Mainichi Editorial on 1-yr anniv. of Hate Speech Law: “To end hate speech, Japan must face its deep-rooted discriminatory thinking”, offers moral support but few concrete proposals


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Hi Blog. We’ve talked before about unsophisticated columns in Japanese media regarding human rights. This one joins them. It wags a few fingers and applauds some local moves to eliminate hate speech, but it still has trouble going beyond vague urgings to actually advocate for the root solution: passing a law with criminal penalties against racial discrimination. Until this law in specific is part of the media’s steady drumbeat of finger-wagging, advocating a mere patchwork of local-level patches is again, a half-measure.  Dr. Debito Arudou


Editorial: To end hate speech, Japan must face its deep-rooted discriminatory thinking
June 8, 2017 (Mainichi Japan), courtesy of AK and JK

It has been a year since Japan’s anti-hate speech law took effect. And over that year, the number of demonstrations targeting specific races or ethnicities has apparently declined.

Public institutions have been doing their part. Courts have issued provisional injunctions against holding hate speech demonstrations in certain places, while police forces have been boosting supervision and control of such demonstrations, and these measures seem to be having a real impact.

Nevertheless, we still see an endless stream of hateful language in Japan, starting, but by no means ending, with “go home!” and “kick them out!”

Hate speech is a social disease. It is extremely important for the idea that hate speech is unforgiveable to permeate society as a whole.

The hate speech law commits local administrations to work with the central government on eliminating discrimination. We call on these bodies to tackle the problem proactively.

According to a recent announcement, the municipal government of Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, will draw up guidelines as early as this autumn that would allow city officials to issue warnings or refuse applications to use public facilities if they suspect the applicant will engage in discriminatory speech or conduct. In other words, the guidelines set out measures to halt hate speech gatherings before they happen, and the city will call for the opinions of third-party observers to make sure the guidelines are applied fairly.

It is perfectly natural to make sure that countermeasures against hate speech demonstrations do not lead to curbs on freedom of expression, but hate speech clearly violates human rights. We would like to see local governments across the country consider hate speech regulations in line with local conditions.

While street demonstrations have declined over the past year, online hate speech appears to have been reinvigorated. Dealing with this is an urgent task.

The Osaka Municipal Government recently announced the online handles of three users confirmed to have posted hate speech videos on the internet, as well as the content of the images. The move was based on a municipal ordinance passed last July, the first of its kind in Japan.

Meanwhile, it should be remembered that even primary school children use computers and smartphones. Educating school children about online hate ought to be a national project.

There is some disturbing data on the prevalence of hate speech in Japan.

In March this year, the Justice Ministry released its first-ever survey of racial and ethnic discrimination in Japan. The survey, which was conducted late last year, covered about 4,200 medium- and long-term foreign residents of this country including Koreans. It found that some 30 percent of respondents had been the target of “discriminatory speech.” Forty percent said they had been refused a home rental contract.

Japanese people’s coexistence with foreigners and people from different cultural backgrounds is indispensable to Japan. It is a must for us to face up to the discriminatory thinking deeply rooted in our society in an effort to eradicate hate speech in Japan.

【Related】Kawasaki looks at guidelines for regulating hate speech
【Related】Ex-hate speech group core member regretful on anniv. of clampdown law
【Related】Osaka city releases online user names of people behind hate speech videos


PS:  Compare the Mainichi with the Japan Times Editorial on the same anniversary of the Hate Speech Law. At least it’s more specific: “Local officials need to secure enough manpower and funding to effectively assist citizens suffering from hate speech and behavior. Citizens’ groups can set up funds to help victims sue for damages. Since the law covers only hate speech against foreign residents, there are calls for expanding its scope to fight offensive language against other minorities, including people with disabilities, indigenous peoples like the Ainu and descendants of historically segregated communities.”


Japanese version

ヘイト対策法施行から1年 社会の病理を克服したか
毎日新聞2017年6月8日 東京朝刊
















8 comments on “Mainichi Editorial on 1-yr anniv. of Hate Speech Law: “To end hate speech, Japan must face its deep-rooted discriminatory thinking”, offers moral support but few concrete proposals

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    Here’s an interesting article that provides foods for thought on the issue. It’s from Salon piece written by a leading rhetoric/writing scholar Dr. Patricia Roberts-Miller.

    “Democracy presumes that we can behave as one community, caring together for our common life, and disagreeing productively and honestly with one another. Demagoguery rejects that pragmatic acceptance and even valuing of disagreement in favor of a world of certainty, purity, and silencing of dissent.

    “Demagoguery is about saying we are never wrong; they are. If we made a mistake, they are to blame; we are always in touch with what is true and right. There is no such thing as a complicated problem; there are just people trying to complicate things. Even listening to them is a kind of betrayal. All we need to do is what we all know to be the right thing. And it’s very, very pleasurable. It tells us we’re good, and they’re bad, that we were right all along, and that we don’t need to think about things carefully or admit we’re uncertain. It provides clarity.”

    “Democracy is about disagreement, uncertainty, complexity, and making mistakes. It’s about having to listen to arguments you think are obviously completely wrong; it’s about being angry with other people, and their being angry with you. Democracy is about having to listen, and compromise, and it’s about being wrong (and admitting it). It’s about guessing—because the world is complicated—the best course of action, and trying to look at things from various perspectives, and letting people with those various perspectives participate in the conversation.”

  • Hi Debito:
    Here’s a Mainichi article worthy of attention. It’s not a law with criminal penalties against racial discrimination, but for all its shortcomings (i.e. only draft legislation against hate speech toward ‘particular ethnic groups’ / 特定の民族), I suppose at least it’s a start.

