lifestyle

The other side of Tokyo's Nigerian community

67 Comments
By Dreux Richard

I started showing up on the night corners of Kabukicho and Roppongi in April. I gave my business cards to street touts and let them know I was working on a story about Tokyo’s Nigerian community. In response, I got mostly abuse — past journalism about Nigerians in Japan has largely been sensationalist coverage of Roppongi drink spiking incidents. Eventually, I found my way off the street and into the civic, social and family lives of Tokyo’s Nigerians, where I found some explanation of a community where people are struggling to make a place for themselves among the clashing of cultures.

In 2003, “Valentine” fled from plainclothes police posing as potential customers. They chased him down a nearby street and beat him until his leg snapped below the knee, then held him without medical treatment for ten days to force a confession. Valentine sued, and in the legal debacle that followed, evidence was lost, destroyed and fabricated. Debito Arudou covered the case for The Japan Times.

Valentine tried to get away from the street, and succeeded for a while. He went to work at a restaurant. Pay was a pittance, but he felt safe. He stayed there for years until business got slow and he was cut to three days a week. Unable to make ends meet, he came back to Kabukicho. Now he stays on his feet all night. Sometimes it’s excruciating. Because he was deprived of medical treatment by police, his leg healed badly. He has needed several surgeries. Bone from his ribs has been grafted onto his leg.

After Arudou’s Japan Times piece ran, the handling of Valentine’s case continued with absurdity. He lost his appeal as the court deliberated twelve times over two years. Valentine wears a constant, broad smile. When he came to this part of his story, his eyes misted—but only for a long moment.

“I’m still alive,” he said. “There’s always hope.”

J.J. arrived in Japan in 1995, at the height of Nigerian immigration to Japan, to take a job cleaning oil drums at a recycling plant. His job was typical — it required a month of probationary employment and was not with a company that actively sought immigrant labor.

He made money on the side selling clothes at weekend flea markets. Before long he’d saved enough to quit the factory and start selling hip hop apparel to retailers full time. After a year he opened his own store, adding a second location two years later. Many of his countrymen had gone into the same business and have fond memories of that time, when it seemed they’d achieved the prosperity they came to Japan to build.

Fundamental culture clash

It didn’t last. Customs agents started seizing apparel shipments that belonged to Nigerian clothing store owners. Some contained brand name counterfeits. The cultural backlash that resulted put most hip hop stores out of business. The Japanese public had already been displaying unease over the sudden proliferation of foreign-owned businesses perceived as peddling the American ghetto lifestyle. At the heart of the affair was a fundamental culture clash.

Japan is a comparatively closed society where conspicuous behavior is looked on with suspicion. Most Nigerians in Japan are ethnically Igbo people who identify themselves as uniquely industrious and capable of achieving quick prosperity under challenging circumstances. They measure that prosperity financially and don’t hesitate to advertise it.

It’s not the opportunists and criminals who suffer most from the resulting backlash. It’s the people who least deserve grief. “There are a few who have children here, who feel these children are truly their own, and feel that this is their true home,” says J.J. The father of three counts himself among them. It’s their version of prosperity, stable and sustainable, that ceases to be achievable in this conflictive scenario.

After his hip hop stores went out of business, J.J. tried exporting engine parts, as did many of his compatriots. But the business required expertise he didn’t have and he backed out before he lost much money. Others weren’t so lucky. Next he managed a gentleman’s club in Roppongi for two years before deciding he’d had enough. He spent the following four months in bed, depressed.

Unsure how to make money in any industry except nightlife, he decided to try working in Kabukicho, where rents were cheaper and stakes were lower. He has now been working on the street there for a year and is on the verge of opening his own hostess club, Climax, in August. He’d rather have something more stable and plans to flip his profits from the hostess club, which can climb into the black in a month flat, as quickly as possible. His ultimate goal is a more predictable investment, like a bar.

But there’s no such thing as a stable nightlife business in Japan, where occupation-era nightlife laws allow police to enforce various archaic statutes punitively, and profiling is predictably common. Some of Tokyo’s most popular nightspots have been raided for allowing dancing after 1am, and foreign business owners of all ethnicities regularly complain they get more than their fair share of police attention. It’s an arrangement that discourages caution and good ethics, two of J.J.’s better qualities.

I interviewed J.J. in his nascent hostess bar while he wrote out Climax’s drink list, with another menu on the table as a blueprint. It was from Bar Colors, one of the Nigerian-run businesses named in the 2009 US Embassy warning against visiting Roppongi that brought hysteria about drink spiking to its apex. J.J. was working in Roppongi then and knows Nigerians working there are sitting on a powder keg. “Roppongi is crazy,” he said. “It’s too much. Drug sales, scams, police intimidation.”

Some Nigerians will admit that if they had known where they would end up in society, they might have chosen somewhere else to start a family. J.J. holds no such sentiment. Though he recounted with visible grief a litany of struggles, his affection for his host culture remains, and his countenance lightened as he described his first visit to Japan.

