Hi Blog. After receiving a request from cyberspace about what to do regarding some of the “culturally-insensitive”, shall we say, articles and programs occasionally appearing in Japan’s print and broadcast media, I made a revision tonight to my “What to do if…” site on debito.org.
This site is an artery site with links to several ways to protect yourself in Japanese society. Advice on what to do if… you are stopped by the police, you are arrested, you have a labor dispute, you need a lawyer, you overstay, etc… are all up at
Here’s the revision:
WHAT TO DO IF…
…you want to protest something you see as discriminatory.
You’d better have some willpower, because domestic laws will not back you up. Racial discrimination is not illegal in Japan (it is unconstitutional, but not illegal–due to the fact that there no laws exist to ban it). So going to the cops or City Hall to complain will result in nothing but bent necks and advice to take your business elsewhere.
If your dander is really up, consider the steps outlined in the following Japan Times article (November 30, 2004):
You can also visit the local Bureau of Human Rights (Jinken Yougo Bu) in the Ministry of Justice (Houmushou). If the bureaucrats think you have a reasonable complaint, they will send a functionary to “enlighten” the discriminator. However, the BOHR is limited in its ability to actually force the discriminator to cease and desist, as witnessed in these cases recorded in the Japan Times (July 8, 2003):
and catalogued here:
However, a call from the BOHR has scared some discriminators into taking down their “JAPANESE ONLY” signs, so it’s worth at least contact them. Make them work a bit for your tax money. See:
If you see something discriminatory or culturally insensitive in the broadcast or print media, you can call (or write) the complaints department within the network. For television, that would be called the shichou sentaa, and by calling any network and asking for it you will be connected. For newspapers, call any department and ask to be connected to the reporters section (houdoubu) and say that you have a claim against an article (saikin notta kiji ni tsuite chotto kureim (claim) ga arimasu ga). Email protests (even large numbers of form letters) have also been effective (you can usually find the network’s email easily after a Google search). See a case which elicited an apology from a news anchor (Kume Hiroshi) over a decade after we protested his anti-“gaijin” comments at
Make your case to the media slowly and calmly, and you will probably at least get listened too. Don’t expect anything more, but apologies and changes in programming have been known to happen. For example:
If it’s something on the Internet (such as a blog), there’s probably not a goddamn thing you can do, except ask the administrator to have it taken down. Even if that doesn’t happen, AND you take them to court, AND you win, the courts will not enforce their decision. Example (of a case of Internet libel, not specifically discrimination, but the result is the same) available at
Internet libel and hate speech is a problem slowly garnering attention in Japan, but not enough for Dietmembers to pass a law against it yet. Grit your teeth.
In any case, don’t expect your embassy or consulate to assist you in your protest against discrimination (tell them if you like, but don’t expect to get anything more out of it than a polite blow-off). They will only intervene in the case of an arrest, not to help you claim your rights protected (or not) by domestic laws.
You can see a whole case of social protest (negotiations, media campaigns, political lobbying, even a lawsuit all the way to the Supreme Court) recorded in my book “JAPANESE ONLY” (Akashi Shoten Inc. 2004) More information on the book at http://www.debito.org/japaneseonly.html