Mainichi: NHK Press publishes book about NJ “underground reality” (e.g., prostitution, fake marriages and citizenships, profiteering). Contrast with interview with freewheeling cannibal Sagawa Issei.


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Hi Blog.  Speaking of Japanese media profiteering off NJ by peddling images of them to the public (after in some cases killing them first, e.g., Ichihashi Tatsuya, Sagawa Issei — more on him below), here we have a quick book review of some author depicting NJ adding to the undercurrent of Japan’s crimes and misdemeanors (N.B., in two articles that are quite different in English and Japanese, as the Mainichi is quite prone to doing).

While I haven’t read the book to see if there is any element of, “If these guys had better opportunities in Japan, they might not resort to these trades” (i.e., it’s not because NJ are intrinsically predisposed to criminality, despite what other Japanese media has nakedly asserted), it still panders to the latent NPA-promoted public prejudices of “foreigner as criminal”, sensationalizing the lives of NJ residents in Japan.

Pity.  There is significantly less media about the regular lawful contributions NJ make to Japanese society.  But I guess a book about someone who does his or her day job, brings home the paycheck to put food on the table, spends the weekends playing with the kids, pays taxes on time, and takes on neighborhood association duties, isn’t fodder for selling scads of sensationalism.  But I betcha that’s much closer to the “reality” for far more NJ in Japan.  Arudou Debito


Writer talks of ‘underground reality’ of Japan’s foreigners in new book
(Mainichi Japan) February 1, 2012, courtesy of JK

The myth that Japan is a homogenous society lost its veracity long ago. With the growth of globalization, the sight of foreigners living and working in Japan is certainly no longer a rare occurrence.

However, how much do we know about the real lives of Japan’s foreigners?

This is the question that Kota Ishii, a spirited non-fiction writer, raises in his new book, “Nippon ikoku kiko — zainichi gaikokujin no kane, seiai, shi” (Journey through foreign Japan: The money, love, sex and death of foreigners in Japan).

“What happens with the bodies of foreigners if they die in Japan?”; “A Mie Prefecture island: A haven for foreign prostitution?”; “A South Korean church helping Japanese homeless — what is its real aim?” These are just a few examples of what Ishii tackles in his latest work.

Ishii, who has published several books on prostitution, slums and underground businesses in Asia, sheds light this time on different foreign communities in Japan.

The book introduces a South Korean who has conquered the Japanese sex industry by undercutting prices; an Israeli man with an expired visa who pays a Japanese woman to marry him to obtain Japanese nationality; Chinese who flee from the country after obtaining citizenship, and many other examples that portray the reality of “underground” foreign communities in Japan.

Because there are so many fake marriages initiated by foreigners in Japan, some international matchmaking companies even provide compensation to victims, Ishii writes.

The writer further introduces readers to a recent phenomenon among foreigners in Japan: jumping occupations.

Pakistanis opening Indian restaurants is one example from this trend, Ishii writes. Many construction company or factory employees who have lost their jobs are pushed into alternative businesses, the writer explains.

Even while he cuts deeply into the lives of Japan’s foreigners, lending a critical eye to their doings, Ishii manages to portray the people who fight hard to survive in a foreign land with compassion.

“Nippon ikoku kiko — zainichi gaikokujin no kane, seiai, shi” went on sale in January.


“Original Japanese story” that was linked from this article:

読書日和:注目です アングラ在日外国人
毎日新聞 2012年1月31日 東京夕刊






PS:  For the purposes of contrast, here’s a creepy interview with cannibal Sagawa Issei; overlook the somewhat questionable journalism, see him speaking after 1:14, and just try not to go slack-jawed…

14 comments on “Mainichi: NHK Press publishes book about NJ “underground reality” (e.g., prostitution, fake marriages and citizenships, profiteering). Contrast with interview with freewheeling cannibal Sagawa Issei.

  • Seriously? Are they joking? This book, while anecdotally might be based in reality, is based on bad social science, the other being strange, corrupt, and morally beneath the Japanese. Like it could even compare to what goes on in the “underground” culture of Japanese communities. It’s poles apart. I’m stunned by the hypocrisy of the labels of the chapters in the book. “Haven for foreign prostitution”, “What is it’s real aim?” Like I would need to read on to guess what the contents of said chapter would lead to in conclusion.

