SMJ/NGO combined report for UN CERD Committee regarding Japan’s human rights record


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog.  Double feature for today:  The Government of Japan comes under review this month in Geneva by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. I was invited to submit a chapter for a report to the UN by the NGO Solidarity with Migrants Japan (SMJ) on how Japan is doing with enforcing it.  As I conclude:

“In conclusion, the situation is that in Japan, racial discrimination remains unconstitutional and unlawful under the ICERD, yet not illegal. Japan has had more than a decade since 1996 to pass a criminal law against RD. Its failure to do so can only be interpreted as a clear violation of ICERD Article 2(1): “States Parties condemn racial discrimination and undertake to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay [emphasis added] a policy of eliminating racial discrimination.” We urge the Committee to make the appropriate advisements to the Japanese government to pass a law against racial discrimination without any further delay.”

Full text below (mine is chapter two), sans photos of “Japanese Only” signs.  You can download the report in its entirety (including signs) as a Word file from:

Enjoy.  Let’s see how the UN and GOJ respond.  Here’s how the GOJ responded in 2008 — read and guffaw at their claim that they have taken “every conceivable measure to fight against  racial discrimination”.  Arudou Debito in Calgary


NGO Report Regarding the Rights of Non-Japanese Nationals, Minorities of Foreign Origins, and Refugees in Japan
Prepared for the

76th United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Session

Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan (SMJ)
February 2010
Compiled and published by: Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan (SMJ)

Edited by: Ralph Hosoki (assisted by Nobuyuki Sato and Masataka Okamoto)

Address: Tomisaka Christian Center 2-203, 2-17-41 Koishikawa, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, JAPAN 112-0002         Phone: (+81)(0)3-5802-6033; Fax: (+81)(0)3-5802-6034; E-mail:



Ralph Hosoki 1



Introduction: Migrants, Migrant Workers, Refugees and Japan’s Immigration Policy

Kaoru Koyama and Masataka Okamoto. 3


Race and Nationality-based Entrance Refusals at Private and Quasi-Public Establishments

Debito Arudou. 7


Anti-Korean and Chinese Remarks Made by Public Officials

Nobuyuki Sato. 10


Nationality Acquisition and Name Changes: The Denial of Han and Korean Ethnic Surnames through Limitations in Kanji Characters Designated for Personal Names

Masataka Okamoto. 12


The Education of the Children of Migrants and Ethnic Minorities

Yasuko Morooka. 15


Discriminatory Administrative Government Procedures in Residence Status Application Approval Procedures and Employment

Satoru Furuya and Kaoru Koyama. 20


Migrant Women in Japan: Victims of Multiple Forms of Discrimination and Violence and the Government’s Lack of Concern

Leny Tolentino. 25


Racial Discrimination within the Refugee Recognition System

Kenji Iwata. 30




(Division of International Human Rights, Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan (SMJ))

This NGO report has been compiled by the Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan (SMJ), and contains chapters prepared by various SMJ member organizations for the reference of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in its consideration of the third to sixth periodic reports submitted by the Japanese government in accordance with Article 9 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD/C/JPN/3-6).

Evolving from the Forum on Asian Immigrant Workers established in 1987, SMJ was established in April 1997 with the aim to promote communication and common action among organizations throughout Japan working to provide assistance and relief and striving to protect, promote, and realize the human rights of migrants, migrant workers, refugees, and their families in Japan.  Since then, SMJ has grown into a nationwide network of 87 NGOs, civil society organizations, labor unions, religious organizations, professional associations, and women’s rights organizations, with an individual member base of 337 (2008 figures).

Domestically, SMJ has organized annual conferences and symposia on migrant and migrant worker rights, published books and monthly newsletters that have been widely used and consulted throughout domestic civil society circles, organized empowerment events and activities for migrants and non-Japanese national residents, engaged in annual negotiations with government ministries involved in drafting policies that affect migrants and their families, and networked with politicians and bureaucrats from various political parties and ministries.  SMJ also recognizes that concerns surrounding migrant rights are also rooted within a broader international context, and has collaborated with regional and international migrant rights organizations and networks to bring awareness of migrant rights issues in Japan to the fore.

The report’s contributors, while being active members of the migrant rights advocacy community in Japan, are also migrants, academics, researchers, lawyers, civil servants, and lobbyists who are authoritative experts in not only the various social, economic, political, cultural, and legal challenges that ethnic minorities and non-Japanese nationals, residents, and workers face in Japan, but also on the intersections of these complex issues and the interactions between the government, Japanese civil society, and migrants/ethnic minorities themselves.  Each chapter addresses specific issues that non-Japanese nationals, ethnic minorities of foreign origins, migrants, and refugees face in Japan, and highlights the current state of affairs, the main challenges and problems, and various NGO policy recommendations.

Please direct any inquiries or requests for additional information to the following contacts.

1)    Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan Secretariat (office):

Address: Tomisaka Christian Center 2-203, 2-17-41 Koishikawa, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, JAPAN 112-0002; Phone: (+81)(0)3-5802-6033; Fax: (+81)(0)3-5802-6034; E-mail:

2)    Report editors:

Ralph Hosoki:

Nobuyuki Sato:

Masataka Okamoto:


To provide nuanced disambiguation and to avoid the exclusionary overtones of the terms “foreign” and “foreigner,” various (and sometimes overlapping) terms have been used throughout this report.

When referring to government documents or statistics, policy-related pronouns, and direct quotes, terms such as “foreigner” or “foreign resident” are used because they reflect the terminology used in official translations.

However, unless otherwise stated:

Migrants” and “migrant workers” are used to refer to old and newcomer[1] residents of non-Japanese nationalities and/or minority ethnic backgrounds, with the latter emphasizing the engagement in remunerative activities – both de facto and de jure – and including short-term or temporary workers of non-Japanese nationalities who are commonly referred to in government documents as “foreign workers.”

The following two terms are used in contexts where one’s nationality is emphasized.  “Non-Japanese national” refers to anyone who does not possess Japanese nationality, regardless of the individual’s length of stay in Japan.  In contrast, the term “non-Japanese national residents” refers to non-Japanese nationals who have set roots or grounds for basic livelihood in Japan.

Additionally, with regard to non-Japanese national ethnic Koreans in Japan, “Korean residents” refers to both old and newcomer individuals of Korean ethnic background.  However, “Resident Koreans” refers specifically to oldcomers and their descendants.  Ethnic Koreans with Japanese nationality residing in Japan are referred to as “Korean Japanese.”



Migrants, Migrant Workers, Refugees and Japan’s Immigration Policy


(Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan (SMJ))

Masataka OKAMOTO

(Vice Secretary-General, Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan (SMJ))


As of the end of 2008, the number of registered non-Japanese national residents in Japan totaled 2,217,000 (1.7% of Japan’s total population) – a 30% (531,000) increase from 1,686,444 in 2000, right before the Japanese government’s previous CERD review in March 2001 (see table below).  There are also an additional 110,000 “overstayers” and other undocumented residents.

In tandem with this trend, 121,000 non-Japanese national residents acquired Japanese nationality between 2001 and 2008 (76,500 Korean residents and 35,500 Chinese residents; the total number of Korean and Chinese resident naturalizations between 1952 and 2008 were 320,000 and 88,000, respectively).  Additionally, between 1985 and 2006, the percentage of marriages between Japanese and non-Japanese nationals increased from 0.93% to 6.1%, and with the birth of 225,000 children born between parents through international marriages in the 10 years between 1999 and 2008, there has been a rapid increase in ethnic minorities with Japanese nationality.

According to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare’s May 2008 estimates, there were 925,000 (2006 figure) migrant workers working in Japan.  Since the 1980s, the number of migrant workers has increased, and with the 1990 revision to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, it became possible for non-Japanese nationals of Japanese descent from South America and the families of returnees from China[2] to migrate to Japan.  However, despite these realities, the government has pushed through with its stance of not recruiting “low-skilled” migrant workers, and has not attempted to implement policies to protect the rights of migrants and migrant workers.

Registered Non-Japanese National Residents in Japan (end of 2008 figures)

Total China Korea Brazil Philippines Peru U.S.A. Thailand Vietnam Indonesia Others






















Increase in the Number of Refugees, Migrant Workers, and Their Families

  1. 1. Indochinese Refugees and Convention Refugees

Due to shifts in political regimes and civil war within Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia after the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, an exodus of two million Indochinese refugees flowed into the neighboring countries.  Initially, the Japanese government took a stance of only allowing the temporary entry of refugees and not settlement.  However, this was criticized by the G7 countries among others, so in 1978, the government announced that it would allow the settlement of Indochinese refugees.  Despite this concession, the designated number of refugees allowed to settle was small (the designated number was 500 refugees in 1979, and this was subsequently expanded to 10,000) while refugee recognition was strict, and many refugees eventually moved on to the U.S. and Canada, thinking that no matter how hard they tried, ethnic and racial discrimination would foreclose their success in Japan.  Due to such reasons, as of the end of 2005, Japan had only accepted 11,319 Indochinese refugees for settlement (of which 76% were Vietnamese).

Additionally, in adherence to its obligations stemming from the ratification of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the Japanese government implemented the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act in 1982.  However, the government has been passive in its recognition of Convention refugees, and between 1982 and the end of 2008, only 508 of the 7,297 individuals who applied for refugee status have been recognized as refugees (see table below).

Numbers of Refugee Status Recognition Applicants and Recognized Persons in Japan (2001–2008)

Year 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
Applicants 353 250 336 426 384 954 816 1,599
Recognized Persons 26 14 10 15 46 34 41 57

These Indochinese refugees and Convention refugees have encountered various forms of ethnic and racial discrimination within Japanese society, and their children have had to cope with identity conflicts and crises (i.e. cultural and linguistic gaps between parents who can only speak their native tongues and children who can only speak Japanese).  However, ethnic and racial discrimination against refugees rarely surface because given their status as refugees, it is difficult for them to raise a unified critical voice against Japanese society.

  1. 2. Migrant Workers and Their Families

As stated in paragraph 17 of its report[3] to the Committee, the Japanese government maintains its stance that “the acceptance of foreign workers in professional and technical fields should be more actively promoted,” and that “with respect to the matter of accepting workers for so-called unskilled labor,” there are some “concerns.”  This stance remains unchanged, even in the Basic Policy on Employment that the Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare established in February 2008.

However, in tandem with the upturn of the Japanese economy in the late 1980s, labor “inflow pressures” surged from neighboring countries, while “recruitment pressures” for migrant workers strengthened as small and medium sized domestic companies – many of which were labeled as 3D (Dirty, Dangerous, and Demanding) companies – were having difficulty securing Japanese workers.  As a result, the number of migrant workers entering Japan increased.  Various structural changes within Japanese society – increasing wage disparities between Japan and neighboring Asian countries, an aging domestic society, the decline in the population of youth, shifts in work values, etc. – paints the backdrop for these changes.  However, because the government strictly held on to its aforementioned stance, many migrant workers could not secure working visas, and by entering Japan on short-term visas (e.g. tourist visas) to work, many continued to reside in Japan even after their visas expired and became “illegal foreign workers” and “overstay foreigners.”  Some of these individuals have come to live and settle in Japan and many have married and have children who attend Japanese elementary and secondary schools.

