Kyodo: GOJ criticized by UN CERD (once again) for inaction towards racial discrim; GOJ stresses “discrim not rampant”


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Hi Blog. Here we have some preliminary reports coming out of Geneva regarding the UN CERD Committee’s review of Japan’s human rights record vis-a-vis racial discrimination. We have the GOJ claiming no “rampant discrimination”, and stressing that we still need no law against RD for the same old reasons. This despite the rampant discrimination that NGOs are pointing out in independent reports. Read on. And if people find other articles with interesting tacks (the second Kyodo version in the JT below feels decidedly muted), please include whole text with link in the Comments Section below. Thanks. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Japan disputes racism allegations at U.N. panel
Feb 25 2010 The 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.”


The Japan Times, Friday, Feb. 26, 2010
Japan faces U.N. racism criticism

GENEVA (Kyodo) Japan’s record on racism has improved, but there is still room for progress, according to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

“We heard today much that is good and positive, but I think a deepened engagement would be welcomed and necessary,” Patrick Thornberry, the member of the committee responsible for Japan’s review, said Wednesday.

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

Fourteen Japanese officials from five ministries, headed by Ambassador in Charge of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Hideaki Ueda, flew from Japan to field questions and comments from the committee of 18 legal experts.

Thornberry particularly criticized Japan’s lack of laws to combat hate speech, saying “in international law, freedom of expression is not unlimited.”

The convention commits states to fight racial discrimination by taking such steps as restricting racist speech and criminalizing membership in racist organizations. Japan has expressed reservations about some of the provisions, which it says go against its commitment to freedom of expression and assembly.

Prior to the review, Japanese nongovernmental organizations presented various examples they say highlight the need for legislative action to fight racism in their country.

“There seems to have been little progress since 2001,” when the last review was held, committee member Regis de Gouttes said. “There is no new legislation, even though in 2001 the committee said prohibiting hate speech is compatible with freedom of expression.”

Committee members also criticized the treatment of certain segments of society, such as the “burakumin” (descendants of Japan’s former outcast class), and the people of Okinawa.

“The ‘buraku’ situation is a form of racial discrimination,” committee member Fatimata-Binta Victoire Dah said. “It is frighteningly similar to the caste system in Africa.”

Many members of the committee, however, praised the government’s recent recognition of the Ainu as an indigenous people.

But there was also criticism of the treatment of Chinese and Korean nationals, in matters ranging from the lack of accreditation of their schools, to the necessity, at times, for them to change their names when they obtain Japanese citizenship.

The NGOs, before the review, showed the committee members a video of a group of nationalists waving flags and protesting aggressively in front of a North Korean school in Kyoto Prefecture, shouting phrases such as “This is a North Korean spy training center!”

“Why are these children guilty of what North Korea is doing?” committee member Ion Diaconu asked.

Some members of the committee also expressed concern that such schools did not receive any government funding at a time when the government is considering removing tuition fees for public high schools.


Feedback from a Reader, who cced me in this letter yesterday to a UN official, disputing the lack of “rampant discrimination”. Forwarding:

Dear Gabriella,

I am writing this email in the hope that it will find Mr. Patrick
Thornberry as he is conducting a review on Japan’s Elimination of Racial
Discrimination. I read briefly of the review on the Japan Times website
(URL below).

I am concerned that a very important human right is not being protected
in Japan. I am referring to the child’s right to an education. In Japan,
the child’s right to an education is ensured by law. Students must
attend school as compulsory education until they graduate from junior
high school. However, this legislation is only applicable to Japanese
citizens. Non-Japanese do not have the same rights/obligations regarding
education and this violates the right of the non-Japanese to an

I direct your attention to the Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989.

11 . Convention on the Rights of the Child
New York, 20 November 1989

Apparently, Japan became a signatory on 21 Sep 1990 and ratified it on
22 Apr 1994. However, practice in Japan does not appear to be in line
with the articles of the convention. Specifically article 3 and article 28.