  • The moment I saw the post title, I was hoping you’d remind everyone about the 外人犯罪裏ファイル (and I see that you did in the links). I first came across it on your site several years ago, but decided that I needed a hardcopy of it for myself. It took me a while, but I managed to track one down and it now sits prominently on my bookshelf in the living room where my Japanese friends can see and comment on it.

    While I don’t want to support what at least appears to be anti-NJ nonsense, I do want to pick up a copy to see exactly what he says and how he “manages to portray the people who fight hard to survive in a foreign land with compassion.”

  • While I do see this book as a pander to those with a prurient and salacious interest in the lurid, I see little else objectionable about it.

    It reminds me of the UK Mirror [ ] with all of its tabloid appeal.

    What is interesting is that, if in the Netherlands or UK there is a regular eroticisation of predictable groups: celebrities, WAGs, underworld figures, etc. there is no such interest in foreigners per se.

    Usually exotic groups are treated with such fascination, not the Polish plumbers or Turkish or Vietnamese shopkeepers.

    But, in Japan, all foreigners, even Koreans who have been living here for generations and are, after all, a genetically kindred group to Japanese, are treated as exotic.

    It is not just blonde Europeans or black Africans who are viewed as extremely exotic, but even nearby peoples.

    In the Netherlands, for example, we would never think of taking much interest in Belgians, our nearest group, nor do Britons take any interest in Dutch.

    It strikes me that what is exotic and therefore excitingly forbidden is far different in a very xenophobic society like Japan.

    — I’m afraid these generalizations are as gross as the ones being peddled in this book. Don’t fall for them yourself.

  • Andrew in Saitama says:


    Armed criminals running around Chiba.
    Groups pretending to be family and tricking old people into paying huge amounts of money into fake bank accounts.
    Celebrities using illegal substances.
    Teenage prostitution.

    These are all examples of reality in Japan. We COULD write a sensationalized book about it for the edification of the world, or we could accept that for the vast majority of people in Japan it is not the reality. But where would the profits be in that?

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    Geez, this is so hysterical and paranoiac. It will make me vomit if I read the book. Wonder the writer knows 1) how many non-Japanese are currently residing in Japan today (over 2 million); and 2) how much his account reflects the representative of those. Oh wait, it just doesn’t matter because this is Japan? I can imagine some people like him saying:

    “I am a journalist and privileged to write whatever I see and feel in my own way for profiteering.”

    Typical mindset for those who are churning out Nihonjin-ron crap, days in and days out, to the detriment of unprofessional journalism.

    — One error I’ll point out in this pseudo-journalist’s-cum-author’s findings: “an Israeli man with an expired visa who pays a Japanese woman to marry him to obtain Japanese nationality” (日本国籍を得るため、日本人女性に金を出して偽装結婚する不法滞在のイスラエル人). That’s fishy, as you do not need to be married to a Japanese in order to obtain Japanese nationality. (Or else how would “dedicated bachelor” Donald Keene have his aspirations?)

  • It’s not just fishy Debito, it’s fishing for something to write about for the sake of a sensationalist headline that’ll get attention of a certain demographic in this society we are all aware of that either consciously or more importantly subconsciously regards the foreigner as a criminal element and the Japanese element of society as peaceful and harmonious. They simply will not shine a light into the background of the facade. The Japanese simply prefer to put up psychological barriers to these unsavory aspects of Japanese life. Its so frustrating. Like the teachers at my school who pander to the whims of a yakuza dad who’s 4 and a half feet tall year after year. I don’t get it. Tell him where to get off, call the police, and get the to kick his little dwarf a&@ out the door. Problem solved. But they tolerate and suck up to him year on year, just so he won’t “cause problems” and in the hope that he’ll get bored and go away. Ahhhh. There we are. Out of sight. Out of mind. We have our harmony again.

  • Debito, so many (hideous) issues in one post!
    The book about the secret lives of NJ? Just purile sensationalism. But the fact that it is sociably tolerable to talk about NJ in such a way is just another (in a long list) of indicators of Japanese institutionalized racism. I have said here before on a different thread, that as Japan’s economic woes begin to bite, there will be more and more focus on the NJ community as being a ‘problem’. Think 1930’s germany.
    As for the video; I was part of a group contacted by lawyers regarding the Lucy Blackman case, who were looking to make some kind of advisory site/printed matter for young British ladies planning to go to work in Japan. My advice was simple; Don’t work in the sex industry.
    This is by no means to excuse the perpetrators of the crimes, but as experience has shown over and over again, the J-police don’t seem to take the killing of an NJ too seriously, and neither does Japanese society. It all just becomes media titillation.
    Everything in the thread should seriously be weighed in the balance when NJ come to Japan with naieve dreams of anime, samurai, video games, and temples.