In response to these circumstances, in 1989, the Japanese government revised the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act[4] and implemented the following measures:

(a)   The establishment of new regulations to punish employers who hire non-Japanese nationals that do not possess residence statuses that permit work (up to 3 years of imprisonment and up to 2 million yen in fines; approximately $20,000 USD) in aim to strengthen measures to prevent the entry of unauthorized workers;

(b)  The provision of permission for entry to non-Japanese nationals of Japanese descent (as well as their descendants and those individuals who have previously renounced their Japanese nationality) by issuing “long-term resident” residence statuses that have no restrictions on type of work – skilled or unskilled – so that they can be utilized as labor; and

(c)   The establishment of the “industrial trainee and technical intern system” that mixes training with employment, so that trainees and technical interns can be utilized as labor.  It is important to note that as trainees are not workers and are therefore not protected under the Labor Standards Law, many cases have been reported where they have been forced into de facto slave labor.

As a result of these policy changes, between 1990 and 2008, the number or “Nikkeijin” (i.e. non-Japanese nationals of Japanese descent) – mostly from Brazil and Peru – increased from 71,000 to 370,000, and individuals with “training” and “designated activities” residence statuses, including “trainees” and “technical interns,” increased from 3,000 to 121,000.  These individuals became the de facto “unskilled foreign workers” in Japan.  During the same period, the total number of migrant workers increased from 260,000 to 900,000, and came to compose 1.4% of Japan’s total working population of 66,500,000.

With regard to “overstay foreigners,” the number peaked in 1993 at 296,000, and since then has declined to 113,000 by 2009.  The following measures underlie this trend:

(a)    With the 1998 revision to the Immigration Control Act, the Japanese government newly established the “illegal (over)stay crime,” which made staying in Japan upon illegal entry/landing and/or overstaying, a crime that is subject to punishment.  Furthermore, for those deported, the landing denial period (for re-entry) was extended from one year to five years (effective as of February 2002).

(b)    In its 2004 “Action Plan for the Realization of a Society Resistant to Crime” the government set a goal to halve the number of “illegal foreigners” within 5 years.  Additionally, in order to reach this goal, the government revised the Immigration Control Act by (1) steeply increasing fines for “illegal entry” (from 300,000 yen to 3,000,000 yen, or $3,000 USD to $30,000 USD); (2) extending the landing denial period for individuals with a history of deportation to 10 years; (3) establishing the “Departure Order System” where the landing denial period for qualifying individuals[5] would be shortened to one year; and 4) establishing the “Residence Status Revocation System.”[6]

(c)    Under the name of terrorism prevention, in 2008, the government revised the Immigration Control Act and established obligatory measures for non-Japanese nationals entering Japan to provide biometric personally-identifying information (i.e. fingerprints and face images).  Additional measures were also made for the deportation of non-Japanese national terrorists and the establishment of obligations for captains of in-bound aircraft and maritime vessels to report passenger and crewmember registries to immigration inspectors in advance.

Furthermore, to supplement these measures, a “foreigner crime” campaign that utilizes select (and convenient) data to “prove” the “increase in heinous crimes by foreigners” has been carried out by the National Police Agency.

Through the combination of these government measures to tighten control over non-Japanese national residents and the campaigns carried out by the National Police Agency, a push has been made for schemes attempting to encourage ordinary Japanese citizens into assuming “monitoring roles” to weed out “illegal” non-Japanese national residents from local communities.  In contrast, nowhere can measures and attempts to “prevent racial discrimination” be glimpsed from these extant policies.

Various Problems and Challenges that Migrants and Migrant Workers Face

In Japan, there is a substantial number of people who hold discriminatory sentiments and feelings of superiority towards other Asian people.  In the 19th century, when most countries in the Asia region were colonized by Western powers, Japan, following the semantical scheme of “leaving Asia and entering the West” after the Meiji Restoration, joined the ranks of Western countries.  Through the colonization of Taiwan and the Korean Peninsula, and entry into the League of Nations as a member state, a sense of superiority for having developed into a military superpower that invaded China and Southeast Asia emerged.  After World War II, another sense of superiority – one premised on the “industriousness” of the Japanese people that catapulted Japan into an economic superpower – formed the foundation for a mentality that viewed “the weak, poor, and backward Asia” as an object of scorn.

In March 2003, the Ministry of Justice announced the “Third Basic Plan for Immigration Control,” but even in this, there is no change in the government’s basic stance regarding the national interest-based recruitment of and increased control over non-Japanese nationals in Japan.

Furthermore, due to the global recession that swept throughout the world after fall of 2008, there has been a sudden increase in the number of unemployed.  Many of those who lost their jobs were “contingent workers” – or temporary employees with one-year employment contracts and dispatched workers who worked for small manufacturing contractors.  Already, by 2008, one in three (non-executive-level) employees was a contingent worker.  The fact that they only earned roughly the same amount as what one would receive on livelihood assistance made it impossible for them to engage in savings, and their livelihoods took a nosedive once they lost their jobs.  Many migrant workers worked as “contingent workers” even before the economic crisis, and given the government’s restrictions on the eligibility of non-Japanese nationals for social insurance and livelihood assistance, their lives were hit especially hard by unemployment.


Race and Nationality-based Entrance Refusals at

Private and Quasi-Public Establishments


(Chair, NGO Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association (FRANCA))


Despite the recommendation to the Japanese government by the CERD in 2001 (CERD/C/304/Add.114, C.10) stating, “it is necessary to adopt specific legislation to outlaw racial discrimination, in particular legislation in conformity with the provisions of articles 4 and 5 of the Convention,” eight years later the Japanese Civil or Criminal Code still has no law specifically outlawing Racial Discrimination (hereinafter RD).

Repercussions of the Absence of an Anti-RD Law

Sign up at a public bathhouse in Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan; 1998-2001 (from the below-mentioned Otaru Onsens Case) Standardized signs around Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo; 2008 to present day
Sign up at a women’s boutique on Aoyama Douri (Street), Minato-ku, Tokyo; 2005 to present day Standardized signs around Hamanasu Douri, Monbetsu, Hokkaido; saying in Russian, “Store Only For Japanese”; 1999 to present day

A lack of an Anti-RD law enables clear and present discriminatory practices in Japan, including refusals at businesses and establishments open to the general public.  Many places, including stores, restaurants, hotels, family public bathhouses, bars, discos, an eyeglass outlet, a ballet school, an internet café, a billiards hall, a women’s boutique, and a newspaper subscription service, have signs out front explicitly saying “Japanese Only,” or using a milder exclusionary equivalent clarifying that people who are not Japanese nationals, do not look “Japanese,” or do not speak Japanese, are barred from entry and service.[7] For example:

Although pressure from mostly civil society groups has resulted in some of the exclusionary signs being removed, many are still extant.  More recently, in the case of hotels: Local government agencies[8] and internet booking companies[9] are even promoting establishments that explicitly “refuse foreign customers,” or expressly deny bookings to people who “cannot speak Japanese” etc. – even though this practice is unlawful under the Hotel Management Law (ryokan gyouhou) in the Civil Code governing public accommodations.

Regarding redress for RD, in March 2001 the Japanese government replied to the CERD report (CERD A/56/18 (2001)) that the “Japanese judicial system is […] functioning sufficiently at present” (Paragraph 20.2), therefore a formalized Anti-RD law is unnecessary.  However, judicial precedent does not support this claim.  The Otaru Onsens Case[10], where several non-Japanese customers (including Japanese nationals who “looked foreign”) were refused entry to public bathhouses displaying “Japanese Only” signs, demonstrated that both the current legal situation in Japan was powerless to outlaw this practice, and that Japanese authorities were unable or unwilling to mediate effectively to stop this form of RD.  The Otaru City Government was taken to court under the ICERD in 2001, but the case was summarily denied review by the Japanese Supreme Court (April 7, 2005) for “lacking any Constitutional issues,” refusing to consider the validity of the ICERD.  Sapporo District and High Court decisions (November 11, 2002 and September 16, 2004, respectively) also ruled that RD was not the illegal activity in question in this case, therefore the ICERD is immaterial.  They also ruled that forcing the Otaru City Government to pass any local ordinance against RD would be a “violation of the separation of powers.”  A separate civil lawsuit[11] in Daito City, Osaka, where an African-American was denied entry in 2004 to an eyeglass store explicitly because the manager “dislikes black people,” found the Osaka District Court ruling against the African-American plaintiff (January 30, 2006).  Court cases take years, cost victims money, do not result in criminal penalties enforceable by police agencies, may result in civil court rulings that expressly ignore the ICERD, and otherwise absolve the government of any responsibility of systematically eliminating RD on a national level.

Although some local governments have taken measures to deal with discrimination in housing and rentals, legislation connected with RD has resulted in failure.  The first local government (Tottori Prefecture, 2005) to pass a local ordinance that explicitly criminalized and punished behavior tantamount to RD, found itself in the rare situation of repealing the ordinance in 2006[12], due to a public and media panic that too much power was being consolidated in human rights enforcement organs.  A similar bill guaranteeing human rights (the jinken yougo houan), first proposed at the national level in 2002, was shelved in 2003 and again in 2006 due in part to alarmist counterarguments and publications[13] that giving human rights to non-Japanese would enable them to abuse their power over Japanese people.


In conclusion, the situation is that in Japan, racial discrimination remains unconstitutional and unlawful under the ICERD, yet not illegal.  Japan has had more than a decade since 1996 to pass a criminal law against RD.  Its failure to do so can only be interpreted as a clear violation of ICERD Article 2(1): “States Parties condemn racial discrimination and undertake to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay [emphasis added] a policy of eliminating racial discrimination.”  We urge the Committee to make the appropriate advisements to the Japanese government to pass a law against racial discrimination without any further delay.


Anti-Korean and Chinese Remarks Made by Public Officials

Nobuyuki SATO

(Research Action Institute for the Koreans in Japan (RAIK))


In the previous concluding observations adopted by the Committee (paragraph 13), the Committee addressed the “Sangokujin remark”[14] made in April 2000 by Tokyo Metropolitan Governor Shintaro Ishihara as being racially discriminatory, and expressed its concern over “the lack of administrative or legal action taken by the authorities.”  However, Governor Ishihara has repeatedly made discriminatory remarks in May 2001, August 2003, and September 2006.

The “Sangokujin” Remark

On April 9, 2000, Governor Ishihara conducted a speech before members of the Japan Self-Defense Force:

“Looking at the present Tokyo, many Sangokujin and foreigners who have illegally entered the country have repeated very heinous crimes. […] Under such circumstances, if an extremely catastrophic disaster were to occur, we cannot discount the possibility that a huge, huge rioting incident could occur. […] This is precisely why, when dispatched in such times, I would like all of you [Self-Defense Force personnel] to consider the maintenance of public security to be one of your important purposes in addition to the provision of emergency help.”[15]

Governor Ishihara has specifically stressed “crimes committed by foreigners” (which only compose a very small proportion of the total crimes committed in Japan), and by intentionally using the “Sangokujin” term – which was formerly used to discriminate against and drive out Resident Koreans and Taiwanese residents who were liberated from Japanese colonial rule in 1945 – and creating the false threat that “we cannot discount the possibility that a huge, huge rioting incident could occur,” he has tried to arouse prejudice and animosity among Japanese against non-Japanese nationals so that the dispatch of Self-Defense Force personnel for public security maintenance purposes could be realized.

Furthermore, Governor Ishihara’s statement, “We need to break [China] up.  No matter how small the contribution, Japan should assist in this process and should also take initiatives both before and after the break up,”[16] violates Article 7.  However, Tokyo residents reelected him in 2003.

