Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4 Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
The recent editorial “What about the foreign residents?” draws attention to an interesting point. What about the foreign residents, indeed? Few of us have any illusions that in the event of another major disaster in Tokyo like the Great Kanto Earthquake, it will be every man for himself. The message to us from Japanese culture and history is neither vague nor dubious. We don’t belong. We are outsiders and as such the very legitimacy of our internationally recognized human rights, not to mention the legitimacy of our existence here, is compromised. To date, Japanese culture has taught us that we are expendable, to say the least. I have complete confidence that in the wake of a major disaster in Tokyo, many of us might quickly find ourselves the guests of concentration camps - excuse me, relocation camps - servicing Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara’s call for public order, regardless of our visa status. I believe that I am not the only one that thinks so.
Published on Wednesday, September 27, 2000 as “Unloved and unwanted.”
The pronouncement of Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara at a Japan Self Defense Force graduation that troops must be prepared to put down rioting and maintain order after a major Kanto Plain earthquake, including rioting foreigners was simply heinous, in-your-face racism. It was unbelievable stuff that could easily end the career of a politician in a more democratic country - like Canada or the U.S. The Governor’s speech, and the absence of any negative comment or commentary on it by the Japanese media demonstrate how deep the characterization of foreigners as criminals runs in the popular Japanese mind.