Saturday, February 17, 2007

"The topic of foreigner crime is taboo in Japan"

This really is a story that just won't go away.

The publisher of the "Gaijin Hanzai" book has now given an interview on Japantoday, perhaps the most risible statement of which is the title of this post. Sure, it's such a "taboo" that official figures are released each year and make headline news throughout the press.

Such a "taboo" that "cracking down on foreign crime" is a centrepiece of every politician's manifesto here, and they are about to introduce RFID-chipped identity cards for us so we can be remotely tracked wherever we go.

It's such a "taboo" that some town councils are willing to make rules which forbid universities from accepting foreign students for fear of the crime they would bring (OK, that was just the once and it was quickly overturned - but it still happened only a few months ago, in the 21st century, in a developed country).

Such a strong "taboo" that the Governor of Tokyo made a speech to the Self Defence Force telling them they had to be prepared to round up illegal foreigners in the event of an earthquake, because they will surely riot (for some context, after the 1923 earthquake here, military death squads colluded in the murder of thousands of Koreans).

The only taboo seems to be a direct comparison with the Japanese crime rate, which shows that in fact the "foreign crime" rate is entirely unremarkable in comparison to that of the Japanese (indeed if you want to break it down by nationality, British residents have a crime rate roughly 15 times lower - yes 15 times lower - than the natives).

I'd welcome any attempt to break down this last great taboo concerning foreign crimes. I don't think that showing pictures of (consensual) inter-racial couples on the streets of Japan together with racist abuse is really an most constructive or honest way of approaching it though. If you want to discuss predatory and abusive sexual behaviour, the introduction of "women only" carriages on the Tokyo underground is not because of foreigners.

As always, Debito has a more complete take-down. Maybe, just maybe, he'll get a column in the Japan Times about it.

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