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Home » Archives » December 2005 » A Murder Case that Could Spell Trouble for Foreigners

A Murder Case that Could Spell Trouble for Foreigners

Thursday, December 1, 2005 Posted: 01:08 PM JST

On November 22 the body of a 7-year-old girl was found in a cardboard box in an empty lot in Hiroshima. It looked like just another horrifying murder of an innocent little girl. Japanese media were as usual in a feeding frenzy, making the most of this terrible tragedy. Tuesday night a man was arrested for the murder. He is non-Japanese and the media are doing their best to amplify this fact.

"I saw a "henna gaijin (strange foreigner)," tells one resident of the area where the girl's body was found to a Japanese TV reporter. "Recently a lot of foreigners have moved in and it is scary," says another on TV. "I saw him talk with a little girl and assumed she was foreign, too," says another, implying all kinds of things.

Alarmingly, all broadcasting stations, including staid NHK, identify the suspect by his first name, which is thoroughly non-Japanese, "Carlos", instead of his Japanese family name, "Yagi". It indicates clearly that they are amplifying his foreign nationality.

News reports are beginning to mention now that Yagi is probably not a third generation Peruvian Japanese, as he claims to be, but a Peruvian who used fake registration papers to enter Japan as an immigrant of Japanese descent.

The Yomiuri Shimbun reported today that "an official of the Peruvian Foreign Ministry in Lima said Wednesday that the man is suspected of having had resident registration in Peru under two different Peruvian names, an indication that he may not be of Japanese descent."

Each and every account plays on the fear of foreigners, and the fear that uncontrolled immigration is upon Japan. This is on top of a new law that obliges hotels and inns to copy the passport of each and every non-resident visitor. It is reported that this law is already being misused to require identification papers of all "foreign-looking" visitors.

There is a very real possibility that this murder case may give ammunition to those forces in Japan who want more control over "foreigners". It can be easily milked to feed the universal fear of foreigners. Expect at the very least a rush of news reports about immigrants from countries like Peru and Brazil who have faked their Japanese ancestry. This would probably be followed by stricter regulations and checks for such applicants.

What comes next, is impossible to say. But as a longtime resident of Japan, this case makes me feel extremely uncomfortable. First, of course, because of the murder itself, but then because of how the media are handling the defendant and his nationality. He has not been found guilty yet by a court of law, but the news reports have already crucified him. And their news reports make it sound like it is his nationality that is the most important factor of the crime.

Scary stuff.

Keywords: national_news opinion_item

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8 comments so far post your own

1 | At 10:14pm on Dec 02 2005, Vincent wrote:
Scary indeed, i've never felt unwelcome in Japan, but there are those occasional moments you get an uncomfortable feeling when walking into a restaurant/bar and discover that you're the only foreigner there.

I can live with people who don't want to sit next to me on the train or not giving me flyers, but the thought of people actually not wanting you around because of the influence of media DOES scare me.

And as always it seems that 1 person is responsible for giving a bad name to ALL foreigners.
2 | At 07:20am on Dec 03 2005, Ronnie wrote:
I find it interesting to read your comments about this apparent zenophobia. but please be aware that you have now learned what life is like on the other side of the coin. every country in the world has this behaviour to one degree or another, and I still beleive it is moderate in Japan. Do you remember after 9/11 how an Indian guy was lynched in Texas because he just looked like he was from that part of the world? Even in a small remote country like New Zealand I know many Japanese who feel uncomfortable sometimes, due to old animosities, and also Germans who also feel the same in most English speaking countries. I experienced that myself in Japan when I couldnt stay at my girlfriends mothers house because I was " a foreigner. What would the neighbours think?" So please relax guys, its all quite natural for this to happen. Xenophobia will be around as long as people look different (there's one positve argument for cloning now!) You only need to be afraid when the lynch mobs are running around your streets. Hopefully you will see the signs well before then, but I would say this is fairly minor.
3 | At 08:34am on Dec 03 2005, Kjeld Duits wrote:
Dear Ronnie, your notion is naive and dangerous. You basically say: "Don't worry, xenophobia happens everywhere and it is not so bad in Japan." That is how civilizations slide into trouble. You could say the same about the torture of inmates by American troops: "Don't worry, it happens everywhere and it is not so bad in the USA."

It is exactly because xenophobia comes so naturally to people --in my article I call it "the universal fear of foreigners"-- that we must be vigilant in preventing and fighting it. Especially the media carry a heavy responsibility here.

It is not so long ago that "foreigners" were lynched in Japan, too. Just think of what happened to people of Korean ancestry after the 1923 earthquake in Tokyo.

Let me quote from "The Great Kanto Earthquake and the Massacre of Koreans in 1923: Notes on Japan's Modern National Sovereignty" by Sonia Ryang:

"About thirty years ago, when I was a student at a Korean middle school in T city, Tokyo's suburb, the best place to hang around with my classmates after school was the local library. We would lounge around and, disregarding the frowning eyes of Japanese users because of our loud giggles and conversation on top of our strange school uniform, which was a modified Korean dress, we would skim through many books and sometimes loan them out. One afternoon, we were looking at a photo-document book that recorded key incidents in the first half of the twentieth century. When we reached the 1923 great Kanto earthquake, our eyes were fixated on one photograph.

It was a picture of two bodies thrown out on the street of Tokyo. If you were to look carefully, you'd see that one was a man, the other a woman, her breast dug out and appearing as two black holes on the chest. Their noses and eyeballs were gone, leaving two conspicuous round spots and one triangle on their face. Their thighs were covered with thousands of horizontal lines, which were obviously lacerations. The rest was covered under the blood-stained yukata, Japanese summer outfit. We froze, speechless in terror, because the caption below said "the photo of two Koreans who were murdered by jikeidan" or the vigilantes."

