Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

From the Magazine.
In Japanese it says:
"Oi Nigger!
Don't be touching a Japanese girl's ass!"
Ejovi, Fukumimi and JapanProbe blog about a mook (magazine/book) published by Eichi called "Gaijin Hanzai Ura File" or "Foreigner Crimes Secret File".

Crimes by foreigners have been a central talking point of the right wing in Japan including Governor Ishihara of Tokyo. This story of foreign criminals being a public issue is a very old political position. For instance, after the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, The Home Ministry declared martial law and blamed the Koreans for crimes. Rumors spread blaming Koreans for looting, arson and even poisoning the well. A great number of Koreans were killed/lynched. The official number is around 231 killed but independent studies put the number closer to 2,500. (Wikipedia reference). In Jr. High School, I visited the graves of these Koreans, which exists today in the Arakawa district of Tokyo. If it wasn't for this visit lead by our wonderful Japanese Social Studies teacher at the time, I would never have known about this incident. (Thanks Ms. Anami!)

Several years ago, the Governor of Tokyo made a very controversial speech at a graduation ceremony of the Self-Defense Force telling the young soldiers that during a time of national emergency, they may be called upon to protect the people from people of the "third country" - another name for people of Korean descent.

So while I have sympathy for Ejovi and others, I believe that this "good old fashioned racism" in Japan is pretty deep rooted and held by people in high places in government and corporate Japan. I believe this is one of the most important and fundamental ailments of Japanese society today and we need general awareness to increase on this issue. Many foreign business people in Japan look the other way because talking about such things is "bad for business"... The American Occupation decided to let the right wing movement in Japan survive and thrive choosing it as the lesser of two evils compared to the threat of communism from the USSR. The end of the war would have been the perfect time to squash this thing, but we missed that and now we're stuck with a daunting task that will possibly take generations.

I raise this issue whenever I can and have been labeled a "public enemy" by at least one prominent politician because of this. More people need to speak up spread the word.


Family Mart has agreed to pull the magazines within the next 7 days. I suspect a big part of their decision has to do with the fact that they have a number of stores located throughout the west coast.

Its great that Japan has people like you and Fukumimi who aren't afraid to speak up when they see something like this.

From my little trip to Japan a few years ago, I'd say that most of this racism is fanned out of ignorance. My feeling is that most ordinary Japanese people don't have a lot of experience interacting with or even seeing living, breathing foreigners, especially if they grew up outside the big cities. As a result, there is an underlying issue in Japanese society.

It's not surprising that the politicians (and publishers) take advantage of it when they are in a jam, even though they must know it is a wrong thing to do.

I got the feeling that everybody just ignores the issue in Japan, and that's not surprising, because silence is one of the ways Japanese seem to deal with wrongdoers. But this is something that has to be dealt with head-on.

Consulting my Genius Japanese-English dictionary, I find that 婦女子 (fujoshi) is defined as "women and children". Hum, does the caption read even worse than the translation would imply? Or am I reading too much into the phrase?

I'm half Japanese half American. Even I grew up in Japan and speak&write perfect Japanese, still some people call me Gaijin and treat differently. I and my younger brother got so much Ijime when we were in Japanese school and my brother finally got mentally ill.

I have no clue how I can change the discrimination because this issue is existing so deeply in Japanse people's mind. At least I'm going to call publishing company, book stores, and some media on Monday. I just do not want to see this book being sold in stores.

Thanks to Joi for this excellent post.

I wanted to mention the 'dark side' of public awareness that lay beyond the uncharted threshold that divides public activism and public thuggery, particularly since the effect of both are magnified tremendously in terms of both space and time (but not language, unfortunately).

Recently, a young Korean-American girl going to school in Boston read a book titled "So Far From the Bamboo Grove" [1]. In the book, there is a part where some Japanese women get raped while returning to Japan after the war ended. The girl was shaken by what she read and told her parents.

To make the long story short, the book is now banned in South Korea, thanks to public pressure. The funny part is that most of the people who took part in this making this happen never read the book.

I think the gap between awareness and due diligence is a big problem for public activism and I don't think the problem can be erased by suppressing freedom of speech which is what pressuring Family Mart to pull undesirables off the shelf amounts to IMHO.


FYI, my server is offline currently and won't be back until this evening or tomorrow.

