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Thread: Discrimination in Japan

  1. #1
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Discrimination in Japan

    I would like to summarize the situation regarding discrimination in Japan in this thread. Please feel free to add your views.

    Japan is a country where few people believe strongly in religious, political or philosophical ideas. In other words, morals and ideals are not a major concern, because people rely a lot on common sense and values inculcated by the educational system or the society. Japan is a very collectivist country when it comes to rules. People usually don't do things that are frown upon, but also tend to do things that might be considered immoral in other countries, just because "everybody" (=many people) else does it (eg. political corruption, teenage prostitution...).

    Racial discrimination

    Usually not a big problem at work, because Japanese are usually in contact with foreigners while working for foreign companies (so they are subordinates and can't complain). However, few foreigners happen to work for Japanese companies. That may justly be because of discrimination from the recruitment process ("foreigners don't speak Japanese well enough or do not understand the Japanese system").

    I am not quite sure of the discrimination encountered by Koreans or Chinese born and raised in Japan. There is dicrimination against them, but they usually tend to change their name to a Japanese one, so that it becomes almost impossible to tell they are foreigners.

    The most common complaints regarding discrimination in Japan is for accommodation. Nowadays, few hotels will refuse foreigners outright because they don't look Japanese (even if they speak Japanese, like Alan Booth explained in his book the Roads to Sata). But cases of real estate agencies or landlords refusing to rent an apartment/flat to someone only on grounds that they are not Japanese, even if they are fluent in Japanese, have a stable job and a long-term or permanent visa, are still common place nationwide. It is not even illegal (or not enforced) for them to post signs such as "no foreigners or dogs allowed". The government visibly has a lot to do to curb discrimination.

    Interestingly, there is no word in Japanese for "racism". The nearest translation is 人種差別政策 (racial discrimination policy) or 人種的偏見 (racial prejudice). But these words do not include the sense of superiority felt by real racists (like the Nazi). It is also undeniable that a lot of Japanese feel superior to their Asian neighbours, while discriminating against them. It is thus convenient for Japanese not to have the word "racism" in their vocabulary, so that no law can effectively prohibit it, and discussion about it is seriously hampered.

    Sex discrimination

    Contrarily to the common belief, discrimination toward women is not so deply anchored into Japanese history and traditions. For instance, Japan has had several empress already before the Heian Period, and as late as the Edo Period. Women were officially banned from reigning in the early 20th century, during a surge of national mysoginy.

    After WWII, women have had specially assigned, such jobs as receptionist, secretary, dead-end OL positions or just serving tea, smiling and cheering the male staff. This is not unique to Japan, but Western women reach more equalty earlier than in Japan (although feminist movements have existed at least since Meiji in Japan).

    Sex discrimination, combined with sexual harassment, have been part of everyday life in Japanese companies. A lot has been achieved regarding sexual harassment, but glass ceilings preventing women from reachig high positions still exist in most Japanese companies.

    Interestingly again, Japanese have no word for "glass ceiling", which makes it more difficult to tackle as many people do not even think about the concept.

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  2. #2
    Cute and Furry Ewok85's Avatar
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    What happened to the UN telling Japan to deal with the racism issues?

  3. #3
    Finally Enlighted One Buddha Smoker's Avatar
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    Well, I know Japan is an open-minded country in some aspects but it takes time to change a mind-set. I think Japan is ahead of the States though. I mean, even though Japan disciminates a lot they do it more politely most of the time.

    I have a lot to say but not sure where to start.

  4. #4
    Oni me no Riven. Riven's Avatar
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    For what I heard things are going better, specially among the yound generation. Am I wrong ?
    Last edited by Riven; Jun 5, 2004 at 18:38. Reason: Mistake :p
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  5. #5
    Finally Enlighted One Buddha Smoker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Riven
    For what I heard things are going better, specially amping the yound generation. Am I wrong ?
    Yes, things are getting better with the younger generations because they are around foreigners more and foreign ideas, etc.. so they are not just learning about themselves but about the world at the same time.

  6. #6
    As the Rush Comes Duo's Avatar
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    I read that if you ask the average Japanese about racism, he will be surprised about the question because most japanse equate racism with acts of violence, which are rare in Japan.

  7. #7
    *censored* Foxtrot Uniform's Avatar
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    Actually, I have friends or family who have come across racial discrimination in Japan. For example, many private porno stores or places such as brothels do not let "gaijin" in because the owners do not want gaijin to "interact" with japanese women. Another time, my friend could not get a credit card because the credit card company said that gaijin are less reliable and they might "pack up and leave" any day.

