Ethnic issues in Japan
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According to the Japanese Constitution, all citizens are equally important regardless of ethnic identity. At least one native people-group (the Ainu) has been formally recognized by the Japanese government. However, foreign nationals are sometimes restricted from certain services and activities.
- 1 Demographic
- 2 Japanese ethnic minorities
- 3 Ethnic issues
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 Bibliography
- 7 External links
About 1.6% of Japan's total legal resident population are foreign nationals. Of these, according to 2012 data from the Japanese government, the principal groups are as follows.
|Total (as of 2012)||2,038,159||100%|
The above statistics do not include the approximately 30,000 U.S. military stationed in Japan, nor do they account for illegal immigrants. The statistics also do not take into account minority groups who are Japanese citizens such as the Ainu (an aboriginal people primarily living in Hokkaido), the Ryukyuans (who may or may not be considered ethnically Yamato people), and ethnic Koreans and Chinese who have adopted Japanese citizenship.
Japanese ethnic minorities
The nine largest minority groups residing in Japan are the North and South Koreans, Chinese, Brazilian (most Brazilians in Japan have some Japanese ancestors), Filipinos (most Filipinos in Japan have Japanese ancestry), Taiwanese, the Ainu, and the Ryukyuan. There are also a number of smaller ethnic communities in Japan with a much shorter history.
According to the United Nations' 2008 Diène report, communities most affected by racism and xenophobia in Japan include:
- the national minorities of Ainu and people of Okinawa,
- people and descendants of people from neighboring countries (Koreans and Chinese),
- and the new immigrants from other Asian, African, South American and Middle Eastern countries.
A large proportion of this immigration is said to be the result of Korean landowners and workers losing their land and livelihood due to Japanese land and production confiscation initiatives and migrating to Japan for work. According to the calculation of Rudolph Rummel, a total of 5.4 million Koreans were also conscripted into forced labor, and shipped throughout the Japanese Empire. Of these, 210,000 to 870,000 Koreans died during forced labor in places such as Manchuria and Sakhalin.
During the Occupation of Korea by Japan, the Japanese government enforced a policy of forced assimilation. Korean culture was oppressed; the Korean language was labeled a dialect (方言) of Japanese and banned, Koreans were forced to learn and speak Japanese, and Koreans were forced to take Japanese names. However, Korean people resisted this, and by the end of the 1940's it was almost completely undone.
Many Korean refugees also came to the country during the Jeju massacre in the First Republic of South Korea. Though most migrants returned to Korea, GHQ estimates in 1946 indicated that 650,000 Koreans remained in Japan.
After World War II, the Korean community in Japan was split between allegiance to South Korea (Mindan) and North Korea (Chongryon). South Koreans in Japan are called Zainichi Kankokujin (在日韓国人, 재일한국인), while North Koreans are called Zainichi Chosenjin (在日朝鮮人, 재일조선인).
Zainichi who identify themselves with Chongryon are also an important money source of North Korea. One estimate suggests that the total annual transfers from Japan to North Korea may exceed US$200 million.
Japanese law does not allow dual citizenship, and until the 1980s required adoption of a Japanese name for citizenship. Partially for this reason, many Zainichi did not obtain Japanese citizenship as they saw the process to be humiliating.
Although more Zainichi are becoming Japanese citizens, issues of identity remain complicated. Even those who do not choose to become Japanese citizens often use Japanese names to avoid discrimination and live their lives as if they were Japanese. This is in contrast with the Chinese living in Japan, who generally use their Chinese names and openly form Chinatown communities.
An increase in tensions between Japan and North Korea in the late 1990s led to a surge of attacks against Chongryon, the pro-North residents organisation, including a pattern of assaults against Korean schoolgirls in Japan. For a long time, Chongryon enjoyed unofficial immunity from searches and investigations, although it has long been suspected of a variety of criminal acts on behalf of North Korea, such as illegal transfer of funds to North Korea and espionage.
The Japanese authorities have recently started to crack down on Chongryon with investigations and arrests. These moves are often criticized by Chongryon as acts of political suppression.
When Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara referred to Chinese and Koreans as sangokujin (三国人) in 2000 in the context of foreigners being a potential source of unrest in the aftermath of an earthquake, the foreign community complained. Historically, the word has often been used pejoratively and Ishihara's statement brought images of the massacre of Koreans by civilians and police alike after the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake to mind. Therefore, the use of the term in context of potential rioting by foreigners is considered by many as provocative, if not explicitly racist.
