A response to the Gaijin Ura Crime File publisher’s editorial on why he published it

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    Metropolis/Japan Today have been kind enough to provide Shigeki Sakai, the editor at Eichi Publishing Company who was responsible for the publication of Foreigner Underground Crime File, with some space to respond to his critics. As one of the bloggers that led a response to mr. Sakai’s magazine, I feel that I should respond to his editorial:

    If you’re a regular reader of Metropolis, you’ll notice something unusual about this “Last Word” article: there is no photo of me, the author. That’s because ever since publishing a magazine called Gaijin Hanzai Ura Fairu (Foreigner Underground Crime File) last month, I have been subject to a campaign of harassment. In particular, some emails I’ve received have been quite vicious—and have included threats to my life.

    I have to admit that, although the ferocity of this reaction has surprised me, the basic emotions have not. The topic of foreigner crime is taboo in Japan, with people on both sides of the issue distorting the facts and letting their feelings get the better of them.

    Mr. Sakai, I really hope you went to the police about those alleged threats on your life, and that they are looking for those responsible. Death threats against you are totally uncalled for, and I hope that the people who sent these threats [if they exist] do not get away with their illegal actions.

    I can’t speak for others who opposed your magazine’s sale in konbinis, but I don’t think I’ve been overly emotional in my postings about your magazine. If there are any facts that I have distorted in my postings about your magazine, please feel free to contact me and let me know exactly what they are, so that I can correct them.

    On the Japanese side, the “foreign criminal” is a beast who lurks everywhere and wants nothing more than to destroy Japanese people and their way of life. Whether it’s a North Korean agent kidnapping our daughters or a Chinese thief invading our homes, many Japanese are convinced that foreigners should be treated with suspicion and fear. This attitude makes it impossible to have an informed conversation about where real foreign criminals come from, or the reason they commit their crimes. In fact, one of my goals in publishing Gaijin Hanzai Ura Fairu was to help begin a frank discussion of the issue.

    If you wanted to promote informed conversation or frank discussion, you could have chosen a more serious format for your magazine. Instead you put evil-looking foreign caricatures on its cover along with the phrase “Are Gaijin devasting Japan?” The overall tone of your magazine is sensationalist, and it is laughable to think you were trying to promote balanced and informed conversation on the issue of crime by non-Japanese.

    On the other side, many foreigners consider any suggestion that they engage in lewd or criminal behavior to be an unacceptable insult. This can be seen quite clearly in the reaction our magazine elicited in the Western media, and especially in the online community. The army of bloggers who bullied Family Mart convenience stores into removing Gaijin Hanzai Ura Fairu from their shelves have decided for everyone else that this book is so dangerous that it cannot be read. Yet I wonder how many of these puroshimin, or “professional civilians,” have read—or even seen—the magazine. I suppose the same right to free speech they claim for themselves should not extend to those who might want to buy and read our publication.

    I have never called this book dangerous, nor have I said that people should have not the right to read it. I support the stocking of this publication on large online retailers like Amazon.co.jp, since you have a right to publish whatever you want and sell it through retailers that have a policy of promoting freedom of speech by selling any legal materials. You might have a right to publish sensationalist xenophobic magazines, but that doesn’t obligate stores such as FamilyMart to include such magazines in their very limited offering of literature.

    Personally, I doubt more than a few dozen people contacted FamilyMart and Circle K Sunkus about the magazine and complained. Under normal circumstances, it would be very rare for such a small number of complaints to warrant the yanking of a magazine from the shelves of hundreds of stores. It seems to me that many of the convenience stores were not fully aware of just how sickening your magazine’s contents were, and once they were informed of these contents, they were quite willing to pull your magazine.

    What these people are ignoring is a simple truth: there are no lies, distortions or racist sentiments expressed in Gaijin Hanzai Ura Fairu. All the statistics about rising crime rates are accurate, and all the photographs show incidents that actually occurred.

    Nobody has denied that the photographs are real or that the statistics you mention are fabcricated. The main objection is with the sensational manner in which you present them.

