Saturday Tangent: Kyodo: GOJ survey indicates 70% of J disabled feel discriminated against. Nice they, unlike NJ, even got asked.


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Hi Blog.  As a Saturday tangent, let me take up an interesting case of how a different minority that feels discriminated against in Japan gets surveyed and reported upon — positively, because they happen to be Japanese.

Consider this:


Japan Times, Friday, June 11, 2010
Discrimination felt by 70% of disabled: report
Kyodo News, Courtesy of RC

Nearly seven out of every 10 people with disabilities said they have faced discrimination or biased treatment, an annual government report showed Friday.

The fiscal 2010 white paper on measures for disabled people, released by the Cabinet Office, says 68.0 percent of those surveyed said they have experienced discrimination or biased treatment because of their disabilities.

The office surveyed 2,178 people with disabilities between December 2009 and January 2010.

The report also says 11.4 percent of the respondents always feel they are discriminated against and 50.9 percent feel discrimination occurs sometimes.

The findings indicate many disabled people continue to be discriminated against at a time when Japan is considering ratifying the 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, officials said…

Rest of the article at:


COMMENT:  Okay, I’m sure many if not most people with disabilities feel disadvantaged and discriminated against in Japan.  Fine.  This is not to minimize that.

However, look at how much positive spin they are given both in terms of survey and media coverage.

For example, look at the last sentence of the Kyodo excerpt above:

“The findings indicate many disabled people continue to be discriminated against at a time when Japan is considering ratifying the 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, officials said…”

No, the findings indicate many disabled people FEEL they continue to be discriminated against.  Not that this indicates something factual, that they ARE.  That is an important semantic distinction, but “officials” are citing this as a reason to ratify a treaty to protect them.

Fine.  I’m all for it.  But they’d never do that for NJ.  The GOJ won’t even survey NJ in specific, or phrase the questions as if they are being discriminated against at all.  Citing an article I wrote about two and a half years ago:


Japan Times Community Page October 23, 2007

Human rights survey stinks
Government effort riddled with bias, bad science

… [Consider] how the remaining questions are phrased against foreigners.

For example, Q5 asked, “Which of the following human rights issues are you concerned about?”

Discrimination against “foreigners” came in 14th at 12.5%, behind “handicapped”, “elderly”, “children”, “Internet abuse victims”, “North Korean kidnap victims”, “women”, “crime victims”, “HIV sufferers”, “leprosy victims”, “homeless”, “Burakumin”, “ex-convicts”, and “human trafficking”.

Worthy causes in themselves, of course.  But foreigners enjoying such low regard is unsurprising.  The next series of questions deliberately diminish their stature in society and their right to equal treatment.

Q6 through Q19 asked for comment about “human rights problems”.  Each question covered specific sectors of society, with conveniently leading options to choose from:

Women (choices of “human rights violations” included porno and scantily-clad women in advertising), children (including adults being overopinionated about their children’s activities), elderly (including lack of respect for their opinions), handicapped (including being stared at), Burakumin, HIV patients, crime victims, Internet victims, homeless, homosexuals, and Ainu.

Nice for the government to acknowledge (even overdo) several examples of discrimination.   But in its two questions about discrimination against foreigners, no conveniently leading options are provided.

Instead, Q12 says, “It is said [sic] that foreigners living in Japan face discrimination in their daily lives”.  Then asks if they deserve the same rights as Japanese.

Er… is there doubt about the existence of discrimination against foreigners in Japan?  Even our courts have officially acknowledged it in several lawsuits–the Ana Bortz and the Otaru Onsens cases being but two famous examples.

And no similar question of doubt or qualification is raised towards any other group.

Q13 even kindly proffers possible justifications for foreigners’ “disadvantageous treatment”.  Out of six choices, half say “nothing can be done” to improve things because a) “foreigners have trouble getting used to Japanese situations”, b) “differences in customs, culture, and economic standing” (which got the most votes, 33.7%).  And–better sit down for this one–the tautological c) “because they are foreigners, they get disadvantageous treatment”.

When a human rights survey from even the highest levels of government allows for the possibility of human rights being optional (or worse yet, justifiably deniable based on nationality), we have a deep and profound problem.

Full article at


In sum, this to me is another example of the GOJ manufacturing consent to sway the public to accept a policy position.  Fortunately, it’s for protecting people, not hurting them.  But wouldn’t it be nice if the GOJ had somehow stepped in during all the nasty debates re NJ PR suffrage and curbed the hate speech, or even ask NJ sometime in a Cabinet Survey if THEY feel discriminated against?  After all, we’ve already signed a Convention designed to protect them — nearly fifteen years ago in 1996, so there should be no disinclination.  But no, NJ don’t deserve the same attention.  After all, they aren’t Japanese.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

11 comments on “Saturday Tangent: Kyodo: GOJ survey indicates 70% of J disabled feel discriminated against. Nice they, unlike NJ, even got asked.