Mainland Chinese are the largest minority in Japan (according to the 2008 statistics as shown above). Mainland Chinese in particular have been targets of anti-immigrant sentiment along with government, police and media portrayal of them as being likely to commit crime. Indeed, an investigator from the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) said, racism against Koreans and Chinese is deeply rooted in Japan because of history and culture.
There are a number of Taiwanese people that reside in Japan due to close (yet unofficial) ties between Taiwan and Japan. Taiwan was a colony of Japan from 1895 to 1945 and Taiwanese during this time were considered Japanese citizens.
The Ainu are an indigenous group mainly living in Hokkaidō. The Tokugawa Shogunate tried to develop Hokkaido to counter Russia's growing influence in the Far East, but mostly left the place for the native Ainu. Then the Meiji government started development programs, increasingly aimed at assimilating the Ainu, outlawing Ainu language and restricting them to farming on government-provided plots.
Many of the Ainu were also used in slave-like conditions by the Japanese fishing industry. As the Japanese government encouraged immigration of ethnic Japanese to populate Hokkaido, the Ainu became increasingly marginalised in their own land.
At present, the official Japanese government estimate of the population is 25,000, though this number has been disputed with unofficial estimates of upwards of 200,000. Of these, fewer than 20,000 Ainu are considered racially distinct. Most, if not all, of the Ainu in Japan are of mixed ancestry. Many customs and traditions of the Ainu have been lost, abandoned or annihilated by way of assimilation, and the Ainu language is no longer in common use.
Only in the decades after World War II have the Ainu started to become aware of international aboriginal rights movements. Largely due to the efforts of Shigeru Kayano, the first Ainu member of the Diet of Japan, some schools in Hokkaido have been established to preserve and revive the Ainu culture.
The Ryukyuan people lived in an independent kingdom until it came under the control of Japan's Satsuma Domain in 1609. The kingdom, however, retained a degree of autonomy until 1879 when the islands were officially annexed by Japan as Okinawa Prefecture.
The Okinawan language, the most widely spoken Ryukyuan language, is related to Japanese, the two being in the Japonic languages. Ryukyuan languages were heavily suppressed through a policy of forced assimilation throughout the former Ryukyu Kingdom after it was annexed in 1879. With only Japanese taught in schools and students punished for speaking or writing their native language through the use of dialect cards, the younger generations of Ryukyuans began to give up their "backwards" culture for that of Japan. The Japanese government officially labels the Ryukyuan languages as dialects (Hōgen) of Japanese, although they are not mutually intelligible with one another, or even between each other. In 1940, there was a political debate amongst Japanese leaders about whether or not to continue the oppression of the Ryukyuan languages, although the argument for assimilation prevailed. There are still some children learning Ryukyuan languages natively, but this is rare especially on mainland Okinawa. The language still is used in traditional cultural activities, such as folk music, or folk dance.
After the annexation of the islands, many Ryukyuans, especially Okinawans, migrated to the mainland to find jobs or better living conditions. They were sometimes met with discrimination, such as workplaces with signs that read, "No Ryukyuans or Koreans." At the 1903 Osaka Exhibition, an exhibit called the "Pavillion of the World" (Jinruikan) had actual Okinawans, Ainu, Koreans, and other "backwards" peoples on display in their native clothes and housing.
Culturally, Okinawa is also close to southern China, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia reflecting its long history of trade with these regions. However, because of the standard use of Japanese in schools, television, and all print media in Okinawa, these cultural differences are often glossed over in Japanese society. Consequently, many Japanese consider Okinawans to be Japanese, sometimes ignoring their distinct cultural and historical heritage in insensitive ways.
Western foreigners in Japan, particularly those from Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand, are often called 外国人 Gaikokujin or 外人 Gaijin. The first large influx of such foreigners occurred in the 1980s, when the Japanese government adopted a policy to give scholarships to large numbers of foreign students to study at Japanese universities.
In addition, as the Japanese economy grew quickly in the 1980s, a sizable number of Westerners began coming to Japan. Many found jobs as English conversation teachers, but others were employed in various professional fields such as finance and business. Although some have become permanent residents or even naturalized citizens, they are generally perceived as short-term visitors and treated as outside of Japanese society.
During the 1980s and 1990s, the Keidanren business lobbying organization advocated a policy of allowing South Americans of Japanese ancestry (mainly Brazilians and Peruvians) to work in Japan, as Japan's industries faced a major labor shortage. Although this policy has been decelerated in recent years, many of these individuals continue to live in Japan, some in ethnic enclaves near their workplaces.
