless. Families going to the US do NOT get separated. The good thing: I’ve NEVER been checked by Japanese customs (not that I had anything to conceal)–my frumpy/dumpiness seems to work. Yes, I was angry, but I’m not into scrapping with immigration at this point in time. I’m out of here in one month (Fukushima is a lie); and those idiots–they have to stay…

  • @Joe and TJJ
    The origin of the British attitude to national identity in the instances that your are referring to lie in the era of The British Empire. You can look at any number of novels from around that time frame and see the ‘stereotype’ of an Englishman/woman of a certain class, eg; aristocrat/military officer/civil servant/debutante/heiress (you get the picture), being shocked that local (that is to say indigenous) personnel are asking to see the aforementioned Brits passport or such like (this can be found in most Agatha Christie novels, for example).
    Whilst it was a stereotype (and therefore representative of a certain kind of stuck up Brit), it was by no means the norm amongst Brits, since very few were wealthy enough to travel to such exotic destinations at that time, or had work that required them to do so. However, it’s widespread use as a literary device to develop literary characters has led to a level of adsorbtion into the popular consciousness of what a Brit abroad should behave like, and indeed, many Brits would not reject the caricature due to it’s sense of post-colonial nostalgia.
    The Japanese national superiority complex is not a by-product of literary fiction, but the direct result of intentional Imperial era brainwashing from an elementary school age.

  • Just chiming in to say that I was ID checked last night on my way home from the dry cleaners.

    The fellow outside of the koban (wearing a mask, but I don’t want to read too much into that–it’s February after all) stopped me on my bicycle and began the “so where do you live?” rigmarole.

    When I asked for his ID as per the advice on your site I was waved along with no ID check and a confused compliment on my Japanese,as well as a few chuckles from some university students waiting at the crosswalk.

    I haven’t been through that since I lived in rural Hokkaido–since moving to Tokyo I have usually only appeared before the police in a suit–I guess I may need to don a disguise going forward on my way to pick up cleaning.

    In any case, thanks for keeping all of the advice up on your site–it made a really unfortunate situation turn out as well as could possibly have been hoped for.

  • a little off-topic, but I flew from Narita to Amsterdam, transferring at Helsinki a year ago. When boarding the plane, a group of JP high-school girls boarded as well. One girl said, ‘ah, minna gaijin’ when she walked to her seat. When she walked past me I said: ‘koko wa anata ga gaijin da yo!’. The look on her face was priceless.

  • Debito, how is going with fingerprint residents abolishing?
    Any movement towards these or you all accepted it ( you are not going through this anyway) and
    let J Gov. continue to humiliate us in front of families and biz partners?
    Any Anonymous group out there?

  • Guys, today on Fuji TV was some kind of program. I don`t watch JTV very often, but just happened that I was doing something and it came to my attention again about WE are JAPANESE overseas and others are gaijins. OK, there was some talk about England. One guy was talking about being there with crew staff and doing some shooting. Then, someone asked him: kowakatta? and…HERE WE ARE. Ans.”sugoi kowakatta, gaijin bakkari kara!” F**k I thought I had misunderstood. I raised my head and listened. The story continued: “all crew had finished shooting and then we all went to department store. Someone spoke English to us. I was scraed”. Then again the same words “kowakatta!!! yappari, gaijin ippai, sugoku kowakatta!!!

    My Japanese is not perfect, but I understand a lot and hopefully I did not misunderstood.

    because of guy like this, people are brainwashed and without any bad intantion think they are Japanese and other are foreigners. Oh! Yeah!

  • @DK2012
    ‘because of guy like this, people are brainwashed and without any bad intantion think they are Japanese and other are foreigners’

    Or maybe Japanese are frightened when they go abroad because they know how they look down on NJ at home, and are worried that they will be on the receiving end when they go outside of Japan?

  • (Apology in advance for my bad English)Talking about perspectives, I think mr. Debito as he says about the Japanese, he lacks about one perspective simply because he`s from USA.

    As a Japanese resident, as a former USA resident and as a Mexican, (foreigner in both countries) I can tell you there is a huge, an abysmal difference between Japanese and american laws in that specific matter.
    Japanese will not discriminate between foreigners, they will randomly ask you for ID regardless of how do you look, while in USA they will cherry-pick foreigners for their race, they stop almost every latino looking person, even if in the area Latino background people is majority. They stop more black people than white, even if the white look obviously foreigner (European accent, outfit, etc.) they are never bothered as long as they are white, and that`s a reality there because I saw it many times.