Article 28
1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to education, and
with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of
equal opportunity, they shall, in particular:

(a) Make primary education compulsory and available free to all»

(b) Encourage the development of different forms of secondary
education, including general and vocational education, make them
available and accessible to every child, and take appropriate measures
such as the introduction of free education and offering financial
assistance in case of need;


In Japan, education until Junior high school is compulsory for Japanese
students only. For non-Japanese it would appear that the legislation
provides compulsory primary education only. In reality, this is not
ensured. There are many families whose children are not enrolled in any
part of the Japanese education system. Some cite the language barrier as
problem with sending their children to a Japanese school. Education is
not “available to all”. This leads to some students being enrolled in
“schools” that are not required to comply with any standards. This leads
to a conflict in Article 3.

Article 3 Paragraph 3
3. States Parties shall ensure that the institutions, services and
facilities responsible for the care or protection of children shall
conform with the standards established by competent authorities,
particularly in the areas of safety, health, in the number and
suitability of their staff, as well as competent supervision.


There are thousands of Brazilian families living and working in Shizuoka
Prefecture. Many of these families send their children to “Brazilian
schools” that do NOT conform with the standards of Japanese schools. In
fact, many of these so-called schools have no standards with which they
have to comply.

On the other hand, Japanese students have access to compulsory,
standards-compliant education until the end of junior high school.
Non-Japanese children are being discriminated against to the point that
their universal and inalienable right to a quality education is not
being protected.

Enforcing compulsory education in Japan is necessary. Japan may not have
the multilingual schools that would be ideal but a standards compliant
education is better than what these children get now which is either a
non-standards compliant education or no education at all. Enforcing
compulsory education would surely see the current situation improve.

In the news article I cited at the beginning of this email there was no
mention to this issue. That leaves me with my sole question, is
eliminating hate speech really more important to the UN than children’s




——- Forwarded Message ——–
From: Harumi Fuentes
Cc: Gabriella Habtom ,,
Subject: Re: Fw: JAPAN – U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial
Date: Mon, 1 Mar 2010 11:10:06 +0100

Dear Mr. (anonymized),

In response to your email, the Committee is in charge of monitoring
the implementation of the Convention for all the persons under the
jurisdiction of the State party and the right to education is covered.
Please rest assured that despite what reports or news articles may
write or omit, the issue of education was addressed extensively by the
Committee. In fact, going over the summary record, I’d like to inform
you that education, including Peruvian and Brazilian schools and
miscellaneous schools, was taken up by almost all the members of the
Committee and discussed in length with the State party.

We appreciate the useful information you provided on legislation on
compulsory education for Japanese and non-nationals and thank you for
your interest in the work of the Committee.

Best regards,
Harumi Fuentes

Harumi Fuentes Furuya (Ms.)
Associate Human Rights Officer

Human Rights Council and Treaties Division
OHCHR-Palais Wilson 1-075
tel. +41-22-917 9699

12 comments on “Kyodo: GOJ criticized by UN CERD (once again) for inaction towards racial discrim; GOJ stresses “discrim not rampant”

  • This article dwells overly long on membership of racist organisations (“black flags”) and hate speech, both of which I think should be allowed, but doesn’t say enough about preventive legislation such as outlawing the right of landlords to deny NJ access to property, bars, restaurants, etc., or equal access to employment, etc., based on skin colour. I’d also like harassment by the police to be illegal. THAT’s what should be CERD’s focus, not whether some dingbat wants to drive around in a black truck with loudspeakers blaring.

    — I would tend to agree. So much focus on hate speech tends to overlook the very real “Japanese Only” exclusions I wrote about to the CERD. Hate speech is grey enough to give the GOJ wriggle room.

  • Who are these “18 legal experts” and have any of them lived in Japan? Right-wing extremism is ugly, no doubt, but as a resident of Japan I’m far more concerned with the systemic, society-wide racism that permeates day to day life. Like the fact that I can’t look for housing without fear of being rejected based on the color of my skin. Or that people are already treating my infant son like a foreigner because he looks like me, even though he was born here and will no doubt speak Japanese just like his mother.