Many people from Southeast Asia (particularly Vietnam and the Philippines) and Southwest Asia (and Iran) also entered Japan during this time, making foreigners as a group a more visible minority in Japan. Those foreigners are called 来日 Rainichi ("coming to Japan") in contrast to 在日 Zainichi ("in Japan"). TBS television series Smile is about Bito Hayakawa who was born to Japanese mother and Filipino father who struggled overcame difficulties as mixed race child.
The main concerns of the latter groups are often related to their legal status, a public perception of criminal activity, and general discrimination associated with being non-Japanese.
Sakhalin, which was once part of Japan as Karafuto Prefecture, had indigenous populations of Nivkhs and Uilta (Orok). Like the Karafuto Koreans but unlike the Ainu, they were thus not included in the evacuation of Japanese nationals after the Soviet invasion in 1945. Some Nivkhs and Uilta who served in the Imperial Japanese Army were held in Soviet work camps; after court cases in the late 1950s and 1960s, they were recognised as Japanese nationals and thus permitted to migrate to Japan. Most settled around Abashiri, Hokkaidō. The Uilta Kyokai was founded to fight for Uilta rights and the preservation of Uilta traditions in 1975 by Dahinien Gendānu.
Racial discrimination against other Asians was habitual in Imperial Japan, having begun with the start of Japanese colonialism. The Meiji era Japanese showed a contempt for other Asians. The Shōwa regime preached racial superiority and racialist theories, based on nature of Yamato-damashii. According to historian Kurakichi Shiratori, one of Emperor Hirohito's teachers :«Therefore nothing in the world compares to the divine nature (shinsei) of the imperial house and likewise the majesty of our national polity (kokutai). Here is one great reason for Japan's superiority.» 
According to the An Investigation of Global Policy with the Yamato Race as Nucleus, a classified report in 1943 of the Ministry of Health and Welfare completed on July 1, 1943, just as a family has harmony and reciprocity, but with a clear-cut hierarchy, the Japanese, as a racially superior people, were destined to rule Asia “eternally” as the head of the family of Asian nations. The most horrific xenophobia of the pre-Shōwa period was displayed after the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake, where in the confusion after a massive earthquake, Koreans were wrongly maligned as poisoning the water supply. A vicious pogrom resulted in the deaths of at least 3 000 Koreans, and the imprisonment of 26 000.
Attacks against Western foreigners and their Japanese friends by nationalist citizens, rose in the 1930s under the influence of Japanese military-political doctrines in the Showa period, after a long build-up starting in the Meiji period when only a few samurai die-hards did not accept foreigners in Japan. For an exception, see Jewish settlement in the Japanese Empire.
Racism was omnipresent in the press during the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Greater East Asia War and the media's descriptions of the superiority of the Yamato people was unwaveringly consistent. The first major anti-foreigner publicity campaign, called Bōchō (Guard Against Espionage), was launched in 1940 alongside the proclamation of the Tōa shin Shitsujō (New Order in East Asia) and its first step, the Hakkō ichiu.
Mostly after the launching of the Pacific War, Westerners were detained by official authorities, and on occasion were objects of violent assaults, sent to police jails or military detention centers or suffered bad treatment in the street. This applied particularly to Americans and British; in Manchukuo at the same period xenophobic attacks were carried out against Chinese and other non-Japanese.
Post-war government policy
Because of the low importance placed on assimilating minorities in Japan, laws regarding ethnic matters receive low priority in the legislative process. Still, in 1997, "Ainu cultural revival" legislation was passed which replaced the previous "Hokkaido Former Aboriginal Protection" legislation that had devastating effects on the Ainu in the past.
Article 14 of the Constitution of Japan states that all people (English version) or citizens (revised Japanese version) are equal under the law, and they cannot be discriminated against politically, economically, or socially on the basis of race, belief, sex, or social or other background.
However, Japan does not have civil rights legislation which enforces or penalizes discriminatory activities committed by citizens, businesses, or non-governmental organizations.
Attempts have been made in the Diet to enact human rights legislation. In 2002, a draft was submitted to the House of Representatives, but did not reach a vote. Had the law passed, it would have set up a Human Rights Commission to investigate, name and shame, or financially penalize discriminatory practices as well as hate speech committed by private citizens or establishments.
Another issue which has been publicly debated but has not received much legislative attention is whether to allow permanent residents to vote in local legislatures. Zainichi organizations affiliated with North Korea are against this initiative, while Zainichi organizations affiliated with South Korea support it.
Finally, there is debate about altering requirements for work permits to foreigners. Currently, the Japanese government does not issue work permits unless it can be demonstrated that the person has certain skills which cannot be provided by locals.