    Kawasaki plans Japan’s 1st ordinance punishing hate speech
    June 25, 2019 (Mainichi Japan)

    KAWASAKI — The city government here on June 24 announced a rough draft of a planned ordinance to fine those using hate speech targeting particular ethnic groups in public spaces.

    If passed by the municipal assembly, it will be the first local regulation in Japan specifying criminal penalties over the deep-rooted social problem. Those accused of hate speech in places such as parks and public roads would be fined up to 500,000 yen. Officials in this city south of Tokyo aim to submit the bill to the assembly in December after seeking public comment, and implement its provisions by July 2020.

    The draft would ban public proselytizing demanding people from specific countries or regions, or their descendants, be deported from Japan. It would also forbid open calls for harm against such people or their honor, and severely insulting them. Punishment would be applied for acts including using a loudspeaker, holding up a placard, distributing flyers, and shouting group chants.

    Under the draft outline, when a hate speech incident is reported the mayor will be briefed by an advisory organization before issuing an advisory to the offending person or group to cease and desist. If the violator repeats the offense, the mayor will then order them to stop. If violations continue, the city government will file a complaint with investigative authorities.

    A city official in charge of the planned ordinance said, “We decided to set up a double- and triple-step process before proceeding to criminal punishment so as to give proper consideration for the right to freedom of expression, which is guaranteed in the Constitution.”

    【Related】Kanagawa man referred to prosecutors for intimidating anti-hate speech activist
    【Related】Kawasaki issues Japan’s 1st guidelines on public facility use based on risk of hate speech

    (Japanese original by Kazuo Ichimura, Kawasaki Bureau)

    ヘイトデモに罰則 条例素案、来年施行目指す
    会員限定有料記事 毎日新聞2019年6月25日 東京朝刊

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    • JK, thanks for sharing that. I’ve been seeing it in the news as well.

      I suppose we do have some obligation to acknowledge any movement in a positive direction, but even if the law passes, it offers essentially no meaningful protections.

      It only covers acts committed in “public areas” (not “areas open to the public,” which is a very significant distinction), and only covers what can essentially be summed as “demonstrations.”

      This means “Japanese only” businesses and housing will not be affected. Employment discrimination is also given a pass, so even in Kawasaki a recruiter can ask you “Where are you from?” during a hiring interview, as if that were relevant to the position, or refuse to even offer an interview, simply stating “We don’t hire foreigners” with impunity.

      In other words, the purpose of the law is to hide racism from the public eye a little bit better. Tone down on the “Koreans are cockroaches” diatribes a little bit. The insistence on a “triple-step process” only serves to emphasize this point. “It’s not like we’re trying to actually punish racists…just keep it down a bit, ya know?”

      If anyone were serious about penalizing racism, the first step is to stop excusing racism as “freedom in contracts” or “freedom of expression,” and criminalize it, then set up a real, meaningful system to investigate and punish it.

      One can only hope this (currently meaningless) legislation will be a first step towards true legal protections.

  • Debito,
    These articles should probably be in the running for an addendum to your “Top Ten for 2019”: Osaka court issues provisional order banning hate speech ヘ イトスピーチ禁止 大阪地裁が仮処分認める「大きな一歩」「安心して暮らせる社会に」 Man fined 300,000 yen for online hate speech in Japan  人 種差別的投稿に罰金 30万円、男性に略式命令 川崎簡裁 I was surprised to see 「人種差別」 appear in the Japanese version of the second headline.
    I also find it surprising that Kawasaki is leading the charge against hate speech instead of Osaka (i.e. a much larger metropolitan area with a sizable Zainichi population). Speaking of Zainichi Koreans, this is a big win for them to be sure. However, I can’t help but wonder if Japan’s visible minorities will also be able to share in the wealth, or if they will be held to a different standard of justice.
    Based on what I’ve read on the subject, I am inclined to think worst-case scenario, but would love to be proven wrong.

    — This event should indeed make my Top Ten for 2019. However, I submitted my article at the beginning of December, meaning it’ll have to be included in 2020. Sorry. Next year.

  • More news on Kawasaki and the ongoing fight against hate speech:

    New Year’s card threatening to ‘massacre’ Korean residents sent to Kawasaki facility

    川崎市の公的施設に「ヘイト年賀状」 視察した超党派議員「全力で事態打開を」

    Of note is an NGO called ‘The Japan Network towards Human Rights Legislation for Non-Japanese Nationals and Ethnic Minorities’ that entered the mix and launched a petition calling on the GoJ and the Kawasaki Municipal Government to respond to the incident (e.g. deploying guards at the entrance of Fureai-kan; the facility where the New Year’s card was sent to).

    More on ‘The Japan Network towards Human Rights Legislation for Non-Japanese Nationals and Ethnic Minorities’ can be found here:


  • The nut job that sent threatening New Year’s cards to the Kawasaki Fureai-kan back in January of this year has been sentenced to a year in jail.

    Thing is, there was no mention of hate speech in the either the accusation (‘forcible obstruction of business’ / 「威力業務妨害罪」 / 【いりょくぎょうむぼうがいぼうがいざい】) or the judge’s ruling. This despite the fact that back in June, Kawasaki became Japan’s 1st ordinance making hate speech punishable with fines.

    So what gives? At best, this is a missed opportunity for the city of Kawasaki to enforce the hate speech ordinance and at worst, it is a blow to visible and invisible minorities in Japan.


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