One reason why human rights are not taken seriously in Japan: Childish essays like these in the Mainichi.


Books, eBooks, and more from Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free
“LIKE” US on Facebook at
If you like what you read and discuss on, please consider helping us stop hackers and defray maintenance costs with a little donation via my webhoster:
Donate towards my web hosting bill!
All donations go towards website costs only. Thanks for your support!

Hi Blog.  The discussion about Japan’s recent passage of a hate-speech law continues.  An article recently appeared in the Mainichi, about which Reader JK said when submitting, “I don’t recall ever seeing anything this cut-and-dry; it’s a nice change.”

Have a read, then I’ll comment:


Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Discrimination has no place in Japan
June 12, 2016 (Mainichi Japan), courtesy of JK
By Rika Kayama, Psychiatrist

The so-called anti-hate speech law has come into force.

When I first saw a hate speech demonstration, with marchers barking vicious slogans aimed primarily at Japan’s Korean residents, I could barely believe my eyes. On the internet, too, people toss out discriminatory comments against other foreign citizens, against Japan’s Ainu and Okinawan peoples, against those receiving welfare benefits and the disabled. There are those who spread false rumors that these people are getting unfair financial aid.

The new hate speech law is what you might call a “principle law,” as it has no provisions for punishing violators. Furthermore, it only protects “those originally from nations outside this country” who are “living legally in Japan.” As such, it does not outlaw discrimination against Japanese citizens or foreigners applying for refugee status, among other groups. However, the supplementary resolution that accompanied passage of the law states, “It would be a mistake to believe that discrimination against groups not specifically mentioned in the law is forgivable.” I suppose we can say that the Diet essentially stated, “Discrimination is unforgiveable in Japan.”

In fact, I have a lot of people struggling with discrimination come to my practice; people discriminated against because they are foreigners, because they are ill, because they are single mothers. Some are treated unfairly at work or in the areas where they live, are looked upon with frigid eyes that seem to say, “You are not like us,” all for some aspect of themselves that they cannot change.

What’s more, the reasons given for this prejudice are usually untrue. For example, the romantic partner of one of my patients didn’t want to get married “because depression is inherited.” This is simply not true, and in the end I had the couple come in together to explain things. When the session was done, the reluctant party was reluctant no more, leaving with a smile and promising to “explain this to my parents as well.” Arbitrary “those people are all so-and-so” labels are very often founded on basic errors of fact.

I have read a paper based on research conducted outside Japan that showed that ethnically diverse workplaces produce more creative ideas than those dominated by a single race or nationality. In contrast to working with people who understand one another from the get-go, getting people with wildly varying perspectives and ways of thinking together in one place apparently sparks the easy flow of groundbreaking ideas.

So, talk to someone different than yourself. Even if that’s impossible right away, you will come to understand one another somehow. It’s time to put an end to knee-jerk hatreds, to discrimination and pushing away our fellow human beings. With the new hate speech law, Japan has finally become a country where we can say, “We will not tolerate discrimination.” (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)  ENDS

Japanese version

脱差別 日本も仲間入り /東京
毎日新聞2016年6月7日 地方版









COMMENT:  While this article is well-intentioned, and says most of the things that ought to be said, the tone is pretty unsophisticated (especially if you read the Japanese version — the English version has been leveled-up somewhat).  I have always found it annoying how discussions of human rights in Japan generally drop down to the kindergarten level, where motherly homilies of “we’re all human beings”, “let’s just get along” and “talking to somebody different will solve everything” are so simplistic as to invite scoffing from bigots who simply won’t do that.

I know this comment sounds unkind towards an author who is trying to promote kindness, but this article is not much of a public policy statement for suggestion of enforcement.  And based upon this, I doubt that if the author had ever been part of a government shingikai on this issue that she would have come up with anything more than slogans, bon mots, patient anecdotes, and vague guidelines instead of actual legal and sociological arguments (strong enough to convince even the bigots) for why discrimination is a bad thing for a society and how it can be stopped.