Access to housing and other services
A handful of apartments, motels, night clubs, brothels, sex parlours and public baths in Japan have put up signs stating that foreigners are not allowed, or that they must be accompanied by a Japanese person to enter However, many Japanese claim that these signs are very rare and the prohibitions are due to perceived social incompatibility—for example, foreigners may not understand Japanese bathhouse etiquette—and not racism.
In February 2012 plaintiffs sued a Hokkaido bathhouse in district court pleading racial discrimination, and on November 11 the Sapporo District Court ordered the bathhouse to pay the plaintiffs ¥1 million each in damages.
In fact, there were a substantial number of lawsuits regarding discrimination against foreigners. For example, in 2005, a Korean woman who attempted to rent a room was refused because she was not a Japanese citizen. She filed a discrimination lawsuit, and she won in Japanese court.
“Discrimination toward foreign nationals in their searches for homes continues to be one of the biggest problems”, said the head of the Ethnic Media Press Centre. Organizers of the service said they hope to eradicate the racism that prevents foreigners, particularly Non-Westerners, from renting apartments since there are currently no laws in Japan that ban discrimination.
Although foreign professors teach throughout the Japanese higher education system, Robert J. Geller of University of Tokyo reported, in 1992, that it was extremely rare for them to be given tenure.
Non-Japanese citizens and crimes
As in other countries, foreigners sometimes do work not allowed by their visas, or overstay the terms of their visas. Their employment tends to be concentrated in fields where most Japanese are not able to or no longer wish to work.
A large portion of crimes by immigrants are by Chinese in Japan, and some highly publicized crimes by organized groups of Chinese (often with help of Japanese organized crime) have led to a negative public perception. In 2003, foreigners from Africa were responsible for 2.8 times as much crime per capita as Japanese natives but were slightly less likely to commit violent crime. In this same study, Russians had the highest crime rate of all nationalities, while Brazilians had the highest violent crime rate.
According to National Police Authority records, in 2002, 16,212 foreigners were caught committing 34,746 crimes, over half of which turned out to be visa violations (residing/working in Japan without a valid visa). The statistics show that 12,667 cases (36.5%) and 6,487 individuals (40.0%) were Chinese, 5,272 cases (15.72%) and 1,186 individuals (7.3%) were Brazilian, and 2,815 cases (8.1%) and 1,738 individuals (10.7%) were Korean. The total number of crimes committed in the same year by Japanese was 546,934 cases.
Within these statistics, Japanese committed 6,925 violent crimes, of which 2,531 were arson or rape, while foreigners committed 323 violent crimes, but only 42 cases are classified as arson or rape. Foreigners were more likely to commit crimes in groups: About 61.5% of crimes committed by foreigners had one or more accomplice, while only 18.6% of crimes committed by Japanese were in groups.
By a 2010 study by the National Police Agency illegal residents decreased from 219,000 in 2004 to 113,000 in 2008, and in addition, the number of arrested foreign visitors decreased from 21,842 in 2004 to 13,880 in 2008. The percentage of foreign nationals in all arrestees charged in penal code crimes was about 2.0% and this number has remained relatively stable. While the percentage of foreign nationals among all arrestees charged in cases involving robbery or burglary was around 5.5% in 2008.
The former head of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's Emergency Public Safety Task Force, Hiroshi Kubo, published a book called Chian wa Hontouni Akkashiteirunoka (治安はほんとうに悪化しているのか?) (in English: Is Public Safety Really Deteriorating?, ISBN 978-4-86162-025-6) disputing foreign crime statistics, suggesting that such statistics were being manipulated by politicians for political gain. He suggested, for example, that including visa violations in crime statistics is misleading. He also said that the crime rate in Tokyo is based on reported rather than actual crimes.
Comment by U.N. special rapporteur on racism and xenophobia
Doudou Diène (Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights) concluded after an investigation and nine-day tour of Japan that racial discrimination and xenophobia in Japan primarily affects three groups: national minorities, descendants of former Japanese colonies and foreigners from other Asian countries. In spite of the widespread belief that Japan is ethnically homogeneous, it is probably more accurate to describe it as a multiethnic society.
Sankei Shimbun, a Japanese national newspaper, while expressing a support for combating discrimination, expressed doubt on the impartiality of the report, pointing out that Doudou Diène never visited Japan before and his short tour was arranged by a Japanese NGO, IMADR (International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination). The chairman of the organization is Professor Kinhide Mushakoji (武者小路公秀), who is a board member (and the former director of the board) of the International Institute of the Juche Idea (主体思想国際研究所), an organization whose stated purpose is to propagate the official ideology of North Korea.
In 2010, according to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Japan's record on racism has improved, but there is still room for progress. The committee was critical of the lack of anti-discrimination legislation in the country and the treatment of Japanese minorities and its large Korean and Chinese communities. "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." Many members of the committee, however, praised the Japanese government's recent recognition of the Ainu as an indigenous people.
