Japan’s “hate speech” debate proceeds apace, but not sinking in, according to university survey cited in Mainichi


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Hi Blog. After the now-famous incidents (fortunately) earlier this year of the “Kill All Koreans” march in Tokyo and the “Tsuruhashi Korean massacre” speech in Osaka, hate speech has become a topic for discussion in Japan’s media. Here are some examples (courtesy MS, click on image to expand in browser):

Nikkan Sports April 15, 2013

Chunichi Shinbun May 10, 2013.

Nikkan Gendai August 13, 2013.

And here’s one from Yuukan Fuji, July 6, 2013, with the view for bad-mouthing Koreans:

Good. Have the debate, good, bad, and ugly.  That said, it doesn’t seem to be making much of an impact, according to the Mainichi:

The Hate Speech Problem: More than 60% don’t know about it, according to an awareness survey of college students.
Mainichi Shinbun, Aug 8, 2013, translation by Arudou Debito (corrections as always welcome)

In the wake of public demonstrations in places including Tokyo and Osaka displaying hate speech towards Zainichi Koreans, about 1000 students in Osaka area universities were surveyed for their awareness of the problem. It was revealed that more than 60% did not know about the hate speech.

Touyou University Department of Sociology’s Izawa Yasuki, who carried out this survey, analyzed the results as follows: “It could be said that many young people have no idea how they should take in the problems of Asia, because they were not given the materials to discern these things during their primary and secondary education,” noting the significant number of people who did not answer the survey at all.

The survey was also carried out by Zainichi Korean youth leagues headquartered in Osaka during June and July. It mainly surveyed youths in Tokyo and Osaka between the ages of 18 to 23, with 1014 responses.

According to this, the students who knew about the hate speech problem totaled 35%. When asked about what they thought about it, over 70% replied that “they should absolutely desist” or “it’s undesirable”, while 10.3% said they thought nothing of it and 7.4% said they felt the same way as the hate speechers.

In addition, more than 70% replied that then had no Zainichi Korean friends. Also, more than 70% indicated that they felt that their school instruction in modern Asia/Japanese history was insufficient.

[last paragraph untranslated because it’s not really relevant or scientifically significant]

毎日新聞 2013年08月08日







COMMENT: Although surveys like these are generally easy to poke holes in methodologically (I skipped translating the last paragraph because, for example, the sample size was too small), I think that we can still broach a conversation here about how hate speech (even examples of it advocating murder and massacre) should be registering more of a shock within “peaceful Japan” than it apparently is. Of course, we can say that college students as a survey sample are more interested in playing video games, drinking and getting laid than soaking in the news. But when something is REALLY shocking in Japan, there’s enough carpet-bombing media debate on it that it certainly appeared in my college classrooms, and I doubt that has happened in this case. What do others think? I offer no clear conclusions on this case in point, so I put it under “Discussions” for looser moderation. Arudou Debito

10 comments on “Japan’s “hate speech” debate proceeds apace, but not sinking in, according to university survey cited in Mainichi

  • Michael Kruse says:

    I think Professor Izawa’s comments are right on the button. I recently read Graham Greene’s “Stamboul Train”, not hate-speech by any means; but we Europeans have become so sensitised by the events of 1930s and 40s that it would unpublishable today. Japan’s assiduously cultured ignorance renders most of the young incapable of connecting with this kind of sentiment.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    I think it’s quite unrealistic to expect people to take the issue very seriously and initiate the actions for submitting anti-hate speech ordinance, whether at prefectural or national level. They won’t take it as an impending issue that invokes the tone of national crisis; 1)because they believe that’s somebody’s problem(not theirs); and 2)they have not yet seen the moment when hate speeches turn into violence or hate crime against ethnic minorities. The reason the issue will die out before it reaches to public debate? Maybe an absence of progressive media and journalism (like Democracy Now!, Current TV, Salon, etc.) that help us to provide an opportunity to engage in public discourse could be the main reason for people’s indifference.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    The ‘debate’ about hate speech in Japan is set to become another case (just like implementing child-abduction laws) of the tatemae of complying with international norms for the sake of face-saving, clashes with the honne of Japanese belief that there is no problem. It will become an exercise in how to talk tough on the issue for the sake of the international media, for just as long as it takes to work out a law that won’t infringe on a Japanese persons ‘right’ to harass and intimidate NJ.
    TOOTHLESS LAWS; an area of Japanese expertise.

  • Jim Di Griz @ 3

    On the tatemae honne spectrum disorder, the incoming Japanese child abduction laws (by March next year ???) could reasonably be seen as a formalized version and institutional recognition of hate speech .

    — Please send us some links so we can have a more informed discussion if that’s the direction you want to take it.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ Karjh12