Remarks on “Chinese DNA”

In a Japanese newspaper (Sankei Shimbun) article titled “A Message to Japan: The Necessity of Internal Defense” dated May 8, 2001, Governor Ishihara groundlessly asserted that “[e]very year, there are about 10,000 illegal entrants, and Chinese compose 40% of these numbers.  Because they are illegal entrants, they cannot land regular jobs and are inevitable criminal factors.”  Additionally, after raising the example of a brutal murder case between Chinese nationals involving the scalping of facial skin, he wrote the following:

“We cannot deny the possibility that the quality of Japanese society as a whole might change as a result of the proliferation of crimes that indicate such ethnic DNA.  To avoid turning a blind eye to future trouble, we have no choice but to do what we can do now to expel such impending threats.”

This statement spread prejudiced sentiments that associated Chinese ethnic DNA (Governor Ishihara implicitly meant the Han people) to the execution of savage crimes.

Two years later, in an August 4, 2003 Sankei Shimbun (newspaper) article, Governor Ishihara wrote:

“The extremely pragmatic DNA of Chinese, who do not trust any sort of politics whatsoever, takes the improvement of one’s own economic situation as an absolute purpose, and while bearing in mind the [economic] disparities [between China and Japan], invades Japan in large numbers, and openly commits theft to satisfy one’s own desires.”

This is an attitude meant to thoroughly demean individuals of a specific ethnicity/nationality.

In January 2006, a report on Japan written by the UN Commission on Human Rights-appointed Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance Doudou Diène was released.  The following quote was made in paragraph 62 of the report:

“Most worryingly, elected public officials make xenophobic and racial statements against foreigners in total impunity, and affected groups cannot denounce such statements.”

However, by stating, “The Special Rapporteur doesn’t understand the governor’s real meaning in the whole context of his statement,” the Japanese government responded that his remarks were not discriminatory.[17]


These statements may act to instill groundless fears about “the rampant spread of crime by Asian foreigners” throughout the Japanese public and may also incite discriminatory stereotypes against particular ethnic minority groups in Japan.  As such, by not attempting to take any corrective actions against Governor Ishihara’s remarks, the Japanese government has not fulfilled its State Party obligation to uphold ICERD Article 4(c).


Nationality Acquisition and Name Changes:

The Denial of Han and Korean Ethnic Surnames through Limitations in Kanji Characters Designated for Personal Names

Masataka OKAMOTO

(Vice Secretary-General, Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan (SMJ))


In the concluding observations adopted on March 20, 2001 (CERD/C/58/Misc.17/Rev.3), CERD stated:

“Noting that although there are no longer any administrative or legal requirements for Koreans applying for Japanese nationality to change their names to a Japanese name, the Committee expresses its concern that authorities reportedly continue to urge applicants to make such changes and that Koreans feel obliged to do so for fear of discrimination.”

In the Upper House Judicial Affairs Committee that immediately followed this statement, when asked to remark on the concerns and recommendations of CERD’s concluding observations, Minister of Justice Masahiko Koumura replied:

“If the authorities have continued to demand applicants to change their names, this would be something outrageous, and since 1983, we have decided that such requests should not and will not be made, so if those types of cases actually do exist, we would like to take the appropriate measures.”[18]

Unfortunately, “those types of cases” abound.


Even in 2003, a case was reported by a Resident Korean from the Kanto area, that when he went to the Legal Affairs Bureau and received an “Information on Naturalization Application Procedures” leaflet and attended the briefing session, in response to his question, “Am I not allowed to continue using my current name after I naturalize?” the counseling staff replied, “Since you will become a Japanese, it is necessary that you change your name to one that is Japanese.”[19]

The Ministry of Justice itself has also revealed in different forms that with regard to post-naturalization “names,” instead of “instructing” the applicants, it has given “advice” and has also urged them to “consider” the implications of which type of name they choose to have.  During the 1991 Upper House Judicial Affairs Committee, the Director-General of the Civil Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of Justice Atsushi Shimizu stated, “Considering that it is acceptable for individuals to decide that they would like to retain and pass on last names such as ‘朴’ [Pak] and ‘金’ [Kim] for the next two or three generations, we have made it a point to advise applicants to carefully decide whether they would like to have such names after naturalization.”[20] Under the auspices of such government stances, the “instructing” and “coaxing” of Japanese name acquisition has occurred in practice.  For example, a woman from Cambodia who acquired Japanese nationality in late 1990 testified that when she applied for naturalization, the office representative insistently encouraged her to acquire a Japanese-like name like “Suzuki” for the “benefit of her children.”[21] Very recently, on January 7, 2010, a Thai woman who went to the Chiba Legal Affairs Office to apply for Japanese nationality was also told by the office representative that “Japanese names are more convenient,” so “[n]ext time, come back with a Japanese name in mind for when you acquire Japanese nationality.”[22]

In tandem with the aforementioned incidents, even in 2005, an administrative scrivener accounted that, through his experiences handling naturalization applications, among applicants who decide on Japanese names as their naturalized names, many actually “prefer to apply with their Korean ethnic names,” but many Korean residents think that “the Legal Affairs Bureau and the Ministry of Justice implicitly demand the use of Japanese names,” and if they do not use such Japanese names when they apply, “they would be at a disadvantage in the naturalization application process.”[23] A guidebook published by a different administrative scrivener in the same year also states that for “post-naturalization names,” one must choose a “Japanese-like name” (i.e. a name that is “appropriately” Japanese).  This is the reality of the issue in Japan.

Even the Ministry of Justice’s most recent (2009) “Guidebook for Naturalization Procedures” uses language that persuades name changes by stating that “one may freely choose […] what name he/she would like to use after naturalization,” and in addition to this, limitations are placed by stating, “In principle, names for use after naturalization cannot contain characters other than hiragana and katakana letters and those characters listed in the National List of Chinese Characters in Common Use and the List of Kanji Officially for Use in Names.”  Because characters such as “崔” (Cuī/Choi), “姜” (Jiāng/Kang), “趙” (Zhào/Cho), and “尹” (Yǐn/Yoon) that are frequently used in Korean and Han ethnic surnames are not even listed in these two lists, there are still many ethnic Korean and Han applicants who have no choice but to renounce their ethnic surnames.

In a magazine interview, a third generation Chinese man in Japan who applied for naturalization in 1997 was asked, “Were you forced to take a Japanese name?”  In response, the man replied “no,” but said, “I was told that my name after naturalization must include characters in the List of Kanji Officially for Use in Names, and my surname character was not in the list.”[24] A former Chinese national who acquired Japanese nationality in 1998-99 claimed, “I really like the name that my parents gave me, so it was painful to have to change it to get naturalized.  I wish I could have retained my name, even after becoming a Japanese national.”[25] If we consider the fact that the majority of applicants for naturalization are Korean and Chinese/Taiwanese nationals, it is likely that since 1983, a substantial number of people were forced to renounce their ethnic names, due to the limitations imposed by the List of Kanji Officially for Use in Names.

Given the fact that the aforementioned characters for common ethnic Korean and Han surnames are commonly used on the computer and are also entered into the system during “foreign resident registration” procedures, there is nothing logical about not allowing their use in names for the family register in Japan.


In its 2004 General Recommendation 30, CERD recommended that State Parties should “[t]ake the necessary measures to prevent practices that deny non-citizens their cultural identity, such as legal or de facto requirements that non-citizens change their name in order to obtain citizenship, and to take measures to enable non-citizens to preserve and develop their culture” (paragraph 37).

Therefore, the Japanese government should first eliminate the limitations imposed by the List of Kanji Officially for Use in Names, and allow ethnic Korean and Han applicants to retain their original Chinese character surnames when acquiring Japanese nationality.  The “Guidebook for Naturalization Procedures” should also refrain from using language that persuades applicants to change their names when naturalizing.  Additionally, on the application form, there should not be a column for “name after naturalization.”  Even under the current law, Japanese nationals wishing to change their names are required by Article 107 of the Family Registration Law to file a request to a family court.  Nationality acquisition and name changes are intrinsically unrelated issues.


The Education of the Children of Migrants and Ethnic Minorities


(Japanese Network for the Institutionalization of Schools for

Non-Japanese Nationals and Ethnic Minorities)

Education of Non-Japanese National Children

1. Despite the recommendation made in paragraph 7 of the Committee’s previous concluding observations, the central government has not conducted a nationwide survey on non-Japanese national and/or ethnic minority children.  According to the various surveys carried out by the local governments,[26] 60% of the children of migrants and migrant workers such as Nikkei-Brazilians, Nikkei-Peruvians, and Filipinos among others (mostly with non-Japanese nationalities) are reported to be attending Japanese public schools, while 20% attend schools for non-Japanese national children (gaikokujin gakkou), and the remaining 20% are estimated not to be attending school at all.  On the other hand, among the children of the 600,000 non-Japanese national Korean residents, 80 to 90% are reported to be attending Japanese schools and the rest attend schools for non-Japanese national or ethnic minority children, such as North Korean and South Korean schools.  The majority of the children of the 500,000 Korean Japanese (i.e. Japanese national ethnic Koreans) are reported to be attending Japanese schools.

2. Regardless of the statement made in paragraph 15 of the Committee’s previous concluding observations, non-Japanese national children living in Japan are still excluded from the compulsory education system, and in violation of Article 5(e)(v) of the Convention, the right to education is not equally ensured at the same level as that of Japanese children.  In its “Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Combined Periodic Report,”[27] the Japanese government announced that “Japanese public schools at the compulsory education level guarantee foreign nationals the opportunity to receive education if they wish to attend such [a] school by accepting them without charge, just as they do with Japanese school children” (paragraph 24), but this simply means that “permission” will be given if the non-Japanese national “wishes” to enroll.  However, the school/administration does not have the legal obligation to accept such students, and for non-Japanese nationals, education is not “secured” as a legal “right.”  This is the actual situation regarding the government’s contention.[28] For example, the annual “Survey on Children of School Age Who Do Not Attend School” carried out by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), clearly states that “foreigners are excluded from the survey.”

The extent to which information is adequately disseminated – including translation of information into the non-Japanese nationals’ languages – for those “wishing” to enter Japanese schools varies among local governments.

As for the percentage of students continuing on to higher education, according to the 2001 survey conducted by the Council for Cities of Non-Japanese Residents (where many Brazilians and non-Japanese nationals live), the average of the 14 local government areas in which non-Japanese national children were enrolled in Japanese schools was 51.6%.  Though there is no data on student enrollment rates into Japanese high schools from schools for non-Japanese national or ethnic minority children, since there are almost no considerations in the high school entrance examination system that cater to the needs of students whose first language is not Japanese, it is clear that such enrollments are extremely difficult.  Consequently, the percentage of children of migrants and migrant workers who go on to high school is estimated to be below 30%.  This figure is less than one-third of 97% high school enrollment rate of Japanese nationals in 2008.

3. In paragraph 24 of the government’s report[29], the government states:

“Furthermore, when these foreign children enter school, maximum attention is given to ensure that they can receive, without undue difficulty, the education in Japanese normally taught to Japanese children.  Toward this end, they are provided with, among other things, guidance in learning Japanese and are supported by their regular teachers as well as by others who can speak their native language.”