  • Indeed, while the black vans are far more visible, the impact they have an the day-to-day life of a foreigner in Japan is negligible. Landlords who are allowed to refuse foreigners, police having carte blanche to racially profile individuals, hotels demanding ID with no legal right (under very fuzzy directives from authorities), trumpeting rises in foreign crime despite actual drops, racist posters, and so on are far bigger problems.

  • jjobseeker says:

    “The government only regurgitates what’s already in place…There is no imaginative dialogue to work towards concrete changes.”

    Sounds like the past 20 years of Japan domestic policy-making to me. Real change won’t start until it hits them where it hurts…the almighty “keizai.”

  • >Sounds like the past 20 years of Japan domestic policy-making to me. Real change won’t start until it hits them where it hurts…the almighty “keizai.”

    Really? Because Japan’s economy hasn’t been doing very well… for the past 20 years. The rich oyaji’s in charge of Japan have always looked at *real* change the way a child looks at cod-liver oil.

    The underlying fear here is that with racial discrimination laws on the books, invaders (read: foreigners) will come to Japan and be given rights; rights that can impede controlling them. This will lead to the downfall of Japan.

    I would say perhaps we need to wait 20 years for the old guard to die out to see any real change but with Japan’s current and continuing economic woes, the foreign boogeyman myth will inevitably find a place with a lot of the natives unsatisfied with their economic situations.

  • Shino-san of the Foreign Ministry implies that the GOJ need only address the issue if and when discrimination becomes rampant. If you apply that logic you could do away with a lot of legislation…indeed many crimes/injustices are not “rampant”.

    I expect that what he really means is that they will only address it if it becomes more of an inconvenience than a trip to Geneva to face a relatively toothless UN committee review once a decade!

  • jjobseeker says:


    I agree, it’s obvious the issues of immigration, integration & NJs and the economy are yet to be linked in the thick skulls of the old guard in charge. They will certainly have to die out before people with even the tiniest inkling of wanting to address this issue in realistic terms can begin coming into power and effecting general public sentiment. By then, Japan will probably be #11 in the ranking of world economies.

  • “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,”

    This guy needs to get his head out of his own asshole. Every Okinawan I know doesn’t identify themself was Japanese (and do not identify with the term Okinawan as the proper term is Uchinaanchu). In fact, most of those over 40 have openly hostile attitudes to Naichi and Naichaa. And, as for speaking the Japanese language, during a funeral gathering here, the only Japanese words spoken the entire time were directed to me – and these were few and far between. The rest of the family and visitors spoke Uchinaaguchi.

    My girlfriend’s family and friends, for example, speak Uchinaaguchi heavily and her Grandmother cannot speak Japanese at all. And for Naichaa to say that Uchinaanchu is a dialect, well, I have never found one who could understand even the most basic sentence of Uchinaanchu so please surprise me. Japanese my ass – the mainland has been trying to stamp out the language and culture of the people here for the last 400 years but they haven’t succeeded yet.

    — Rant over —

  • About Okinawa, I agree with the above comment. Shoei Kina, father of Kina Shokichi, who is now elected to the diet, was adamant in telling me personally that Okinawa “was not Japanese, it is in fact a different country”

    The Japanese people are in the main ignorant of this, and are unaware of the history of the Ryukyus as a separate independent or semi-independent tributary to China and Japan; ie. they paid money or good to both China and Japan to leave them alone, up until the mid 19th century.

    Japan still treats it like a colony-of money “invested” in Okinawa, 75% of it flows back to Tokyo, apparently.

    Maybe Shokichi should raise this issue again…

    Ah wait a minute. Isnt this one of the spectres of dismemberment being waved about by the rightists in their fight to stop permanent residences getting a local vote?

  • “Tokyo Employment Service Center for Foreigners of Japanese Ancestry”

    and they ve got pictures of business-lke Caucasian models at the top of the page; one has to laugh.

    Nice location too, Kabukichou. But I digress.


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