New Magazine Sells Fear of Foreigners
Friday, February 9, 2007 Posted: 09:55 AM JST
Compared to many other countries, discrimination against foreigners in Japan is quite benign. No beatings and killings in this country. There are some businesses that won't accept foreigners, but that more often than not has to do with the fear of not being able to give adequate service than a dislike of foreigners. Unfortunately, this month a very nasty magazine, flagrantly aimed at creating fear of foreigners, was put on sale. Human rights activist Debito Arudou reports on "Foreign Crime Underground Files":
(by Arudou Debito) - To deflect the cultural relativists and naybobs who make a sport of poking holes in any argument or social movement, it's probably a good idea to give a review of the "GAIJIN HANZAI UNDERGROUND FILES" (Foreign Crime Underground Files) publication. and why it's symptomatic of so much of what is wrong about a media which has insufficient safeguards against hate speech and defamation of ethnic groups.
The first impression is one which hardly needs explanation. Crazed faces of killers putting bullet holes in the cover, with classic ethnic profiles (center stage is what appears to be a member of the Chinese Mafia), with a Jihadist, generic white and black people, and caricatures of both N and S Korean leadership in the very back--all coming to get you, the reader. Along with a listing of the countries covered inside(complete with flags), it advertises interviews with the National Police Agency (NPA--who will be "thoroughly" chasing down "gaijin crime") and ex-cop and "crime expert" Kitashiba Ken (who is quoted as saying that "everyone will become a target of "gaijin crime" in 2007"). The take-home message at the bottom: "SHOULD WE LET THE GAIJIN LAY WASTE (juurin) TO JAPAN?". As if "gaijin crime" is the main element of crime in Japan (it is not), and alarm towards gaijin is warranted.
Of course, the rhetorical use of the word gaijin (a housou kinshi kotoba, or word not permitted for broadcast in the media) already shapes the debate. Whenever official stats are quoted within, they use the official word for it--"gaikokujin hanzai". But whenever there is any analysis, "gaijin" becomes the currency. Conclusion: From the start, there is no attempt to strike a balance or avoid targeting, alarmism, or sensationalism. The rest of the book will bear this out.
Glossies of blood and violence organized by nationality
This is no exaggeration. The very first page asks the questions in the "Why do you beat your wife?" genre: "Why is gaijin crime frightening? Why is it rising? Why is it happening?..." with a collared gaijin splayed out on the sidewalk by police with the headline in blood-red, "GOKUAKU GAIJIN" (villainous foreigner). "WE CANNOT ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN!" reads the final departing thought.
The next pages develop their case for Tokyo as a "Lawless Zone" (fuhou chitai, or "dangerous zone" in katakana, just in case you missed the point), listing up the obviously anarchic areas of Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Roppongi. Often categorized by country (China, South Korea, Iran, Brazil, Philippines, black people...) and crime (stabbing, smuggling, kidnapping, attempted murder, assault, petty theft, gangland whacks, youth gangs...), it liberally interprets the scenes in an unfavorable light: A stabbing of an exchange students is questioned as a "battle between Chinese groups?", a person found unconscious in the bar district of Roppongi, receiving medical attention from officials while gaijin and Japanese rubberneck, is interpreted as "the surrounding gaijin look as though they have no concern whatsoever". After all, Roppongi is apparently "a city without nationality" (mukokuseki toshi--as opposed to, say, "multicultural"?) where, as the article portrays, only the fittest survive.
One would get the impression from reading all this that the Yakuza don't exist in Japan, and that they also do not have a long history of committing the same crimes in the same areas (if you doubt that, take a crime tour of Kabukichou with friend Mark S, who has been here for as long as I've been alive and has written books on Japanese crime). Ah, but you see, that would fall outside the purview of this book. This is about FOREIGN crime, after all. So no need to ground this in any context or give comparative statistics at any time with Japanese crime... (They don't, in case you were wondering.)
Bonus points for the editorial tendency throughout the magazine to mosaic-over Japanese faces to mask their identity, but leave the gaijin faces intact. Gaijin are, after all, not entitled to the same rights of privacy in our country. Photo credits, by the way, are given to what looks to be a Chinese name. He must be everywhere at once, or at least as patient as Ansel Adams...
Other sections give us profiles and motivations of perps based upon nationality (since naturally, their premise is, that crime is committed by nationalities, not individuals).
