Cockroaches in the Daylight

The appearance of an anti-foreigner magazine has got several English-language Japan-oriented blogs buzzing and has spawned a boycott against Family Mart, a convenience store selling the thing. 外人犯罪うらファイル (Gaijin Hanzai Ura Fairu–Secret File on Foreigner Crime) features articles blasting a supposed firestorm of crime committed by non-Japanese residents, and includes a “danger rating” for crime, broken down by country of origin (China, Korea and Russia are among the most “dangerous”). The magazine also features photo-spreads and articles fizzing with hate-speech, such as a page showing Japanese women with non-Japanese men, captioned with phrases like “Hey, nigger! Stop touching that Japanese girl’s ass!” Outside the country, the magazine has thus far gained little attention, only a single article, in the Guardian. In the Japanese-language press, I haven’t found any mention of it all. 

A letter-writing campaign, fortified by Debito’s posting of a model letter in Japanese, apparently resulted in the Family Mart company (or one of its outlets?) agreeing to stop stocking the publication within seven days, a frail response, given they could easily remove it one day, and that seven days is probably the normal shelf-life of a thing like this anyway.

This magazine is only a viler symptom of a broader contagion in Japanese society–the equation of criminality with being a non-Japanese person in Japan. This belief is promoted in part by media focus on it (publishing separate criminal statistics for foreigners in newspapers, for example) and in part by people’s forming impressions by confusing correlation with causation.

Some hard numbers (from 2003 crime statistics from the Japanese National Police Agency):

20,007 foreign residents and visitors were arrested in Japan, resulting in about 41,000 criminal cases. Of these 9,211 were for visa violations.

Broken down by nationality, foreigners generally have committed a somewhat higher percentage of crime than Japanese nationals. This, of course, is the thing that sparks fear and hatred among some Japanese people, who tremble at the thought of hordes of lust-crazed, bloodthirsty foreigners destroying the country. This thought, however, is founded on the notion that being foreign means being criminal. Looking at the numbers shows how empty this idea is. For example, in 2003, there were 2,081,000 Korean residents and visitors in Japan, out of which 1,793 were arrested. There are 1,039,000 Chinese people in Japan; 8,996 were arrested. Of the 59,000 Russians living in or visiting this country, 244 were arrested. Out of the Japanese folks themselves, 433,305 of the 127,435,000 were arrested. Translated into percentages:

.086 percent of the Koreans here were arrested, or fewer than one out of every thousand.

.87 percent of the Chinese here were arrested, or fewer than nine out of every thousand.

.4 percent of the Russians here were arrested, or four out of every thousand.*

.3 percent of the Japanese people living in Japan were arrested, or three out of every thousand (three times the percentage of Koreans).

The take-home message here is that even among the “worst” groups of foreign criminals (as vilified regularly in the media and by xenophobic populists like Tokyo governor Ishihara), the numbers are miniscule. Virtually any foreigner you run into on the streets, regardless of race or national origin, is almost certainly NOT a criminal.  


*the crime stats site I drew the original numbers from incorrectly calculated the percentage of Russian criminals to be twice as high as they really were.


One Response to “Cockroaches in the Daylight”

  1. “Secret File on Foreigner Crime” Answers his Critics « Manjiro’s Revenge Says:

    […] The part of the statistics you don’t mention in your magazine is that the ratio of criminals in the foreigner community to non-criminals in the foreigner community is extremely small. According to arrest statistics from 2003 (which, despite some increase and a recent drop, have not changed dramatically since then), only 1 out of 1,000 Koreans were arrested, only 4 out of 1,000 Russians, and only 9 out of 1,000 Chinese. For perspective, 3 out of 1,000 Japanese people were arrested.  This means that the average Japanese person was three times as likely to be arrested as the average Korean! (Details here). […]

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