More than 6,000 Koreans were killed that day. If you start to worry "when the lynch mobs are running around your streets" as you say, it is too late.

As the Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) said, “Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.”
4 | At 03:24pm on Dec 03 2005, Ronnie wrote:
Hey Kjeld, I appreciate your sentiment but please chill! If you look for trouble you'll find it I'm sure. What I was trying to get at is simple. The stuff you described as happening to Koreans in Japan was happening between Europeans only 100 or 200 years ago. We all used to go around doing that to each other as well, for even more petty reasons than xenophobia. (usually religious persecution, but more often than not just good old fashioned rape and pillage). My point is this. You worry about civilisations sliding into ruin, but Europe seems to have gotten itself out of that type of behaviour hasnt it? Even America has gone from a higher state of anarchy to a more organised peaceful country (in the whole...!) Yes, through vigilance and self examination. Which seems to me to be very much what many many Japanese are doing now within themselves. Contrary (in my opinion) to popular belief, there seems to be a growing awareness and self-examination of Japanese behaviour during and before WW2. They seem to be realising that the Bushido ethic is not a great way to live a fulfilling and worthwhile life. All I am going by is history. Look at Rome. 2000 years ago one of the most bloodthirsty nations on the planet, all the slaughter that was called "sport". Yes that nation went through a so called dark age, but that was after they actually stopped the slaughter that went on in many Colloseums throughout the Empire. And who are Italians now? Some of the most generous and kind people on the face of this planet. The biggest danger to violence against people for any reason is apathy. When the great evil ones attain power and start to abuse it and the general population doesnt do enough to put an early stop to it. This is how Hitler, Tojo, Lenin and Stalin, Pol Pot and many others have made their obscene mark on this world, through lack of vigilence and self- examination. So please dont be so busy calling me naive and dangerous when we actually beleive the same thing. History is a powerful teacher. Its biggest problem is that there is so much for us to learn from it. Take care man and stay vigilant. It is people like you who make your commentary that keep most of us aware of what surrounds us as we try to plod our way through mostly financial and relationship minefields and we cant see around ourselves too clearly. Oh by the way, your assumption of what I was saying is incorrect. I was saying that xenophobia in Japan is not really different to many other countries, but I wasnt condoning it just because its universal. Personally I abhor any form of of hatred toward another person.
5 | At 07:01pm on Dec 03 2005, Kjeld Duits wrote:
Ronnie, thanks. I am very glad that my assumption of what you were saying was incorrect.

I like what you say, and totally agree. Especially two things stand out: "The biggest danger to violence against people for any reason is apathy." and "I abhor any form of of hatred toward another person."

Well said.

I hope to see a lot more of your comments!
6 | At 05:29pm on Dec 06 2005, jay wrote:
I love Japan and its safety
wwarm friendly village feel(thats how I recieve it)and most Japanese.
Nice article and comment by Ronnie.
Im sure it wont lead to lynching in itself-however its already having broader effects-last night
the main channel kids cartoon was
loosely based on this "jiken"-
my friends kids school Xmas party
now has GUARDS employed.
I may address the school- its hysteria- 1 incident is not
a logical basis for the reaction
I am witnessing. The media are just as sick and responsible as the murderer-
sparking off a copycat murder.
A code amongst the media to provide
short factual inner page summary for such events is needed.
Statistically the kids are more
likely to be murdered by their own mum than a foriegner-let alone a car accident or even lightning.
Like ronnie I see racism everywhere
and perhaps in a moderate form not so bad- Japan is safe and many are stupid and like most countrys do so some form of criminal check for foriegners is way overdue. But this
inability of many to see the media
reports and the event itself in perspective is shocking- doshiyou?
7 | At 05:13pm on Dec 09 2005, Kjeld Duits wrote:
Arudou Debito mailed me this message today:


Just got this notification this morning from a trustworthy source:

Hi there. Just an FYI because I know you like to keep tabs on these things.

Immigration are 'sweeping the streets' of Roppongi this morning and stopping
foreigners and asking for ID and visa info etc. Just letting you know. Hope all is well.

Of course, this would happen in Roppongi (one of the foreigner districts of Tokyo). And of course, if they're going to be stopping people on the street, they are no doubt doing it by sight, which means an element of racial profiling comes in... Beware the beginnings, as Olaf would say.

This needs confirmation and further research, of course. Anyone want to go down to Roppongi and see what happens to them? Find out why?

For more infomration about Arudou and his activities, access http://www.debito.org
8 | At 09:39am on Jan 04 2006, Mark wrote:
I agree that Japanese children are infinitely more likely to be abused, molested, abducted, and/or murdered by their parents, relatives, or other Japanese than foreigners. And they are further endangered by their careless parents, especially mothers (the same who clamor for guards at schools) when they take them precariously on bicycle rides without any protective helmets, which in itself, could be classified as a kind of child abuse, in my opinion.

However, getting back to the Peruvian "Yagi-san" accused of the molest/murder crime referenced and the media slant about foreigners, it seems to me that the real issue that the media should be focusing on is how easy it would be for an Al Quaeda-related agent to enter Japan through the loose security system in place at Narita. Suppose "Carlos" was entering Japan to link up with fudamentalist Japanese Muslim cells here? The guy already apparently had a criminal record in Peru and was on a published international wanted list. Yet, he ended up apparently quite easily in Japan.

That should be where the media should be focusing, not on the "henna gaijin" phobias of the local parents.
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