“I came here, I saw this country,” he said. “It was just the kind of place I was searching for. It had something my spirit wanted.”

Chief Kennedy Fintan Nnaji is chairman of Imo State Union, one of Japan’s two largest and most active civic organizations. He’s a veteran of faith-based grassroots organizations, exemplifying the skills and paradigm common to Nigerians who thrive in Japan: language aptitude, business savvy, and faith in combining the best of their two cultures. After spending seven years in Japan under the mentorship of a Japanese plastics entrepreneur, he started his own export business, and he’s managed to keep it profitable in spite of an economic climate that’s rough for businesses like his.

I recently stopped by his recycling plant in Yashio to talk about the state of Nigerian civic life in Japan. His current priority, he told me, is getting non-profit status for Imo State Union, which would facilitate the recognition and expansion of their community service activities. Imo State Union is also part of the Nigerian Union in Japan, the official, embassy-related civic organization of Japan’s Nigerian community. But the NUJ has ceased operations twice in the past two decades, and its current iteration is less than a year running, which means it has less influence than the two largest state unions, Imo and Anambra. Nonetheless, it has a generational leader in Honorable Okeke Christian Kevin, whose top priority is improving Nigerians’ image in Japan.

I met with Okeke several times and saw him speak at community events. He possesses abundant eloquence and candor, which he will need to change people’s minds. Between Nnaji’s and Okeke’s leadership there’s the possibility to create the social infrastructure for the Nigerian community to engage in long-term community service projects. This could significantly improve the public perception of Nigerian immigrants.

The outcome matters because immigrants don’t arrive in new countries certain of who they want to become. Their early experiences determine that. During my reporting I got to know a Roppongi tout named Saint. I attended his church and consider him a friend. He arrived here less than two years ago and has already given up on any notion of finding lasting happiness in Japan. He’s smart, adaptable, and earnest; his quick embitterment a product of the wariness with which Japan relates to its Nigerian immigrants.

On a corner in Roppongi, Saint had just finished telling me about an awful experience he’d had with the Japanese police, the result of racial profiling. I asked how he felt about my publishing his story.

“Actually, I don’t care,” he said. “I don’t care what anyone thinks about me.” He repeated that sentiment eight or nine times in various ways over the next few minutes, as if saying it could make it true.

This story originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp).

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.


67 Comments
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having been harrassed every single time i have walked through roppongi over the last 5 (or more) years, I struggle to sympathize with the story above, it is not Japan's responsibility to provide a good life for Nigerians in Japan so why should we feel bad

1 ( +5 / -3 )

Debito Arudou covered the case for The Japan Times.

JT. If you're going to use his silly Japanese name, write it the Japanese way.

It didn’t last. Customs agents started seizing apparel shipments that belonged to Nigerian clothing store owners. Some contained brand name counterfeits. The cultural backlash that resulted put most hip hop stores out of business. The Japanese public had already been displaying unease over the sudden proliferation of foreign-owned businesses perceived as peddling the American ghetto lifestyle. At the heart of the affair was a fundamental culture clash.

The guy who wrote this must owe money to some Nigerians. It's got nothing to do with "culture clashes" or "The Japanese public had already been displaying unease over the sudden proliferation of foreign-owned businesses perceived as peddling the American ghetto lifestyle". They were selling counterfeit goods!

Japan is a comparatively closed society where conspicuous behavior is looked on with suspicion. Most Nigerians in Japan are ethnically Igbo people who identify themselves as uniquely industrious and capable of achieving quick prosperity under challenging circumstances. They measure that prosperity financially and don’t hesitate to advertise it.

"(U)niquely industrious and capable of achieving quick prosperity under challenging circumstances", meaning "ripping people off for a cheap buck".

Nice to see he hasn't gone into some shady business. Oh, wait..

He has now been working on the street there for a year and is on the verge of opening his own hostess club, Climax, in August.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Does Debito Arudou get paid every time his name is mentioned somewhere? I mean, yes he covered the story, however his involvement has little to do with the main narrative of this article. His involvement did not change the circumstances of this man's life so why bother naming him?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Once again, one gets an overwhelming sense of the upper-middle-class whiteness of the JT community.

I bet the same guys complaining all the black folks in Roppongi single them out will also turn around and complain that the Japanese pullers won't give them the time of day. It's the Great White Entitlement: I want to be noticed, unless it's inconvenient for me.

A lot of these guys you see on the street are struggling to get by, and you know the best way to get them off your back? Ask them how they're doing. They're more than happy to chat with you for a couple minutes and let you on your way. It's so easy to lecture from your high horse, with your upper middle class background and your English degree, but there are some people in the world who have fewer choices and sometimes end up in less than savory lines of work.

Imagine if Bill Gates were born in Africa. You think he'd be a billionaire right now?

