Japan’s greatest journalist has written another article

And we even get an indirect (very indirect) mention! It’s an inaccurate and poorly thrown-together article, I feel, with an over-reliance on cut’n’paste’n’massage.

Japan held innocent foreigner 15 years

The headline is usually written by the sub-editor, but Govinda Prasad Mainali is still guilty from a legal point of view.

Tokyo High Court ruled that new DNA evidence cleared him of involvement in a 1997 murder for which he had been imprisoned.

No it didn’t.

Human rights activists said Japanese authorities moved quickly to deport Mr. Mainali to deter him from seeking compensation for his wrongful conviction and imprisonment. They are demanding that Japan compensate him, overhaul the country’s justice system, and punish prosecutors and judges.

Surely "Random commenters on foreigner-oriented blogs"?

The conviction rate for suspects tops 99 percent with foreigners at particular risk, critics say.

Well, these critics are wrong – it’s 99% for those sent to trial – and even if they are right, 99.9%, for instance, is not particularly more risky than 99.0%.

Let’s skip the Mr Arudou bit, and consider the sentence quoting Gopal Krishna Siwakoti, which seems closely related to this Japan Today sentence:

Describing the case as the “trial of the century in terms of migrant workers”, Siwakoti said Mainali’s case showed that a “xenophobic attitude was entrenched in Japanese judicial system”.

And the next sentence reflects the headline and this portion of another Japan Today story:

"Saving face," declares the daily, "is more important to the prosecution than human rights."


Even so-called "Japan apologists" have spoken out against "induced confessions," harsh imprisonment and costly deportation of more than 100,000 foreigners over the past decade.

Who are these so-called apologists? I cannot find on Google any relevant mention of the literal phrase "induced confessions", and I’ve never heard anyone on either side complain about the cost of deporting people, although I suspect that if I waded through Mr Johnson’s blog I might find him going on about that. And doesn’t that sentence imply that 100,000 foreigners have confessed and been harshly imprisoned?

There’s also something that doesn’t feel quite right about the Charles McJilton section, but I think this will do for now.

Leave a comment ?


  1. 99% of suspects? :shock:

    Well, at least we know the standard of subbing at the Religious-cult-owned Washington Times is on a par with Mr Gulag’s journalistic talents.

  2. I’ve never heard anyone on either side complain about the cost of deporting…

    I believe the author himself complained about the cost of his own deportation — even after the ticket was heavily discounted.

    Even so-called “Japan apologists”…

    Ah, the dangers of living in a bubble. Ignoring the “Even” — like it might mean anything — the term “Japan Apologists” is used by a subset of a subset of a subset of the foreign population of Japan and is hardly relevant or material to a North American [though possibly a South Korean] audience…

    Anyway, now having commented on the story, I should probably go read it. :???:

  3. The sad thing is, he uses this super niche paranoid term about phantom “Japan apologists” and then mentions Terrie in the next paragraph.
    People who don’t know better might assume he’s labeling Terrie as an “apologist”.

    Very sloppy. I assume no editor was involved here.

    I think Terrie should complain.

  4. Also the conviction rate does not “top 99%”, it is 98.5%. When it comes to Japan’s “justice” system, there is no need to exaggerate. You just give ammo to the real “Japan apologists”, if they even exist.

    And can we mention the huge conflict of interest here? Asia Japan Journalist Christopher Johnson who got (effectively) deported from Japan for overstaying his visa is writing articles about people who overstayed their visa (and glossing over that fact!)

  5. The Washington Times is apparently “The Official Newspaper of 2012”. How did that happen?

  6. @Level3:

    And can we mention the huge conflict of interest here? Asia Japan Journalist Christopher Johnson who got (effectively) deported from Japan for overstaying his visa is writing articles about people who overstayed their visa (and glossing over that fact!)

    Yes. That might be worth a mention in the comments.

    Actually, it’s more complex than that. Remember – at one point he was claiming that he was on assignment for the Washington Times reporting on Japanese immigration.

    Which would mean he was claiming that the Washington Times was asking him to try to break the law. That might be worth mentioning in the comments, too.

  7. @iago: Ahh, I see what you mean – I was thinking from the point of view of the cost to the country to run the deportation process.

    @Level3: I see what you mean, it does sound like Terrie is being labeled an apologist. :facepalm:

  8. I don’t want to take away your larger point in any way, so I debated whether to even note this here, but:

    99.9% is very different from 99% (whereas 50.9% and 50% is not). We humans are lousy at understanding probabilities properly. If you see it as odds it may become clearer: 99% is one chance in a hundred to be free. 99.9% is one chance in a thousand. Pretty significant.

    Again, not intended to weaken your point in any way; I’m just anal-retentive enough that this sort of thing irks me when I come across it.

  9. @Janne:

    It’s a fair point, although it would matter more if it were 99% good outcome versus 99.9% good outcome. (i.e. the risk of something bad happening is one in a hundred rather than one in a thousand). The high cost of the bad outcome has to be taken into account.