For example, you simply cannot cite a (unknown) paper without more detail and expect it to stand without contrarians easily saying, “Well, that’s overseas, and we’re unique, special Japan, and that doesn’t apply here when foreigners aren’t real minorities or residents anyway.”  While I’m glad that Japan, through this non-punitive hate-speech law, now has a statement of intolerance towards intolerance, this essay doesn’t really build upon it.  Let’s not get all motherly in tone.  Let’s get serious and write about how people who express public hatred towards entire peoples should be publicly punished for it.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

11 comments on “One reason why human rights are not taken seriously in Japan: Childish essays like these in the Mainichi.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    The author Rika Kiayama(香山リカ) is a medical psychologist currently teaching at Rikkyo University. She was born in Sapporo, Hokkaido, and raised in Otaru. Her father is a doctor. She sells her name(which is a pen name derived from Takara’s Rika-chan ningyou(a.k.a. a Japanese barbie doll) pretty well through TV and media.

    It’s worth mentioning that she is one of those lefties in the popular discourse. But she seems to be more interested in tele-genetic character building by using disease metaphors to discuss the issues than addressing the issues like a professional journalist or critic.香山リカ_(精神科医)

  • Jim di Griz says:

    Dr. Debito, interesting article, thank you for sharing.

    I do agree that the article is well intentioned and relays the correct point of view, but I agree with you that the article in itself presents the issue in childish terms without sophisticated examination and analysis of the issues, and that this inherently leads to childish solutions.

    This is a reflection of how deeply seated racism, discrimination and bullying are in Japanese society and culture; even this ‘radical’ article is operating at the lowest possible level; a kind of ‘Discrimination for Kindergarden Students’ level, since that is the level of awareness that Japanese society has, surely?

    If the issues were more well known, and the level of debate was more sophisticated in Japan, the author would have been embarrassed to submit this for publication, but as this article reveals, Japan is barely crawling towards ‘pre-baby steps’ level of awareness of this issue (and quite frankly, as the article shows, unless it’s discrimination aimed at Japanese people, this article would have been half the length and likely unpublished).

  • I have to agree with your take on it, 有道先生. It’s encouraging to hear a Japanese psychiatrist write that she’s counseled NJ who are suffering from discrimination. (I’ve thought about seeking counseling for when it bogs me down too.) But her very pat and dry handling of it only convinces me how shallow her understanding of the problem is. It’s not as if a small minority practices discrimination in opposition of the non-discriminatory overall social structure. It’s totally the opposite, that people like 香山先生 are a tiny minority. Furthermore, I can tell you from my own experience (as I’m sure many others can) that simply “talking to people” does not change hearts. There must be a systematic, widespread education effort at every level of society from the top down to instill in the people knowledge and awareness of what attitudes, behaviors, and ways of thinking are discriminatory, and to make it clear that such discrimination is intolerable and unforgivable.

    For that matter, non-Japanese need to come together and voice their rights as well. The more fellow NJ I talk to about the discrimination problem, the more I feel like the NJ themselves are 50% of the problem, because of all the apologists and “Oh well, it’ll never change, it’s not that bad anyway (plus I don’t really want to have to learn Japanese)”-type folks.

  • Bachstelze says:

    Arguments “strong enough to convince even the bigots”? Good luck with that. No country has ever succeeded, especially not nowadays, so it’s a bit unfair to demand that Japan do.

    — Rubbish. South Africa?

  • “So, talk to someone different than yourself. Even if that’s impossible right away, you will come to understand one another somehow.”


  • Baudrillard says:

    ” a “principle law,” as it has no provisions for punishing violators” How about a law with real teeth? Otherwise, these well meaning appeals to the better side of human nature are naive at best, part of the mainstream narrative at worst.

    Why mainstream narrative? Well, the discriminatory side of Japan allows for kindness to NJs at the discretion of the individual Japanese, along with the right to report NJs to the snitch site for “fuan” etc.

    All power resides with individual Japanese (gaijin handlers) in this narrative (although in practice the police may or may not do anything), and not with universal laws.

    You, the NJ, must place your faith in the kindness of any Japanese willing to stick up for you.

  • — Rubbish. South Africa?

    Have you been to South Africa?

