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Foreign crime 4.87 times more reported


Unswerving cyclist
14 Mar 2002
Posted on behalf of Debito.

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Hello All. Here are two excellent articles (in separate emails) which
appeared in the Asahi Shinbun last December. As it was the end of the year
and people were otherwise preoccupied, the articles didn't seem to cause
much of a stir. So I'll type them in for wider distribution. Excuse typos.

They really are worth the read. Forward them around if you like. Bests,
Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Article one of two:
The walls of Tokyo banks are plastered with posters depicting non-Japanese
as devious thieves.
By Paul Murphy
IHT/Asahi Saturday-Sunday, December 14-15, 2002
(original article scanned at
The Community: IHT/Asahi Dec 15, 2002 on Exaggerations of Foreign Crime in Japan)

With their dark faces and speech bubbles in katakana, it is easy to
recognize that the cartoon bad guys about to rob a woman leaving a bank are
foreigners. The poster, created by the police and stuck beside an ATM
machine in a UFJ bank booth in JR Ueno Station, is one of many variants on
the same beware-of-foreigners theme to be found throughout Tokyo.

(see the poster at
The Community: Ueno Police Notice Aug 2002, from UFJ Bank ATM warning against "Suspicious Characters" with dark skin and accents)

At Asahi Bank near Ueno Park, one of the two ne'er-do-wells conspiring to
steal from a Japanese woman in another cartoon poster has long blonde hair
and a big nose. the female thief's accomplice could pass as a Japanese but,
according to an Asahi bank guard, he too is a foreigner.

Across the road in a Daiwa Securities branch, another poster showsa a
blond-haried cartoon criminal speaking baby Japanese in katakana as he works
with a literally shady brown mustachioed man to relieve a Japanese woman of
her cash.

(see the same one from Nagano in 2001 from Mainichi Daily News at
http://www.mainichi.co.jp/english/news/archive/200102/22/news03.html )

Even the nearby branch of foreign-owned Shinsei Bank has two sets of posters
warning of foreign thieves. "The police asked us to put them up in March,"
said a Shinsei official.

The cartoon scenarios are all similar: One foreigner distracts the
attention of a Japanese woman who has just withdrawn cash from an ATM while
another steals her money or cash card. It is a crime of increasing
frequency, say police. Ueno police asked financial establishments to put up
posters at 36 locations in the area, and also briefed bank officials on the
threat, said Akihiro Hanamura, deputy superintendent of Ueno police station,
which is reponsible formaking and distributing most of the posters.

(see more info and police posters at


So is Ueno drowning under a tsunami of non-Japanese fraudsters? Not
exactly. According to Hanamura, in the 10 months to the end of October,
there were only four cases in the Ueno area of ATM-related theft--all
thought to involve foreigners--and none in 2001. In total, foreigners were
responsible for 87 of the 1007 reported Penal Code violations in his
precinct last year.

"Crime by foreigners in Ueno is not a small problem but it is not a big
problem either," he said. "Japanese commit most of the crime."

Evidence of that is at a nearby police box noticeboard, which is plastered
with the faces of about a dozen suspects being sought by the police, all of
them Japanese. Among them are the sinister Harutoshi Zaitsu, a 45-year-old
man on the run from a murder rap; the slightly deranged-loooking Kenichi
Hori, 34, sought for an arson attack; and members of cult Aum Shinrikyo.

But if he most sought-after criminal suspects are Japanese, why do Ueno's
anti-crime posters focus on foreigners?

Hanamura does not have a ready answer, but defends the poster campaign on
the grounds that foreigners commit the ATM scams and not only in Ueno. The
Metropoitcan Police Department recently announced the arrests of 30 Latin
Americans in connection with such crimes. "I assure you have been no
complaints about the posters," said Hanamura.

But, for different reasons, not everyone is happy with the signs.

"It isn't much use," complains Minoru Kagawa, a 59-year-old office worker,
gesturing to a plain illustration depicting dark-skinned thieves. "The
police should make a poser that can grab the attention. This one here
doesn't stand out."

But Kagawa has no quibbles about the content of the advertisement. Japanese
need to be warned because they are not used to such devious crime, he said.
"Japan is a soft touch for foreigners who come here because times are hard
back home. The can lie and steal and get away with it in Japan."