  10. @Janne:

    I totally appreciate your point. and I always say “anal” is the first half of “analysis”. :wink:

    There are 2 big points here though.
    First, we need the hard data, and then see if the conviction rate for foreigners is 99.x% vs. 98.5%. Without that, it’s all just speculation.
    (I’ve done some looking, but came up empty. I just found prosecution rate data, and posted it here


    which was biased against gaijin in some crimes..and I’d say it could be police bias, (though could be just of the ‘gaijin in the neighborhood are far easier to track down than nondescript 165cm Japanese with black hair and brown eyes’ variety) but could also reflect some reality, maybe the crime rate is higher for gaijin?… but I assume gaijin on average are more likely in the 20-40 age bracket and not rich, if you do more apples-to-apples comparison to Japanese of the same age and income level..it might be the same, maybe even less? again speculation)

    Second, the number of gaijin is relatively small. Each single case has a much larger impact on the stats. If the 2 guys in custody for the death of the Irish woman are both charged with murder, then they will have doubled the typical annual arrest rate for Americans changed with murder.

    In 2009 there were 29 gaijin prosecuted for murder. With 29 cases, it is impossible to split hairs finer than about 3%. If all were convicted it was a 100% rate. If 1 was not, it becomes 97%. If all 29 were convicted, it’s accurate to say Japan convicted 100% of gaijin murder suspects, but dishonest to use it as proof of a bias. A single case changes the balance.
    Data spanning several years and including all crimes would eliminate this problem.
    I’d love to find the conviction by nationality data and check this. Anyone find it?

    And that leads to the last part. The numbers of cases are so small in each category, that if someone just did the gruntwork in a library (or a courthouse? or the net? how does one tabulate this data?) and tracked every single case for over a month or a year, or confined it to one set of crimes (I’ll assume all murder cases get into the press), they could generate data themselves.

    But that would take some time and effort..Sounds like a job for a reporter, or a human rights activist, or a university research fellow…though they’d probably have to be in Japan. :wink:

    Besides it seems most of them have just decided that saying there’s bias is so much easier than actually proving it. Hell, I did more work toward showing bias against gaijin in Japan’s “justice” system by using Google for 5 minutes (above link) than most of those guys. But then, I’m also willing to admit there is no bias if the data turns out that way.

  11. @Janne:

    Also your 99.9% vs. 99%
    is different from 50.9% vs 50% idea
    is not exactly valid.

    In both cases, out of 1000 people, an extra 9 are sent to jail. In the latter case, do you tell the family of the 50.8%th jailed person the conviction is not really that important?

    The comparison of about 50% vs. about 99% is more important to me.
    A 49.1% chance vs. a 50% chance of going free feels about the same.
    A 1/100 or 1/1000 chance of going free? They’re about the same, too.
    They both suck.

    And this is ignoring the elephant in the room. What percent of those prosecuted and convicted are actually guilty? The percentage of innocent people jailed is the important number, but how can we know it?
    And perhaps just as important, the number of guilty men roaming free because
    a: an innocent man was framed in his place
    b: they was never caught in the first place (which seems a pretty high chance in Japan)

  12. As I said I have no clue about the actual numbers or anything, and I’m not debating that or doubting your analysis. I’m reacting to that one particular statement of yours. 99.9% _is_ a lot more risky than 99% — we are talking about risk, about odds of something happening, and the difference is counter-intuitively quite large.

    Nitpicking of the highest degree, I won’t deny that.

  13. @Janne:

    I can concede that point, of course anyone would prefer 99.0% over 99.9%. And it sure feels different from 50.0% and 50.9%, except the results turn out exactly the same for those 9 of 1000 people on the margin. It’s customers 500 through 990 that we should be crying for, IF they’re innocent, that is.

    It all seems like one of those optical illusions about “Which line is shorter?” but they’re both the same, you know?

    Still, we don’t know if it is 99.9% for gaijin anyway. Without that, the argument is moot I guess?

    Though I think the argument could become very important “locally”. What if you find that the presiding judge in your case has a 100% conviction rate? Or merely :wink: hadn’t found anyone innocent for the past 5 years? Or had a 100% conviction rate for gaijin? I have a feeling it would not be hard at all to find such cases. (Again, just begging for a bit of grunt work by activists or reporters.. heck, I bet it’s been done in Japanese already and just needs translation.)

    But then, what if you’re a judge and the 5 gaijin cases you got this year were all plainly guilty? If you don’t go for this “I could see it in his [round] eyes that he was guilty”, racist and illogical (If you find almost everyone guilty anyway.. how do you know what the eyes of an innocent man look like?) crap, how would you feel if some armchair activist starts “naming and shaming” you as a racist?

    Going locally works both ways. Could find some judges and courts that look “racist” by the percentages, but the gaijin case numbers get so small again that a single case could be the difference between “Blatant racist convicts 100% of gaijin” (5 out of 5 guilty) and “Dream-judge finds gaijin innocent 20 times more often than Japanese”. (4 out of 5 guilty)

    but why is there no analysis from the hacktivists? Too busy naming and “shaming” bloggers (bloggers who are doing far more for promoting equal rights and breaking down cultural barriers) for daring to disagree with their lunatic views. I guess personal revenge is more important (and easier) than spending a few hours researching actual racism. :roll:


Leave a Comment

NOTE - You can use these HTML tags and attributes:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>