However, this contradicts reality.  Even according to the survey conducted by MEXT, as of September 2008, there were 28,500 students enrolled in Japanese elementary, junior high, and high schools that needed Japanese language instruction, and this number has continued to increase annually.  Compared to the previous year, there was an increase of 12.5%.  Furthermore, due to the fact that measures to accommodate Japanese language instruction are not taken unless there are 5 or more students who need such instruction, 15.1% of these students are not receiving any Japanese language instruction.  Besides, in the aforementioned MEXT-commissioned survey on children of school age who do not attend school, 12.6% of the children not attending school answered that they did not attend because they “did not understand Japanese.”  It is evident from this that there is not enough Japanese language instruction.[30]

4. In response to the Committee’s recommendation to “ensure access to education in minority languages in public Japanese schools” in paragraph 16 of its previous concluding observations, the government claimed that “a school subject called sogo-gakushu (general learning) […] allows […] children of foreign nationalities [to] receive education in their native tongues (minority languages) and learn about their native cultures”[31] (paragraph 24).  However, the government has not established any specific education policies for minority children, and within MEXT’s curriculum guidelines for this “general learning” subject, there is neither any mention of minority language and culture education nor any financial support for such classroom activities.  As the choice over the content of the “general learning” subject/class period is left to the discretion of each school, the government’s claim simply means that this class period could, in theory, be used for minority language and culture education.

The public schools that do provide minority language and culture classes are those that have been established in specific areas in Osaka prefecture and Kyoto City with “ethnic classrooms.”  Because these classes are not recognized as accredited classes by the central government’s educational curriculum policy, they are taught as once-a-week extracurricular classes that include Korean language and culture education.  However, the salaries of the lecturers/instructors of these “ethnic classrooms” are paid fully by the local municipalities, and compared to regular full-time teachers, their pay is very low.  In addition to these schools, there are only a few schools that offer mother tongue language education in “special support” classes for Chinese and Brazilian children.

Over 80% of the children of Korean residents who attend Japanese schools use Japanese names instead of their real names,[32] and are placed in situations in which they have no other option but to conceal their own identities.  From this, it is obvious how deficient the current education system is in terms of the provision of a curriculum that not only respects the identities of minority children, but enables them to hold pride in their ancestral roots.

Schools for Non-Japanese National and Ethnic Minority Children

1. Today, there are about 200 schools for non-Japanese national and ethnic minority children that offer general education in languages other than Japanese.  These include 100 national and international schools such as North Korean, South Korean, and Chinese schools that were established before the war or during the early years after the war.  Brazilian, Peruvian, and Filipino schools that were established as the numbers of migrant workers and migrants started to rapidly increase in the 1990s number about 100 as well.[33]

2. According to the School Education Act, for a school to become recognized as an accredited school, it must implement the designated subjects set forth in the curriculum guidelines created by MEXT (for the purpose of educating Japanese nationals), and must use MEXT-approved Japanese textbooks.  Due to this, it is impossible to adequately teach languages other than Japanese and English in regular classes.  Therefore, such schools are not recognized as accredited schools.  Even if a student were to graduate from one of these schools, his/her graduation credential would not be recognized as an accredited one.  As a result, such students encounter various disadvantages when they try to enroll in Japanese schools or take national examinations.

3. In 2003, the college entrance qualification system was revised.  With this, for (1) individuals graduating from twelve-year curriculum schools for non-Japanese national children (e.g. international schools) that have been accredited by international evaluation associations (WASC, ACSI, and ECIS); and (2) individuals graduating from schools for non-Japanese national children (South Korean, Chinese, Brazilian schools, etc.) that have been recognized by the Japanese government as schools that carry out curriculums that are equivalent to high school curriculums in each respective country, eligibility to take the entrance examinations and apply for Japanese universities and technical/vocational schools was granted.  However, graduates of North Korean schools were not included, and because their eligibility is either dependent on the individual decisions of each university or conditional on passing the Senior High School Graduate Equivalence Qualifying Examination, they experience disadvantages.

4. Most schools established before the 1990s for non-Japanese national and ethnic minority children, such as North and South Korean schools and Chinese schools, have been recognized as “miscellaneous category schools” (kakushu gakkou).  But these schools are not “official” or “accredited” ordinary schools under the Japanese Educational School System whose aim is to provide general or regular education, and are therefore, educational institutions that are institutionally treated no differently from vocational driving or cooking schools.  Because they are not “officially accredited” schools, the central government has provided no subsidies for these schools for non-Japanese national children.  Instead, it is only from the subsidies provided by certain portions of the local municipalities’ budgets that these schools are funded.  However, these subsidies from local municipalities only amount to one-tenth to several fractions of the funding received by Japanese private schools.  Due to the absence of state subsidies, these schools are supported by tuition fees paid by the parents, donations from co-ethnics, and subsidies from local municipalities.

As for donations made to schools, “official” or “accredited” general schools can unconditionally receive special tax breaks, but “miscellaneous category schools” are in principle, ineligible.  On March 31, 2003, MEXT approved tax exemption measures for donations that were specific to a portion of European/American “miscellaneous category schools” with English curriculums.  In response to this, concrete recommendations for the equal treatment of North Korean and Chinese schools were made to the Japanese government by the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) in March 2007 and by the UN Human Rights Committee in October 2008.[34]

5. Among the Brazilian and Peruvian schools that have increased after 1995, only 5 schools have been approved as “miscellaneous category schools” and the majority are only treated as mere “private preparatory schools.”  Due to this, (1) there are no subsidies from local municipalities, (2) consumption tax is placed on tuition, (3) students are ineligible for discounted student commuter passes, (4) students cannot participate in inter-school sports events and activities, etc.  Such schools experience great difficulties in operating the school itself.

Above all, because the schools’ running costs are almost completely secured by tuition fees paid by the parents, monthly tuition fees are inevitably expensive and range from 30,000 to 50,000 yen (approximately $300 to $500 USD).  Furthermore, in addition to tuition, the parents must also pay for textbooks, school lunch fees, school bus passes and/or non-discounted adult-rate commuter passes, etc.

Strict requirements, such as the private possession of school grounds and buildings, are enforced by local municipalities for the approval of “miscellaneous category schools.”  It is very difficult for newly established Brazilian and Peruvian schools to pass such criteria.

Most of the parents of students who attend these schools are contingent/dispatch workers, and have been hit extremely hard by the Lehman Shock of September 2008.  For example, in half a year, approximately 60% of Brazilian migrant workers lost their jobs, and as a result, in one year, 16 Brazilian schools closed down because parents were no longer able to pay the expensive tuition and had to withdraw approximately half of the students from school.  Half of the students who withdrew from school returned to Brazil, but 22% still remain completely out of school in Japan.


1. The government should confirm that it has an international legal obligation to ensure the right to education regardless of residence status and nationality.

2. The government should establish an education policy to secure the right to education for non-Japanese national and ethnic minority children in Japan.  The content of the policy should first and foremost, respect the children’s identities and ensure the right to learn minority languages and cultures; and secondly, it should ensure the right to learn Japanese if a child’s first language is not Japanese.  Additionally, in order to establish a concrete education policy, the voices of non-Japanese national and ethnic minority residents themselves should be directly sought, and a detailed nationwide survey should be carried out on the realities of language development, rates of non-attendance, acceptance rates into top tier schools, costs of educational fees, economic situations of the parents, etc., and disaggregated by nationality, ethnicity, sex, and age.

3. In order to ensure the right to education for non-Japanese national and ethnic minority children, and in particular, the right to learn one’s language and culture, the government should allow these children to actually exercise choice between Japanese schools and schools for non-Japanese national and ethnic minority children by recognizing these schools as a type of “officially accredited” ordinary school (and not as “miscellaneous category schools”) and allowing the recognition of these schools’ graduation credentials as ones that are equivalent to those of Japanese schools while providing these schools with at least the same amount of government funding that Japanese private schools receive.  Additionally, until such fundamental policy reforms are established, the government should immediately amend the unfair policies extant within the current “miscellaneous category schools” framework with regard to tax exemption measures on donations and the differential recognition of college entrance eligibility between different schools for non-Japanese national and ethnic minority children.  Finally, the government should take immediate actions to bail out schools that are not even recognized as “miscellaneous category schools,” and in particular, Brazilian and Peruvian schools that are at risk of closing down.


Discriminatory Administrative Government Procedures in

Residence Status Application Approval Procedures and Employment


(Rights of Immigrants Network in Kansai (RINK))


(Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan (SMJ))

  1. 1. The Requirement to Present Proof of a Clean Criminal Record for Residence Status Approval: The Additional “Good Behavior and Conduct” Criterion for Third Generation Non-Japanese Nationals of Japanese Descent and Their Families


In November 2005, there was an incident where a Japanese girl was murdered in Hiroshima.  One week later, a Peruvian man – who had a “long-term resident” residence status (i.e. visa) as a third generation non-Japanese national of Japanese descent – was arrested.  On March 29, 2006, as a measure to both deal with this incident and maintain general public security, the Ministry of Justice added a “good behavior and conduct” requirement – a requirement stating that one must prove not to have a criminal record for the approval of “long-term resident” residence statuses.

In other words, instead of taking measures to mitigate racial prejudices that could have resulted from the media’s excessive reports on crimes committed by non-Japanese nationals, the Ministry of Justice – which should be protecting human rights – did the opposite by enforcing a measure that was predicated on the linkage of crime to non-Japanese nationals with certain attributes.  As a result of this, members of minority groups became targets of racial discrimination, and stereotypes against them were widely spread throughout Japanese society.

Therefore, this measure violates Articles 2(1(a)) and 4(c) of the ICERD.  Additionally, in lawsuits related to this, the defendant (the Japanese government) has argued that this new requirement does not violate the ICERD, and a district court verdict has supported this claim.


With the 1989 revision to the Immigration Control Act, non-Japanese nationals of Japanese descent and their families were issued “long-term resident” residence statuses that allowed one to engage in remunerative activities.  To second generation non-Japanese nationals of Japanese descent, there was the “spouse or child of a Japanese national” residence status, and for the spouses of second generation non-Japanese nationals of Japanese descent and third generation non-Japanese nationals of Japanese descent and their spouses and/or unmarried minor children, there was the “long-term resident” residence status.  According to statistics on the number of “registered foreigners” in Japan, in 2008, there were 258,000 individuals with “long-term resident” residence statuses of which 137,000 were Brazilian and 19,000 were Peruvian.

On the other hand, with regard to public security policy, a trend toward “penal populism” has recently become salient in Japan, and non-Japanese national residents have been the first to be targeted.  Discourse claiming that crimes have increased in number and level of atrocity thereby leading to the critical deterioration of public security throughout society at large, has circulated among the media, police, and Diet, and took a turn for the worse, creating a dangerous situation which peaked in 2003 but continued to exist as several murder incidents were extensively broadcasted in 2005.  The aforementioned incident in Hiroshima where a non-Japanese national was said to have “murdered a Japanese girl for sexual motivations” was one of those extensively broadcasted incidents.

Under these circumstances, by stating that (1) due to this incident, there is “heightened anxiety among the Japanese people,” and (2) there are many foreigners[35] with “long-term resident” residence statuses who have been arrested for criminal offenses,[36] the Ministry of Justice announced the amendment to the “Official Gazette Regarding ‘Long-term Residents’” that will be discussed in this chapter.  Subsequently, this amendment and the reasons behind it were picked up and broadcasted by the media.

The Content of the “Official Gazette” Amendment

The amendment to the Ministry of Justice’s “official gazette” (announced in March 2006) regarding “long-term residents” contains the following criteria:

(a)   “Good behavior and conduct” was added as an additional criterion for qualifying as a “long-term resident.”  In concrete terms, possession of a criminal record of imprisonment (with or without hard labor) and/or pecuniary offenses (i.e. fines; but excluding fines from violations of the Road Traffic Law) within or outside of Japan reflects negatively on one’s application.  Probation under the Juvenile Law and having a record of “repeated violations of the law throughout one’s everyday life” are also evaluated negatively.

