Chinese-language free newspapers full of questionable ads, get-rich-quick schemes


While specific publications may come and go, at any given time Japan is home to several dozen free newspapers in the Chinese language, which are distributed to shops, restaurants and other places patronized by Chinese residents here. Their names include Huafeng Xinwen, Lianhe Zhoubao and Wenshengbao. Most are printed in the simplified characters utilized by Chinese from the mainland.

The newspapers' contents run the gamut of political, economic and social issues between Japan and China, as well as featuring stories on culture and other topics. Most of their articles are excerpted from sources in China, including Internet media.

Along with general news and feature stories, notes Tadasu Nishitani in Sapio (April), by reading between the lines, much can be gleaned about various concerns that affect the lives of Chinese residing in this country. This particularly applies to the advertisements. Many are job-wanted ads for female applicants to toil at sex shops or eating and drinking establishments. Others are run by offices that offer legal services pertaining to status of residence for foreigners. Interestingly but perhaps not surprisingly, quite a few of these ads offer assistance in obtaining permission to work, or to obtain a status that would enable a person to remain in the country for an extended duration. The euphemism for this in Mandarin Chinese is "hei zhuan bai" (literally, "black changed to white"). In Chinese slang, "black" refers to illegal activities and "white" is the opposite.

Kazuo Nakamura, an administrative scrivener ("gyosei shoshi"), believes ads that make such claims are deceptive.

"There is no way that a person's 'illegal' status can be changed to a legal one," he asserts. "Activities that are prohibited by law would damage the status of such a scrivener, and so doing would constitute an infringement on Article 10 of the statute concerning administrative scriveners' activities."

Other ads in the newspapers suggest that some administrative scriveners appear to be working in tandem with matchmaking agencies.

"Remuneration for smoothing the way to obtain a spouse visa tends to be high, and many offices are in on the business," a scrivener involved in immigration procedures is quoted as saying. "While there's nothing particularly problematic about introducing prospective mates per se, if evidence can be found that suggests the marriage was made under false circumstances however, they can lose their license."

According to the aforementioned scrivener, Japanese immigration officials now scan ads in the Chinese newspapers looking for telltale words or phrases -- like "spouse visas arranged in one week!" -- that indicate intention to defraud clients or the possibility of other illegal activities, such as fabrication of personal histories.

Then there are off-the-wall ads, such as those offering a telephone which, for the outlay of 260,000 yen, can be used in perpetuity to make domestic and international telephone calls at no additional charge. Or ads claiming to provide piecework by which women working from home can earn 100,000 yen a month, with no special training or skills needed.

It seems everybody's got a racket: There are even ads appealing to people to serve as middlemen for Japanese-produced disposable infant nappies, which had been in heavy demand in mainland China.

"These days there aren't big profits to be made any more," said a source involved in the disposable diaper trade. "The resale value in China, at their peak, had been 3,600 yen per package, but now it's about one half of that, roughly the same as their current market price. These days, the latest big-selling items from Japan are oxygen supplements."

Shinjuku restaurant operator and former street guide Li Xiaomu, a native of China's Hunan province, who is now a naturalized Japanese citizen, told Sapio that Chinese-language free newspapers began proliferating about 30 years ago. Back then, he recalled seeing ads for underground banks that would transfer money from Japan to China.

"These days you can also find a lot of that sort of information via Chinese SNS's like Weixin (also known as WeChat)," Li said. By his estimate, between 30 and 50 such newspapers are being printed in Japan, mainly in the Kanto (East Japan) region. Apparently they generate enough revenues to keep the business competitive for publishers and advertisers alike.

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An interesting and enlightening article. Now that I see how media outlets can use coded language and embed private messages between the lines, I can't help but noticing that this one particular online news outlet runs a smear campaign every couple of weeks or so against the Chinese using those very same tricks. For example, they've run articles in the past seemingly praising the positive effects the wild shopping sprees of Chinese tourists have had on the local economy but at the same time using subtle language that either mocks, belittles, or paints the Chinese tourists in a negative light. For example, they use words like "herds" or "hordes" to describe the tourists groups, although these words are traditionally used to describe groups of animals; they speak of their shopping behavior with words "rush" and "explosive" when these words have more negative connotations that positive ones. So you'll get sentences like "hordes of Chinese disembarked by the bus loads and rushed the store and began their explosive shopping wiping out the shelves." I'm paraphrasing of course, but I'm correct in detecting the pejorative mood and suggestions cleverly hidden between the lines which says Chinese are these savage like frenzied shoppers who pillage and plunder the shops madly and uncontrollably so that if you see them you should run for the hills.

This media outlet also plays up to and encourages the constant theme that Chinese tourists are a nuisance to cultured, descent society. Mostly all of their news is about how Chinese tourists block the roads, cause traffic, make noise, or leave trash. But just like the current article says, the media outlet does it smoothly, all the while praising the economic benefits that the Chinese bring with there terrible behavior. They speak of the Chinese in terms of problems, inconveniences, and dollars and cents.

Even today's article is guilty of its own claims. Between the lines of this article are embedded the accusations that the Chinese are criminalistic, untrustworthy, liars, and dishonest. But it's a very clever article; it never says these things directly. Furthermore, it's part of a never ending series on the Chinese: the Chinese are an abstract subject to be reported on, problematic, a question without a clear answer.

