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“I bought it from a foreigner”

August 11, 2009

If you don’t know, you don’t need to, and if you know, you don’t need reminding of the details of this week’s Japanese celebrity drugs busts.

Apart than the subsequent media frenzy, the other entirely predictable aspect was when Noriko Sakai is said to have told police in questioning –

I bought it from a foreigner

And of course the police informed the media, and the media informed everyone.

This is a common… what is it, an excuse? A diversion? Whatever it is, search any drugs arrest story and this line crops up with annoying frequency.

The suspect, under questioning, is obviously trying to protect the friend or trusted source who they usually buy their drugs from. Does anyone really believe that every time someone with a drug habit, particularly a celebrity, wants to conduct a bit of illicit business, they go out and take the risk of buying from a complete stranger?

It’s become a fashionable excuse among those arrested for drug offences to cover for their supplier by fingering an anonymous foreigner.

It’s clearly a diversionary tactic, so why do the police feel the need to pass it on to the media, who in turn take great pleasure in broadcasting it to the nation?

Its effect is two-fold. All of us foreigners are caught in the blast, suspicion lands on all of us – the implication is that a random foreigner being a druggie is entirely believable, even to be expected.

But the main agenda is to keep the middle classes safe in the delusion that the drug problem is not a Japanese problem, but a foreign one. After all, I’ve never heard a report saying “The dealer was Japanese” – the question of nationality, or more precisely the foreignness, is only deemed worthy of report if the suspect claims to have bought from a foreigner.

Anyone who believes that the vast majority of Japanese drug users are not buying from their Japanese friends, or from trusted Japanese sources, is naive in the extreme. But the media portrayal of these cases might lead the unthinking to believe otherwise.

It’s probably true of most developed countries that most drugs that are abused recreationally are brought in from abroad. And it’s a fair bet that the vast majority of the illegal drugs business conducted in Japan is controlled by Japanese. Why on earth wouldn’t it be?

But if you’re a fretful, easily scared, middle class Japanese, the media would like you to believe that the nation is an innocent victim of an unopposed army of foreign pushers and importers, which it most certainly is not.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. August 11, 2009 2:58 pm

    This type of talk is quite pernicious. It not only makes people suspicious of foreigners in Japan, but fuels a mentality which condones police actions like random drug tests of foreigners and breeds even more negative stereotypes of foreigners in Japan.

    As you correctly state, the Japanese person is saying they bought the drugs from an anonymous foreigner because it closes the door on that part of the investigation and insulates their Japanese friends and acquaintances from being interrogated by the police. Either the police simply accept this statement at face value because they also subscribe to the notion that only foreigners sell drugs, or they know that it is a convenient lie meant to protect Japanese people and accept it rather than launch into a troublesome investigation of the facts.

  2. Ian permalink
    August 11, 2009 10:00 pm

    So it wasn’t you who sold it to him then mate?

  3. Mike permalink
    August 12, 2009 2:52 pm

    Interestingly, a professor at Akita University was arrested for possession of a small amount of marijuana recently and although he is half-German and half-Japanese (raised and educated in Germany), the media all reported the incident with a highlight on him as a foreigner. In fact, he is a scholar of Japanese society with a Japanese parent working and living in Japan. Framing him as a foreigner in the media, makes it easier to write off. Fortunately, his students rallied to his defense, wrote a petition, and the charges were dropped. He kept his job.

  4. Stina permalink
    August 12, 2009 4:44 pm

    Though never a drug user myself, a bunch of my Japanese friends regularly smoke weed. I’ve seen an entire pound in a ziploc bag on the floor of one person’s apartment. Where do they get it from? They grow it themselves or get it from good friends, not foreigners.

  5. RMilner permalink
    August 13, 2009 9:41 pm

    Her husband (Japanese) was arrested for dealing. Perhaps he was dealing only to foreigners.


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