Takuya Ujiie, a 21-year-old part-time social worker, agrees. "Japanese don't
commit this sort of crime," he said. "Maybe foreigners think these posters
are unfair, but I am a Japanese and I think you should have them."

But rights activists, who point to the proliferation of similar prosters in
Tokyo and elsewhere, accuse the police of scaremongering and feeding the
idea that foreigners are criminally prone. "This is not good for our
reputation. it makes out that foreigners are criminals. We know there are
some bad foreigners, but not all are bad," said Imtiaz Chaudhry,
secretary-general of United for a Multicultural Japan, a nonprofit
organization based in Noda, Chiba Prefecture. (http://www.tabunka.org)

Activists say the poster campaign--first reported last year when a bank in
Nagano Prefecture put up, and then took down, a poster--began to spread this
year. These signs are "all over Tokyo" and there have been recent sightings
in Saitama, said Jens Wilkinson, a coordinator for The Community, a
Web-based activist group that has lobbied banks to remove the notices and
police to stop making them. (Welcome to The Community)

Critics say the campaign is out of proportion to any threat.

Police logged 107 thefts of the type warned about in the Tokyo metropolitan
area in the 10 months to October, said Hanamura.

Posters distributed by police warning people to keep a tight grip on their
purse when approached by a foreigner merely serve to inject suspicion into
everyday interactions between Japanese and non-Japanese, said another
Community member, who declined to be named.

(see the gripping poster et al at
The Community: "Beware of Bad-Foreigner Bagsnatchings" Police Notices, Nakano-ku, Tokyo, October 1, 2002)

He said that posters warning about "bad" foreigners were as objectionable as
those simply warning of foreigners.

"You can't tell whether a foreigner is good or bad by looking at them," he


Academics who have studied the foreign crime issue say the hubbub is
misplaced considering the great bulk of crime is committed by Japanese. Of
the 325,000 people indicted last year for Penal Code offenses--which include
robbery, assault, murder, and most other serious crimes--11,893 were
non-Japanese, around 3.6 percent.

The figure is high relative to the number of registered foreigners, who make
up 1.4 percent [NB 1.7, actually] of the population, but experts say that to
get a meaningful reflection of the scale of the problem, foreign overstayers
and estimates of illegal aliens should also be included in the population

Still, the topic makes delightful press and not just in the sensational
weekly magazines. A study by Nara University associate professor of
sociology Ryogo Mabuchi of the Asahi Shinbun morning and evening editions
for the first half of 1998 found that crimes by foreigners were 4.87 times
more likely to be covered than crimes by Japanese.

Mabuchi also faults the media for "giving birth to misunderstanding" by
simply reporting statistics on rising foreing crime without analyzing
underlying factors behind the trend such as an overall rise in the
population of non-Japanese residing in the country (see second article in
this series in separate email immediately following).

According to H. Richard Friman, professor of political science at Marquette
University in Wisconson and author of a number of publications related to
crime in Japan, scapegoating foreigers at a crime of economic or social
crisis is not unique or new to Japan. It occurs periodically in Europe, he
said, and happened in Japan in the aftermath of World War II and the Great
Kanto Earthquake of 1923.

The collapse of the bubble economy--which has weakened the financial clout
of Japanese crime gangs--the Anti-Organized Crime Law of 1992 and
competition for turf "between and within crime syndicates have created an
increased willingness among Japanese crime groups to work out arrangements
with foreigners," Friman said.

Such unholy alliances increase the profile of foreign crimjinals and fan
fears among Japnaese. The salso offer "law-and-order" politicians the
opportunity to score political points at the expense of those who do not
have the right to vote, producing "a tendency to emphasize crime by
foreigners as the primary criminal threat," he said.

Among leading politicans, the issue has perhaps been seized upon most
enthusiastically by Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, who has repeatedly
stressed the danger of foreign crime since he came to office in 1999. Last
year, he famously penned an article for a major daily newspaper in which he
referred to a particularly brutal murdar--by an unknown assailant--as a
crime that "reflected the ethnic DNA (of Chinese)."

Hello All. Here is the second of two excellent articles which appeared in
the Asahi Shinbun last December. More on how statistics on foreign crime
are skewed, creating a media environment where (as the previously emailed
article stated), "crimes by foreigners were 4.87 times more likely to be
covered than crimes by Japanese".