  • Andrew in Saitama says:

    The journo is another one who believes that a J-spouse automatically leads to citizenship (I found a few of them on my search for Neko Hiroshi’s quest to get back Japanese citizenship )

    Slight thread drift, but I was asked to take a look at some books to be used in Moral Education classes at school to choose the best ones. Of over half a dozen sets, only one managed to decide that “Initernational understanding” was not purely about saying how great Japan is, or talking about a Japanese person living overseas.

    We all know that Japanese never enter into fake marriages (ahem), hop between jobs, or expoit the system… myabe Ishii will have a career in writing textbooks.

  • >> JIM
    good point

    I have notice that the tile of books in Japan also tend to be more exaggerate.
    The titles are pretty provocative like “いまさら人に聞けない” , “M Syakkai”, or “karyusyakai”. Instead of stimulate reader’s curiosity, they tend to send message like “thats why you are looser”
    Many of those I have read are garbage..bad social science, bad statistic, but it worked…people buy them cus the provocation.

    Also, double standard is serious in Japan. Any grey zone. If its done by Japanese, it’s OK, but if its done by NJ, it’s crime.Even in regular social situation, if NJ talk about Japanese problem, it consider as BASHING,but if Japanese talk about NJ problem, it’s called criticism.

  • NHK Publishing, eh? Any relation to NHK TV – the guys who run the racket about collecting money every month regardless of if you watch their channel or not? Not only am I disenfranchised, but I have to subsidize sleeze written about fellow foreigners.

  • @Charuzu

    Good point in #10, that is exactly the sort of thing that Media Standards do in the UK. However, a similar organization in Japan would be powerless to act in this case, since Japan doesn’t have a law against racial discrimination, because ‘there is no racial discrimination in Japan’! (there are only Japanese people in Japan; ‘This is Japan! We Japanese blah, blah, blah!’).

  • @Too Tall
    I agree that those NHK collectors are annoying as all get out but as someone living in Japan who has totally tuned out from broadcast TV for the last 10 years, NHK and the NHK BS channels are pretty much the only Japanese language channels I can stomach without retching uncontrollably.

    I would take the dry, disinterested delivery of the NHK newscasters and relatively neutral programming content any day over the “Wide show” sensationalism and the endless barrage of “WTF did I just watch” batshit insane Dentsu commercials and “gurume” programming.

    Can’t really comment on NHK publishing however.

    — Then let’s try to confine our discussion to topics as they relate to this blog entry. If you have information on NHK publishing, bring it up.

  • John (Yokohama) says:

    In the “there’s perception then reality” department:

    “No. of crimes by foreigners in Japan drops 12.7% in 2011

    TOKYO (Kyodo) — The number of crimes by foreigners uncovered by police across Japan in 2011 dropped 12.7 percent from a year earlier to 17,286, a preliminary National Police Agency survey showed Thursday.

    The number of foreign nationals the police questioned, arrested and sent papers on to prosecutors last year also fell 15.2 percent from 2010 to 10,061. Both numbers have been on a declining trend after peaking in 2005, according to the survey.

    Foreigners with permanent residence status are not included in the data.

    Among the crimes committed by foreigners, the number of fake marriage cases soared 26.1 percent in 2011 to 193, with the number of foreign nationals investigated by police in those cases also rising 17.6 percent to 554.

    Police have been clamping down on bogus marriages, believing they are creating the infrastructure for a host of other criminal activities, the survey said.

    Of the total number of crimes committed by foreigners, violations of the Penal Code in 2011 dipped 10.2 percent from the previous year to 12,590, while infringements of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act and other laws declined 18.8 percent to 4,696.

    By country of origin, China topped the list with Japanese police taking action against 4,012 Chinese nationals, accounting for 39.9 percent of the total, followed by South Korea and the Philippines.

    The number of foreign suspects who fled overseas in 2011 slipped 4.0 percent to 677, according to the survey.

    (Mainichi Japan) February 23, 2012”


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