  • It’s maybe 10 years since I read this book, “Underground” by Haruki Murakami, but I still can’t forget how he described the situation with the victims of the sarine attack. He said that Japanese society is closed to people with disabilities, they immediately become outsiders,they are refused jobs, etc. I was shocked then, but obviously nothing has changed.
    While there are much more facilities for disabled people compared with other EU countries, these people still face discrimination and difficulties. While in the uni, I haven’t seen a single person on wheelchair there. There was one blind ryugakusei, though.
    Recently, when out pushing the stroller, I see many places where it is impossible to enter-either there is only stairs, or the chairs/tables/shelves are so close to each other that even an overweight person would have problem entering. Then I think”What if someone on wheelchair wanted a cup of coffee, or some other goods offered here?”
    Foreigners, disabled people, mothers, pregnant women-they all kind of don’t fit into the overall structure of the society.It is so mendokusai to make changes in order to help these people integrate, feel confortable in the society, fit smoothly into the whole social picture.But a society can’t evolve if it doesn’t change, right?

  • Sounds like the surveys are only there for the government’s benefit, not to voice any real opposition opinion.

    Maybe the minorities of Japan should band together and claim their own little separate island of land and make their own survey, only then would they be recognized it seems.

  • I’m glad you liked the article. I was thinking this was a Debito issue. Anyway, another point that can be made here is that when you have the nation discriminating against their own, you know there is a problem.

  • Another point, and not just about the physically handicapped. How about the number of Japanese being committed to asylums? Would that include anyone with any kind of disability that they just don’t want around to be embarrassed by?

  • John (Yokohama) says:

    Here’s a survey result, from Asahi news today, that leaves me without a warm and fuzzy feeling (just the weather is providing that today):

    “On accepting immigrants to maintain economic vitality, only 26 percent supported such a move, while 65 percent opposed.”

    So… according to the survey the majority of people would rather be poorer than accept immigrants.

    Poll: 95% fear for Japan’s future
    THE ASAHI SHIMBUN 2010/06/12

    With China poised to replace Japan as the world’s No. 2 economy, Japanese are increasingly taking a more critical look at their country, once referred to as a nation of “economic animals” and known as Japan Inc.

    According to an Asahi Shimbun survey, about 95 percent of Japanese are worried about Japan’s future, while 62 percent say the nation is being rapidly overtaken by other countries.

    And while acknowledging that Japan’s economy–once the envy of much of the world–may no longer be a main source of pride, more than half of the respondents said Japan does not need to strive to become a major global power.

    According to the survey, 75 percent of Japanese have pride in their country, but only 34 percent said they had pride in Japan’s economy.

    Sixty-five percent of the respondents said the economy was not a source of pride.

    For the multiple-choice question on what aspects of Japan they are proud of, 94 percent cited the nation’s technological prowess, while 92 percent pointed to its traditional culture.

    Ninety percent of respondents in their 20s and 80 percent of those in their 30s said they felt pride in Japan’s “soft power,” or edge in creating anime and computer games.

    Toshiki Sato, a University of Tokyo professor of sociology, said the survey results reflect a society that has lost its identity.

    “If a nation has technological prowess, it would translate into economic strength. The fact that people express pride in technology (while holding a low evaluation of the economy) resembles the grumblings of a manager of an ailing company. It’s a reflection of a lack of confidence,” Sato said.

    Questionnaires were sent to 3,000 randomly chosen eligible voters nationwide in late April, and 2,347 valid responses were received by the May 25 deadline.

    Asked about their future vision for Japan, 51 percent said they hope to see a society that promotes economic wealth through hard work, while 43 percent said Japanese society should be one that achieves a relatively comfortable level of wealth without working too hard.

    Seventy-three percent said they preferred a nation that is “not so affluent but has a smaller income disparity,” against 17 percent who chose “an affluent society but with a large disparity.”

    Fifty-eight percent favored a large government offering full administrative services, such as social security, even at the cost of higher taxes, while 32 percent preferred a small government.

    As for Japan’s role in the world, 39 percent said Japan should be a major player with more clout and obligations, while 55 percent said they did not think Japan should be a global power.

    On accepting immigrants to maintain economic vitality, only 26 percent supported such a move, while 65 percent opposed.

    Along with 78 percent of respondents who said environmental protection should be prioritized even at the cost of stunting economic growth, the figures suggest that Japanese are clearly breaking away from the mind-set of their country being an economic giant.