    I think you are hitting on an important point.
    As Debito showed us (IIRC), there was an official poster warning about the dangers of DV that depicted ‘happy’ black haired partnerships, in contrast to those where one partner had ‘brown/blonde’ hair (complete with screaming child and crying ‘black’ haired wife). TBH, with that level of racism so deeply institutionalized, I’m not surprised that Japanese politicians and academics are looking at youtube videos of Japanese school girls calling for the massacre of Koreans descended from disenfranchised Imperial subjects (and such like), and ONLY JUST NOW with what appears to be a complete lack of self-confidence that they understand the term ‘hate-speech’, are insecurely stuttering to begin a sterile public debate which other G8 countries began 20 years ago.
    IMHO, Japanese civil society is completely lacking the conceptual framework with which to understand the issues involved, thanks to 68 years of being led by interest groups seeking to preserve Imperial ideology. Japan’s constant intransigence regarding the rights of immigrants (dare I say, any civil rights) has not in fact enabled Japan to ‘neatly’ solve these issues, but rather has allowed these issues to compound to the point where I seriously doubt that concepts such as ‘hate speech’ can be understood.
    In short, Japanese civil society needs to go back and start again from ‘Human Rights 101’, and grasp a working understanding of the fundamental principles on which more advanced concepts (e.g. hate-speech) are based. Not much chance of that.
    Again, Japan will in this arena too (just like corporate governance; Olympus & Tepco, Olympics-judo coach bullying, regional security-annoy the neighbors & revisionism about the war), strive to meet the perverted perceptions it holds of international norms of being a ‘developed country’ only in so much as tatemae demands, whilst at the same time striving it’s very best to affect as little change as is possible.
    The irony is, that contrary to the belief of many Japanese I talk to (and all the politicians I read about in the newspapers), the international community isn’t waiting for Japan to ‘save them’.

    — I don’t recall the official poster you’re referring to as such.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    Actually, the Japanese Supreme Court released the manual to cope with the Hague Convention in June. So they are at least trying to make their system look ‘slightly better’ on legal proceeding by appealing to the public. Here’s the link below.


    I wonder if the document is available to the public. It’s likely to be classified as confidential, so we probably won’t get access for while unless MOJ accidentally disclose information.

    And we can just forget about anti-Child abduction laws coming out in less than a year. It’s too good to be true.

  • #5JDG

    I would say it is far simpler than that. Japan shall never “understand” any of these issues, never. Japan does not allow for questioning, critiquing or dissention from anyone. I’m not referring to any NJ’s, their own citizens!! The harmony must be maintained at all costs. This is part of their fabric of society dating back centuries. It is social control, to prevent social disorder. Nothing has changed to this day. There may be sticking-plaster of “issues” for lips service to the wider world, but inside Japan, nothing changes as it is not being “forced” to do anything different.

    The reason why these politicians et al, have no concept of hate speech is because it requires critical thinking beyond the in-out group and the quid-pro-quo that must be employed as part of their patronage society. Hate, like, love, enjoyment etc etc plays no role in this simple “transaction” of “just do because you’re expected to” to ensure harmony & image is maintained. It is like trying to reason with a hungry lion not to eat you, the concept is alien to the lion, it just wants to eat because it is hungry, nothing else..why talk?

    Until the whole concept of the patronage society and “just do” without question is removed and understanding that there is “self” and “self” has thoughts/feelings which must also be recognised there shall never be any progress in Japan, ever.

    One only has to look at the very simple concept of “friendship”. Friendship in the Western sense is totally alien to Japanese because, where is the kick-back, where is the support help when needed, where is the, you must do for me too when I ask no questions? The purely altruism part of friendship in the Western context does not compute. Thus if even this very simple “self” is ignored for the “group”, in terms of being a freind, how on earth is a whole country, let alone politicians ever going to change?

  • I don’t think that there’s been enough media attention. Sure you might see some articles about it here and there, but it’s not enough. Right now a fairly small group of people are only talking about it fairly passionately on Twitter. It’s actually pretty interesting. Right now people are diving into right-wing anti-racists (like those who want to revere the Emperor, but are still somewhat anti-racist. There are even some right-wing Zainichi Koreans) and left-wing anti-racists. The left-wingers, like anywhere else in Japan, are pretty much ineffectual and succumb to intellectual masturbation. They are usually very detached from reality and have little sense of what “racism” actually is.

    Anyhoo I still find this pretty interesting. We’ll see how this will turn out.

    Debito, you need to get on Twitter and debate with these people. You’ll need to teach them what racism actually is.

  • Now that Japan has been selected for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, I doubt Japan will ever see anything wrong with itself.


    Japan’s economic “recovery” as well as winning the bid for the Olympics of 2020 must be the LDP and every right-wing nutjob’s lucky day. This will serve well for the LDP to continue to pursue their agenda, because the masses will believe that everything their government is doing is right and turn a blind eye on Abe’s true agenda as the people will think everything Abe is doing is what is “right” for Japan.

    Why am I posting this in this particular article? Well I believe it fits because “positive” news like winning the bid for the Olympics coupled with glossed “economic recovery” news will make Japan think that everything its doing on the right track and will not see any need to change there ways.

    One reason the Japanese does not care about hate speech towards NJ is because the Japanese do not believe it is of any concern to them. Infact since this so called “economic recovery” and the 2020 Olympics hosting all happened under Abe and his cabinet of right wing nutjobs, the disillusioned masses will probably even think it is their nutty nationalism that is what is making them “successful” so to speak. And they will continue to preach themselves as being No1, being racially superior, etc, etc.

    However, Japan’s hosting of the 2020 Olympics can backfire on Japan’s “tolerant” international image, should people like Ishihara and Hashimoto open their mouths. The outside community will at least know of the real Japan as nutjobs start making cruel and snide comments towards NJ which will eventually be widely publicized just like Hashimoto’s speech a while back.

    Also since the Olympics will be in 2020, Japan’s nationalism will probably be much, much worse by then. I see a potential scenario where nationalists like the Zaitokukai will end up attacking NJ which will end up becoming an incident of international scrutiny.

    — Thanks. Please repost this under the comments for the blog article I put up today about the 2020 Olympics.


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