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Punishing foreigners, exonerating Japanese


THE ZEIT GIST – Debito Arudou sees growing evidence of judicial double standards!  Did you know?: Under the Foreign Registry Law (Article 18) only foreigners can be arrested, fined up to ¥200,000 and incarcerated for up to a year just for not carrying ID 24-7!

Examine any justice system and patterns emerge. For example, consider how Japan’s policing system treats non-Japanese. Zeit Gist has discussed numerous times (July 8, 2008Feb. 20 and Nov. 13, 2007May 24, 2005Jan. 13, 2004Oct. 7, 2003) how police target and racially profile foreigners under anticrime and antiterrorism campaigns.

But the bias goes beyond cops and into criminal prosecution, with Japanese courts treating suspects differently according to nationality. We’ve already tackled the subject of how judges discount testimony from foreigners (Zeit Gist, Aug. 14, 2007), but here’s the emerging pattern: If you are a Japanese committing a crime toward a non-Japanese, you tend to get off lightly. Vice versa and you “haven’t a Chinaman’s chance,” as it were.

Non-Japanese are particularly disadvantaged because: 1) There is no certified quality control for court and investigative language interpretation; 2) public prosecutors can have negative attitudes toward non-Japanese; and 3) non-Japanese cannot get bail (hoshaku).Click here to read the rest of the Japan Times article. Be sure to leave your feedback here at Black Tokyo? I am curious to know your opinion of the article! Feel free to copy and paste your feedback from other websites.

Debito Arudou is coauthor of the “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants.” A version of this essay with links to sources can be found at Send comments on this issue to


One Comment

  1. Saito Saito

    Unfortunately, the unfair and illegal treatment of non-Japanese by local securities, police, and the justice system have been going on for years and the international community still turning a blind eye to it. This unfair treatment took another turn after the 911 under pretext of war on terror. Japan and the UK are still the countries were the Bush doctrine still highly praised and taken advantage off. From small villages to big town the sign indicating vigilance against terror or “Circuit TV on” posted preferably were foreigner pass or near their living places they, and the continuous patrol near their homes remind Japanese people of the daily treat that the “other” may cause.
    For years Japanese authorities turned blind eye on the use and supply of marijuana and other narcotics by native Japanese and blamed foreigners for it. It is until it become impossible to hide it that some measures are being taken. The case of the Japanese sumo wrestler who was exonerated even though all signs pointed to him while immediate measures were taken against the foreign group is a clear evidence of bias in the system.
    This unfair treatment does not play in the favor of Japanese people themselves. Foreigners may continue to ignore the unfair treatment and injustice done to them. However, the risk is that the sympathy and support that Japanese benefit from the foreign community maybe lost.

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