We have an interview with an Instructor at Nihon University School of International Relations named O-izumi Youichi (who shares his insights into the gaijin criminal mind through his studies of criminality in Spain), included to demonstrate that Japanese police and soft Japanese society don't have the mettle to deal with more hardened foreign criminals. A section depicting China as a breeding ground for hardened criminality (and South Korea as the same but bolstered by an extra booster of hatred for Japan). A more sympathetic section about Nikkei Brazilians (who given their hardships overseas would understandably want to re-emigrate back to the homeland--pity they're corrupted by foreign criminality). Something on the US military, whose crimes are "too small" (bag snatching, shoplifting, petty theft, bilking taxi drivers...) yet still cast doubt on their real ability to "keep peace in the Far East". Something on foreign laborers in general (now 700,000 souls), with some
background on their situation, but with a focus more on the apparent social damage than on their possible benefit to Japan (such as making Toyota the world's number two automaker, for example). Finally, the NPA are selectively quoted to make the case, naturally, that they are understaffed and need more money (which is quite possibly one major motivation for cooperating with this publication in the first place).
The bulk of the remainder of this book is devoted to developing stories beyond the visual, and into the graphic storytelling. Written by the same small number of authors (who demonstrate a clear voyeuristic tendency found in people with an extraordinary taste for the macabre), the next section leads off with a Top Ten of Foreign Crime Cases (subtitled in English, "ALIEN CRIMINAL WORST 10"--Chilean Anita, who landed her J husband in jail in Aomori for 13 years on corruption charges, is merely Number 4), and each gets a full page. The majority are murders.
Naturally, North Korea then gets its due, over six pages, where they make the case that "FOR THE DPRK, CRIME IS BUSINESS". Then it finishes off with a lovely screed about how Japanese criminals may be taking refuge in the cruelty of foreign crime. As if foreigners are raising the bar.
Coup de grace
But the coup de grace surely belongs to a six-page manga recreating the 2003 murders of a Fukuoka family suspected of being rich by Chinese "exchange students". After they break into the premises, they drown the wife (who is a state of undress and drawn titillatingly), then smile (and say, "Good, that's put paid to one") and strangle her nearby sleeping child. Then the father returns home and finds the Chinese threatening to knife his other daughter in the genkan, then strangles her in front of them. Then, when he is unable to produce the riches they killed everyone for, the father is strangled by two Chinese pulling a rope between them taut (one puts his foot on his head for leverage). How these actions, conversations and thoughts were recreated when there were no witnesses is unclear. Finally, they are dumped in a Fukuoka harbor, weighed down with weights.
Pretty nasty stuff. But the jewel in the manga's crown is the final caption: "Nihonjin ni wa kangaerarenai kono rifujinsa. koumo kantan ni hito ga korosareru no wa chuugokujin da kara na no ka?" "The unreasonable of this is unthinkable to Japanese. Does killing come so easily because these people are Chinese?" I guess thiis assumes that killings of this sort don't happen between Japanese. History begs to differ.
(Then again, the editors have that base covered--if heinous crimes of this ilk occur, they are inspired by or encouraged by gaijin all over again, according to that previous essay about raising the bar. Wareware nipponjin can do no similar wrong, right?)
Then we get into crime profiles of wanted criminals--two pages of gaijin killers, thieves, drug runners, smugglers, etc. All with photos, ages, body measurements, descriptions for the crimes, and phone numbers of the local police stations in charge. Like TV show America's Most Wanted.
Two more manga follow--one with the botched kidnapping last June of a rich plastic surgeon's daughter by two Chinese and one Japanese (only the Japanese is drawn with "normal" non-slitty eyes, of course). Of course, the narration only allows us to hear what goes on inside the Japanese's head, and how he was a rather hesitant accomplice (even though at the end he's the one with the gun to the kidnapped girl's head, and who pulls the trigger on a jammed gun).
The other manga is about a Chinese "research" laborer working on a pig farm, and this time, for a change, we hear about the plight of the worker being exploited by nasty Japanese bosses (who are drawn like the pigs the Chinese keeps feeding at all hours of the day). It's the most sympathetic story in the book, but the Chinese still ends up knifing his bosses. It's an oasis of sympathy, if anything.
But in between is an interview with an ex-cop, Kitashiba Ken, famous for his pronouncements about law enforcement in Japan. His points (in headline): Stop illegals, Understand that "the age of internationalization" also means "the age of internationalized crime", and that this spring there will be "an unimaginable planned organized event"--a Tet Offensive of foreign criminality, if you will?
There is another article speculating on whether Japanese society is creating foreign crime, another on crime by foreign cults (like Asahara's, perchance?), more pages on smuggling, another on the CIA's involvement in all this, another on foreign prostitution (focussing on the supply, not the demand, naturally), underground hospitals dealing with foreign abortions...