> I have no clue how I can change the discrimination because this
> issue is existing so deeply in Japanse people's mind.

There's at least some amount of "we are THE superior culture" complex involved here, much like what you see in - oh well, china, bible belt USA etc

Sure, a lot of it comes from them not living anywhere near people from a different culture and not wanting to know or care about that culture at all

However, in at least a few places (and Japan is one such), a deep rooted conviction, held over the years, that their own language and culture is civilized, and everyone else (including from nearby countries they know and trade regularly with) is a barbarian seems to be rather more deep rooted than the usual "hate what you dont know" that you'd expect from deep south hick towns.

Joi had an article on his blog several months back about some fairly prominent and I guess intelligent (university professors and all) people in Japan consciously refusing to speak english, and in fact completely disrespecting it

For mindless "street racism" like what Joi describes, probably the one thing you COULD do is to escalate it back - if someone calls you a nigger, call him back your favorite ephitet of choice for east asians (novels / movies set during the vietnam war or ww II will give you a wide choice if you need it). That's the "fight stupidity with stupidity" school of thought, one that I completely hate, but will probably lead to some interesting consequences. Oh, a race riot maybe?

Jokes aside - what would be the best way to cure it? At least the sort of racism you get in people with rather more than two brain cells to rub together (like the university professors and politicians?)

Shock therapy of some sort would be called for I think (I mean far more aggressive tactics, though still not as crass as the one I suggested, rather than mere polite argument and discussion).

Yes, Japanese are racist. Yes, this mag is over the top. It goes way too far in sensationalizing things.

But, isn't there some truth to all the crime problems? Everyone knows that the phone card scams, the drugs, etc., have increased dramatically with the influx of foreigners. Maybe it's just because the Japanese stay in Yakuza and don't make trouble so much on their own. Maybe it's because foreigners don't want to toe the line and fit in, and don't feel the social pressure as Japanese do. Maybe it's also partly because of the average IQ gaps between races, which are a proven fact now.

In any case, this makes it a much more complicated problem, because there is some justification for anger at foreigners in Japan. It is not clear-cut, but people notice things day to day. Foreigners being obnoxious, not following the rules, etc. Then seeing them selling drugs and pushing Japanese kids to get into scams and crap... Japanese shouldn't want to kill all foreigners, but it becomes clear that there is a problem at least to some degree.

It always bothers me when people put on blinders to the reality around them to satisfy some noble ideal in their head about races and cultures all being in harmony and being the same in every way. People have to admit that this just is not true, especially in Japan.

>Maybe it's also partly because of the average IQ gaps between races, >which are a proven fact now.

Huh? Differing IQ's have nothing to do with race or genes, and that has been a proven fact for much longer than whatever nonsense you're trying to peddle here.

As for selling drugs...everyone in SE Asia who pays attention to these things knows that the amphetamine and MDMA problems which exist today in Cambodia...the Filipines... Indonesia... Korea... Taiwan... HongKong... Vietnam... follow a direct line of influence back to Taiwanese and Yakuza groups. Blaming the Japanese drug industry on "foreigners" is rather like blaming death-by-poison-sushi on the fish.

Anonymous, anything can be justified for the ring of truth is a personal accessory and half-truth is the weapon of propaganda.

And so called blinders is what people used to build civilizations out of dog eat dog reality. Ideals are the I-beams of humanity. Abandon them and you'll soon wish the good ol' days of worrying about foreigner troubles.

I think that most racism stems from ignorance. That, and inferiority complexes on part of the racists.

Anonymous, please find somewhere else to troll.

Don Park, I dont agree that pulling the mook == censorship. Family Mart is not forced to sell it any more than they are forced to sell anything else.

Its unfortunate that politicians everywhere resort to the race card, but its a fact. More and more lately in many areas of business and culture I'm seeing a return of the "expel the barbarians" mentality in Japan. Expect to see more of this kind of stuff in print, TV, movies and music.

Keep up the good fight Joi, and I'll do my part with public displays of affection with my wife.

Joi Ito's post was a very thoughtful. Thanks.

I wanted to reply to Don Park's comment:
"I don't think the problem can be erased by suppressing freedom of speech which is what pressuring Family Mart to pull undesirables off the shelf amounts to IMHO."

