MOJ Bureau of Human Rights Survey of NJ Residents and discrimination (J&E full text)


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From: XY
Subject: MOJ NJ Survey
Date: November 14, 2016

Dear Debito,

I am XY, a long year NJ resident. First I want to thank you for the great work you do to enhance human rights in Japan. I learned most of the discrepancies between law and practice (especially Hotels *cough*) from your blog. Great work.

Now to the actual reason of my mail. I have recently read on about that human rights survey the ministry of justice is conducting right now, and today I got the survey documents in Japanese and English. In your blog you ask for scans of these documents to check the nature of this survey. Here they are (downloadable PDFs):

外国人人権アンケート(Cover Letter)


COMMENT FROM DEBITO: has focused on the GOJ’s biased surveys regarding human rights and NJ in the past, and found the science to be very bad. This poor science has even been found in surveys of NJ residents at the national (here, here, and here) and local levels (Tokyo and Urayasu, for example). It’s amazing how quickly common human decency and equal treatment evaporates from Japan’s social science just as soon as “foreigners” are brought into the equation.

So that’s why I approached these new surveys for “Foreigners Living in Japan” (as opposed to “Non-Citizen Residents of Japan”) from the Ministry of Justice Human of Human Rights (BOHR), Center for Human Rights Education and Training, with some trepidation.  Especially given the BOHR’s longstanding record of unhelpfulness and abdication of responsibility (see also book “Embedded Racism“, pp. 224-231).  But let’s take a look at it and assess.  Here is a sampling of pages from the English version in jpg format (the full text in Japanese and English is at the above pdf links).

First, two pages from the statement of purpose from the Cover Letter, so you get the tone:



Next, here’s the odd very first question.  It inquires whether the foreigner being surveyed actually interacts with Japanese, or lives as a hikikomori hermit inside a terrarium.  (It’s a bit hard to envision this kind of question coming from other governments.  In a question about discrimination towards NJ, why is this the first question?  Is it a means to discount future responses with, “Well, it’s the foreigner’s own fault he’s discriminated against — he should get out more”?).  Anyway:


Skipping down to the next section, we see that they get to the discrimination issues (housing first, and that’s a major one) pretty systematically, and with the possibility of open-ended answers.  Good.


Same with discrimination in employment:


And then discrimination in access to services and in daily interactions:


And then we get to a decent list of miscellany.  Note that there is no mention of any discrimination by officialdom, such as police harassment, racial profiling, or Gaijin Card Instant Checkpoints on the street or in hotels.  (Naturally:  The BOHR is part of the Ministry of Justice, as are the Japanese police forces — and their bunker mentalities are but an inevitable part of managing Japan’s security and erstwhile “world’s safest society” against outside threats).  According to this list, discrimination only seems to happen because of nasty “Japanese people” as individuals, not because of something more systemic and embedded, such as Japan’s laws, enforcement of laws, or judiciary.


Then we get to issues of hate speech:



Then we get to the subject of what to do about it.  The survey starts off with the typical boilerplate about “cultural differences” (the regular way of blaming foreigners for “being different”, thereby deserving differential treatment), but then by item 6 we get a mention of a law against preventing “discrimination against foreigners” (as opposed to racial discrimination, which is what it is).  So at least a legislative solution is mentioned as an option.  Good.


The rest talks about what measures the surveyed person has taken against discrimination using existing GOJ structures (the BOHR).  Then it concludes some background about the surveyed person’s age, nationality, visa status, home language, etc. (which is where that funny first question about “how much contact do you have with Japanese?” should have come; putting it first is, again, indicative.)

CONCLUSION:  In terms of a survey, this is an earnest attempt to get an official handle on the shape and scope of discriminatory activities in Japan, and even mentions the establishment of anti-discrimination laws as an option.  Good.  It also includes the first real national-level question about discrimination in housing in Japan, which hitherto has never been surveyed beyond the local level.  I will be very interested to see the results.

That said, the survey still has the shortcoming of the GOJ not accepting any culpability for discrimination as created and promoted by officials, including Japan’s police forces, laws, law enforcement, or legislative or judicial processes.  It still seems to want to portray discrimination as something that misinformed or malicious individuals do toward “foreigners”, without getting to the root of the problem:  That the real issue is racial discrimination embedded within Japan’s very identity as a nation-state (as I uncover and outline in book “Embedded Racism”).  Here’s hoping that research helps inform their next survey (as my research informed the Cabinet’s previously biased survey questions back in 2012 (page down)).  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


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6 comments on “MOJ Bureau of Human Rights Survey of NJ Residents and discrimination (J&E full text)

  • Thanks for the PDFs!
    I did not receive this survey, but since the PDFs include a return address I think I’ll submit my own answers anyway.
    Whether they will count or not I do not know, but at least they will receive it and likely read it.
    Others wanting to participate (I suspect there are many here on this forum) may want to consider just sending in your responses.
    While probably not necessary, you could make up an excuse such as “I lost the envelop, so I’m sending it as is” (封筒がなくなったのでこのままで送付させていただきます) or similar.

    Here is the address:

    公益財団法人 人権教育啓発推進センター
    (法務省委託) 行

    Note that it must be returned by December 5th.
    Those without an official envelop will need to apply appropriate mailing stamps.

    If anyone has skills in straightening out the PDFs please update.
    That said, I do appreciate the scans. Thank you.

  • Well, my initial thought is that I want to see how all these questions and answers have been translated from the original Japanese language draft, because as we know from things like the Japanese constitution and the Fukushima nuclear disaster inquiry report, there are often vast intentional differences in the meanings of different language documents in Japan.

    My second thought is about methodology; local government (city hall) chose the NJ who would be surveyed, and submitted their contact information to central government. How were those NJ selected? On what basis? What guidelines for NJ selection were passed down, and what steps were taken to ensure that selection didn’t reflect one old guy in City Hall’s bias? In fact, there is a total lack of transparency about the selection process that potentially conceals huge scope for pre-selection bias that would undermine the validity of the results.

    Naval gazing ‘do you have any Japanese friends’ first question doesn’t provide answer option of ‘I tried but gave up after 10 years of constant othering and racist abuse’. Multiple choice answers exist for ease of analysis, but limit scope of answers, and as Dr. Debito points out, this is a methodology that denies respondents the option of criticizing the Japanese state and its apparatus for being racist and discriminatory.

    In respect to that final point, since state sponsored, endorsed and approved racism is the root of all our problems, and is totally unaddressed by this survey, it’s already doomed to fail to deliver meaningful results for NJ in Japan.

    They have started from the result they are prepared to accept (some individuals are sometimes discriminatory, sometimes there are ‘misunderstandings’) and then worked backwards to create a survey that will produce such results.

  • The ANU ( Australian National University ) has just set up a world wide Prejudice Survey online.
    The differences in methodology and questions with the Japanese survey are interesting.

    My responses to the Census were based on being in Japan in the late 1980’s -90’s.I bit outdated perhaps but I doubt
    perceptions of NJ have improved, rather remained static or gone backwards since then.

    An opportunity to convey in abroader context the extent of discrimination in Japan…..Fill it in.


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