(b)  To verify “good behavior and conduct,” when applying for landing permission or residence status, applicants are asked to present background records issued by the police in their respective home countries.

(c)   This new “good behavior and conduct” criterion is applied to third generation non-Japanese nationals of Japanese descent and their families, mainly from South America.  In other words, of all the non-Japanese nationals of Japanese descent and their families, second generation non-Japanese nationals of Japanese descent and their spouses are exempt.  From the differential treatment here, it is obvious that there is a standard of judgment with racist motivations borne from distrust and public security anxieties toward individuals that are “less akin” to Japanese nationals.  Additionally, among those who qualify as “long-term resident” applicants, the “Japanese war orphans left behind in China” and Indochinese refugees were exempt from this new criterion due to policy considerations.

Possession of a criminal record is a criterion that forecloses the possibility of residence status approval in general, and can also be used as a reason for deportation (under the Immigration Control Act).  For such instances, being sentenced to “a year or more” of imprisonment or a crime involving drugs become reasons for adverse disposition for disapproval of residence status.  In contrast to this, in the case of this amendment to the “official gazette” regarding “long-term residents,” all criminal punishments as well as minor punishments and juvenile probation become reasons for rejection.  Although the presentation of background records issued by the police of the applicant’s home country is not required in regular screenings for residence status approval, the amended “official gazette” demands the presentation of such documentation for the aforementioned “long-term resident” applicants, and therefore, even background activities that fall short of criminal record offenses[37] are also available for consideration and could work against the applicants.

The Discriminatory Effects and Cultivation of Stereotypes Caused by the “Official Gazette” Amendment

All of the following cases occurred after the amendment to the “official gazette” was made, and involve “long-term resident” residence status extension applications that were rejected because the applicant had been punished for a prior offense.

(a)   Third generation male Peruvian national of Japanese descent, A, caused a traffic accident, and in a 2002 summary court ruling, was charged with professional negligence resulting in bodily injury and was fined on a summary order.  The following year, his residence status extension was approved, and the next year, his license was approved.  However, after the “official gazette” amendment, in August 2006 his residence status extension was rejected on the grounds of the aforementioned offense.  Furthermore, A’s wife, who was also living in Japan with a “long-term resident” residence status also had her extension application rejected.

(b)  A male Bolivian national, B, who is married to a third generation Bolivian woman of Japanese descent, caused a traffic accident, and his residence status extension application was rejected on the grounds that he was charged with a pecuniary offense for professional negligence resulting in bodily injury.[38]

There are also cases in which the possession of a spouse or minor child has been considered, ultimately resulting in the approval of residence status extension applications despite the fact that one has a prior criminal record.  However, in the two aforementioned cases, such considerations were not adequately made.[39]

(c)   In October 2002, a third generation male Peruvian national of Japanese descent, C, dumped a refrigerator in an empty lot, and in January 2003, was fined 200,000 yen (approximately $2,000 USD) on a summary order by the summary court for “a violation of the Waste Management and Public Cleansing Law.”  In August 2003, his residence status extension was approved.  However, in August 2006, after the “official gazette” amendment, his extension was rejected on the grounds of the same pecuniary offense, and since his “period of preparation to leave Japan” ended in October of the same year, he has remained in Japan without legal documentation.

In August 2007, C brought charges claiming the invalidity of his residence status extension rejection, but lost the case in the district court.  He is currently residing in Japan without legal documentation, and no remedies have been sought.

In court, the plaintiff claimed that the “official gazette” amendment not only “poses a significantly grave discriminatory effect on the entire Nikkeijin [non-Japanese nationals of Japanese descent] population as a group that has been categorized on the basis of race and other attributes,” but also embodies the racial discrimination stipulated in ICERD Article 1(1) while violating Articles 2(1(a)) and 4(c).

Additionally, this “official gazette” amendment has promoted the entrenchment of media-instigated stereotypes that link non-Japanese nationals to crime.  Wide-scale coverage and explanations that linked the amendment to the murder incident in Hiroshima and other crime statistics were made by the Minster of Justice in a press conference the day before the “official gazette” was amended, as well as on the Ministry of Justice Immigration Bureau’s homepage (since April 2006), the official announcement in the aforementioned Immigration Control Report (footnote 1), and the media.


Therefore, this measure violates ICERD Articles 2(1(a)) and 4(c).

  1. 2. Employer Obligations to Report the Employment Status of “Foreign Workers” and the Use of “Ordinary Powers of Attention” to Ascertain Who is a “Foreign National”

The Problem

With the recent revision of the Employment Measures Act, since October 2007, the government made it mandatory for employers when hiring non-Japanese nationals to confirm and notify the head of the local public employment security office of their names, residence statuses, and lengths of stay.  A punishment of up to 300,000 yen (approximately $3,000 USD) for violating employers was also established.

When hiring, employers are required to ascertain whether a job applicant is a “foreign national” by means of using one’s “ordinary powers of attention” to make judgments based on the applicant’s “name or native language.”[40]

As mentioned in Chapter 1 of this report (p.3), there has been a rapid increase in Japanese nationals who have ethnic roots in other parts of the world.  To require employers to judge applicants by their names is predicated on the assumption that Japanese nationals all have Japanese-like names, but this assumption contradicts the Ministry of Justice’s claim that it does not demand that non-Japanese nationals change their names upon naturalization (for more details, see Chapter 4).  In reality, there are also many Japanese nationals whose native language is not Japanese.

Instead of providing employers with a means for differentiation between Japanese nationals and non-Japanese nationals, this new guideline poses the risk of facilitating segregation as well as arbitrary judgment and discrimination on the basis of race, skin color, and ethnic/tribal origins.


Therefore, this measure violates ICERD Articles 2(1) and 4(c).


Migrant Women in Japan: Victims of Multiple Forms of Discrimination and Violence and the Government’s Lack of Concern


(KALAKASAN Migrant Women Empowerment Center)


Japan has continuously needed migrant women for its sex industry, shortage of wives for its male nationals, and replacement unskilled labor for its service and manufacturing industries.  In response to these needs, migrant women – mostly from Asia and Latin America – have come or have been brought to Japan on tourist, entertainer, spouse or relative of a Japanese national (Nikkeijin), and trainee visas since the 1980s.

However, even after nearly three decades, many migrant women are still treated as the “other” and excluded from Japanese society and its social safety nets.  Widespread discriminatory attitudes and prejudices on the basis of appearance, speech, customs, and cultures, as well as feelings of indifference toward migrant women among government officials and the populace continue to exist and are also codified in extant policies and legislation.  Many migrant women survive with minimal protection under the law, have limited access to basic information and opportunities for training, empowerment, and development, and are also almost completely deprived of opportunities to participate in decision-making processes.  Most vulnerable are those migrant women who are victims of DV and/or trafficking.

Multiple Forms of Discrimination and Disadvantages That Migrant Women Face

  1. 1. In Trafficking

(a)   Recent Developments in Policy

The government adopted the Comprehensive Action Plan of Measures to Combat Trafficking in Persons (2004), which was followed by amendments to the penal code (2005) and the Immigration Standard Ministerial Ordinance (2006) – regarding the cut down of “entertainer” visa issuances – and an amendment to the Entertainment Business Law (2005).

Yet, in response to stricter regulations, trafficking operations have simply become more invisible, coercive, and controlling, and there has been a tangential increase in migrant women who are lured to come to Japan with non-entertainer visa statuses – such as tourist, trainee, and marriage visas – and are later forced to go into prostitution by their husbands or brokers.  In some instances, if they enter into fake marriages, they are forced to pay both the broker and the husband for 2 to 3 years, or as long as the fake marriage lasts.  A typical case in point would be a Filipino woman who wanted to end her marriage with her abusive Japanese husband.  He had assured her legal stay in Japan as his wife for a monthly fee of 50,000 yen (approximately $500 USD) but refused her divorce request because she had not finished paying the 3 million yen ($30,000 USD) she had agreed to pay him.[41]

2.  In Domestic Violence

(a)   Examples of DV in International Marriages

International marriages in Japan have been increasing since the 1980s,[42] and domestic violence remains a major problem for non-Japanese women in such marriages where they are six times more likely to be abused than Japanese women (Table 1).  DV often originates from their partners’ prejudices against migrant women and from their low regard for people from developing countries.  Aside from life endangering physical and sexual abuse, threats and derogatory judgmental insults inflict psychological damage and lower self-esteem and confidence.  Threats like, “You cannot live in Japan without me,” “I will not extend your visa,” and “This is Japan, and custody over the child will always be mine [husband] – if you leave, I will report it to the immigration authorities and they will not believe what you say,” are examples of such derogatory treatment that have been reported to KALAKASAN over the past 7 years.  Their lives are sometimes circumscribed by their spouses’ intent to force them to “become Japanese” by being over-critical of the way they rear and discipline their children, and by prohibiting them from speaking their own language inside the house and associating with co-ethnics.

Table 1. Percentage of DV Victims per 100,000 People[43]

2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
Non-Japanese women 28.9 33.8 36.0 34.8 35.4
Japanese women 6.2 6.5 6.3 6.5 6.4

(b)  Current Policy Limitations

There is a dire need for gender- and multiculturalism-sensitive training programs for government staff and interpreters at all levels of the government to assume responsibility for supporting migrant women victims so that victimization is not repeated.

In 2007, 8.95% of women in protective custody at women’s counseling centers were non-Japanese women.[44] Though the DV Law guarantees protection to all women victims, undocumented migrant women and their children are minimally protected, and are only eligible to stay in a shelter for two weeks, and are excluded from long-term support and particularly access to livelihood assistance and other support services.  At the same time, it takes months or years before undocumented DV victims and their children are granted residence permits in Japan.  Relegated to an even lower social existence are undocumented migrant women without children or those who have children who are in the custody of the abusive partner.  Such women are frequently forced to go back to their country of origin.  For such reasons, a significant number of undocumented migrant women and children choose to bear abuses, or if they are already in a shelter, to return to their violent partners or become homeless.[45] Many of these women do not have understandable and accessible information about support services and details about their legal and human rights.  It is therefore paramount that the government effectively disseminates such information in a systematic and culturally sensitive way.

3.  Migrant Single Mother Families

(a)   Lack of Support and Information Services

Every year, the number of migrant single mother families is increasing as international marriage divorce rates increase.  In 2007, 7.15% of all divorces in Japan were international marriage divorces.[46] Migrant single mother families face many difficulties and are marginalized due to the government’s lack of interest to provide them with adequate protection.  Migrant single mothers have often experienced discrimination and abuse or abandonment from their partners and/or in-laws, and report such experiences as the main reasons for the divorce or separation.[47]

4.  Discriminatory Policy and Unfair Court Procedures

(a)   Repercussions of the Revised Immigration Control Act (July 2009) on the Livelihoods of Migrant Women

The fact that visa extensions for migrant women often depend on the will and discretion of their Japanese husbands and whether or not the woman has Japanese children, makes their legal standing and livelihood stability in Japan very precarious and vulnerable to the whims of their spouses and the government.  Unfortunately, the government passed an amendment to the Immigration Control Act in July 2009, specifying that migrant women must report any changes to their livelihood situations like changes in address and workplace.  Individuals who fail to do this within 14 days are subject to a fine, and failure to do anything for 3 months could result in visa cancellation.  This revision could escalate fear among migrant women – especially those who are married to or living with an abusive Japanese partner – and would allow Japanese husbands to take advantage of their vulnerabilities thereby putting them in more risk of being abused, while making it more difficult for DV victims to seek rescue and protection.