1 ( +7 / -6 )

@HumanTarget

Excellent point!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I'm not going to sit around and talk smack about the Nigerians, why? Because other foreigners do the same thing in Japan, the Peruvians, the Brazilians, Chinese, and many Israelis do the same thing, wheeling and dealing trying to make a buck and there is nothing wrong with that, yes, sometimes they do it in dubious ways and not always in the most ethical way, but at least these people are not sitting on their butts waiting for a handout. I don't like sometimes their strong-armed tactics, but I can never look down on a person for trying. Who am I or who are we to say that, "We're better?" Some of us my be better privileged than others, but as human, we are all the same. Try putting yourself in their shoes, what would you do if you grew up in a country that is crazy like the above mentioned. Who are we to criticize and cast stones?

0 ( +5 / -5 )

it is not Japan's responsibility to provide a good life for Nigerians in Japan

depends on what you mean by good. If you mean not having police stomp on your leg or allowing you to run a business or operate on a level of equality with all residents here then yes Japan does have a responsibility to provide that. I struggle to sympathise with someone who complains about being harassed every single time he goes to Roppongi for more than 5 years. What draws you there so often I wonder?

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

I know that better than most of you on here. I know what many Nigerians do, I understand and feel the same way, but at the same time, let's not only single out the Nigerians, other foreigners in Japan also do engage in behavior that is questionable. NOT sticking up necessarily for the Nigerians, just saying, take a step back for a second. Have any of you been to Nigeria? If not, then I would advise you either to go and to get a sense of understanding before making harsh criticisms about a group of people that you really don't know anything about. Again, is that excuse for any sort of bad behavior, certainly not, but you really need to see the bigger picture.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

MrDog,

There are tons of sellers of fake stuff on the streets always has been, BUT the coppers shud go after them all, come on anyone who has lived here a while knows that the police, tax office, customs TARGETS & harasses.

And its not just street type vendors or bars, entertainment, Japan is a very shadey country. What tho keystones did to that guys leg is so wrong & they ALLWAYS get away with it.

While I dont condone a lot of what Nigerians are up to here in japan, clearly Japan/Japanese need to be treating ALL non-japanese a whole lot better, whether its just on the street or by the authoirities, Japan needs to give us all more respect, especially now when Japan needs us more than ever.

That said I wud never advise ANYONE from ANY country to move to Japan thinking they might stay, I had typing that last bit, but Japan has been going downhill fast the last 10yrs & its speeding up, not slowing down, are you ready to JUMP, I am getting ready!

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

shud be, " I hate typing that....""

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

@humantarget

Imagine if Bill Gates were born in Africa. You think he'd be a billionaire right now?

Probably not...and if he was a scamming piece of trash like these touts are I wouldnt give him the time of day or any respect either...

BassFunk also refesr to Brazilians, pueruvians and chinese...most of these immigrants are working real jobs, in factories and offices or restaurants. Not drugging people and running up their credit cards. Granted you have your share of low lives in every race / culture but i have yet to see a Nigerian other than the dude on TV in legitimate business.

Recognize them for what they are...trash. Spend their time harassing any girl that walks by while trying to intimidate foreigners to steal their money. Same goes for the WHITE piece of trash between roppingi crossing and midtown.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

I don't have any negative feeling towards an individual Nigerians. But this is not about individual Nigerian. It's about a trend of Nigerian workers in Japan.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Readers, please do not post inflammatory remarks.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@genji

Don't you think that the reason the Nigerians aren't working in "real" jobs could be related to skin colour?

You mention Peruvians, Brazilians and Chinese working in factories. Surely you're aware that all three groups look Japanese? They blend in; they're lucky.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

JT: The article is very offensive to me. Please delete this article. I am very offended by this article. I feel very vry violated. Please remove this article because it is causing great grievenance to many readers.

-8 ( +1 / -9 )

There is nothing offensive about the article.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I find it a very enlightening artcile that highlights the difficult plight facing immigrants into this country. Thanks JT!

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

It is a very interesting story, but i have never been to that area and i would guess that many Nigerians live and work in other parts of Japan rather than Tokyo. Japan is a big plce, please JT more articles about other places in Japan. If i look at a site on Britain i don't expect 95% of articles to be related to London.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

Personally, I feel sorry for the Nigerians and all other non-Japanese here, including the Chinese, Peruvians, and Brazilians as they do not look nor act Japanese at all!

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

@GW

There are tons of sellers of fake stuff on the streets always has been, BUT the coppers shud go after them all, come on anyone who has lived here a while knows that the police, tax office, customs TARGETS & harasses.

Yeah, and "anyone who has lived here a while knows that the police, tax office, customs TARGETS & harasses" Japanese people doing illegal things too (unless they are politicians).

The point I was trying to make was that the article says that it's a clash of cultures, but the guy it's mainly about sounds as though he has done little to fit in to society.

Someone implying that they were targeted by police etc because they are foreign loses all it's weight as a point when you find out they were doing something illegal.

Him opening a hostess bar just plays to the stereotype of Nigerians being involved in shady business will do nothing in improving the image of Nigerians in Japan.