In an age of foreigner scapegoating in Japan, this information deserves a
wider audience. Again, freely forwardable. Bests, Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Article two of two:
By Paul Murphy
IHT/Asahi Saturday-Sunday, December 14-15, 2002
(original article with chart of foreign crime scanned at
The Community: IHT/Asahi Dec 15, 2002 on Exaggerations of Foreign Crime in Japan)

There are, it appears, lies and damn lies, and then there are crime
statistics. While some argue that foreign crime in Japan is lower than the
published statistics suggest, others say it is higher because cases where
there are no arrests are usualy logged simply as the work of Japanese.

"It is safe to assume that foreigners are committing a lot more crimes
because unless you arrest them you never know," said Akihiro Hanamura,
deputy superintendent of Ueno police station.

Hanamura believes, for example, that foreigners were involved in recent
incidents where construction machinery was used to steal cash-filled ATM

But unless foreigners are apprehended, those crimes will not show up as the
work of non-Japanese.

In the other corner, Andrew Finch, a researcher at Britain's University of
East Anglia who spent two years in the late 1990s studying Japanese homicide
statistics, says simply being foreign extends the range of possible crimes
and means non-Japanese may end up over-represented in the data. "By
default, you can become a criminal by not renewing your visa or carrying
your (alien registration) card."

Of the 151 foreigners indicted in Hanamura's Ueno precinct last year, 94
were charged with overstaying their visa or not possessing an alien
registration card, crimes that only foreigners can commit.

Nationwide, almost one-third of the total 20,595 foreigners indicted for
Penal Code and Special Law violations last year with immigration-related

H. Richard Friman, professor of political science at Marquette University in
Wisconsin and author of a 1996 book called "NarcoDiplomacy," whose theme
includes an investigation of Japan's drug trade, says foreigners in Japan
are "disproportionally arrested" for narcotics and some other offenses.

Citing the case of drug smuggling, Friman says the Japanese authorities
"have been very reluctant to engage in controlled delivery," a method where
law enforcement officials allow drug shimpments into a country and then
monitor them to trace domestic suppliers. As a general rule, Japan follows
the least risky option of seizing drugs as soon as they are discovered,
meaning that the narcotics "mules," often foreigners, are typically the only
ones arrested.

Although police do not break down arrests of drug smugglers by nationality,
879 non-Japanese were charged with narcotics offenses last year, accounting
for 5 percent of all reported drug indictments.

Friman also points out that while crime by foreigners rose sharply in the
1990s, so too did the population of non-Japanese.

Foreign crime soared 56 percent from 1992 to 2001, when the number totaled
37, 314 incidents, and the number of foreign perpetrators rose by one-third.
In the same period, the population of registered foreign residents jumped
39 percent from 1.28 million to 1.78 milion.

Statistically, the increase in crime among Japanese has been as sharp,
rising 57 percent to 2.73 million cases from 1992 to 2001.

And though newspaper editorials continue to rage against foreign crime,
police figures show it has returned to 1995 levels afer falling in three
consecutive years to 2001.

Digging deeper beyond the bare statistics has led Ryogo Mabuchi, an
associate professor of sociology at Nara University, to conclude that the
combined crime rate for foreigners possessing an alien registration card and
US military personnel is less than half that of Japanese and the overall
crime rate is roughly the same for Japanese and the entire foreigner
population, including overstayers.

In looking at crime figures from 1997 to 2001, Mabuchi tallied the growth in
the overall foreigner population, compere it to the population of Japanese
over 15 years old and exclude so-called Special Law offenses, which include
visa infractions.

"The message that the foreigner crime rate is the same as that for Japanese
isn't being told," he said.

Or at least it isn't being told in Japan. While foreign newspapers such as
the Los Angeles Times have interviewed Mabuchi about his survey, the
Japanese-language media have shown no interest.