    Believe me, from my many stays, the sense of white entitlement from the Afrikaners is still strong and present, and the only reason for the harmonious discord of now in the country is the Black South African’s sense – all of the tribes/cultures – that tomorrow will bring a better world for all.

    White South Africa, pre-1990, was forced into the realization of equal human rights for all, no matter the color, because of economic needs, not because of some intellectual ‘ride to Damascus’ and I think the resolution of Japanese racism will follow the same path.

    Let’s be honest, the article is ridiculous and childish, and for those who don’t know otherwise, so typical of the Japanese response (‘Let’s happy’) which will never change or develop on the outside until the Japanese feel the pain in their pocket.

    As for the inside… Look at the Afrikaners now with their sense of being robbed of their birthright and look at Japan now… robbed of the leading goose in the flock by those troublesome Chinese.

    — I’m not denying that South Africa still has a huge race problem, and that the bigots there are still bigots. But you have to admit that getting SA’s bigots in government to cede power and abolish Apartheid was a huge step.

    And read what I said: I did not say this sort of thing happens (in fact, I didn’t say anything about South Africa at all in this blog entry, except in passing to refute the commenter who said this sort of thing has never happened at all) because of some “ride to Damascus” enlightenment. I said reasons grounded in legal and sociological arguments (which will implicitly incorporate political and, yes, economic “pain in the pocket” arguments; read some sociology papers on race relations sometime) for why racism and related intolerance are bad things for society.

    Convincing even the bigots in power of that (and forcing the bigots not in power to comply) is the task here, which has happened in the past. But opinion pieces like Ms. Kayama’s essay simply will not do that, is my point.

  • Andrew in Saitama says:

    It’s written like one of those moral education texts for elementary students, which are taught more as reading comprehension than actually thinking about the issue at hand.

    One wonders how Ms. Kayama would respond if she was the one actually facing the haters.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ Scipio & Dr. Debito #8

    Both making excellent points there, I feel.
    I think that’s the real crux of this issue; the real ‘mover’ of any social change will be J-Inc ‘feeling the pain’. And they already are if we consider the Ibaraki farmers employing NJ illegally just to stay afloat. And look at all the paranoia and hypocrisy that is causing the Ibaraki Police!

    This is a classic conflict of interests if ever I saw one;
    J-Inc faces an existential threat (literally) without NJ labor V’s Japanese society has been led by it’s policy makers to believe that it faces an existential threat in accepting more NJ.

    These two opposing needs will not be able to smoothly progress, and we can see this conflict playing out as Japanese policy makers desperately attempt (and fail) to implement ‘schemes’, ‘plans’ and ‘initiatives’ that aim to attract the ‘elite professionals’ and manual labor that J-Inc demands and needs, whilst at the same time seeking to disenfranchise those two target groups. Japanese policy makers unspoken dream of creating Japan in the image of Singapore or Dubai, where vast numbers of vital foreign laborers can be imported and then denied social inclusion and basic human rights, is the goal here, since it allows Japanese policy makers to continue to sell voters the idea that they are tough on immigration and protecting ‘we Japanese’. It’s an approach that appeals to racist Japanese since it codifies into Japanese law a system of discrimination and servitude.

    It’s doomed to fail. Japan has consistently failed to attract NJ labor in the numbers that it needs through it’s established systems of abuse (traineeship, anyone?) and it’s Points System for ‘elite’ Gaijin (remember that?).

    The policy makers are left well behind the power-curve of reality on this issue; they just can’t think and act fact enough, making their untimely decisions consistently irrelevant. J-Inc (like the Ibaraki farmers) will continue to seek it’s own solutions (such as using the benefits of Abenomics weak ¥ to hollow-out production even further to countries without a labor shortage caused by everyone thinking that they are too good to do a KKK job for minimum wage).

    I don’t think there will be any great enlightenment, even when it hurts, there will just be a doubling-down on the denial and blaming.

  • Once Japanese get a college degree they don’t want to do the KKK work.
    Too many mothers don’t want their kids going to senmon gakko, because it does not look good.
    Nothing wrong with doing manual labor.

    There is a need for farmers and nurses. Tret them well, pay them a decent wage, and they will stay. But we know exploitation is too easy.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>