And its not just street type vendors or bars, entertainment, Japan is a very shadey country. What tho keystones did to that guys leg is so wrong & they ALLWAYS get away with it.

And it shows how society sees Nigerians as bad and has little sympathy for them, which he will not be helping by opening a hostess club- hardly something seen as a "good" place. If he wants people to think Nigerians are actually nice people- which I'm sure they are- maybe he should open a children's library or play area/creche for working mothers?

While I dont condone a lot of what Nigerians are up to here in japan, clearly Japan/Japanese need to be treating ALL non-japanese a whole lot better, whether its just on the street or by the authoirities, Japan needs to give us all more respect, especially now when Japan needs us more than ever.

Again, the hostess bar doesn't help, and is not needed "now when Japan needs us more than ever".

That said I wud never advise ANYONE from ANY country to move to Japan thinking they might stay, I had typing that last bit, but Japan has been going downhill fast the last 10yrs & its speeding up, not slowing down, are you ready to JUMP, I am getting ready!

The world in general has been on a slump for the last 10 years. Where are you going to go? Saudi Arabia?

Anyway, I'm sure I've made my point, repeatedly, clear.

The reason why Nigerians are seen as a bad thing here is that they don't seem to be making any attempt to fit into Japanese society. See this part of the article:

Japan is a comparatively closed society where conspicuous behaviour is looked on with suspicion. Most Nigerians in Japan are ethnically Igbo people who identify themselves as uniquely industrious and capable of achieving quick prosperity under challenging circumstances. They measure that prosperity financially and don’t hesitate to advertise it.

If Japan "is a comparatively closed society where conspicuous behaviour is looked on with suspicion", then why aren't "Most Nigerians" changing their identity as people who "are uniquely industrious and capable of achieving quick prosperity under challenging circumstances. They measure that prosperity financially and don’t hesitate to advertise it."

If they wanted to fit in and be liked, then they would, wouldn't they?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I would not say that the articles is offensive but as a long time resident of Tokyo I think it's stereotyping the Nigerians in general. First of all, most Nigerians are doing legitimate business in Japan. I personally met Nigerians who are restaurateurs, import-export managers and even English teachers. Before coming to Japan, they lived in the States, England, Italy and the Middle East. JT or other media won't talk about this group because their successful story is not "interesting" for the reader.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Let's get to the nitty gritty, some of you posters have I think more of a problem with skin color, than with the REAL problem this article is trying to shed light on. You don't want to admit it, fine, but I can see the underline here. If the Nigerians were White or if it were, let's say the Russians doing the exact same thing, many of you would not post such incendiary comments. Close your eyes and look at what these people are doing, forget skin color, has nothing to do with it. Let's not kid ourselves!

Think about it for a sec. I think the article was very well written and I commend JT for posting it. I would really like to see more articles like this.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Let's get to the nitty gritty, some of you posters have I think more of a problem with skin color, than with the REAL problem this article is trying to shed light on. You don't want to admit it, fine, but I can see the underline here. If the Nigerians were White or if it were, let's say the Russians doing the exact same thing, many of you would not post such incendiary comments. Close your eyes and look at what these people are doing, forget skin color, has nothing to do with it. Let's not kid ourselves! Think about it for a sec. I think the article was very well written and I commend JT for posting it. I would really like to see more articles like this.

So the article being about NIGERIANS in Japan means nothing then?

Wait a minute. I didn't say anything racist, and you could change any part of what I said from Nigerians to Russians or Irish or Texans if you want and my points would still be valid. Anyway, how do you know that I'm not black?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Readers, please keep the discussion civil.

Don't even go there.

So the article being about NIGERIANS in Japan means nothing then?

I meant, MORE articles, please read carefully.

I didn't say anything racist, and you could change any part of what I said from Nigerians to Russians or Irish or Texans if you want and my points would still be valid. Anyway, how do you know that I'm not black?

Never said, you were racist, what many of you were saying had slight racial undertones, big difference. About you being black, let's just say....no comment. ;)

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

These guys hold their own and notice I say guys. There are tons that do good business with importing and exporting cars, diamonds and oil deals. I helped one recently set up his KK. I was a bit nervous during the late 90s street wars in Roppongi and these guys wailed on the Iranians as they were trying to push the drug deals into the streets and out of their clubs. To this very day I have never seen blood like that with baseball bats and broken bottles, and I am not sure that goes on anymore. I have so much respect for them as they often protected girls and drunk Navy guys from the Iranians (the Iranians would be on binges with knives and the Nigerians stepped up instead of the Japanese Police). I actually have a meishi on my fridge that a Nigerian gave me while I was bar hopping the clubs... It says: 'Powers Austin'... classic. They could tone down the street peddling and if they come up to you and they will, just say "No thanks bro, I'm broke with kids and married to a crazy Japanese"... that usually works.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

