Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
Contrary to all the facts, Justice Minister Daizo Nozawa, Public Management Minister Taro Aso, National Public Safety chairwoman Kiyoko Ono, Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara and even the editorial pages of major newspapers pedal the myth of the foreign ne’er-do-well to the Japanese public like drugs on the street corner. This is tatemae (a professed public position) at its worst, demonstrating that facts have nothing to do with daily life in Japan. But I suppose that these people are convinced that their lies about foreign crime in Japan serve the greater good of the group,. And so are not lies at all.
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 visa-related crimes that simply do not apply to Japanese. Moreover, the portrait for Japanese would look worse if we included all those crimes that go either unreported or unprosecuted.
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. 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 vs. 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 tatemae seems 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 regarding the foreign crime situation on the basis of nonreality and nonsense. Maybe forcibly tattooing our forearms would help keep us under better control.
Published on Wednesday, October 22, 2003 as “Resolve based on nonsense.”
The framing of crime as an immigration problem and blaming foreigners for swelling crime figures is an old game. It has always been transparently false, but for reasons surpassing understanding intelligent people continue to pedal the fiction of the unassimilating, dangerous foreigner. It’s petty, really, since the number of crimes committed by foreigners is small compared to that committed by Japanese. Conservatives, especially right wing conservatives are always happy to further legislate the lives of foreigners here. However, truth be told, what the conservatives are doing is playing exactly the same hard-on-crime card that conservative Americans play. In Japan it’s a lot easier to call it xenophobia or, even worse, outright racism.