    I live in Japan and i think there is a lot of things to improve, but I can tell you, the segregation here for being a gaijin is not even close compared to the racism I felt while live in USA, I also lived in Vancouver, Canada and it was totally different, within a month there i felt like in home, here in japan, maybe i always be a foreigner, but i feel it non-so personal, i feel it more cultural, but in USA I was always the “Mexican” there was always the rednecks like the ones in Arizona promoting racist laws just because of the race as one of the motives.

    Japan was always a closed and homogeneous country, I can understand them more than a country made by immigrants, that in a war took a big chunk from mexico, including Arizona and now they want to kick out all the Mexicans from their former mother land, as they did with the natives.

    Mr. Debito, I respectfully think you are totally wrong to put both japanese and american immigration issues in the same bag, not until at least one day you experience america in a different skin color, then, only then, you will realize how different and how far Japanese “racism” is from the American racism.

    — Maybe. But maybe you haven’t read enough of the cases and permutations of racism documented here over a decade and a half on (start here), or been in Japan as long as you have been in the US to experience them for yourself. I will agree with you that the expressions of racism are different in content in tone and degree (as they are in every society), but the effect is the same: differentiation, racializing, and exclusion/subordination of a whole group of people based upon physical/national origin characteristics.

    I’m sorry also for commenting on the issue while White, but your comment says more about you than it does about the issues at hand. Your need to even put the Japanese variant of “racism” in pseudo-quotes is indicative, willful or not, of your ignorance of both the issue in general and the situation in specific.

  • Loverilakkuma says:


    >Japanese will not discriminate between foreigners, they will randomly ask you for ID regardless of how do you look,

    So you are saying it is NOT racism as far as they equally discriminate against people who don’t look Japanese on surface? Are you aware that you fall into the blindness of cultural logic employed by the Japan’s authority regime? You will never gonna be an exemption from random ID checking while you’re in Japan—regardless of your race and ethnicity. I understand the problem with Arizona immigration law that gives local police a legitimate power to check IDs on Mexican immigrants and those who cross the borders. Arizona has made a horrible choice to target specific people of color because they are highly concerned with a growing number of illegal immigrants crossing the border (Wish the US Supreme Court will strike down the law).

    In Japan, however, it’s not just for a particular race. It just doesn’t matter if you are a white, black, Hispanics, Asian, European, African, or Arab. The government subjects all of these to ID checks– even though Japan has far less illegal immigrants and much better airport security system than the US. The authorities target anyone who doesn’t seem to meet their standards of what constitutes Japanese citizen by creating a false consciousness on foreigners as wolves in sheep’s clothes. What’s worse, they let go of people who look Japanese but turn out to be Chinese or Korean while wrongly stop Japanese for ID checking (and even arrest him/her for not cooperating with the police/legal enforcement!)

    I don’t see any mitigating circumstance in which racism plays out within the hierarchy of Japanese society in contrast to any democratic society. Japan’s authorities want to keep people ignorant and undisciplined about race and culture (yeah, just like the Republican rightists in the US) by thrusting their pet theory of pseudo-science and Asiatic religion for centuries.

  • Neohamster says:

    Sorry for the misunderstanding of the quotes, I was trying to make a difference between the two kinds of racism, and in japan there is a racism issue, as in all the countries including Mexico.

    Also my apologies if the previous post sounded offensive, that`s not my intention, but to make the point USA is not better in any way than Japan.

    I been living in japan for 3 years only and 4 in USA, I think I can pretty much make comparisons between the two.

    And you don’t have to apologize for commenting as being white, I`m not racist, I have no problem with the quantity of melanin the people has in their skin, my Issue is exactly with the people that discriminate because of colours, please don`t twist my comments, the fallacies (you just used fallacy ad tergum) don`t contribute much to get a consensus and my goal here is not to “win” an arguments.
    I`m sure you clearly understand what i meant when say you need to be in USA in a non-white skin to really understand how big is the racism there.

    I insist, as you claim the Japanese don`t realize many things (like they do the same with the foreigners as an example) for the same reason I think is hard for you (or any white american person (or Caucasians) to realize over there is worst than here.