There was an interview with this Kevin a week ago in JapanTimes, now this...Is this some kind of PR campaign for the Nigerian community? Anyway, I was wondering what was the educational background of the interviewed guys here. They say they come to look for job-any job. Given the specifics of the working visa here, they must have 4year college degree to qualify for such, which means they already had to have a major field where to look for a job. It didn't sound if they had a degree and a profesion, when they came. Also, from the article it didn't become clear if they were aiming to improve their personal qualiffications and their educational background so that they could apply for better job in Japan or somewhere else.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

As an American I am kind of proud that so many of these Nigerians could make a good living for a while in the 90 ' s by selling hip-hop clothing.They came to Japan and sized up the youth culture pretty well and the allure the dynamism of America holds for so many Japanese.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

If they stopped with the : "Yo, homes...come to da club, Bro...free drinks Bro...hot chics...know what I'm sayin'?" (whilst physically dragging me into a club) - then I'd consider venturing back to Roppongi again for the 2nd time in 7 years. Certainly not blaming all Nigerians for this behaviour - most of them are fine in my opinion, met a lot in London who are super nice people. Interesting piece, JT.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

"Yo, homes...come to da club, Bro...free drinks Bro...hot chics...know what I'm sayin'?"

FAIL That's not how Nigerians in Japan talk.

-8 ( +2 / -10 )

Back on topic please.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sasoriza,

As far as I know, Japan, like the US, issues a certain number of green cards every year in a sort of lottery. The specific number issued may be further broken down into individual nationalities. Not every foreigner that lives here necessarily has a college degree. Also, I'm not entirely sure, but I think depending on the type of Visa, a business can sponsor you even if you don't have a degree.

I'm no expert, though. Anyone able to enlighten us?

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

I feel for the hard working Nigerians - and other black men/women - who make an honest earning. Hip hop stores selling fakes (Nigeria and Hip Hop? Where is the connection? Oh right, colour of skin! Please!), used for drugs deals, hostess bars, drink spiking, aggressive "catching" in clubs...? How on earth and I supposed to feel sorry for those guys? I feel for the ones that put in an honest days work and don't try and drag me into some crappy over priced bar in Tokyo or get upset when I tell them I am not interested.

Black Americans/Brits/Canadians have openly complained to me about being tarred because of the dealings laid out in this article. I have seen arguments and fights between these guys and Nigerians when a Nigerian is rude and just causing trouble. Playing the ghetto card and hip hop thug life. I have had a few try and tell me they're from LA. Right. Perhaps that works with the locals but it does nothing to help their cause. Fair to label them all as troublemakers? Certainly not but the people talked about in this article aren't exactly the type who are presenting a great view of their fellow countrymen.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I know that better than most of you on here.

Oh thank God... a foreigner in Japan who knows better than me....

Never did I think I would meet one...

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

There's this Nigerian guy who runs a travel agency business in Tokyo. I sent him several emails asking for airline prices and schedules, and never got any reply.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

@Dent

You never know what or who you will find in Japan, could be a sign of blessing.

@tmarie

I have had a few try and tell me they're from LA. Right. Perhaps that works with the locals but it does nothing to help their cause. Fair to label them all as troublemakers? Certainly not but the people talked about in this article aren't exactly the type who are presenting a great view of their fellow countrymen.

Many Nigerians often don't like or hate Black Americans, they feel as if Black Americans look down on them, which is really not necessarily true, they just often don't like "the way they do things" so there is a bit of mistrust. They see that in many countries(Japan being one of them)that Black Americans are treated totally different and just by attaching America next to their race as opposed to people hearing the country-Nigeria gives people a totally different impression, so I knew quite a few Nigerians that tried so hard to pass themselves off as Black Americans, kinda sad, but I get it as to why they do it, but in the end, the truth always comes out.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

A hustler is a hustler no matter where you are or where you are from. Run from the police and you get bashed....lucky he wasn't shot dead as would happen in many countries.

Every human can pick up a book and improve their lot. No excuses.

Gambatte.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

So wait, you go to another country and make them respect you and your culture? Good look going to Europe and being muslim.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Heythia:

" So wait, you go to another country and make them respect you and your culture? Good look going to Europe and being muslim. "

Ridiculous comment. If you want to make that sort of point, how about "go to the Middle East and being Christian, Jewish, or Hindu"?

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

hey I'm just pointing out a fact. Being white in Japan is like being Asian in Europe. Last time i was stationed in Germany, every german stared at me like i was some deranged lunatic (i'm only deranged at home).

I didn't get treated very well and i had to obey German laws. And being budhist, i couldn't even show my swatiska or I would be fined and imprisoned. Just saying, if you're in a foreign country, you have to obey by their rules

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Every human can pick up a book and improve their lot. No excuses.

NOT TRUE, not everyone has access to a proper education or access to money to get out of the rut they might financially be in, especially if you are born in a caste system, also factor in local or political problems some countries have, it is not that easy. There are some people no matter what you do can never escape the cycle of poverty or cannot elevate themselves. Again, you are looking at if from a skewed privileged perspective where you had and could make a choice. Remember, following the rules, is by no means a guarantee in life. Has nothing to do with excuses.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Gee, bass4, you talkin' like some kind of bleedin' heart pinko Socialist there, boy....