But then we go off the scale with the most famous pages in the book--showing gaijin and Japanese women engaging in public displays of affection and heavy petting on the street. The headlines are full of vitriol: "HEY, N-----R, GET YOUR HAND OFF THAT J GIRL'S ASS!!", "YOU B-TCH-S THINK GAIJIN ARE THAT GREAT?!!" (with subtitles about comparative size and hardness), "HEY HEY HEY, NONE OF THAT T-T RUBBING ON THE STREET!!", and, of course, the prize-winner: "HEY HEY HEY, GET YOUR HAND OUT OF THAT GIRL'S P---Y IN PUBLIC!"
The problem here is that, given that this is all apparently consensual, none of this qualifies as a crime. It's just an eyesore to the editors who wish they could switch places.
Next up (superimposed over a photo of a naked woman's backside) is a story about prostitution servicing US servicemen. Then another bit on foreign copyright violators (as if Japanese industry doesn't have a long history of engaging in widespread copying and innovation of foreign goods). And then a long section on the foreigner sex industry in Japan (again, focussing on supply, not demand). In the interest of full disclosure, the magazine provides great detail on how to deal with foreign hookers, particularly how to procure them (even market prices). And a section on "Delivery Health" Korean pros, including how their nether regions smell.
The book closes with a calendar of crime--187 cases over 2006 organized by month stretched over 12 pages. (Good thing they didn't include Japanese crimes, since that would have made the book a lot thicker!) And a back page that says that "Gaijin Crime in Japan--47,000 cases per year. (Again, good thing they didn't include Japanese crime...), with a world map surrounded by guns, knives, syringes, and skull-and-crossbones danger ratings for 14 countries that are "targeting Japan" (and, not mentioned, giving the domestic criminal elements some competition...)
Why this book is mysterious
1) It is unclear who published it. The name given, "Joey H. Washington", is clearly a pseudonym, and books by law are apparently not allowed to be published anonymously like this. But in this current media culture, where outlets like 2-Channel can say whatever they like (even if it's not true and it maliciously hurts people) with impunity.
2) There is no advertising whatsoever in the magazine. This is extremely odd because the book is printed often in full color on very fine quality paper, and runs for 130 pages. A friend who worked in the trade estimated this would run about a quarter-million dollars US for a nationwide press run. Yet it sells for 657 yen--a steal. Who is behind this? Smells like a rich and powerful patron...
3) They editors apparently thought nobody would notice. Foreigners, particularly those most often targeted for exposure, don't read Japanese, of course. Wrong. And that's why the reaction has been so interesting overseas. More on that in a sec.
4) This book is very well researched. The photos are incredible. It's hard to believe that this came about without police cooperation. In fact, I don't believe it. There is information in it that only the police are generally privy to (such as passport photos of suspects)! Another great method for the police to increase budgetary outlay--by inspiring fear in the public...?
Why this book is symptomatic
Because it falls into the old fallacies that "we Japanese" rubric and faulty Japanese social science has for generations promoted. Attributing behavior to nationality, as if Chinese kill because they are Chinese (cf Gov. Ishihara's Ethnic DNA speech to explain Chinese Crime). As if foreigners lead the way into harder crime (hardly). As if foreigners and Japanese are innately different (if foreigners are criminals, logically Japanese must not be--after all, who needs proper comparison?). And those aberrant exceptions are the results of foreign influences, not possibly sui generis...
It is a distressing tendency, not the least because it falls into a very common pattern in Japan of avoiding responsibility, and pinning the blame for your own problems (such as the general upward trend in domestic crime) on other people.
The reaction has been one of general revulsion all around. Blog Japan Probe led the charge for a boycott of the sellers of this mag, and some, particularly Family Mart, have quickly decided to withdraw it from their stands (although several friends nationwide report that it is still on the shelves). Amazon.com defends the book under ideals of freedom of speech. The issue and developments have made AFAIK the Times London, the Guardian, IHT/Asahi, Bloomberg, and dozens of major blogs on Japan in the Blogosphere. I have mentioned this issue in my recent speeches (even projected some scanned images), and people have said they will be on the lookout. Meanwhile, the publisher, Eichi Shuppan, has said that this book is not racist because it is "based on established fact", and that "n----r is not an offensive word in Japan" anyway (sez who?).
No doubt there will be more interesting ripples to come, particularly if the overseas press coverage boomerangs into the domestic. Let's hope the real media watchdogs ferret out who's really behind this and why. Meanwhile, I offer this quick review of the publication as a primer to those who cannot procure the book or read it. In haste, so sorry for any errors.
ARUDOU Debito, a naturalized Japanese citizen, is an Associate Professor at Hokkaido Information University, and a columnist for the Japan Times. His books, 'JAPANESE ONLY'--The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan (Akashi Shoten Inc., revised 2004 and 2006) are available in English and Japanese. His latest book, "Guidebook for Newcomers", was co-authored with a Japanese lawyer. The author may be reached at www.debito.org and debito [at] debito [dot] org.
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