Dr. ARUDOU, Debito's Home Page

From Debito's doctoral research:

Embedded Racism: Japan's Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination

  • Embedded Racism: Japan's Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination
  • (Lexington Books, Rowman & Littlefield HB 2015, PB 2016)

    Click on book cover for reviews, previews, and 30% discount direct from publisher. Available in hardcover, paperback, and Kindle eBook on

  • Book IN APPROPRIATE: A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan
  • UN News: UNHCR dismayed by secret death penalty of J convicts

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on December 9th, 2007

    Hi Blog. This is tangental to, as it involves issues of the death penalty, not internationalization and multiculturalization. But it’s yet another example of Japan not following treaties. Do read to the very end, and goggle at a comment from Justice Minister Hatoyama…


    UN New York, Dec 7 2007 7:00PM
    Courtesy UNNews AT

    The top United Nations human rights official today deplored the execution of three prisoners – including one aged over 75 – in Osaka, Japan, and appealed to the East Asian nation to reassess its approach to the death penalty.

    The executions reportedly took place suddenly and neither the convicts nor their families were given advance warning.

    “This practice is problematic under international law, and I call on Japan to reconsider its approach in this regard,” Louise Arbour, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said.

    Expressing particularly dismay at the execution of the prisoner over the age of 75, she said that “it is difficult to see what legitimate purpose is served by carrying out such executions of the elderly, and at the very least on humanitarian grounds, I would urge Japan to refrain from such action.”

    In contrast to carrying out executions in secret as it has done in the past, Japan publicly released the names of those executed, the High Commissioner noted.

    Japan is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which legally obligates States Parties to ensure strict safeguards when applying the death penalty. It is widely accepted that executions cannot be carried out in secret and without warning, as this could be seen as inhuman punishment and treatment under the ICCPR.

    Ms. Arbour urged the Japanese Government to implement a moratorium on executions or ban the practice altogether, as a growing number of nations have.
    2007-12-07 00:00:00.000


    COMMENT: And this is where our Justice Minister, Hatoyama “al-Qaeda” Kunio, was referring to about the higher value put on life in Japan than in the West? I included this in an earlier Newsletter, but it bears repeating:

    Interview with Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama
    Shuukan Asahi, October 26, 2007 P.122.
    Title: “The Reason I will carry out Executions.”

    Partial translation by Michael H. Fox, Director, Japan Death Penalty Information Center

    Q: There is a big trend to abolish the death penalty worldwide. Why do you want to keep it in Japan?

    HATOYAMA: The Japanese place so much importance on the value of life, so it is thought that one should pay with one’s life after taking the life of another. You see, the Western nations are civilizations based on power and war. So, conversely, things are moving against the death penalty. This is an important point to understand. The so called civilizations of power and war are opposite (from us). From incipient stages, their conception of the value of life is weaker than the Japanese. Therefore, they are moving toward abolishment of the death penalty. It is important that this discourse on civilizations be understood.

    Go figure.
    The entire article translated with commentary by Michael H. Fox was recently published on Japan Focus. See
    Debito in Sapporo

    11 Responses to “UN News: UNHCR dismayed by secret death penalty of J convicts”

    1. JOHN G Says:

      “The Japanese place so much importance on the value of life”
      What rot this injustice minister spouts. Is this was so, why are there over 30,000 suicides every year in the divine nation??

    2. nofj16 Says:

      (1) Her Honor Mme. Louise Arbour commands the highest respect as an internationally recognized jurist. Her comments on this barbarism will reverberate throughout the international community, except for (the late) OBL’s buddy, Kunio Hatoyama.
      (2) NPA’s suicide numbers for 2007, released 2007 June 6 (Wed.) are: Total known suicides 32,155. Primary, Jr. High and High School students, 886.

    3. Kris Says:

      That Hatoyama quote is incredible. Sounds like something from the “Beautiful Japan” mission.