    For instance, it is true that on June 19, 2003, three Chinese nationals murdered a Japanese family—a mother, father and two children aged 8 and 11—and dumped their bodies into a canal in Fukushima. It’s true that Brazilians and Chinese account for over half of the crimes committed by foreigners in Japan. It’s true that American guys grope their Japanese girlfriends daily on the streets of Tokyo.

    Guess what? Japanese people commit crimes too! Can you believe it? Did you also know that Brazilians and Chinese also account for a huge percentage of Japan’s foreign population? How stunning it must be to find out that Brazilians and Chinese are also responsible for a large percentage of the crimes committed by foreigners!

    About the groping thing: Could you please collect some statistics about the number of incidents involving American/Japanese couples engaging in consentual groping in public vs. consentual groping between consenting Japanese couples? Better yet, how about some statistics on the chikan problem. Maybe you could ge the deputy director of Tokyo University to speak on the issue of how foreigners should be singled out for groping.

    That’s not to say that some of the criticism leveled at Gaijin Hanzai Ura Fairu is unreasonable. Bloggers have called attention to a few of our crime scene photographs, in which we have blurred the faces of Japanese people but not those of foreigners. Let me respond by saying that, if we had covered up the foreigners’ faces, the reader wouldn’t be able to recognize them as foreign, and the illustrative power of the image would be lost.

    Nothing says “illustrative power of the image” better than protecting the identities of all the Japanese people in a photo, but not doing the same for the foreigners.

    Another criticism I have heard involves our use of the term niga, which appears in the caption of a photo showing a black man feeling up his Japanese girlfriend on the street. I would like to stress that this term has none of the emotive power in Japanese that the N-word does in English—and to translate it as such is unfair. Instead, “niga” is Japanese street slang, just like the language used in the other captions on the same page.

    As David pointed out this morning, you are completely ignoring the context in which “niga” was used. It seems pretty clear from your comments on the use of the N-word that you are completely clueless about this particular detail, so there really isn’t much point in trying to convince you that it’s not unoffensive “street slang” to use the word “niga” when addressing a black man and telling him to stop consentually touching the butt of a Japanese girl.

    Finally, some critics point to the absence of advertisements in Gaijin Hanzai Ura Fairu as evidence that we are financed by a powerful and rich organization. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reason there are no ads in the magazine is because we couldn’t find any sponsors who wanted to be part of such a controversial project. However, in one way I wish we did have the backing of such an influential group: I would feel a lot safer if I could count on them for security!

    I have never made such suggestions. I completely accept your explanation that no ads were run in the magazine because no sponsors wanted to have their ads alongside your content.

    Having been given this opportunity to share a message with Tokyo’s foreign community, I would like to stress three points.

    First, before foreigners rush to accuse me and my staff of racism, or to label our publication a typical example of Japanese xenophobia, I would ask that they consider how quick their own culture is to view the Japanese as subhuman. In World War II you labeled us “monkeys,” and in the Bubble years you considered us “economic predators.”

    I haven’t labeled your publication as a typical example of anything. Bringing up the historical examples of anti-Japanese feeling in America is ridiculous, and it has nothing to do with the issue at hand.

    Second, as our country becomes increasingly globalized and more foreigners come here to live and work, the Japanese will be forced to confront the challenges of a pluralistic society. Only by honestly discussing this issue and all it entails can we prepare our culture for this radical change.
    Finally, if we can manage to openly discuss the issue of foreign crime in Japan, we will have the opportunity to address our own problems as well. Sure, we could continue to run away from the topic and remove books from shelves, but in doing so we are losing the chance to become more self-aware. What we need to understand is that by having a conversation about violent and illegal behavior, we’re really talking about ourselves—not as “Japanese” or “foreigners,” but as human beings.

    I completely agree that the Japanese are being forced to confront the challenges of a pluralistic society as globalization becomes a reality. However, I don’t see how a for-profit magazine full of sensationalist images and articles is a good example of furthering debate on this issue. It would be great if your magazine could have focused on the idea of human beings in general commiting crimes, but you clearly singled out foreign criminals, and added ridiculous and racist pictures for “illustrative power.”

    It was a nice attempt to transform yourself from an editor trying to profit off xenophobic sentiment with a sensationalist magazine to a bullied champion of freedom of speech and intelligent debate, but I don’t think it worked, man.

    For other good responses to Sakai’s editorial:

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