Genky Stores on the Lookout for “Criminal Acts of Foreigners”

“WARNING If we find any kinds of criminal acts of foreigners, we SURELY report not only to the police but also to your workplace and your agency.” – GENKY Stores Inc (a drugstore in Kani-shi, Gifu-ken, dated February 28, 2013, taken by HSD, courtesy of shared links on Facebook through SM)

by Robert Moorehead

Arudō Debito posted the above picture on his blog, debito.org, as another example of the persistent stereotype that connects foreigners with crime. As other posts on my blog have shown, this stereotype is not unique to Japan and is inaccurate. Simply put, foreigners are no more likely to commit crime than the native-born are. Debito’s blog points out that instances of shoplifting are increasing in one demographic group: elderly Japanese are committing shoplifting in increasing numbers. However, their crimes are often depicted in much nicer ways, as crimes of loneliness.

As a foreign resident of Japan, shouldn’t I also be on the lookout for crime? And shouldn’t I be looking out for all crime, and not just the tiny percentage committed by the country’s tiny foreign population? If non-Japanese are less than two percent of the population, shouldn’t we really be focusing on the other 98 percent? Something tells me they’re committing way more crime. Drawing on the Occupy Movement, maybe foreigners’ rallying cry should be “We are the 98 percent.”

When I lived in the city of Kasugai, in Aichi prefecture, most homes in my quiet suburban neighborhood were decorated with crime-watch signs in Chinese. The fact that there was no crime wave, Chinese or otherwise, was irrelevant, as was the fact that this supposed threat made up only 0.5 percent of the city population. Rumor had it that years earlier, someone had their home had broken into, and the alleged perpetrator was Chinese.

Following the logic that if one is guilty, all must be guilty, many homes in Kozoji New Town were festooned with signs in Chinese from their neighborhood associations, warning that residents would report anyone who looked suspicious (and Chinese) to the police. While an occasional sign was in Japanese, most were not. The enterprising neighborhood association of Iwanaridai cast a broad net over most foreigners in the area, putting up crime multilingual watch signs in Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, and English.

Crime Watch Sign

Beyond perpetuating stereotypes that foreigners are somehow more likely to commit crime, these signs equate not being Japanese with crime and being Japanese with being law-abiding. They warn Japanese to be on the lookout for foreigners, and they warn foreigners that they’re being watched. They’re also an affront to our (shared?) humanity.

Update: The issue has prompted a video response on YouTube:

Refugees in Japan: Problems and Solutions

by Tomoka Otani

When we started to learn about refugees in Japan, I did not have any idea what their problems are or I did not care much about them because I have never met refugees in Japan. However, as I studied the situations of refugees in Japan, I came to think that we needed to improve the Japanese system of accepting refugees in order to provide them with better lives in terms of supporting them economically and mentally.

As we talked about the current situation of accepting refugees in Japan, I came to realize that the process which refugees are going through in order to become officially accepted refugees is quite tough. For example, from 1981 to 2005, Japan accepted only 376 people as refugees though it received 3928 applications from all over the world, and it is extremely few numbers compare to other developed countries. Why does Japan accept many fewer refugees than other developed nations? The biggest reason is that there are still discrimination and prejudice against foreigners in Japan especially in terms of immigrants and refugees who are thought to be unstable in Japanese society. They may have been discriminated against at work, daily lives, or school just by their looks or their status that they are immigrants or refugees. However, it is not surprising for me because I have never met people who are immigrants or refugees from other countries. I think, in generally, Japanese people are not familiar with living with foreigner, immigrants and refugees in the same society.

As I mentioned the biggest problem of accepting refugees in Japan, I am going to state solutions for the current situation of accepting refugees. Firstly, I think Japanese people have to be aware of the existence of refugees in Japan, we may have heard about them on the news or in the newspapers but we naturally think it is the problem of other countries because there are not many refugees around us. We need to change our educational system in order to introduce the existence of refugees and what they have been though in their home countries. Secondly, we need to change the governmental economical support for the refugees because their lives are not stable at first and they might not have enough money to support themselves.

As I mentioned above, changing people’s attitude toward refugees and economical support are the two main solutions that I think it is important in order to improve the current situation of accepting refugees and to provide refugees with better lives after their struggles. I know it is extremely difficult for Japanese people to accept foreign refugees because of our cultures and prejudice against them, however, refugees do not have any choice but to live in another society because of various threats from their home countries, and I personally think we need to reconsider the reasons why they had to escape from their home countries and we must treat them with some kind of respect.

Refugees in Japan

by Yui Matsushita

In 2010, Japan started a new program of reception of refugees called “a third state settlement”. It is the system that a third state receives refugees who can’t be protected by the first receiving country. Refugees do training in language and culture before leaving a country, and after arriving in Japan, they do training again for a half year and get support to obtain a job. After that, refugees will reside permanently in a local community. The Japanese government ranks this system as a principal program to increase the number of reception of refugees in Japan.

However, the number of recognition of refugees in Japan is very small compared with other countries. According to the Ministry of Justice, only 21 refugees were recognized in 2011 although 1,867 people applied for it. One of problems of Japan’s reception of refugees is that a reception setup and its contents are not enough. After a half-year training, support for refugees will be reduced drastically. Following this, local communities taking over support for refugees have to be burdened heavily. Also, Japan’s system of recognition of refugees lacks fairness because it is carried out by an Immigration Bureau which also cracks down on illegal immigrants. In addition, refugees have to prepare data establishing the status as a refugee, but it is almost impossible for them. Recognition of refugees takes a long time, and meanwhile, they have to suffer physically and mentally because the foundations of their livelihood and legal status are unstable. They also have to become frightened of deportation.

Furthermore, Japanese society still has a deep-rooted and stereotyped prejudice against foreigners that increase in immigrants will cause deterioration in security; however, there is not such fact in reality. The ratio of crimes committed by foreigners remains on the same level, while the number of foreigners in Japan is increasing. Also, there is research showing that crimes committed by foreigners are apt to be reported five times as many as those committed by Japanese people. It is obvious that there is a responsibility of media as well.

The most important thing is that originally Japan has already joined the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and has duty to international society to accept refugees. The present situation makes a shameful image of Japan as a state which does not carry out an international responsibility. Also, Japanese society should pay attention to merit accepting refugees, for example, they can be great working force in rural areas where depopulation is a serious problem. Under the present conditions, Japan is violating fundamental human rights. It has to reconsider the present policy toward refugees, and Japanese society has to be aware of this issue more.

International Migration

by Wataru Yukita

International migration has increased in recent years. In Japan, some people say that Japan should accept many immigrants to increase production power because of a decline in working age population. However, is that right? I have a skeptical view for this opinion.

At the beginning, I agree that Japan becomes more tolerance to foreigners. In Japan, many people (especially in Internet) agree to deport illegal immigrant who have worked properly, it is funny in common sense. Giving permanent residency to the foreigners who work seriously in low wage job and raise children born in Japan is a right policy, compared to give preferential treatment to idle Japanese. I think that accepting many immigrants in order to increase economic growth without thinking is the opposite.

First, who is pay cost to accept immigrants? Though there is no problem for company and farmers that simply want cheap labor, local government and autonomy must ensure house for immigrants, education on their children, social welfare and so on. Many local governments confront shortage of revenue. So, could they take measures of these problems? I think that it is very difficult. If many children of immigrants could not get education and they make poor, Japan will face social problems of difference in race like western countries. Immigrants have human right, not machine. Because we accept “human”, we must guarantee life as human beings for everyone. If we wouldn’t do so, our society will collapse in morality. Company and other organization that simply want cheap labor should be criticized.

Second, are there any people who really want to immigrate to Japan? Many developing countries have a problem of decline birth rate and a growing population of elderly people while economic growth. Many workers are in need in these countries as well as Japan. If Japan promotes immigration policy, Can Japan collected many immigrants? I have doubts about this idea.

Finally, multiculturalism is very difficult to achieve. This can be presumed from European countries and United States that have accepted many immigrants. In these countries, immigrant policy is a major issue in election every time. Of course, this is true of presidential election in United States coming soon. Japan, have never experienced of acceptance of immigrants, are not even start these discussion in level in the Member of Parliament.

That is why I disagree to accept many immigrants in Japan. However, we need to discuss this problem for the future in Japan.