    4. elena Says:

      Well, in fact, there is a certain logic behind what Mr. Hatoyama says that many Japanese will endorse, and it is based – please, do give this some thought before rejecting this! – Japan has very little spiritual tradition (apart from endless ghost stories) and the fact is that the vast majority of Japanese think that material aspect of life is predominant and therefore they want everything here and now – you’ll recognise this in their daily behaviour, I suppose. To express this the other way – they put very little value into anything spiritual, and their very existence, so to say, ends completely with their death, and therefore death would “naturally” seem the most strict punishment that there might be, and at the same time, the physical life, if you wish, of a given person is more valuable than all the morals in the world. (Not that I’m trying to preach someone the “immortal soul” etc., but that’s how their logic goes!) Everything upside down as usual, but seems logical to them, as we see. For the past several years I’ve been dwelling on a way to try to make the people around me notice that this sort of “train of thought” is actually harmful to everyone and debases all values of life, and is being abused by Hatoyama’s and the like, and the key seems to lie in education, they know next to nothing about spiritual traditions of other people on the planet, just telling them the folk tales and commenting on this helps enormously… But just how long is this going to take! Ah!

    5. Andrew Smallacombe Says:

      Kunio was probably sleeping during his Japanese history classes, possibly dreaming of butterflies. Or he was educated by Bunmei Ibuki…

    6. Norbert Says:

      If cars could run on idiocy…

      Hatoyama’s comments are simply illogical BS. Nothing more and nothing less. “We kill people because we put so much value on human life. On the other hand, these other guys who for whatever reason don’t like killing people, simply do not respect life at all!” Sounds like Bush talking. There is no point reading any deeper meaning into these words by bringing out the good ol’ stereotypes as Elena does.

    7. HO Says:

      “But it’s yet another example of Japan not following treaties.”
      I am not sure if you can say so.

      International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
      Article 6
      1. Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.
      2. In countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes in accordance with the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime and not contrary to the provisions of the present Covenant and to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This penalty can only be carried out pursuant to a final judgement rendered by a competent court.
      3. When deprivation of life constitutes the crime of genocide, it is understood that nothing in this article shall authorize any State Party to the present Covenant to derogate in any way from any obligation assumed under the provisions of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
      4. Anyone sentenced to death shall have the right to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence. Amnesty, pardon or commutation of the sentence of death may be granted in all cases.
      5. Sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age and shall not be carried out on pregnant women.
      6. Nothing in this article shall be invoked to delay or to prevent the abolition of capital punishment by any State Party to the present Covenant.


    8. HO Says:

      Obviously, Japan does not violate any clause in Article 6 of ICCPR.

      “Japan is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which legally obligates States Parties to ensure strict safeguards when applying the death penalty.”

      This article cites the names of the 3 person executed on Dec 7.
      According to this page, their death penalties were finalized at the Supreme Court on 2003/Jan/5, 2004/Jun/15 and 1996/Mar/4, respectively.
      They had enough time to seek pardon after the judgments. I think Japan’s obligation to ensure safeguards is fulfilled.

      “It is widely accepted that executions cannot be carried out in secret and without warning, as this could be seen as inhuman punishment and treatment under the ICCPR.”
      I wonder how this interpretation is possible. Does UN prefer public execution? These death roll inmates were given warning when they received judgments.

      I think Japan is not violating ICCPR.



    9. elena Says:

      I agree basically with Norbert, but what I wrote is not based on anything I have learned anywhere, I was not aware of any stereotypes, that they exist, beleive, I was just plain naive person who came for a couple of years to study here out of the blue, and ended up having a family here, so I have stayed here and started to learn everything solely by observations. So what I wrote is only a result of my private observations, and if you say it coincides with some well-known stereotypes – well, this means that they are there not because someone simply invented them, that’s all.