(b)  Indifference Among Government and Court Officials

A migrant woman who escaped from the abuse and maltreatment of her husband and in-laws who is presently undergoing court procedures for the custody of her child and divorce, was denied a visa extension even with a note from her lawyer stating that she was in the middle of settling a divorce case.  When she verbally appealed to the immigration officer, she was called a liar.  It was not until her lawyer accompanied her that she was considered.[48] From this example, we can see that the court also uses the unstable visa statuses of migrant women as bases for giving custody of the child to the Japanese spouse, thereby denying the woman of the same right to custody, simply because she is “non-Japanese.”  There are many other migrant women who experience similar situations.

(c)   Lack of Means to Claim Rights and Obtain Public Assistance

Furthermore, under the revised immigration law, undocumented residents can no longer claim any public services and assistance through the local municipality offices in the areas in which they live.  Before a local municipal office assumes the responsibilities of accepting a registrant’s child into a local school, extending public assistance to migrant women, etc., it requires one to prove his/her residence in the area.  Proving and registering one’s residence is possible if one obtains a Resident Card from the immigration authorities, but these cards are only issued to “legal” migrants.  The exclusion from local municipal registration therefore means the denial of rights and exclusion from public assistance.  Many undocumented migrants are women who are former wives of Japanese nationals, and are pregnant with or live with children who were born between them and their Japanese partners but have not received official recognition from the father, due to the father’s failure or refusal to do so.  It is these people who are put at risk the most by the revised law.

NGO Recommendations: Summary of Overarching Problems, How They Violate ICERD, and How They are Relevant to the Committee’s List of Issues

Though migrant DV victims, trafficked victims, and single mothers each experience distinct hardships and require policy improvements that are tailored to eradicate the relevant forms of discrimination and disadvantages that they face, five common sources for these problems exist:

  1. The lack of a comprehensive policy that protects the social, economic, cultural, and human rights of migrants, and in particular, migrant women

In violation of Article 2, and in cross-reference to paragraphs 2, 6, 9, and 14 in the Committee’s List of Issues:

l  Currently, within the Basic Law for a Gender-equal Society (which is the national gender equality policy), there is no clause that refers to the considerations that must be made to ensure gender equality for migrant women.  We recommend that within the current deliberations over the Third Basic Plan for Gender Equality, there should be an independent clause that addresses measures to be taken to ensure gender equality for migrant and minority women in Japan so that they can possess peace of mind, freedom, and dignity in employment, livelihood, and social participation without being subject to violence, discrimination, and prejudice.  In addition to measures to eradicate DV and trafficking, specific measures for the protection, empowerment, and relief of DV and trafficked victims should be clearly stated in this clause.  Additionally, the government should guarantee permission for NGOs and civil society groups to participate in these deliberations and processes.

  1. Existence of discriminatory policies or policies that disadvantage migrant women in practice

In violation of Articles 2 and 5, and in cross-reference to paragraphs 6, 7, 9, and 14 in the Committee’s List of Issues:

l  The revised Immigration Control Act newly states that status of residence can be revoked for “[f]ailing to continue to engage in activities as a spouse while residing in Japan for more than 6 months,” and for “[f]ailing to register the place of residence within 90 days after newly entering or leaving a former place of residence in Japan.”[49] Such obligations endanger the safety and legal standings of DV victims and their children who intend to flee or have fled from abusive spouses to live separately, and must therefore be eliminated.

l  Before the revision, non-Japanese national residents – regardless of the type or legality of their residence status – were entitled to receiving a local municipality-issued Alien Registration Card if they could provide proof of residence within that local municipality.  This entitled non-Japanese national residents to receive national health insurance and livelihood support services.  However, the new revision abolishes the Alien Registration Card, replacing it with the Residence Card issued and managed by the central government.  Changes in address and workplace must now be reported to local immigration control offices, and failure to do so could result in fines or the revocation of one’s residence status.  Residence Cards are issued to “proper foreign residents” at the discretion of the Minister of Justice, and therefore, undocumented residents and asylum seekers are ineligible.  To receive health and livelihood support in the new system, one must be registered in the newly created Basic Register for Foreign Residents, but registration for this basic registry is contingent on possessing a Residence Card.  In sum, the new revision works as a catch-22 to exclude the most vulnerable migrants – undocumented (women) migrants (many of whom are DV and trafficked victims) – from social services, and must be reevaluated and immediately revised.

  1. Indifference and discriminatory attitudes among public officials (e.g. at immigration control offices, police offices, courts, etc.)

In violation of Articles 2, 4, 6, and 7, and in cross-reference to paragraph 20 in the Committee’s List of Issues:

l  Given the multiple reoccurrences of insensitive, discriminatory, and disadvantageous comments, actions, and attitudes of public officials, sensitivity training on human rights, diversity, and multiculturalism should be more strictly implemented.

  1. Lack of government efforts to establish services to assist, educate, empower, and protect migrant women and their families

In violation of Articles 2 and 5, and in cross-reference to paragraphs 15 and 22 in the Committee’s List of Issues:

l  Although some social and medical services exist for migrant and minority women as well as DV and trafficked victims, they are inadequate (e.g. understaffed and lacking in personnel who possess the necessary professional, linguistic, and cultural knowledge to adequately assist migrant women).  Furthermore, information on support services and the rights that migrant women are entitled to are not adequately disseminated and often do not reach migrant women.  Even if they do, many forms of information are either not detailed enough, or are presented in Japanese.  These inadequacies must be addressed.

  1. Limited government collection and disclosure of crucial statistics concerning migrant women

In violation of Article 7, and in cross-reference to paragraphs 12 and 13 in the Committee’s List of Issues:

l  The government neither collects nor discloses adequate vital statistics that are necessary for the government and the public to assess the current situation of the wellbeing of migrant women in Japan.  For example, the government collects statistics on non-Japanese nationals and residents, but not on individuals who have naturalized (i.e. ethnic minorities with Japanese nationality).  It is possible that such individuals also encounter disadvantages and discrimination, but as of now, there is no systematic way to find out if they do.  In order to develop a more comprehensive and sensitive plan or policy for the protection, integration, and empowerment of migrant women, the Gender Equality Bureau should conduct an in-depth study on the situation and causes of difficulties migrant women face, based on more detailed disaggregated data and in consultation with migrant women support groups.


Racial Discrimination within the Refugee Recognition System


(Rights of Immigrants Network in Kansai (RINK))


The Japanese government’s long-standing reluctance to give protection to asylum seekers has been criticized domestically and internationally.[50] The “refugee recognition system” is at best, only ostensibly racism-neutral, and in violation of Articles 2(1(a)) and 5(a), it suffers from unfairness caused by systematic racism that stems from the discriminatory dispositions of the decision makers involved.  More specifically, the government lacks in its efforts to:

  1. adequately disseminate information regarding the refugee recognition process;
  2. provide adequate language assistance during the application and appeals processes;
  3. provide adequate human rights training to its staff; and
  4. implement effective measures to monitor racially discriminatory biases within the system so that the individual racial prejudices of immigration officials and government appointed actors in the refugee recognition process will not be systematically reflected in the outcomes of such procedures.

In addition to paragraphs 2, 3, 6, 7, and 22, and in specific relation to paragraphs 10[51], 15, and 20 in the Committee’s List of Issues (CERD/C/JPN/Q/3-6), we would like to bring to the Committee’s attention, several defining examples of the aforementioned violations to the Convention.

Specific Cases of Procedural Malpractices and Negligence

Case 1 (July 7, 2009):

In 2009, a refugee examination counselor[52] reviewed the testimonies of a Tamil asylum seeker who claimed that he had fled Sri Lanka after his house was shot by suspected LTTE members.  In response to this, and to the surprise of the asylum seeker and his lawyer, the counselor concluded that the attack to the asylum seeker’s house did not constitute a direct threat to his life.  It is disconcerting that the counselor was an honorary professor of a prestigious university in Osaka, Japan, and although many wonder why he was selected as a refugee examination counselor, there is no way to find out because the government does not disclose information on the selection criteria for examination counselors.

Case 2 (November 20, 2006):

The following statement made in 2009 by another Tamil asylum seeker from Baticaloa, Sri Lanka, was documented by an immigration official, but even a cursory glance through the statement reveals blatant contradictions and inconsistencies resulting from communication difficulties between the official and the asylum seeker and the official’s indifference to the asylum seeker’s claims:

“I intended to flee [Sri Lanka] and go to Canada, where my elder brother stayed for asylum because the hostilities between the military and the LTTE have been exacerbated. […] I did not flee the country because I was targeted due to my political opinion, ethnicity, food practices, or religion, and I am not a Convention refugee.  I would like to go back to Sri Lanka without applying for refugee status here.”[53]

The asylum seeker is still having great difficulties communicating in English, and it is likely that in the interview, the asylum seeker could only randomly juxtapose the limited English vocabulary that he had.  In the conversation between the asylum seeker and the official, it is highly unlikely that there was any interaction in English about the applicability of the Convention’s definition for refugees to his case.  This is apparent in the blatant contradictions in the testimonial of this asylum seeker who claimed that he spent a great sum of money to go to Canada for asylum, only to instantly confess that he was not a refugee, abandon his attempt to claim refugee status, and return to the battlefields of Baticaloa.  Of course, the official did not and will not confess his indifference or any underlying racist sentiments he may have had.  Additionally, during the interview, it is unlikely that he used any racist language.  However, his apparent negligence of his duty to accurately communicate with a potential refugee in a language that is well understood by the asylum seeker, and his complete indifference to the highly apparent and inconsistent content of the interview illuminates the racist tendencies he may have had.

Case 3 (May 16, 2006):

Another Sri Lankan man, who could not speak Japanese, was surprised to find out that his interview record stated that he had said in Japanese, that he had overstayed in Japan to earn the necessary money to pay back his debts.  The interview records prepared in advance by the immigration officials as a part of the deportation procedures often serve as convenient excuses for denying the credibility of the claims of asylum seekers.  For example, immigration officials will claim that the asylum seeker initially did not report that he/she was a refugee, and that only later was a claim made for fear of persecution in the home country.

These kinds of procedural malpractices have never been questioned by the refugee counselors.  Regrettably, some refugee counselors also harbor similar racist sentiments, prejudices, and preconceptions – as demonstrated by the counselor in Case 1.  Prejudiced assumptions that asylum seekers are disguised economic migrants often override their ability to make fair judgments and pay serious attention to the provision of due process to the claims presented before them.

The Passive Stance of the Japanese Government

Although the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees requests signatory states, including Japan, to provide protection to refugees and asylum seekers, the Japanese government has long neglected efforts to make the interview process comply with the due process requirements concerning adequate communication and the verification over whether the examiners’ decisions are made in the “spirit of justice and understanding” consistent with the UNHCR’s established guidelines.

The Japanese refugee recognition system is formalized by law.  But in reality, there are many informal and clandestine “traps” for making refugee status claims fail.  For example, the Ministry of Justice has yet to publish detailed information on the refugee recognition process on its website,[54] and the Immigration Bureau (which is part of the Ministry of Justice) has never spent a fraction of its billion yen budget to directly inform potential asylum seekers of the system to encourage them to voluntarily apply for refugee status.  Therefore, many asylum seekers only come to understand the recognition system only after having lived in Japan for many years.  This delay serves as another excuse for denying the seriousness of the asylum seekers’ applications.  As such, without the dissemination of such information, many asylum seekers are being subject to deportation procedures and are being misled into giving up their untold rights before they come to understand the system.  Additionally, their contradictory behavior and statements before immigration officials that arise from the lack of information or communication difficulties are conveniently used to defame and delegitimize their refugee claims.  In sum, the de facto “no information policy” embodies the “informality” of Japan’s refugee recognition system.