So yeah, a very good article demonstrating how media outlets can speak in code, embed messages, and communicate furtively.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Questionable ads, get rich quick schemes ?

I can't count the number of times I've seen the kind of glossy ad, with a spotty geek, surrounded by hot ladies, and holding a wad of cash, because he's wearing a power stone necklace, in Japanese newspapers and magazines.

9 ( +13 / -4 )

Many are job-wanted ads for female applicants to toil at sex shops or eating and drinking establishments.

Oh please, is that a Chinese-only thing? Just about every day on the street I get handed a stupid magazine advertising jobs for women that promise "quick cash, high pay." I think we all know what that really means.

11 ( +13 / -2 )

@Mr. Noidall

Interesting comment. But, I'm not sure these stories are particularly anti-Chinese in the sense that Chinese people are being deliberately singled out and targeted. Millions of Chinese people are visiting Japan and that's why they are being discussed all the time. Maybe if it were New Zealanders you wouldn't see stories about the Chinese. Also, the poor manners of Chinese tourists are discussed and written about regularly all over the world. Even the Chinese Government has admitted that they have a problem. They've published official guidance telling Chinese tourists not to pick their noses or clip their nails in public.

The criminality within Chinatowns is also notorious. Overseas Chinese communities are usually very insular and isolated from mainstream society. As outsiders, people in Japan (Or New York, Milan, Paris etc) just want to have a look in and see whats going on in this secretive parallel universe. It's curiosity more than racism in my opinion.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Chinese-language free newspapers

This should be worded "free Chinese-language newspapers." The way it is phrased now makes it sound like the newspapers are free of the Chinese language.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Sensato@I must disagree. If you split free and newspapers it is more confusing than putting the two words next to each other. Moreover "Free newspaper" is a widely understood term. Here is how Wikipedia defines it: Free newspapers are distributed free of charge, either in central places in cities and towns, on public transport, with other newspapers, or separately door-to-door. The revenues of such newspapers are based on advertising. Some are dailies, some are weeklies.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

I'm with Sensato. When I read the title I thought they were speaking of newspapers without Chinese, and I was confused, as most newspapers don't have Chinese in them.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

@Strangerland. But to make it have the meaning of excluding Chinese, the hyphen would have to be moved so that the headline reads: "Chinese language-free newspapers," no?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Grammatically, yes. But the ordering of it still causes confusion, where as free Chinese-language newspaper doesn't invite that same misunderstanding.

3 ( +6 / -3 )


Most style guides in their rules for ordering adjectives say that adjectives of quality such as 'free' are supposed to come before proper adjectives such as 'Chinese.' (Google "order of adjectives" for a more detailed explanation.)

So for instance, most people would say "He gives free English lessons" rather than "He gives English free lessons" to describe no-cost English lessons.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Oh, not another article on the subject, 'Oh those bad Chinese, we wouldn't anything like that'.

This should be worded "free Chinese-language newspapers.

Well, you have to realize that JT is now owned by a Japanese company.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

scrivener ?

1 ( +3 / -2 )



An administrative scrivener (行政書士 gyoseishoshi) is a legal professional in Japan who files government licenses and permits, drafts documents, and provides legal advice around such interactions. They are also known as Immigration Lawyers, Gyosei-shoshi Lawyers or Certified Administrative Procedures Legal Specialists.

Here is a good explanation of the three main types of legal professionals in Japan: bengoshi (lawyer), gyoseishoshi and shihoshosi (judicial scrivener):

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I thought a 行政書士 was a notary public. Is that the same thing?

I asked my scribner Bartlby to file some papers for me. He said "I'd rather not".

1 ( +3 / -2 )

"Japan should join US efforts in South China Sea, defense expert says"

So much for chinese restaurants, massge parlors, etc?

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

Chinese-language-free newspapers full of questionable ads, get-rich-quick schemes<

-what some people thought.

Chinese-language free-newspapers full of questionable ads, get-rich-quick schemes<

-what it should have been.

***and how can they even be called "newspapers" when all the news is false or a scam? Scam-sheets or scam-papers maybe.

I can't count the number of times I've seen the kind of glossy ad, with a spotty geek, surrounded by hot ladies, and holding a wad of cash, because he's wearing a power stone necklace, in Japanese newspapers and magazines.

=That is the fabled "harem man" necklace. -And it does work, but must have 100% confidence in the product and it may help to "not have the cash" -like true "Harem Man"

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Alistair, I subscribe to the Nikkei and I have never seen such an ad. Perhaps you read sports "newspapers?"

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Alistair, I subscribe to the Nikkei and I have never seen such an ad. Perhaps you read sports "newspapers?"

It is the fabled "harem man" , "power-stone", "philosopher's-stone" jewel. Absolute power, wisdom and control (especially over Women) for those that are able to secure it. It is what every man searches for. The ¥260,000 "perpetual" use cell phone is #2.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@badsey3: Where do I sign up for such exceptional deals?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

"Free newspapers" is a common term in the newspaper business. No confusion at all in the headline. Read slowly.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

@karlrb Where do I sign up for such exceptional deals?

"Harem Man" was in 2006. Have not heard about him since. =Must have died and someone else has the "fabled" stone. He was a 60yr+ old man with a bunch of Women 18-30's typically. So maybe all those Women are not good for the health.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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