But first, for those who are not permanent residents of Japan and do not follow the Japanese gaijin scene with slavish devotion, Arudo Debito is a naturalized citizen of Japan born in the United States who has devoted much of his public life to exposing and lobbying against what the gross mistreatment of foreigners in Japan. He achieved public reknown when he exposed heinous Hokkaido bathhouses who imposed a blanket ban on gaijin in an ostensive attempt to keep out Russian sailors who repeatedly failed to observe house rules (such as washing yourself before you plop into the communal tub). Okay, there’s more to this story. But you get the idea.
Now, fast forward to 27 March 2009. I receive an email from a cross-dressing, heterosexual, lambada dancer NTTIAWWT that carries a report alleged to be the work of said Mr. Debito entitled: Punishing foreigners, exonerating Japanese. The essence of the report:
“So let's summarize: If you're a foreigner facing Japan's criminal justice system, you can be questioned without probable cause on the street by police, apprehended for ‘voluntary questioning’ in a foreign language, incarcerated perpetually while in litigation, and treated differently in jurisprudence than a Japanese.Maybe, maybe not. But the facts and claims that the report attributes to Mr. Debito appear to be open to some question. And this is where my email, somewhat edited, comes in:
Statistics bear this out. According to [Professor David T.] Johnson, 10 percent of all trials in Japan had foreign defendants in 2000. Considering that non-Japanese residents back then were 1.3 percent of the Japanese population, and foreign crime (depending on how you calculate it) ranged between 1 and 4 percent of the total, you have a disproportionate number of foreigners behind bars in Japan.”
The report claims that in “the case of Lindsay Ann Hawker, who was allegedly murdered by Tatsuya Ichihashi in 2007[, Ichihashi] is just accused of “abandonment of a corpse”. Yet in the, Ichihashi is being sought by the Chiba Police for, you wouldn’t guess, murder (and abandoning a corpse).
Mr. Debito also refers to
“other crimes against non-Japanese women, like those of convicted serial rapist Joji Obara. His connection with the Lucie Blackman murder has been well-reported, particularly the botched police investigation despite ample material evidence—even videotapes of his rapes. Regardless, in 2007 Obara was acquitted of Blackman's murder due to ‘lack of evidence.’Leaving aside the magic by which one corpse—one too many, I hasten to add—becomes “dead bodies”, the report neglects to add that there was compelling evidence to cast at least a reasonable doubt that Obara had no intent of causing physical injury to at least one of his two dead victims—the other six (not seven?) survived—and fails to make any claims regarding such intent towards Ms. Blackman. In fact, the facts of the Obara case as asserted by the report itself suggest that his punishment, a life sentence, was about as far as it could possibly have gone, since it is next to impossible for a Japanese court to impose the death penalty in a homicide case without a finding—again beyond a reasonable doubt—of such intent (unless you want to claim that Obara actually got a disproportionately heavy sentence—after all, the courts found only one death attributable beyond a reasonable doubt—only because he was a naturalized citizen, an ethnic Korean, who everyone knows has the hardest time of it). And the following doesn’t even make the faintest of sense:
“Obara did get life imprisonment (not death), since he was only charged with ‘rape leading to death’ of nine other women (one of them foreign). But only after strenuous appeals from Blackman's family was the acquittal overturned in 2008. Obara became guilty of ‘dismembering and abandoning’ her corpse. Again, guilty of crimes to their dead bodies, not of making them dead.”
Generally, in these situations the survivor goes down for "too much self-defense" (kajo boei), regardless of intent. That precedent was set in the 1980s by Steve Bellamy, a British martial artist who intervened in a drunken altercation and killed someone. Bellamy was acquitted of wrongdoing, then convicted on appeal, then acquitted again.I have nothing to say about the other specific cases because I don’t seen anything hese except allegations and assertions. The gaijin may or may not have been wronged. But it does them little benefit to have their cases lumped together with the other allegations.
As for the statistics cited in the opening quote, gross prosecution numbers are greatly distorted by the large number of immigration law infractions, which are naturally mostly committed in Japanese jurisdiction by non-Japanese. Subtract them, and you can actually argue that Japanese courts go easy on gaijin, who are significantly more likely to get suspended sentences than Japanese citizens for regular crimes. But I won’t, because you have to look closely at the data and as variety of circumstances and conditions before coming to conclusions either way with any degree of confidence. A careful examination of the data available here may tell us whether there is or is not a meaningful bias one way or the other.
I’d be happy to do a more thorough investigation of this matter, and I suspect that it will turn out to be a total takedown of the report. Actually, there is nothing that I’d like to do more, since, as all my acquaintances know, I am naturally mean and enjoy nothing more than... life, however, is so short; so many flowers to pluck, so many nuns to kick. In the meantime, though, will someone please tell whoever wrote that report that I do heavy-duty fact-checking for $200/hr.