Disproportionate Recognitions as a Sign of Non-methodological Recognition Methods

The unreasonably disproportionate recognition of Burmese asylum seekers as refugees is also a reflection of the whimsical nature of Japan’s current refugee recognition process.  In 2008, 1,599 individuals applied for refugee status, of which 954 were Burmese nationals, accounting for 61% of the total.  However, in the same calendar year, 417 individuals were granted refugee status or visas on humanitarian grounds, and the overwhelming majority, or 382, were Burmese asylum seekers, accounting for 92% of all applicants recognized.[55] Of course, from these statistics alone, we cannot deduce whether immigration officials prefer Burmese asylum seekers over others, but with little doubt, we can see the systematic disregard that both the current refugee recognition and appeals process as well as the immigration officials and refugee examination counselors have of the methodologically established procedures that are stated in the UNHCR handbook on criteria for determining refugee status (HCR/IP/4/Eng/REV.1).[56] Given this disregard, the system risks lacking the impartiality of a fair recognition process that does not discriminate on the basis of race.

Conclusion and NGO Recommendations

In sum, in addition to being victims of racist prejudices held by individuals within the Japanese populace, non-Japanese nationals including refugees and asylum seekers in Japan are also vulnerable to systematic and structural racism that is embedded within various institutional and legal frameworks such as the refugee recognition and appeals system.  In addition to making the system more transparent by passing legislation that will allow the videotaping of all interviews during refugee recognition and deportation processes and providing the right for all stakeholders to retrospectively verify all procedures to determine their sincere compliance with the internationally established refugee review procedures, the Japanese government must also be held responsible for the provision of:

  1. language considerations that ensure accurate communication between asylum seekers and immigration officials;
  2. the dissemination of information regarding the refugee recognition and appeals process and one’s rights through posters, brochures, and websites;
  3. comprehensive human rights training programs for government staff/officials; and
  4. more stringent initiatives to monitor, detect, and rectify unlawful and racially discriminatory acts within detention facilities and review/court procedures.


Report contributors (member organizations):


Ralph Hosoki

(Division of International Human Rights, Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan (SMJ))


Kaoru Koyama

(Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan (SMJ))

Masataka Okamoto

(Vice Secretary-General, Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan (SMJ))


Debito Arudou

(Chair, NGO Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association (FRANCA))


Nobuyuki Sato

(Research Action Institute for the Koreans in Japan (RAIK))


Masataka Okamoto

(Vice Secretary-General, Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan (SMJ))


Yasuko Morooka

(Japanese Network for the Institutionalization of Schools for Non-Japanese Nationals and Ethnic Minorities)


Satoru Furuya

(Rights of Immigrants Network in Kansai (RINK))

Kaoru Koyama

(Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan (SMJ))


Leny Tolentino

(KALAKASAN Migrant Women Empowerment Center)


Kenji Iwata

(Rights of Immigrants Network in Kansai (RINK))


Ralph Hosoki

(Division of International Human Rights, Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan (SMJ))

Nobuyuki Sato

(Research Action Institute for the Koreans in Japan (RAIK))

Masataka Okamoto

(Vice Secretary-General, Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan (SMJ))


Ralph Hosoki

(Division of International Human Rights, Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan (SMJ))

[1] “Oldcomer” refers mainly to the Koreans and Chinese (and their descendants) who came (in many cases by means of force) to Japan prior to the end of the war, and remained in Japan.  In contrast, “newcomer” refers to more recent non-Japanese nationals who have come to Japan and settled in and after the 1980s.

[2] “Returnees from China” refer to war-displaced people left behind in China by their Japanese relatives after World War II who returned to Japan in the 1980s.

[3] Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (2008). Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Combined Periodic Report on the Implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Japan. Retrieved January 18, 2010, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website:

[4] The Act was passed in 1989 and came into effect on June 1, 1990.

[5] An “overstayer” qualifies if he/she voluntarily turns him/herself in to one of the immigration offices for deportation, and does not have prior records of deportation/use of the Departure Order System and/or imprisonment after entry into Japan.

[6] This new rule stipulates that one’s residence status may be revoked if the individual is found to have submitted false statements or documents and/or if the individual has not engaged in the activities corresponding to those of the residence status issued for three or more months without justifiable reason.

[7] Primary source materials archived at

[8] For example, Fukushima Prefectural Tourist Information Association listed “No Foreigner” hotels on their official website; 2007-2010 (see

[9] Arudou, D. (2009). “Japanese Speakers Only” Kyoto Exclusionary Hotel Stands by its Rules. Retrieved November 10, 2009, from website:

[10] Arudou, D. (2006). “Japanese Only”: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan. Tokyo: Akashi Shoten.

[11] The Japan Times. (2006, 2 7). Twisted Logic Deals Rights Blow to Foreigners. The Japan Times .

[12] The Japan Times. (2006, 5 2). How to Kill a Bill: Tottori’s Human Rights Ordinance is a Case Study in Alarmism. The Japan Times.

[13] For example: Jinken Yougo Houan wo Kangaeru Shimin no Kai (Citizens’ Group for Thinking about the Human Rights Protection Bill). (2006). Abunai! Jinken Yougo Houan: Semarikuru Senshinkokukei Zentai Shugi no Kyoufu (Danger! The Human Rights Protection Bill and the Impending Threat of the Totalitarianism of the Developed Countries). Tokyo: Tendensha.

[14] “Sangokujin” literally means “third-country nationals,” and is a term which came into use after the war and often connotes derogation and prejudice against individuals – such as Resident Koreans and Taiwanese residents and their descendants – from former Japanese colonies.

[15] Quote taken from an April 11, 2000 Mainichi Daily News article

[16] Bungeishunju. (2003). Shokun! Tokyo: Bungeishunju.

[17] Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations Office at Geneva. (2006). Comments on the Report of the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, Mr. Doudou Diène. Retrieved January 20, 2010, from the IMADR website:

[18] In a “comment” made by the government in August 2001 in response to CERD’s recommendations, the government claimed, “[T]here is no fact in the claim that the authorities are urging individuals applying for Japanese nationality to change their names, but instead, the authorities are extensively informing applicants that they can freely determine their post-naturalization names.”

[19] Hangetsujou. (2003). Gendaiban no Soushi-kaimei (The Modern Soshi-kaimei Policy). Hangetsujou Tsuushin, 97.

[20] Ijichi, N. (1994). Zainichi Chosenjin no Namae (The Names of Resident Koreans in Japan). Tokyo: Akashi Shoten.; Also, the following source states in its section on “Names after Naturalization” that, “Newly established names from naturalization will be passed on to one’s descendants, and it is necessary for applicants to take serious consideration of this.” (Ministry of Justice Bureau of Ethnography Fifth Division Research Committee for Nationality Matters (Houmushou Minzokukyoku Dai Go Ka Kokuseki Jitsumu Kenkyuukai) (Ed.). (1990). Shintei Kokuseki/Kika no Jitsumu Soudan (New and Revised Edition: Nationality and Naturalization Consultations). Tokyo: Nihon Kajo Shuppan.)

[21] Yoon, C. (n.d.). Yi Chojya no Sawayaka Intabyuu: Pen Setarin San (Yi Chojya’s Fresh Interview with Penn Setharin). Niji no You Ni , 1.

[22] Input from Toako Matsushiro (member of hand-in-hand Chiba (Chiba Group for Holding Hands with Foreign Residents in Japan))

[23] Tazawa International Administrative Scrivener Office. (2005). Kikago no Shimei ni tsuite Omou Koto: Zainichi Korian no Katagata no Kika Shinsei wo Otetsudai Shiteite (Thoughts about “Name Changes after Naturalization”: Through Helping Resident Koreans with Their Naturalization Applications). Retrieved February 2005, from Tazawa International Administrative Scrivener Office website:

[24] Zheng, Y. (1998). Kikasha he no Intabyuu (1) “Zainichi Chuugokujin 3 Sei” (Interviews with Individuals Who have Naturalized (1) “A Third-generation Resident Chinese”). Retrieved December 2009, from Nihonseki Korian Mainoriti no Hiroba (Plaza for Japanese National Korean Minorities):

[25] Asakawa, A. (2003). Zainichi Gaikokujin to Kika Seido (Resident Foreigerns in Japan and the Naturalization Process). Tokyo: Shinkan Sha.

[26] According to a 2007 MEXT-commissioned survey on non-Japanese national children conducted by 13 cities and 1 prefecture with high percentages of newcomer non-Japanese national residents, 61% of non-Japanese national children attended Japanese schools, 21% attended schools for non-Japanese national children, 1.1% did not attend school at all, and 17.5% were “unknown.”  It is estimated that a large portion of these “unknown” respondents are also not attending school.  However, according to this study, even Kani City in Gifu prefecture, which has taken the most progressive measures to leave no non-Japanese national child behind, had a non-attendance rate of 7% in 2006.

[27] Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (2008). Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Combined Periodic Report on the Implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Japan. Retrieved January 18, 2010, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website:

[28] “With regard to the implementation of compulsory education for foreigners, no such imperative exists in the Constitution and Basic Education Law. […] As long as the individual is a foreigner, no obligation arises to send the child to elementary or junior high school.” (Suzuki, I. (Ed.). (2006). Chikujyou Gakkou Kyouiku Hou (Clause-by-Clause Review of the School Education Act). Tokyo: Gakuyo Shobo.)

[29] Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (2008). Ibid.

[30] Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. (2007). Gaikokujin no Kodomo no Fushuugaku Jittai Chousa no Kekka ni Tsuite (On the Results of the Study on the Situation of Non-attendance Among Foreign Children). Retrieved January 10, 2010, from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology website:

[31] Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (2008). Ibid.

[32] Kyoto City Foreigner Education Project and Kyoto City Education Board (Kyoutoshi Gaikokujin Kyouiku Purojekuto and Kyoutoshi Kyouiku Iinkai). (2008). Gaikokuseki oyobi Gaikoku ni Ruutsu wo Motsu Jidou Seito ni Kansuru Jittai Chousa no Matome (Summary of the Study on the Situation of Foreign National Students and Students with Foreign Roots). Retrieved September 19, 2008, from the Kyoto City website:

[33] As of October 2007, there were 96 Brazilian schools, 5 Chinese/Taiwanese schools, 73 North Korean schools, 4 South Korean schools, 2 Peruvian schools, 2 German schools, 1 Indian school, 1 Indonesian school, 1 Turkish school, 1 Filipino school, 1 Amerasian school, 1 French school, and 24 international schools in Japan. (2007 Forum for Multiethnic Co-existence Education in Tokyo Executive Committee (Taminzoku Kyousei Kyouiku Foramu 2007 Toukyou Jikkou Iinkai). (2007). 2007 Forum for Multiethnic Co-existence Education in Tokyo Information Packet. 2007 Forum for Multiethnic Co-existence Education in Tokyo Executive Committee.)

[34] On March 24, 2007, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations submitted a recommendation to the Prime Minister and Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology “concerning the human rights redress petition for discriminatory treatment regarding the application of designated donations to Chinese and North Korean schools.” (Japan Federation of Bar Associations. (2008). Kankokusho (Recommendation). Retrieved January 10, 2010, from the Japan Federation of Bar Associations website:;

Additionally, in paragraph 31 of its concluding observations, the Human Rights Committee also issued a recommendation of the same nature to the Japanese government in October 2008. (United Nations Human Rights Committee. (2008). Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 40 of the Covenant: Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee (Japan). Retrieved January 10, 2010, from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights website:

[35] Besides claiming that there are “many” who were arrested, no further analyses have been conducted.  Such comments only serve to create vague impressions and are misleading.