Arudou Debito
debito.org | Dr. Debito Arudou's Home Page: Issues of Life and Human Rights in Japan
Not cool, Forgeners should not even come to Japan if they are crimaials. I am English and I have dedicated my life to improving the life of the Forginers in Japan, These things are what gives the Japanese bad ideas about westerners, and what makes my job harder than it needs to be. If you are coming to Japan, Respect is the key!
oh my god thats hilarious
i mean thats bad that that's happing but those poster are the funnist one ive seen in a wile i need to get one in my room
anyway porpaganda is never completey true but ppl who belive it were probably thinking it anyway if the cops are putting it up then it seem likes its just a scapegoat saying that its not us who cant catch the japanese criminals because its crafty foreneers comminting the crimes

anyway thats my 2 cents
I can't believe the selective memories of these people when they see Japanese doing crime and reported on the news.They just block it out and replace the japanese culprits with foreign ones.

In my mind, I can never understand why Japan calls itself an international country when their mentality is so backwards in respect to foreigners.

Oh! They love to travel to foreign countries but at the same time they believe those people from those countries are criminals in their country. I know they don't care but they really do make themselves look pretty bad when they treat foreigners like that on an international scale. Word does get around and reputations are made.
Foreigners get the blame placed on them whenever possible here in japan. For example : A japanese man was caught trying to import drugs and a very large amount of cash from taiwan. (1600窶毒凪?ー~ in 10,000窶ー~ notes ) This was reported on a foreign TV channel ( in taiwan ) ... The news heard in japan was that it was a Chinese man trying to import the drugs.

In the nagano area : ( some of you may know this ) ... A elderly man stole a lot of cash from his friend by using his friend's ATM card ... The cameras on the machines caught his picture and posters of him were put up in supermarkets and postoffices ect ... Eventually they caught the man and arrested him. The news reported to the public on NBS ( nagano broadcasting system ) was that the man was of unknown nationality.

This is just 2 examples of wrongfully blaming a foreigner for japanese crimes. In a domestic situation the story goes the same also. I used to live with my spouses family in nagano. The husband of my spouse's mother would constantly place the blame on me for anything that might be wrong WITHOUT questioning others first .. for example : Toilet light was left on , His reaction to this was to TELL me to turn it off next time .. he didn't even think to ask the others if they did it.

The other day on TV .. hmm the other week actually .. .Ther ewas a story about ero-oyaji. ニ竪ニ陳哉棚ニ停?榿淡ツ was how it was written to show an obvious hint that foreigners are responsible. Anyway .. One of the storys was about a guy hinding a camera in his shoe and using it to videotape up the skirts of high school students in the train. He was apprehended by the security at the station and taken in for questioning. They found his camera and he began to shout .... Foreigners who have lived here for a while will know how non-native japanese people sound very different to native when speaking japanese. and he was deliberately faking a foreign accent.

I guess younger people will posibbly change this "blame the foreigner" tradtion but there is little we non-natives can do.

Remeber this tradition comes from world war 2 when japan claimed that the USA started the war with japan and The UK started world war 2.
Remeber this tradition comes from world war 2 when japan claimed that the USA started the war with japan and The UK started world war 2.
Wahahahahha Fun. Man that's so funny Ahahaha :D Are really japanese people so .... i don't want to say a bad word but this is so strange. Anyway this is fun :)
Maybe funny but that is what school children are taught here as official history and japan glorifies what they did to china.
What texts do you use salaryman? There is more than one offical textbook and they don't say the same things. Pehaps your board of education has just gone off the deep end.
"It is safe to assume that foreigners are committing a lot more crimes because unless you arrest them you never know,"

Did anybody understand this Quote? The logic used in this sentence does not make sense. I'm assumming they did a correct translation on this. But something is very contradicting here.
Originally posted by itshokenme
"It is safe to assume that foreigners are committing a lot more crimes because unless you arrest them you never know,"

Did anybody understand this Quote? The logic used in this sentence does not make sense. I'm assumming they did a correct translation on this. But something is very contradicting here.
Yes, obviously it should be "but," not "because" -- maybe he was speaking in English. Although even then it doesn't really make sense if the point of the article is to highlight the increased attentiveness already being paid to foreign crime. Certainly immigration offenses are specific to tourists or foreign nationals, but without any rationale as to why foreigners shouldn't be arrested for the same crime, it does look like an officer eagerly arresting foreigners to bolster his theory that they are all criminals.
I noticed one of these posters in May at a post office atm and took a picture of it.

Click here for larger image:
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