One of the greatest things about the Line instant messaging application is its ever-growing library of stickers (or “stamps” in Japanese). Line allows users to create and sell their own sticker sets through its Creator’s Market. There are thousands upon thousands of stickers available, with new sticker sets added every week.
Unfortunately, Line’s sticker market has a huge problem: it is a disorganized mess. Naver basically just lets sticker creators write a short text description of stickers and throws the stickers into very general categories. This kind of system would work for a market that had a few hundred stamp sets, but in the “Cat” category alone, there are over 15,000 sticker sets. The search function is also pretty crappy. Searching for the English term “cat” turned up only 835 creator stickers, while the Japanese terms “猫”/ “ねこ”/”ネコ” resulted in differing numbers between 932 and 944. Searching for certain stickers often involves a guessing game about what keywords are in the description, and often the words have little to do with the actual appearance of the stickers.
When a sticker set becomes popular, it will be seen and purchased by thousands of users, making serious cash for its creator. However, if a creator fails to get attention, his/her stickers will almost never be seen by users. While many of the top-selling stickers are quite cool, there are no doubt hundreds or even thousands of similarly great stickers that don’t get the attention they deserve because Line’s sticker market is a disorganized mess.
Over the past few years, I have come across a few Line sticker creators who I feel deserve more attention for their works. I tend to prefer silly, stupid, and disgusting stickers, so this list will be biased towards artists who create stuff like that. In the future, I hope to introduce more artists, but today I’ll start with five.
Artist Seishiro Matsuyama currently has four sets of wonderfully bizarre stickers on the creator’s market. My personal favorite is “Kemono My House,” but all of the sets feature the same weird characters. Matsuyama also has an instagram account, where you can check out some of his non-Line artwork.
The concept behind many of Shimisan’s stickers are pretty simple. Weird human-like facial expressions are drawn onto the faces of animals, transforming what would normally be a cute character into something satisfyingly disgusting. My favorite is “Kawaii Dogs” – which has a dog that wears braces and a couple stickers with dogs peeing (which is apparently okay with the Line censors).
Trock doesn’t seem like the most-skilled illustrator, but there he/she has produced some masterpieces of weirdness. I can’t say I like all of Trock’s stickers, but I do particularly enjoy the “Ugly Rabbits” and “Ugly Cats” sets.
If you follow Japan-related news social media, chances are you’ve come across the news story about 2 Turkish nationals who were arrested for sexually assaulting and robbing a Japanese woman in Tokyo. Tokyo Reporter has been able to get huge traffic by using its headline to play up the fact that the alleged rapists were seeking refugee status in Japan. The story has been picked up by various anti-refugee groups, who share the link because it fits with their narrative about the dangers of accepting refugees from Muslim majority nations. But is this example relevant to the situation in Europe?
Some of these sites introduce the story as proof that Japan, like Europe, is suffering because it accepts refugees. However, let’s get the facts straight here, people: among developed countries, Japan is one of the most anti-refugee places imaginable. Japan is extremely strict when it comes to refugee applications. As the Guardian has noted about 2014 refugee data, “it received a record 5,000 applications but accepted just 11 people.”
The two Turkish nationals in question had submitted applications for refugee status just a few months before their alleged crime. Even had they committed no crimes in Japan, it’s an almost near certainty that they would have had their refugee applications rejected. Like the other 99% of refugee applicants, they would have been forced to leave Japan after appealing and failing to receive refugee status.
Many people reading this news story might wonder about the country of origin of the 5,000 people who applied for refugee status in 2014. Here is some data from the Japanese government (2015 data should be released sometime this year):
The largest portion of applicants came from: Nepal (1,293), Turkey (845), Sri Lanka (485), Myanmar (434), Vietnam (294), Bangladesh (284), India (225), Pakistan (212), Thailand (136), and Nigeria (86), the Philippines (82), Ghana (70), Cameroon (70), Iran (68), and China (55). There were also 361 applicants from various other countries.
83% of the applicants had some form of legal permission to be living in Japan at the time of their application. This means that they entered the country legally on some form of temporary working or tourism visa. 81% of the 17% of applicants who had no legal permission to live in Japan submitted their refugee applications after having been caught without a visa and being issued deportation orders.
As the data shows, this is very different than the refugee crisis facing Europe. Most applicants do not come from Muslim majority countries, and the vast majority of them entered Japan legally. Japan is not facing huge numbers of people who enter the country without visas and apply for refugee status.
The Asahi Shimbun has reported that a significant number of refugee applicants are exploiting the system to temporarily work in Japan. If an applicant already has a valid visa to live in Japan at the time of his/her refugee application, the Japanese government often grants the applicant permission to work while the application is being processed. Due to the slowness of Japan’s bureaucracy, it can sometimes take several years. While this kind of abuse is worthy of concern, it isn’t particularly worthy of comparison to the situation in Europe. Almost all of these applicants will have their applications rejected and will be forced to leave Japan. They seem aware of the expected result, so they are doing this to temporarily earn money that they can send back to their home countries.
This is not at all similar to what is going on in Europe. The number of refugee applicants in Japan is tiny. Even if the number increased in 2015, and even if Japan suddenly changed its policy and started accepting more than 1% of applicants, it would be nothing compared to the masses of people entering Europe. Under Japan’s current system, refugee applicants can only expect to be allowed to live in the country for a few years. They will have to leave Japan when their applications are rejected, and Japanese authorities enforce their rulings. It isn’t like Europe, which seems to be opening itself up to allowing hundreds of thousands of refugee applicants, many of whom will have their refugee applications accepted, and will be allowed to live in Europe for the foreseeable future.
19 comments - What do you think? Posted by
February 25, 2016 at 11:13 am
A Russian-speaking friend let me know about the following political cartoon by Sergey Elkin, which has appeared on the popular news sitePolut.ru:
President Vladimir Putin is shown trying to grab Crimea, while off to the side a couple racial caricatures of Japanese people are standing by the Kuril Islands (known as the “Northern Territories” in Japan).
The conflict in Crimea puts Japan is a tricky situation. On the one hand, Japan’s postwar governments have always stood against the idea of seizing territory by force, and overlooking Russian aggression towards the Ukraine could set a bad precedent when Japan is facing the possibility of territorial aggression from China. But, on the other hand, the Abe administration wants to improve its relationship with Russia with the hopes of getting back the Northern Territories. And, after the 2011 decision to turn off Japan’s nuclear power plants, the country has become increasingly dependent on gas imports from Russia.
9 comments - What do you think? Posted by
March 7, 2014 at 10:59 am
On Friday, animal rights activists in Britain organized a “Taiji Action Day” demonstration in front of the Japanese embassy in London. Carrying Sea Shepherd banners and signs that said stuff like “Shame on Japan,” they marched around and called for an end to dolphin hunting and the use of dolphins in aquariums.
Small protests like this aren’t exactly rare or noteworthy. What is noteworthy is the odd presence of a lone counter-protester. A guy showed up in support of Japan, wearing a German military jacket and waving two large Japanese flags.
The man denounced Sea Shepherd as a racist terrorist group. From the photos, it looks like a lot of the protesters were annoyed.
Photos of his counter-demonstration were picked up by Japanese conservative blogs, where he was praised by readers. Many comments seemed to be focusing on one single question: who the heck is this guy?
Is it “Takeshima” (@StopKInvasion), a British Twitter user who supports Japanese right-wing causes and whose profile links to photos of the counter demonstration?
[hat tip to t65]
Learn more about Sea Shepherd by checking some of these other posts: