Daniel Hurst in Tokyo
Friday 31 March 2017
Justice ministry sent survey to thousands of foreign residents to gain an unprecedented glimpse into their experiences
About 30% of the respondents said they had been on the receiving end of discriminatory remarks ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’ Photograph: John Banagan Photography P/L/John W Banagan
Nearly a third of foreigners living in Japan say they have experienced derogatory remarks because of their background, while about 40% have suffered housing discrimination, according to a landmark survey.
Japan’s justice ministry sent questions to thousands of foreign residents to gain an unprecedented glimpse into their experiences of racism in a country that has experienced a surge in overseas visitors.
The results come as the country prepares for the global spotlight of hosting the 2019 Rugby World Cup and 2020 Olympics, and as the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, faces pressure over ties to a nationalist kindergarten accused of denigrating Chinese and Korean people.
The government mailed the survey to 18,500 foreign residents across the country late last year, and received responses from 4,252 of them.
About 30% of the respondents said they had been on the receiving end of discriminatory remarks “often” or “sometimes”. Those comments were most likely to be made by strangers, but many people also pointed the finger at bosses, colleagues or subordinates in their workplaces, the Jiji news agency reported.
Problems in workplaces were not confined to verbal remarks. One in four people who had sought a job said they were denied employment because they were a foreigner, and one in five believed they were paid less than their Japanese counterparts for similar work.
Housing discrimination was also believed to be common among the 2,044 survey respondents who had looked for a place to live in the past five years.
Four in 10 people in this group said they had been stopped from moving into housing because they were foreigners. Some of them had even seen notices saying foreigners were not accepted, the Kyodo news agency reported.
The government responded to the results by pledging to increase education for Japanese people about human rights, while informing foreigners of the support services they could access if they faced discrimination.
“Discriminatory speech and action against foreigners should never be tolerated,” the justice minister, Katsutoshi Kaneda, told reporters.
The survey also found significant unease about ultra-nationalist campaigners who frequently drive around the streets of major cities with loudspeakers expressing their sentiments.
More than 1,150 hate speech rallies were held in Japan between April 2012 and September 2015, according to data previously released by the justice ministry.
Four in 10 respondents to the latest survey said they were uncomfortable about such demonstrations against foreigners. Japan introduced a law to curb hate speech in June last year, but it has been criticised for lacking penalties.
Officials are conscious of the need to improve the Japan’s acceptance of foreigners given increases in the number of people visiting for leisure, work or study.
Tourism figures show more than 24 million people visited last year, an increase of 22% from 2015. The government aims to lift the annual number to 40 million by 2020, the year of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
The number of legal foreign residents, meanwhile, rose by nearly 7% in a year to a record 2.4 million at the end of 2016.
Last year, Abe described hate speech as an “extremely regrettable” phenomenon that “affects our country’s and people’s dignity”.
However, the prime minister is currently battling a political scandal over his ties to nationalist group Moritomo Gakuen, which runs a kindergarten in Osaka that has been accused of denigrating foreigners.
Abe has denied claims that he made a secret donation to the education group, and has offered to resign if he is shown to have personally been involved in a cut-price land deal for the organisation’s proposed new elementary school.
– The Guardian