No one has an inherent obligation to shop at Family Mart. Saying that a boycott of Family Mart, as Japan Probe has recommended, amounts to suppression of free speech seems merely to play with the definition of free.

IMHO what Don Park's comment amounts to saying is that people *should* shop at Family Mart so that they can support this magazines right to say what they want. But this is like saying people should be required to subsidize racist speech.

Indeed, if the racist magazine cannot find enough buyers, should the government step in to help finance the publisher?

Family Mart is *free* to continue to sell this magazine, if that is their choice. Likewise, people are *free* to not shop there, if that is their choice. People are also free to express their views on shopping at Family Mart.

Does Don Park wish to state otherwise?

Indeed, telling people they must shop there to sort of subsidize the sale of the magazine seems to limit people's right to freely choose where they want to shop.

A boycott of a product or store should not in any way be compared to government censorship, something entirely different. I'm much more likely to support the former, than I am the latter.

Finally, if Don Part does not feel the magazine is as bad as it is purported to be, then I would like to hear why.

Matt, I think you are too focused on what I said and not enough on what I am trying to say. Racism is everywhere, not just in Japan, and fight against racism should not forget that the end does not justify the means.

What you are doing is a good example of the dangers. Did I say people must shop there to subsidize the sale of racist magazines? You took my words then twisted them to fit your purpose, half-accusing someone you never met of being a racist. Do you give strangers the same respect you give your friends? If not, why not? If so, do you intentionally misinterpret your friends as well?

IMHO, the best way to fight racism is to force it out in the open for public discussion instead of letting it grow in the shades like fungus because you can't kill fungus with a hammer. Likewise, bitch-slapping racist politicians into apologizing every time they utter filth won't change their mind.

The japanese people they are not racist, I traveled to Japan and they treated to me very well. In Japan it happens what in other countries, there is good and bad people but not for that reason to everybody.

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Best regards

> The japanese people they are not racist, I traveled to Japan and they
> treated to me very well. In Japan it happens what in other countries,
> there is good and bad people but not for that reason to everybody.

True. But there's overt racism and the "other" kind of racism. Oh, and you get an entirely different variety of racism if you're white, than if you're brown, black or any other random "person of color".

Thanks Joi. Although I applaud your point and attitude, what makes me more and more fearful is that the people who think like you have been losing political power in Japan.

As a Korean, I don't think the biggest victims of Japanese nationalism and racism during the middle 20 centuries are foreigners like Koreans and Chinese. They are Japanese. Hundreds and thousands Japanese citizens were killed. The number of civil victims would be more than solders who were killed in battlefield.

So it is your job to stop reviving this kinds of dark forces. Historically Japanese politics was not confined in Japan. When Japanese leaders have unified political power, they would go outside. That is the reason why the other Asian peoples are watching and getting more and more scared about Japan.

Of course, it is also my job to stop recurring my side of painful histories.(FYI, I have been Japan for two years. My memories about Japan is good. I also heard your speech when I was in Japan. Guess when.)

While it is interesting to hear your thoughts on the matter, I wonder if it isn't more important to write about this on the Japanese language section of your blog, in order to begin to create a dialog in Japanese on this matter.

Don Park stated: "What you are doing is a good example of the dangers. Did I say people must shop there to subsidize the sale of racist magazines?"

Don, it was not my intent to twist your words. I was trying to draw out the unintended consequences of them. I don't think a boycott should be compared with suppression of free speech, because *all* parties are acting freely. Note in a free market sometimes items fail to sale and get taken off the market. It's the same in the market place of ideas.

You now seem to suggest that your real criticism is the boycott will have the effect of driving racists underground where they will grow more potent. This is an interesting idea, but I disagree with it.

XinJeisan: Good point. The problem is... no one really reads my Japanese blog since I rarely write there. I'll try to poke some of my Japanese friends and see if they will write it. Also, my written Japanese sucks. ;-P

I live in Iwate, and the foreign population understandably got a bit miffed by all this, and have been sending letters of complaint to Family Mart (in English and Japanese), as well as boycotting their shops and handing the shop-owners written letters explaining why they will not shop there. In addition, it seems that some of the ALTs are planning to use a more school-friendly rendition of the content as part of their lesson plans which focus on cultural relations...