      Why I was writing this, though, is a different matter, because if you are trying to explain to a slave that being a slave is not worth it, you are not likely to get understood – well, a number of Japanese people I personally know, have this philosophy of “trying to stay alive no matter what”, being trodden over, spat at, debased – anything, well, any sort of bullying you are likely to get in Japan wtarting from the kindergarten age – have you ever seen how they train for a “undokai” at a “yochien” (kindergarten) – I’d say it’s horrific child abuse, they are completely indifferent, they would be wildly surprised if you try to tell them that! – So the point is, we need to try to speak the language they understand to be understood, rather than just writing how incredibly stupid and illogical all this is – for us, but not for them… I cannot calm down from incredulity every single day after I read some new most improbably story or incredible comment that someone makes – but that does not bring anyone anywhere, there is a need of a means to put the message through to them, and in this case, I think, we need to have some understanding of how they function – well, very much like robots!

      I have recently discovered one more interesting thing, if you care to listen. Can you imagine why they cannot learn any foreign language decently? THere are formulas of speech in Japan that have to go literally “as accepted”, I have even saw in the Nikkei paper once how embarrassed employees were posing a question to a Japanese language professor what exactly are they supposed to answer when the boss has said this-and-this, and they did not know the “right” answer… And if you pay attention, they always try to memorise “key-words” and “key-phrases” (kimarimonku). THat’s because it’s the way they often communicate in Japanese – just by key-phrases or words, the rest is in the context and is hanging in the air. So what they seem to beleive, and I tell you it was my personal discovery, I am completely unaware if someone has already said this somewhere – they believe that all other language function in the same way, and what they try to learn – is the necessary key-phrases to go about with. WHen I’m trying to explain to them, that there are some phrases that are used often, but otherwise you just have to say what you mean, try to explain it – they fall into deep thought and silence for quite some time and realise that they are not at all sure what do they really mean, and here their discovery starts – which they enjoy! It’s just that nobody has ever shown this to them from this point – what do you mean to say! THey were always taught what they are supposed to say, what is expected of them…
      Maybe you still will not agree that what I right might in any way be useful, but…
      Well, THanks for reading anyway.


    10. elena Says:

      David, I hope you did not understand that I was suggesting that we have to base our judgement on any kind of stereotype or anything, not at all, this should be done on the “observation” of a real person in front of you, I was not also suggesting that Mr. Hatoyama et al should be allowed to “hide” behind these stereotypes, as they obviously do.

      What I was trying to say that the real solution to the problem will not be forcing them – the people in power, I mean, – to obey this or that regulation, they will say they will, and the next day turn 180 degrees in what they say – we have seen it so many times!

      But the real solution will be in trying to make the general public THINK, like when you have talked to the manager of the Toyoko Inn, in person, I mean, or on all other occasions, when you deliver speeches, and just lead them to thinking to themselves, and then one day they will simply see that they are only “fulfilling” someone other’s pattern of behaviour – the “stereotype”. And to do this, that is to be able to point it out, you should be aware of this stereotype in the first place! – THe large mass of people do this just because everybody else does this, but they are capable of realising that they DON’T have to do it, and this is when the general mass of people will feel that there is a need to change something in the way they live, and not just do as they are told.

      I have my Japanese husband who was trying to find a way to deal with this political mafia all his life, and he’s exhausted and says that he will not be able to try to support this movement of the PR that is being discussed here. But I also have my language students, who are in their 40ties-50 ties, but still they are able to respond to my suggestions to start to think, so I think that one needs to find the right way to deal with each particular person, or at least, group of persons, and then this ominous “shikataganai” can finally be removed, and maybe quite suddenly, like it has happened to Berlin Wall in Germany – who would ever have thought that it would disappear in any near future? And it’s gone now! There is always a way if there is a will!


    11. debito Says:

      The entire Shuukan Asahi article referred to above was translated with commentary by Michael H. Fox, and recently published on Japan Focus. See

    Leave a Reply


    The requested URL /sites/debito.txt was not found on this server.

    Not Found

    404 Not Found