[36] From a press conference with the Minister of Justice (March 28, 2006), Internet official government announcements, the 2006 Immigration Control Report, etc.  However, the English version of the 2006 Immigration Control Report does not make reference to point (1). (Ministry of Justice. (2006, 3 28). Daijin Kakugigo Kisha Kaiken no Gaiyou (Summary of the Post-cabinet Meeting Minister News Conference). Retrieved November 24, 2009, from the Ministry of Justice website:; Ministry of Justice Immigration Bureau. (2006). 2006 Immigration Control Report. Retrieved November 24, 2009, from the Ministry of Justice Immigration Bureau website:

[37] This refers to crimes that have been recorded in police records, but not recorded in legal criminal records.

[38] The Yomiuri Shimbun (The Yomiuri Newspaper). (2007, 6 23). “Teijyuusha” Biza Koushin wo Keishou Jiko Riyuu ni Fukyoka: Nikkei Kazoku “Sabetsu” to Teiso/Toukyou Chisai (Minor Injury Accident as Reason for “Long-term Resident” Visa Extension Rejection: “Discrimination” Against a Nikkei Family and Lawsuit/Tokyo District Court). The Yomiuri Shimbun.

[39] However, in both cases, by claiming changes to their personal (or spousal) relationships to Japanese nationals or reapplying, both individuals were eventually able to obtain residence statuses.

[40] Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. (2008). For Foreign Nationals Wishing to Work in Japan (Nihon de Hatarakou to suru Gaikokujin no Minasama he). Retrieved January 3, 2010, from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare website:

[41] From an informal sharing with a victim by a KALAKASAN staff member (2009)

[42] Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. (2009). Annual Number of Marriages by Nationality of Husband and Wife. Retrieved January 20, 2010, from the Portal Site of Official Statistics of Japan:

[43] Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. (2009). Population by Year and Sex. Retrieved January 21, 2010, from the Portal Site of Official Statistics of Japan:;

Ministry of Justice Immigration Bureau. (2004-2008). Number or Registered Foreigners. Retrieved January 21, 2010, from the Ministry of Justice Immigration Bureau website:

[44] Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. (2008). 2008 Government Information Session for the National Research Commitee for Counselors at Facilities for the Protection of Women. Retrieved January 20, 2010, from the Welfare and Medical Service Network System:$FILE/20081117_2shiryou1.pdf

[45] Experiences from cases handled by KALAKASAN

[46] Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. (2009). Annual Number and Percentages of Divorces by Nationality of Husband and Wife. Retrieved January 20, 2010, from the Portal Site of Official Statistics of Japan:

[47] Experiences from cases handled by KALAKASAN

[48] This is one of the cases that KALAKASAN started handling in 2009.

[49] Immigration Bureau of Japan. (2009). Changes to the Immigration Control Act. Retrieved January 10, 2010, from the Immigration Bureau website:

[50] Isozaki, Y. (2002). Questioning Japan’s “Closed Country” Policy on Refugees. Retrieved November 1, 2009, from the Iwanami Shoten website:; Japan Federation of Bar Associations. (2002). Toward the Reform of the Refugee Recognition System. Retrieved November 1, 2009, from the Japan Federation of Bar Associations website:

[51] No financial assistance is granted to persons with refugee status, although some refugee applicants receive under 100,000 yen (about $1,000 USD) per month for a limited period during their administrative refugee review process.

[52] Refugee examination counselors are third-party part-time public servants (on two year contracts) who serve as observers/advisors during appeals to refugee recognition denials. (also see: Ministry of Justice. (2006). Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act. Retrieved November 1, 2009, from the Ministry of Justice website:

[53] Interview document disclosed by the Immigration Bureau in 2007

[54] Ministry of Justice. (n.d.). Ministry of Justice Home Page. Retrieved November 1, 2009, from the Ministry of Justice website:

[55] Ministry of Justice Immigration Bureau. (2009). Press Release on the Number of Recognized Refugees in 2008. Retrieved November 1, 2009, from the Ministry of Justice website:

[56] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. (1992). Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status under the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. Retrieved November 1, 2009, from the UNHCR website:


11 comments on “SMJ/NGO combined report for UN CERD Committee regarding Japan’s human rights record

  • Hi Debito,

    I don’t think the “conceivable effort answer” would change even this time, too ! Meanwhile we have to also write what we KNOW is wrong. Let UN-CERD decide who is right and who is wrong !
    BTW, last time I wrote this in the JT.
    If this year news about “Every Conceivable Effort” is same, I think I have to write it same again. 🙂
    And I am worried about RD in India, also, as I wrote in past !

  • # Chris Says:
    I need to get the hell out of this country and stop funding bigots with my tax money!

    A very good point for those of us who are not naturalized and have somewhere else to go. I fortunately do, and I m tired of being forced to pay huge amounts of tax/insurance without a vote.

    No taxation without representation.

  • Well, as it seems the LDP are starting to gain back some power (let’s face it, we knew this was going to happen), we should be prepared for more nothing to be done or accomplished. Now that they know they can sway public opinion by keeping the Ozawa issue and Hatoyama Allowance thing on the front pages, they won’t let up and the Japanese public will eat it up. In light of this survey:

    we can be sure that our rights will further be ignored until something drastic happens, like maybe we all don’t pay our taxes one year and they realize how much money we actually give to these clowns.

    外国人参政権「安全保障上の議論ある」 首相、問題点指摘

    2010/02/10 01:43

    外国人参政権 97%が「憲法違反」




  • A long but good read, thoroughly researched, and I’m sure it will be largely ignored, unfortunately. I don’t think I saw anything about Japan’s most rampant form of discrimination, trouble finding housing.

    Has there just been no hard research into this? Or does it fall outside the scope of this report?

    — Lack of hard research.

  • CM: the blogger at can have his playground gloat about a couple of foreigners (Chris and I) thinking about leaving; it doesn’t change the fact that immigration into Japan is necessary, amd they need to do something to make Japan more attractive to foreigners who actually have something to offer, or who are pro-Japanese in some respect, rather than alienating these “Japan fans”.
    To quote Debito;”In fact, it seems the tide is turning–back towards a grudging acceptance of the inevitability of immigration. And none too soon. As far back as 2000, under the Obuchi Administration, “The Prime Minister’s Commission on Japan’s Goals in the 21st Century” (as well as the UN) famously advised Japan to import around 600,000 people per annum. This would maintain Japan’s tax base, and ameliorate the effects of record-high longevities and record-low birthrates contributing to an aging population.”

    Personally I am leaving. It is my choice. I speak Japanese and spent 20 years of my life working with Japanese in a variety of industries, but I m still going to leave because its too expensive and difficult to live here any longer. It is not healthy to spend time in a place I find is constantly frustrating me. Yes, I know it’s a tad “selfish”, but I want my spoilt expat package elsewhere. I’m tired,I don’t have any particular family ties to bind me, and I lost interest in a country which seems to be becoming more insular when other countries are becoming more open. I’ve set something up and it employs Japanese people so I m not sure what the aforementioned blogger has to gloat about by foreign business people leaving Japan. What a fool, and he can quote me on that, too!

    — No doubt he will. He’s got nothing better to do with his life than comb blogs for something to gloat about. He’s one of those Internet otaku who probably helped define the term “hikikomori”. In fact, gloat-blogging is probably the only thing giving his life any meaning. Pitiful.

  • The Hikikomori gloater at suonded more like he was sulking at Japan being passed over for China, of all places.

    The nuance seemsed to be on the lines of Oh, you dont like Japan, well leave and good riddance! but correct me if I m wrong.

    Definite case of sour grapes.

  • Have you seen this yet?

    “Japan does not need laws to combat racial discrimination, a Japanese official said Thursday as Japan’s racism record was examined by the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
    “Punitive legislation on racial discrimination may hamper legitimate discourse,” Mitsuko Shino of the Japanese Foreign Ministry told a session in Geneva. “And I don’t think the situation in Japan is one of rampant discrimination, so we will not be examining this now.”

    I’m relieved to know there’s no rampant discrimination here in Japan. That’s why I’m so kindly interrogated by the Japanese police every time I go to Narita.

  • Japanese officals says racism doesn`t exist in Japan at the Geneva confrence.

    Japan disputes racism allegations at U.N. panel
    Feb 25 2010, Associated Press

    GENEVA, Feb. 25 (AP) – (Kyodo)—Japan does not need laws to combat racial discrimination, a Japanese official said Thursday as Japan’s racism record was examined by the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

    “Punitive legislation on racial discrimination may hamper legitimate discourse,” Mitsuko Shino of the Japanese Foreign Ministry told a session in Geneva. “And I don’t think the situation in Japan is one of rampant discrimination, so we will not be examining this now.”

    The review, the first since 2001, is a required procedure for countries signatory to the 1965 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which Japan ratified in December 1995.

    It is conducted by a committee composed of 18 legal experts who act in their professional capacity.

    Fourteen Japanese government officials from five ministries, headed by Ambassador in charge of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Hideaki Ueda, spent the morning answering questions about Japanese legislation and practices to fight racism and protect minority rights.

    The committee was critical of the lack of antidiscrimination legislation in Japan, and the treatment of Japanese minorities and its large Korean and Chinese communities.

    Prior to the start of the review on Wednesday, Japanese nongovernmental organizations presented to the committee issues they wanted raised.

    They showed a video of a group of Japanese nationalist protesters waving flags and protesting in front of a North Korean school in Kyoto Prefecture, shouting phrases such as “This is a North Korean spy training center!”

    An official of Japan’s Justice Ministry said such behavior could be explained as a reaction to “intermittent nuclear and missile tests” by North Korea, although any consequent human right violations were investigated.

    Many committee members asked questions about the Okinawan population, some groups of which are fighting to obtain recognition as an indigenous population.

    “There is no clear definition of an indigenous people, even in the U.N. declaration,” Ueda said. “But Okinawan people are Japanese, and their language is the Japanese language,” he said.

    Concerns were also expressed by committee members about the treatment of descendants of people in discriminated communities called “buraku.”

    Committee members admitted they had difficulty understanding whether they were a caste, or a separate ethnic group.

    “What makes them different from the average Japanese?” committee member Jose Augusto Lindgren Alves asked.

    “There are no differences at all, they are like us, we are the same,” Ueda answered.

    Other questions raised included educational opportunities for students of non-Japanese schools, and reports that some individuals had to change their last name to a pre-approved Kanji when obtaining Japanese citizenship.

    Foreign schools in Japan get tax credits and subsidies, a delegate from the Education Ministry said, and students from many, especially Korean, schools had access to Japanese universities.

    Counselors are available for foreign students joining Japanese schools, the delegate added.

    On the name-change allegation, “in order not to create inconvenience in their social life, it would be better to pick an easier to use character,” a member of the Justice Ministry said. “But you can also use hiragana and katakana.”

    After the review, Ralph Hosoki of the Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan, one of the NGOs, told Kyodo News, “The government only regurgitates what’s already in place…There is no imaginative dialogue to work towards concrete changes.”

    In concluding remarks, committee member Patrick Thornberry said, “A lot of the responses are that you do not need legislation…My concern is that your information…may not be proper to make such a conclusion.”


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