- Eugenics in Japan
- Language minority students in Japanese classrooms
- Japanese history textbook controversies
- Xenophobia in Shōwa Japan
- An Investigation of Global Policy with the Yamato Race as Nucleus
- Shina (word)
Caste discrimination in Japan:
- Japan Statistics Bureau, accessed December 8, 2007
- (Japanese)  平成２４年末現在における外国人登録者統計について].
- Diène, Doudou (2009), Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Forms of Intolerance: Follow-Up to and Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, The United Nations Human Rights Council. From August 2002 to July 2008, Mr. Doudou Diène worked for the United Nations as the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
- John Lie Zainichi (Koreans in Japan)))(Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008)
- Rummel, R. J. (1999). Statistics of Democide: Genocide and Mass Murder Since 1990. Lit Verlag. ISBN 3-8258-4010-7. Available online: "Statistics of Democide: Chapter 3 – Statistics Of Japanese Democide Estimates, Calculations, And Sources". Freedom, Democracy, Peace; Power, Democide, and War. Retrieved 2006-03-01.
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- Tokyo's Leverage Over Pyongyang, Charles Wolf, Jr., The Wall Street Journal Asia, November 21, 2006.
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- Heinrich, Patrick. Hōgen ronsō: the great Ryukyuan languages debate of 1940. Contemporary Japan - Journal of the German Institute for Japanese Studies, Tokyo. Aug2013, Vol. 25 Issue 2, p167-187. 21p. 4 Charts. ISSN:1869-2729
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- "THE ROGUES' GALLERY" PHOTOS OF PLACES IN JAPAN WHICH EXCLUDE OR RESTRICT NON-JAPANESE CUSTOMERS on Debito's official website accessed at January 16, 2008.
- "THE WORLD; Japanese Court Ruling Favors Foreigners; Bathhouse must pay three men who were denied entry.". Los Angeles Times (Tokyo). 2002-11-12.
- The Chosun Ilbo article
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- John Lie "Multiethnic Japan" (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001)
- "報告の陰に連携 (産経新聞「妙」 2005/11/13) 国連人権委員会のディエヌ特別報告者（セネガル）が七日、国連総会第三委員会（人権）で、日本に存在する差別を指摘、それを受けて中国、韓国、北朝鮮の代表が日本を批判したという記事が目に留まった。「差別」の存在は厳粛に受け止め、解消に向けて努力するべきだが、あまりに見事な連携ではないか。「仕組まれた」という思いが拭いきれない。近年、日本に「悪意」をいだくグループが「人権」を武器に、国連を利用し日本に”言いがかり”をつけることがよくあるが、今回もそうではなかったか。そもそもディエヌ氏とはどういった経歴の持ち主なのか。そして、日本のどこをどれほどの期間調査したのか。また、彼をアテンドしたのはどういった団体だったのか。疑問は次々とわいてきた。国連広報センターに問い合わせてみた。明らかになった事実を記す。ディエヌ氏は１９９３年から２００２年にかけて国連科学文化機関（ユネスコ）の文化間・宗教間対話部長を務め、０２年に国連人権委員会により現代的形態の人種主義、人種差別、排外主義および関連する不寛容に関する特別報告者に任命された。今年の七月三日から十二日まで日本を訪れ、大阪、京都、北海道で被差別部落、在日韓国人・朝鮮人、アイヌ民族などのグループと面接調査した。訪問は初めてだった。 ディエヌ氏の調査をアレンジしたのは、反差別国際運動というNGO。この団体の理事長は武者小路公秀氏。ピースおおさか（大阪市）の会長であり、金正日の思想を普及しようとするチュチェ思想国際研究所と関係の深い人物である。（桑原聡）"
- "Japan faces U.N. racism criticism". The Japan Times. February 26, 2010.
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- Weiner, Michael (2004), Race, Ethnicity and Migration in Modern Japan: Imagined and imaginary minorities, Taylor and Francis, ISBN 978-0-415-20857-4
- Report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance on his visit to Japan, 2006 (E/CN.4/2006/16/Add.2)
- CERD Concluding observations on Japan, 2010
- Broadcast and Human Rights/Other Related Rights Organization
- The Civil Liberties Bureau
- Movements carried on by Zainichi Korean (English)
- Online Newspaper covering Zainichi Korean and Mindan (English)
- Portal for 100-20 years of immigration between Japan and Brazil, Covering Dekasegi and their issues, Rare pictures
- Zainichi (Koreans in Japan) (English)