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Readers, please do not be impolite to one another.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Mod

I was being ironic. I'm sure bass4funk understands. :)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Bass, probably because many black Americans DO look down on them - being catchers on the street for clubs, selling fake hip hop gear (again, what does a Nigerian know about hip hop gear from the US?), running drugs, being aggressive on the streets... What is exactly there to respect?

"the way they do things" Yes, like getting good jobs, looking after their family and not playing up to the thug life that so many of these guys do. You can't expect respect when you dwell in the gutters.

The truth always comes out? Yes, usually in the first two second when you hear the accent - which is why I think it is hilarious they these guys even try it on with native English speakers who clearly know the truth. Which is exactly why I don't trust them. If the first few minutes of meeting someone is filled with lies, why would I trust them? Let alone respect them?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

No, as I said before. I just hate some of this venom when people think, because they grew up privileged, they can look down on these people and think that it is so easy to be like this or do like this and don't know anything about their history and background and can just make judgements about something they don't know anything about. YES, we ALL have to obey and respect the laws of any country we reside, but we also need to understand why people sometimes do the things the way they do it and how we as a society can work together, we are all in this together, I think we have all become to selfish and self-absorbed with ourselves that WE think that we are better than many of these people that come from poorer nations.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@bass4funk my comments were in reference to Nigerians in Japan. Of course some kid born in a garbage dump in a third world country can't get a book. That's stating the obvious. Nigerians in Japan can all go to the book store and buy unlimited books for a couple of hundred yen and educate themselves to achieve bigger and better things. This applies to anyone living in Japan. The opportunities are all here. It sounds like you have a chip on your shoulder when you keep complaining about people with privilege looking down. Get over it.

Check out "Timomatic" in youtube. He is Nigerian and he just came third in Australia's Got Talent!! He rocks.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I don't have a chip on my shoulder, but I just don't necessarily agree with you, that it's that easy to just uplift themselves, yes, some can do it and I know a few that did, also some are highly educated and went to very good schools overseas, but sometimes because of lack of opportunities, some revert to that kind of lifestyle and although, I don't like it, we cannot judge unless we are in their shoes. I have been around a lot of good, hard working Nigerians that really want to make a difference and change perceptions about themselves and their culture and it is an uphill battle. So the opportunities are there for SOME, but most of them, NOT. But I do get your overall point.

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Wait, you are assuming that everyone that looks down on these guys "grew up privileged" and yet later state "don't know anything about their history and background and can just make judgements about something they don't know anything about." You are doing the EXACT same thing you are claiming you dislike. How do you know how I or anyone else on here grew up? I look down on these guys (not all of them), because they don't lead an honest life and are rather rude to ME because I won't go to their bar for an over priced drink.

Want respect? Earn it.

Not to mention, how do these guys get to Japan in the first place? They have to have money to come so please drop the "poor them, they are from the wilds of Nigeria you white folk don't get it" because that certainly isn't the case. Some of these guys make very good money but easy money from pimping girls seems to be easier than grabbing a book and getting a respectful job like so many other black Nigerians and black Americans have done.

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@ tmarie,

you think you have to have money to live and work abroad? That's a pretty uninformed world view there.

Some people actually want out of their current situations badly enough that they save up all the money they earn just to pay for that passport, visa and plane ticket. I'm still paying off the loans I took to come out here, 5 years after arriving.

Also, people with refugee status don't pay a dime.

Just because YOU have money and got here doesn't mean everyone that gets here has money.

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@ Tokyo Cherry Boy

you also have a pretty uninformed world view if you think a black man can go to any country, especially Japan, and magically succeed just by reading a couple of books. American whites have a hard enough time getting respect in this country, how do you think the Japanese view African blacks?

To even get your foot in the door at a respectable business here, you need - minimum - a four year college education, superior English AND Japanese language skills, some sort of specialty - preferably technical - and a minimum 10 years or so of boot-licking and ingratiating yourself to your Japanese hosts.

And don't have at me about having a chip on my shoulder. I work for a respected Japanese company. Even so, I'll be the first to admit arriving at this job was 50% luck and most likely wouldn't have been possible if I wasn't white and from the same state my boss happened to study abroad at when he was young.

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Are you actually trying to suggest that Nigerians come here as refugees?? I certainly hope not. Red herring.

So these guys worked hard at home to save money to come here and... then work in jobs that are not exactly honest and admirable. Again, you want respect, earn it. Selling fakes, drugs and hostess girls isn't something I respect in anyone, regardless of their background, nationality, creed....

