Nationalism / Isolationalism in Japan and perception of foreign crime

I read a few blogs, and an interesting post over on What Japan Thinks about a survey on crime in Japan (and how foreigners are a large contributing factor) pointed me to another very interesting post over on on a Japanese magazine about foreigner crime. It is definitely worth taking a look at both posts.

Arudou Debito’s site, is quite interesting, but not generally something that I read often. He’s a guy who has lived in Japan for quite a while, gotten citizenship here, and often posts about issues relating to foreigner discrimination in Japan. I’m not particularly interested in that: I know that there is discrimination here, but for the most part I accept it, and I think that mostly it isn’t done with malice. It is just that Japan is a fairly homogeneous country, and many people are not used to foreigners. It is natural to be wary of what you don’t know, so I try not to worry about it too much, and when the foreigner effect goes against me, I try to laugh it off.

The recent post about a magazine that is basically about crime in Japan by foreigners is a bit disappointing though. I also don’t put too much weight into it, because sensationalism sells, and it only takes one or two people with a bad idea to actually get something published. How close did the OJ Simpson confession book come to being published in the US? That’s clearly a bad idea. So I think in this case you probably have a book that not many people are buying, or at least taking seriously, that is getting a lot of attention because it is so offensive to foreigners, but I would hope that most people wouldn’t outright agree that foreigners are ruining this country.

Of course, the post over on What Japan Thinks says that maybe that isn’t the case so much.

Would a similar poll in the US about crime point the finger at largely foreign groups? I don’t think so. But I bet you there would be controversy over groups of people with low economic income or race. Is that similar though? Certainly I think crime is more likely to be committed by people who are desperate, and being poor is a good way to get desperate quick. You can argue that Americans have an institutionalized system in place to keep the poor poor and all sorts of things from there, but it somehow feels a bit different from the blame that foreigners get in Japan for crime here.

Now I’m interested in seeing what the statistics are on actual crime committed in Japan: do foreigners commit most of the crimes? Well, I don’t really know where I would go to look those numbers up, so I’ll just have to continue on hoping that this here is nothing more than a storm in a teapot.

Still, interesting reading. Since Debito’s original blog post in early February, after about a week or complaints to Family Mart (one of the stores in which the magazine was sold) sales of the magazine were halted. You can also read a translation of the publisher’s response to criticism about the magazine.







3 responses to “Nationalism / Isolationalism in Japan and perception of foreign crime”

  1. Benkei Avatar

    Hmm. This is a tough topic, and I think it’s more or less appropriate that you’ve brought this up along with international marriage statistics . . . as you can see from the other “non-criminal” issues raised by the Gaijin Hanzai mag (foreigners with Japanese girlfriends!), we’re dealing with a wider culture clash. Because you have articles operating on silly cultural assumptions (choice quote: “The younger men hold images of themselves as charming the sophisticated Western woman, but as they age (and visit dodgy hostess bars…) they come to realise that perhaps only Asian women could accept their typical Japanese behaviour.”) you’re going to have equally chauvinistic responses on the Japanese side.
    Really, all of these discussions are based on ‘perceptions’, which might be more accurately described as ‘prejudices’ propagated by the media more than anything else (rather than first-person experience, naturally). I think it’s interesting to note the gap between actual statistics and the polls you see: foreigner crime is going up in Japan because the foreign population is rising; as a proportion of the total population it is level or shrinking. On the topic of marriage, how do people explain the fact that when it comes to international marriage, year to year Japanese women marry 1.5x as many Korean men as American men (considering that there are less than 49 million Koreans in the world, and 300 million Americans?)
    My only comment on this: the aberrant form of nationalism you sometimes see in Japan is not isolatable from cultural chauvinism (or the perception of it) coming from outside.

  2. Benkei Avatar

    Take a look at this link for more information on foreigner crime beyond unscientific polls on people’s subjective perceptions. About half of ‘foreigner crime’ is accounted for by immigration issues: over-staying, etc. Bad, I guess, but nothing most people on the street should be afraid of (unless they’re groping girls as well!).

  3. FuguTabetai Avatar

    Thanks for that link to the analysis of crime rates from 2003 data. It is really very interesting. According to the link, the only countries that have a higher crime rate than Japan are the Chinese and Brazilians, with many of the Brazilians of Japanese ancestry. North Americans are eighteen times less likely to commit a crime than a Japanese person. So I should be off the hook, but I still get scared looks from little kids. Maybe that’s because of the beard though.

    Anyway, thanks a lot for the link! That is exactly the kind of information that I was looking for. Now the problem for me is, if I’m in a dark alley at night confronted by an asian person, can I tell if they are Chinese (most “dangerous”), Japanese (quite dangerous), or Korean (not dangerous.) I think I’ll just avoid dark alleys. Even that is a joke by the way, with crime rates at their highest no greater than 0.428% for violent crime, I do not think this is a dangerous country at all. Even living up in Morningside Heights, as long as you don’t do stupid things, I didn’t think New York was dangerous.

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