    Sato said the survey showed that Japanese people were taking a hard, cool-headed look at their nation.

    “Since the Meiji Restoration (of the 19th century), Japanese have tended to bring about the worst consequences by developing unfounded confidence and pride, as with the defeat in World War II, rapid economic growth and massive pollution, and the economic bubble,” Sato said.

    “You don’t want to lose too much confidence, but the ability to be humble is a virtue. The survey results should be seen in a positive light,” he said.

    「日本は自信を失っている」74% 朝日新聞世論調査








    Not reported in the Japanese but reported in the English version was this question:


     賛成      26 反対       65

  • sendaiben says:

    @John above. I don’t think the results of the survey are pessimistic. At least people are thinking about what kind of country they want. Personally I would not mind living in a ‘small Japan’ that was egalitarian and concerned with quality of life and the environment.

    I think people rejecting immigration as a form of growth might even be a good thing. I too would prefer to see immigration happen organically, with people becoming integrated into society rather than imported as a means of production.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    The article says: The office surveyed 2,178 people with disabilities between December 2009 and January 2010.

    I wonder how many were NJ, and how their opinions differed from Japanese respondents.

    Japan deserves props on one area, at least: Japan’s fantastic public transportation system, and the presumption that people will use it, is one of the best things a visually-impaired person can ask for. Contrast this with my home country, the US — in the vast majority of places, if you can’t drive an automobile, you’re a virtual invalid; an Untermensch, with a huge percentage of jobs and neighborhoods closed off to you. And the public hardly cares at all.

  • #sendaiben Says:
    I think people rejecting immigration as a form of growth might even be a good thing. I too would prefer to see immigration happen organically, with people becoming integrated into society rather than imported as a means of production.#

    This is my thinking too. I would rather see Japan treat the immigrants that are already here now better and accept them (us) as part of Japanese society rather than grudgingly take on immigrants because they feel they ‘have to’. If they can’t deal with the small number that are here now bringing in more would be a disaster for everyone.

  • John (Yokohama) says:

    Take the rose colored classes off. We are not talking about growth here but trying to maintain something or realistically dampen the slide. There is no way that I see that the numbers needed to maintain the population will be achieved, neither from the birth rate plus immigration.

  • The JR station near where I live installed escalators and elevators only about ten years ago. For people to get into the station, JR staff members had to be called to carry the person and the wheelchair up the stairs into the station and then down another set of stairs to the platform. Some of the trains still have pretty large gaps from their doors to the platform so I think people in wheel chairs still need help getting onto the trains.
    It’s also sad and frustrating to see non-handicapped people park their cars in handicapped spots.
    Seeing things like this I can only imagine how discoouraging it can be to go out for handicapped people.

  • First, I don’t think it is helpful to say that the plight of people with disabilities is better reported upon because they are “Japanese”. That is a false dichotomy, because foreigners can also fit under this category as well, can they not? No doubt, the number of foreigners that fit into this category are small, but there are no doubt some, and some long term residents are going at some point end up in the category through accident or disease, or find a loved one affected. It’s not something that we are not benefiting from. Even if you are not disabled you are benefitting from the changes that are being slowly been phased in to help disabled people. Think of the move towards universal design, such as elevators in JR stations. When you twist your ankle and find it difficult to walk down stairs with crutches, or have a heavy bag to heft that you can instead take down to the platform in an elevator.

    Second, I’m not sure what your point is in saying that disabled people FEEL discriminated against, but that that doesn’t make it fact. Let’s just be clear on this – disabled people certainly ARE discriminated against, just as foreigners are. And just because it is felt, does it make it less significant. If you allow that we cannot take feelings of disabled people into account in policy, then you cannot take the feelings of foreigners into account either. If that is not your point could you please clarify what you mean to say

    I don’t know that we need to see it in such grim terms either – that the government is “manufacturing support” for the acceptence of rights for the disabled? How about this: the Japanese government is finally (possibly) stepping up to the plate, and moving to ratify a convention that has been open for signatures since 2007. That’s a long time, and if you look at the convention, it’s not exactly earth-moving stuff either – one wonders why the government did not move to ratify it earlier. Instead of nashing our teeth and saying, gee how nice, but what about us, we should be welcoming this survey as a positive, and pushing for Japan to ratify as a net benefit to us all. Consideration of other minority groups concerns is not to our loss and certainly not here.

    However, I do agree with the point that thus far the discrimination of foreigners has not been taken with anywhere near the same seriousness it should be. I cannot agree more.

    — Great. Now please reread what I wrote and understand that you and I are actually not in disagreement on the other points either.


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