    To not extend this too much, let me tell you, and is not just me I assure you, (I`m not an isolated case), that I feel WAY less discriminated here than in USA

    I don`t deny Japan have racism issues, but not even close than USA, you link me to many articles in your blog, I can link you to 100 times more numerous and disturbing ones from USA, and not even talking about the abuses to muslim people after 9/11, I even witnessed a poor Hindu being badmouthed by some people because he has a turban, so turban = muslim. Just take the videos of immigrants being beaten to death or shot by the border patrol, those videos make the Japanese cases look like a Disney vacations.

    @loverilakkuma you are totally right, maybe because of my experience in USA made me think I`m in paradise in Japan, if i try to be objective, there is some issues in here, and again, I accept my first post wasn`t too objective, also, my apologies to Mr. Debito, maybe I used him as a scapegoat when I saw someone from USA talking about human rights and immigrants rights got me a little frustrated.

    Again, my apologies to Mr. Debito.

    And again, I feel WAAY less discriminated in Japan than in USA

    My 2 cents.

    And please dont take “someone from ÙSA talking about human rights and immigrants rights got me frustrated” literally, any person has the right to do so, but not in the way comparing the Japanese one with the Arizona law, minimizing that ultra Xenophobic law just blind my judgement.

    I hope you see my point and don`t take it personal Mr. Debito, I just wonder If you are aware how bad are the Immigration issues in USA, I wonder if you really think Japan`s immigration issues are worst than in your country.

    Have a nice day and sorry again.

    — Reading comprehension please. The entire point of this blog entry was not to say that things are better or worse in Japan or the US. It was to point out the ignorance and irony of a) some Japanese TV panelists thinking that they would not be foreigners in a foreign country, and b) the program not even bothering to mention that the shock-horror Arizona laws being cited are all that much different in tone (and, I believe, enforcement, though you probably don’t) than what’s been done to NJ in Japan for generations — including those “foreigners” (i.e., the Zainichi) who were once Japanese citizens. Let’s take a deep breath before commenting and stick to the point of the blog entry.

  • #41 Neohamster –
    1 I think you are seriously confused. Japanese DO discriminate between foreigners. Just because they ask various races for ID’s, south-east asians, and darker skinned people usually get treated worse than lighter skinned people.

    2 You are confusing your personal experiences with nationwide policies – but that is for another time.

    3 a. Japan was not always closed. b. Japan is not now, and has never been a homogeneous country. They tell themselves and us that they are, but they are not. There are many races/ethnic groups in Japan – they just don’t talk about it.

    4 The U.S. fought a war against SPAIN, and took part of its north American colony (Mexico). Like Russia took half of Finland at the beginning of WW2.

    5 By definition, Mexicans are not Americans, so they are not allowed to stay in the U.S. without a valid visa. I assume you respect Japan’s right to enforce visa violations, but I also suspect you do not respect the same actions when performed by the U.S. gov.

    6 I am glad that you are reading debito. I hope you continue to learn and grow.

    7 I think if you are legal in the U.S., you will not have as many problems as you apparently did. Also, and I hope you never experience this first-hand, but if you end up in a Japanese jail, you will learn that the entire system assumes you are guilty, until proven innocent.

    — We’re digressing. I’ll allow one thoughtful response from Neohamster if s/he so chooses, then a thoughtful response from somebody else, and then I’ll close this tangent.

  • Wandering off-topic, but I hope Debito will forgive the digression:

    @KT: Mexico broke from Spain and became an independent country in the 1820s. In the early 1840s a group of US settlers in Mexican territory got into a fight with the Mexican government, rebelled and formed their own country, the Republic of Texas (to be fair, though, some Mexicans also rebelled around this time, Yucatan also “seceded”). Texas “won” and was annexed by the US, but leaving an ambiguous border. Disputes over that border led the US to declare war on Mexico (NOT Spain) in 1846, invade the country and annex the entire northern half of Mexico.

    In 1898 the US declared war on Spain and seized Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines. The US still holds two of the three.

    Russia took half of POLAND at the beginning of World War II, not Finland. Russia did have an on-and-off border war with Finland throughout the period, granted, but they never took “half of Finland”. The Soviet Union only gained about 10% of pre-war Finnish territory.

    — Thanks very much for the corrections. I should not have let the previous comment through with so many errors (sorry, busy day today). This will not count towards the two more comments allowed in this tangent. Onward with the discussion.


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