Good post on what is undoubtedly a huge issue. In seven years in Japan, I have to say I see things getting worse, not better, for the foreign community. That said, things are getting worse for anyone who is not a member of the top 10% economic group. But the underclass of working foreigners from Asia is growing, and their mistreatment being expanded as programs like the foreign worker trainee program continue to exapand.

This mook is not just in all the conbinis, its in every bookstore I've looked for it. Boycots and complaints to retailers are really just shooting the messenger.

Calling me a troll is just avoiding considering the other side of the coin. It is sad that people are actually completely unwilling to consider that there could be any justification at all for worrying about foreigners in Japan.

I think this is a very important issue, but it's too bad no one here considers the other side. I only suggest there could be a small core of truth that causes unjustified extreme racism later.

Does anyone understand that Japan runs not only on laws? Japan runs also on unspoken rules, but foreigners may only follow these rules 20% of the time, while Japanese do 80% of the time. Maybe 17% of the Japanese that don't are in the Yakuza, with its own rules. I think this is a real issue that needs to be addressed to get at where racism comes from in Japan.

It seems more foreigners only care about themselves much more than they care about Japanese society. Why is there this perception? It is because of little things like being loud or not minding rules or people nearby. To understand the problem, you have to dig deeper and understand the Japanese person's experience every day.

Matt: Boycotts can have unintended consequences too. In general, I think boycotting helps but I am wary of boycotting anything that disrupts or prevents freedom of speech and expression unless some law was broken during the process.

In Korean language, gae-so-ri is a common expression of disagreement. Literally, it means dog-sound. Another common response is mi-chin-nom which means crazy. Expressions like that are used to not only disengage from conversations but to dehumanize the speaker. In Korea, they commonly beat children into good behavior at home and at school. As adults, it's not common to hear people saying so-and-so is a mi-chin-nom and needs a good beating to prevent future gae-so-ri.

I may be overly sensitive but I think we should find other ways to fight racism than boycotting stores that sell racist magazines because what the magazine is saying sounds like gae-so-ri to me and I think beating them up is not the right thing to do.


Just as a spade is a spade, you are a troll given that you post namelessly, pull statistics out of thin air to support contrarian opinions.

Your point is somewhat valid, but ignores the silent majority of "us" who live normal law abiding lives and thus do not draw negative attention to ourselves. And as far as the public manners issues, if the problem was only us or mainly us, there really wouldnt be such a need for manners posters in almost every public space now would there?

Your list of complaints sounds like the behaviors the old man who lives on my street doesnt like about the young people he sees in the neighborhood. Considering the way you write Anonymous, I doubt you are an 85 year old Japanese man, so without backup for your claims or a name to match to a reputation, please take your trolling to some oyaji who might just believe you.

having lived for many years in japan i was fortunate to be a victim of racial discrimination, not so easy for a white man outside of asia or africa, and now i really do know what it is and how stupid it is. this kind of racism exists in all cultures, and like all discrimination it comes from ignorance and the inability to see that you and i are in fact human beings whose dignity should be valued equally. what is different in japan as opposed to in western europe, is the almost total lack of government action to educate people to help to prevent this sort of thing from happening, in fact examples of institutionalized racism abound, and until this is no longer true the situation will not evolue.

according to the issue has been picked up by Reuters.

I only had problems when I tried to look for a place to live. They would always ask me if I have a Japanese girlfriend, if I'm married, and other personal questions. The worse is when the real state agent calls by telephone the house owner in front of you, and the first thing he says to the owner is "Gaikoku no kata nandesukedo..."-"The interested client is a foreigner...". It was not easy, and I had to look for a place during 3 weeks till some nice japanese accepted me living in their rental house.

I'm with you on this one Joi, and it is sad that Japan has not reached the emotional maturity to deal with racism and its dark past from the 20thCentury...While Germany made amends and acted from knowing a terrible shame, Japan got away pretty easily. Not that i think Japan is ever going to repeat stuff like this: but that the nation could use some soul searching, and introspection.

Let me know if I can help you write the blog in Japanese.
I'm very good at writing Japanese and I write it very quick.


I have heard a lot about Japan's racism and seen it on my visits from the older generation but to my experience the younger generation welcome strangers with open arms. They better with the declining population!

Gerard, for the most part you are correct. I would say that most Japanese don't harbor strong racism. I think that vocal racists are probably a minority, but I suppose what upsets me is that the level to which they are tolerated and the rather political strong position some of them seem to have.