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I will just say, that this is a very interesting topic, and I for one, never really noticed, or cared about the lot of Nigerians in Japan, when I visited there earlier this year. I have heard a lot of stories of how bad some Nigerians can be, but that can be said for any race. You even have bad Japanese in Japan (yakuza) for example. There is good and bad in everyone, everything. If you are stupid enough to close your mind and lump an entire group into the same mold, just because of a few, then so be it, that is your right. But don't go piss and moan, when someone treats you in the same manner. At the same time, don't let drop your guard, and allow yourself to become victim to the scum that is out there, trying to get over on others by dishonorable means.

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you also have a pretty uninformed world view if you think a black man can go to any country, especially Japan, and magically succeed just by reading a couple of books. American whites have a hard enough time getting respect in this country, how do you think the Japanese view African blacks?

Agreed! I think that is the underlining problem, many Whites do have it tough often, but Black Africans have a serious, serious time getting by, already in Japan when people hear the word "Africa" they think of some long forgotten desuetude country with no infrastructure with hungry people and constant civil wars. So that already is a strike against them, so for some, even if they prove themselves, they can't get ahead. Maybe for people that never lived around Africans or Black people they wouldn't be able to understand that. This is another reason why some of them try to pass themselves off as Americans. Why? Japanese have a higher impression of the U.S. its accomplishments and achievements so at least if you are Black and you say, you are American, it has clout, but if you say African, it just hits some Japanese the wrong way. Now for the record, I don't believe in that, personally, I think to even think like that or to have preconceived notions is a bad thing, but the reality is sometimes harsh. Many Japanese view life, culture, stereotypes through a small prism. I'll give you an example. I have a friend who is Black and tried to get a job as a Priest doing wedding ceremonies, but most agencies turned him down because he was told that the Japanese have this perception that a Priest is White and as sorry as they were, they had to meet the clients demands (obviously, they never visited a Baptist church) but they said, he could try out as a gospel singer, if he wanted that position, no problem. But also, the same goes for a White person, if they want to be a gospel singer again, perceptions, Whites can't be gospel singers. Often in Japan, you are selling an image and in Japan, that means a lot. Many countries have images and stereotypes of people of various ethnicities and cultural, diverse backgrounds, but in Japan these stereotypes are deeper rooted and harder to break.

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Don't you think the cycle just continues though with people not being so keen to higher them since some Nigerians are so visible in doing pretty crappy jobs - catching, selling hip hop gear...

And it isn't just in Japan you are selling an image. That is, sadly, everywhere. As are stereotypes. I don't think they are any harder to break here. Just lack of "us" compared to many other countries where they are being broken down. Nigerians won't have an easy time if they are constantly seen as host club owners, hanging on the streets trying to get people into clubs... Besides, you've got Bobby who I think is a great example of a smart Nigerian. He plays up being dumb but any Japanese with a clue knows his Japanese is amazing. Looks at his family life, his kids... THAT is a Nigerian man this guy should have written about or at least should have been mentioned in this article.

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-tmarie

You are making a valid point, I understand, I really do, but seriously...how many Nigerians do you personally know? Do you think most of them want to do these kinds of jobs? Bobby for a Nigerian in Japan is an exception and he lucked out because of his K1 fights which propelled him to Japanese stardom. I remember when Bobby couldn't speak a lick of Japanese, he's really come a long way. I know Nigerian culture and yes, even in the states, some do shady jobs, but at least in the states they have the opportunity to better themselves, but in Japan, it is almost impossible. Stereotypes are hard to break, one reason for that is, some people choose not wanting in their minds to see a change. Sad to say, but that's how some people are. They tend to hold on to their prejudices and biases. Sometimes people have to do things that might not be pleasant in order to survive.

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Sometimes people have to do things that might not be pleasant in order to survive

Exactly, bass4, well said. A bit more tolerance and understanding would go a long way here....

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Bass, the ones I know are all teachers - uni or at private high schools. I don't waste my time with the catchers and whatnot because that is certainly not a crowd I want to run with - and you can't blame me for not giving them the time of day when the first thing they do is lie to me and tell me they are from LA or NY.

Japan isn't the only place wit "issues" with Nigerians either. South African has huge issues - for much of the same reasons as Japan. Many are not in respectful jobs. I don't think it is fair to stereotype ALL of them like this because it is certainly not the case.

Bobby studied Japanese and made a life for himself. Like I said, some of these guys make a ton of cash but it is a much easier way to sell girls and drugs than it is to educate yourself and move into a respectful job. I don't blame them for thinking that - most would - but please don't expect me to have any respect for them.

And they do have a chance to better themselves. Like I said, the Nigerians I know all worked hard, some got their MAs and now teach uni. The opportunity in Japan is there for everyone is you take the time to make it happen. Is it easy? Hell no but it is not easy for any visible minority in any country.

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On that last point and my previous point, I don't think we are that far apart when you put them side by side. Well thought out indeed. I can't argue with that, because I think you might be a more level-headed person, but not everyone thinks like you, especially when it comes to Nigerians. There IS a lot of misunderstandings about them, make no mistake and yes, even in the African community, they have this reputation, I truly understand, but being around them most of my life, I saw another side, as side of a group of people that for whatever we might think and yes, some do engage in sleazy work, but the majority want better lives and have strong work ethics and I think most people should at least try, try to understand about their history before vilifying them and seeing these people as monolithic group.

