Readers in Council,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
Before moving to Japan I never realized how funny a country it is, filled with comedians living a life divorced from reality. Now I am surprised that the government, the police, the media, the very organs of the state who wail so loudly with every illegal drug cache uncovered at Narita Airport carry on like they are hallucinating under the influence of some kind of wacky tabbacky when it comes to the virtual non-topic of foreign crime in Japan.
Contrary to all the facts, Justice Minister Daizo Nozawa, Public Management Minister Taro Aso, National Public Safety Chair Kiyoko Ono, Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, and even the editorial pages of major newspapers, among others, pedal the myth of the foreign ne'er-do-well to the Japanese public like drugs on a street corner. This is tatemaeat its worst, demonstrating that facts have nothing to do with daily life in Japan. But I suppose that in their own minds these people see no transgression, convinced that their lies (about foreign crime in Japan) serve the greater good of the group, and so are not lies at all. And that hits the nail right on the head, doesn't it? Tatemae is not deemed falsehood at all, but an order of truth.
The facts are that the average foreigner in Japan is more law-abiding, less dangerous, and less-crime prone than the average Japanese. The crime rate for resident foreigners is lower than it is for Japanese nationals, even when taking into account all the crimes that simply do not apply to Japanese - visa-related ones. The portrait of Japanese would look worse if we included all those crimes that either go unreported or unprosecuted, of which there are many. Yes, the gross number of crimes committed by foreigners is rising, because the total population of resident foreigners is rising. And, the situation is not helped by the occasional heinous crimes committed by foreigners here. But, the only people in Japan who have a proven tradition of committing crimes habitually - heinous ones and otherwise - are the Japanese themselves, and Japanese jails and prisons are filled with Japanese nationals, not with foreign nationals.
So, are those who deal in the tatemae of foreign criminals simply malicious and/or stupid? Maybe not. I think the persistence of this propaganda demonstrates the lingering power of the myth of the dangerous foreigner versus the weak Japanese, outsiders as a threat to Japanese sovereignty, harmony, purity, etc. It is a quaint bit of atavism, but it is getting quite boring. But what is worse is that this proclivity for tatemaeseems to demonstrate a frightening inability by many Japanese to distinguish between what is real and what is not real. Now the ministers in Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's new cabinet want to legislate policy rethe foreign crime situation on the basis of non-reality and non-sense.
Maybe forcibly tattooing our forearms would help keep us under better control.