I am curious about whether young people are less racist than their parents. I would hope it is getting "better" over time.

Old or young, people here do tend to "welcome strangers with open arms", at least as long as the stranger is only a visitor. When it becomes clear that the visitor intends to stay here for more than a brief time, things may change.

Joi, I'd have to say that its not an age problem at all. I think the issue is tied in with the general soto/uchi peasant mindset. Without sea change of the number of people here having semi regular contact with people of other cultures and without breaking down the "cartels of the mind" control of inbound information flows, I think things are going to stay this way for a few more generations at least. I know I've written in vague terms here but I think you may understand what I mean and long term foreign residents may as well.

Joi, you are right that voice of anti-racism has to get louder at all levels to counter the flow of racist misinformation. And because the flow is never-ending -- all the wrinkly angry men have been smiling pink babies at one time -- the counter-flow also has to be never-ending.

Regardless of color, sex, and age, I think all of us have a bit of racism within, for friendship and racism are made of the same fabric, one that is weaved with colorful threads like kinship and fear.

Since who knows when, our parents have been telling us: don't talk to strangers. I wonder what the effect of that is...

I have been to Japan quite a few times, and have never experienced what I would call racism. However, I do know it exists everywhere in the world, and the Land of the Rising Sun is no execption.

Racism has usually more to do with ignorance and inexperience than a belief that one is of a superior race.


semi-longtime reader, first time poster.

I agree that many young people today are "less" racist, but my opinion is that it has little to do with familiarity or the influx of information that exists today, but rather the widening disparities of perspectives between the young and the old, which the increasing acceptance of foreigners is a byproduct.

By the same token, there is also an increasing population that are disgusted by US foreign policy (e.g. US war on Iraq) that adds to this general bitterness and rejection of anything American (which would translate to most gaijin for Japanese people, since most of the non-Japanese political influences are American). The combination of ethnocentrism that lies deep within the Japanese roots and the right wing politics magnifies the country's tolerance toward racist publication like this.

Joi: I think people 'get away' with it because the people high up and in power are of the older generation. But thanks to people like yourself and global awareness thanks to the internet I'm sure it will become a thing of the past.

Hi, Joi. I think part of the problem is the Engrish phenomenon. Some offensive words borrowed from another language lose the context and history behind it, and they become neutral in Japanese. You can find those Engrish swear words and sex reference on t-shirts and other items, just begging to sound "cool". That being said, it's undeniable that the magazine is racist.

I think this might be of interest to some of us - the editor of the publication defending his work:

It looks like the comments system ate my post, so here it is again.

For those of you who might be interested, the editor of the book responds to what has happened...

There are different types of racism in Japan.

Instituationalized racism that has its roots in the old war era. This kind of racism is especially anti Asian and it has a foreign policy extension that runs through the government and media.

Immigration related racism is pretty new since immigration (non forced) is new to Japan. Chinese, Brazilians and other South American decendents of Japanese are descriminated agaist because of exaggerated crime statistics.

Different kinds of non-Japanese face different issues. Asians face far different biases than Americans for example. Americans are not expected to be able to speak Japanese well where Asians are expected to. People will often try to speak English to children, who have been born and raised in Japan, of Japanese/American couples. Children of Japanese/Chinese couples are only spoken to in Japanese.

Phillipino women have married Japanese men in the country areas for many years but very few Phillipino men ever come to Japan. They are viewed as being here for the husbands. African men in Japan probably out number African women by 50 to 1, so African men are viewed by Japanese men as being sexually agressive with Japanese women.

There are many racial stereo types but the right wing are able to put them all to use to influence government policy.

Mr. Ito,

I hope you don't wake one morning soon to find a big van blasting ultranationalist drivel out of megaphones to intimidate you.

Have you ever been accused of "foreign influence" in your thinking? That you've "been in foreign lands" too long?

I am a retired professor. In the late 1980s, while I was still active, I remember reading a plea in the journal NATURE by Japanese Koreans, that they were discriminated aginst because of their ethnicity; asking the international scientific community to help them. Note that these Korean scientists were born in Japan. If I may generalise, a lot of Japanese look down on other Asians, but look up to Caucasians. I invite Japanese readers to comment on my remarks.