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I think most people would - if they didn't see them doing such scummy jobs. I never had a negative view of the Nigerian community until I saw them in Japan acting like thugs. Thankfully I have positive experiences with others so know it isn't fair to stereotype. For some though, all they see if the thugs in Roppongi and not the other hard working ones. Unfair? Certainly but you can't fault the other people for not thinking positively if they haven't see these guys being positive either.

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@HumanTarget

I didn't write anywhere that it would be easy. I was making more a comment about having a positive can do attitude as opposed to whinging on how hard life is on Japantoday.

I started a business here with no money and I can't read or write Japanese, I am illiterate, and now I don't have to work. I never complained about how my life sucked. I did something about it. Stepped up on the plate and took a swing.

Just saying that's all.

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Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that nearly every person I met from Africa has told me that everyone in Africa hates Nigerians!!!

Hmmm, how does that fit into this discussion.

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I'm from Scotland and have always wanted to be japanese or to live in Japan. I have never had a problem with different ethnic groups goodness knows the west of scotland fight between ourselves anyway. I think if/when I get to Tokyo I want to spend a'lot of time with the Nigerian community to help me get a better understanding of all the people of Japan.

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That article is making it sound like all Nigerians in Japan are criminals. Why did the author not find a single one to interview who was not rightfully arrested or prosecuted? If there is a Nigerian community outside the red light and criminal milieu, passing off a bunch of serial criminals and con artists as "the Nigerians" does not help them.

Anyways, with respect to the Roppongi hustlers, I think the police is beating them not too much, but not enough.

Every single person in Japan who was trying to sell me something understood a polite "no", even though they often didn't speak English, and I don't speak Japanese. Just smiling and shaking one's head is usually enough.

Not so the Nigerian folk in Roppongi; they use a sales strategy somewhere between harassment and assault. A 10 minute walk turned up about five mildly annoying ones, about another five really annoying ones, and three who became physical. Some just walk alongside you and talk. Others will step in your way or try to grab your hand. Others will walk along and try to physically stop you, shoulder-to-shoulder body check. The last one who did that even grabbed me. I told him "don't touch", shook off his hand. He grabbed again, I slapped his hand. Then he started shouting, first a whiny "why you hit me", then threats and insults. I offered to rearrange his face and to take him o the police station two blocks down the road, so he refrained from further touching, and went on shouting insults. I returned a few, and left. I can do that because I weigh 200lbs. If I was a bit smaller, I would be intimidated by these people, and desperately want more police presence.

My conclusions of the 10 minute field study in Roppongi:

It would be good if the police would send more plain clothes officers. Not every hustler who whines loud and publicly is a victim; mine first assaulted me and started whining after he got his had slapped. If the police chooses to beat up a few more of the hustlers: oh well. There are more pressing human rights issues than prosecution of criminals that is not done with velvet gloves, but gets the right guys. Also, officer-san: If you arrest the ugly guy in the brown t-shirt, please smack him for me once or twice. :)
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The hyper aggressive Nigerian touts are the absolute worst part of Tokyo. The contribute absolutely nothing beneficial and their behavior is appalling for a city/country that prides itself on being safe and friendly. They're parasites.

Maybe I could sympathize with this story at all if I hadn't been personally assaulted by one of the Nigerian touts last time I was in Tokyo.

If they want to operate a businesses and behave in a remotely respectful manner then fine but as it stands now if you walk down the streets of Roppongi at night you're gonna have over two dozen Nigerian dudes aggressively following/standing in front of you trying to get you into their scam. The only way anyone in this comment thread can have any sympathy for them is if they haven't experienced their incredibly annoying harassment it first hand.

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you also have a pretty uninformed world view if you think a black man can go to any country, especially Japan, and magically succeed just by reading a couple of books. American whites have a hard enough time getting respect in this country, how do you think the Japanese view African blacks?

@HumanTarget I think you are the one that isn't well informed for making such a remark. I recognize you made that comment about 5 years ago but things haven't changed that much now. I came to Japan with only a B.Eng degree and no Japanese language skills and 6 years later, after my doctorate, i started teaching in one of the top unis here. I am Nigerian by the way and I have a couple of black African colleagues who came here with only bachelors and are now either working in notable Japanese companies or unis after studying for two or five years here. Yes, a black man can go to any country, especially Japan, and succeed just by studying. At work places, a well set record beats all stereotypes.

Respond to this if you are interested in The "Other" Other Side of Tokyo's Nigerian Community :)

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I wish JT could run a story about the other side of the Nigerian or even the entire African community. For instance Mr Nnaji is a factory owner and employs Japanese workers I wonder why people like him, and I'm sure there are many, don't have their stories told. I don't think the majority of the Nigerian community in Japan is into bootlegging.

Unfortunately because of such stories, all we Africans in Japan are bundled up as lawless.

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