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May 2000, Volume 7, Number 5

Japan: Ishihara Reactions

Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, co-author of "A Japan That Can Say No," in April 2000 asked Japanese Self-Defense Forces to be prepared to help quell potential riots by foreigners in the event of a major earthquake. Ishihara said that "time and again, 'sangokujin' and foreigners committed atrocious crimes." Sangokujin, or third-country people, is Japanese slang for Koreans and Taiwanese living in Japan, thousands of whom were allegedly killed by the military, police and vigilantes after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, following rumors they were instigating riots.

Ishihara's comments prompted general denunciations from leading politicians and media. The Association for Korean Human Rights in Japan wrote to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, requesting that the UN warn Ishihara against making similar remarks about foreigners. Ishihara countered that Japan was being overrun by foreigners: "Go to Shinjuku after midnight - you won't feel like it's Japan. Even gangsters are afraid to go there . . . and women can't go on their own."

In 1998, there were 50,000 foreign trainees in Japan, including 22,400 from China, 6,000 from Indonesia and 4,600 from Thailand. Some of them complain that they do not learn skills while receiving a living allowance instead of the higher minimum wage.

Minors. Among the foreigners being held in detention centers in Japan are 560 minors. Of those, 104 were children younger than five. A member of the House of Councillors called on the government to comply with a UN convention on the protection of juvenile rights. According to government figures, about half of the children spent less than 10 days in detention and 42 minors remained in detention more than 100 days. The centers separate the sexes at night, so that families are not kept together.

There were an estimated 251,697 illegal foreigners in Japan in January 2000, including 134,082 men and 117,615 women, down from a peak 298,646 in 1993. The three leading countries of origin in 2000 were South Korea, 24 percent; Philippines, 14 percent; and China, 13 percent.

Catherine Makino, "Toyota trains Brazilians to go home," Japan Times, April 12, 2000.