Sunday, January 11, 2009

Japan by the Numbers

The “Wide” feature in the current Shukan Shincho (Jan 15) presents a baker’s dozen of stories under the collective title of “Scary Numbers for Japan.”

The first touches on how one married woman out of three is on the receiving end of physical abuse. Another shocker concerns rampant food waste: each day, the magazine reports, Japanese discard the equivalent of 30 million servings of food. And Fukuoka Prefecture is the top-ranking prefecture in dispose of dogs and cats, which are euthanized nationwide at the rate of 350,000 a year.

Meanwhile, prosecutions for possession of marijuana are soaring, and headed for 15,000 cases per year. Despite the use of more women-only cars, during 2007, 1,600 “chikan” (gropers) were caught in the act on trains in Tokyo alone. And statistics of runaways from home show that only the segment that’s been increasing are those aged 60 and over.

The weekly also takes note of the rapid surge in registration of Chinese nationals in Japan. From just 84,397 in 1986, their numbers had climbed to 424,282 by 2002, and at the end of 2007, reached 606,889, accounting for 28.2% of foreign residents in Japan and for the first time surpassing Koreans, who numbered 593,489.

“More students have been coming here from China,” an immigration official explains. “More IT-related technicians are coming to Japan to work or for training. And marriages between Japanese men and Chinese women have been increasing.”

While the aforementioned official pointed out that by admitting them Japan is able to secure high-quality labor and activate its academic institutions, the magazine does not shirk from noting the downside, that is, how these newcomers have affected law and order. Of the 14,787 crimes by committed by foreign nationals, those by Chinese were roughly proportional to their numbers—about one out of every three.

On a related note, proposals to establish “Chinatowns” in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district and commercial centers in Nagoya, Sapporo and other cities have been made, causing anxiety among local residents—not so much over crime, but toward food-related problems, such as sanitation and abnormally high levels of agricultural pesticides in imported items.

“Last January, three Chinese approached me about declaring everything within a 500-meter radius of Ikebukuro Station to be Chinatown, which I felt was preposterous,” says Mitsuru Miyake, chairman of the Ikebukuro West Exit Merchants Association. “My biggest concern would be safety. Both the police and I are saying they have ties to gangs. And they’re also impolite; they scatter parts of Shanghai crabs and the stinky remains of fish all over the street around here.”

“Even with a part-time job at an izakaya (pub), Chinese manage to send money back home,” a Japanese journalist based in China warns. “So the Chinese who come to Japan to study bring their families over. Anyone can find work as waiters or in convenience stores, or as a janitor, so if a Chinatown can be established, they’ll wind up bringing in their whole family one at a time, including by illegal means.”

--Japan Today

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