    Btw, personally, i think there is a difference betweem racism and racial disrimination in the sense that racism is a stronger feeling and it sometimes involves violence. Groups like the KKK and the Nazi's invlolved racism and exaples that i have given above are racial disrimination.

  8. #8
    Finally Enlighted One Buddha Smoker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shitkicker
    Actually, I have friends or family who have come across racial discrimination in Japan. For example, many private porno stores or places such as brothels do not let "gaijin" in because the owners do not want gaijin to "interact" with japanese women. Another time, my friend could not get a credit card because the credit card company said that gaijin are less reliable and they might "pack up and leave" any day.

    Btw, personally, i think there is a difference betweem racism and racial disrimination in the sense that racism is a stronger feeling and it sometimes involves violence. Groups like the KKK and the Nazi's invlolved racism and exaples that i have given above are racial disrimination.
    I've seen it happen with bar tha refuse service and also in department stores that have refuse service too. It is getting rarer and rarer that it happens but it's still there a bit.

  9. #9
    Baka
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    This is one of the things that concerns me as I play on joining the JET programme. I had never really heard of Japan being racist until I joined these forums, and big daikon.

    I read about police calling gaijin scum and giving them a hard time. A bar may not serve a gaijin, but you would expect a huge department store to cater to everyone, all this talk of racism certainly has dampened my enthusiam about going.

  10. #10
    Dog Youkai playaa's Avatar
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    Seriously my whole time in Japan, I did not run into ANY racial problems except! I was in Kawasaki about my 3rd to last day, and ran across some Uyoku, my Japanese friend was explaining to me what they were and some of them happened to be standing behind us and overheard.. They then began yelling in Japanese to my friend and my friend was like HURRY let's get in a taxi! Well after being chased by big black van's all the way to the internet cafe we were going to the guy that was originally standing behind us ran up to the taxi window when it stopped and went to punch me so when I got out I hit him a couple of times got back in the taxi and ran some more...

    So advice, if you see the big black vans with flags hanging from them be quiet and just keep to yourself (If you cannot fight).
    "Kanpeki to chau, jinsei no shuushi
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  11. #11
    Hentai Koutaishi Lina Inverse's Avatar
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    So these "uyoku" are just some type of Yakuza or something? Care to explain?

  12. #12
    Dog Youkai playaa's Avatar
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    From what I understand, they are hardcore people that only follow the emperor and hate anyone and everything other then JAPAN. Any kind of foreign relations, and I hear they start riots, fights, crimes, etc..

    They ride around in these big black vans with Japanese flags hanging from them. And I guess you could call them some sort of Yakuza.

  13. #13
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lina Inverse
    So these "uyoku" are just some type of Yakuza or something? Care to explain?
    "Uyoku" literally means "right-winger", but refers to the ultra-nationalist minority who often ride these black vans blaring music and nationalist slogans in loud-speakers around town. I have seen them pass only about 5 times in 3 years in Tokyo.

    Rather than calling them yakuza, I'd compare them to some kind of neo-nazi, except that they mainly limit themselves to making a lot of noise in front of the Russian embassy to reclaim the few (small, uninhabited and harsh) Kuril islands north of Hokkaido.

  14. #14
    Dog Youkai playaa's Avatar
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    Yup... Exactly they were blareing the national anthem when they were where i was at..

  15. #15
    Finally Enlighted One Buddha Smoker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spaceghost
    all this talk of racism certainly has dampened my enthusiam about going.
    Don't let it dampened your enthusiam about being Japan. It's just nice to be aware of it but it is getting harder and harder to find it nowadays.

    Quote Originally Posted by playaa
    From what I understand, they are hardcore people that only follow the emperor and hate anyone and everything other then JAPAN. Any kind of foreign relations, and I hear they start riots, fights, crimes, etc..
    I haven't seen them that much either in the 10 years that I've been in Japan and it has been a long time since I've seen them. I know they are still around but nothing to worry about, I think.

  16. #16
    Danshaku Elizabeth's Avatar
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    I haven't seen them that much either in the 10 years that I've been in Japan and it has been a long time since I've seen them. I know they are still around but nothing to worry about, I think.
    I probably saw them 7 or 8 times in the space of 2 1/2 months when I was there a couple years ago....mostly around Shinjuku, but it sounds like things have quieted down a bit since then.

  17. #17
    無修正! m477's Avatar
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    Yeah, I wouldn't refer to them as Yakuza. From what I have seen, real Yakuza are practically businessmen in comparison. Near my girlfriend's apartment there are a bunch of them, they run brothels and drive around in black Benzes with tinted windows, and generally mind their own business.

  18. #18
    Finally Enlighted One Buddha Smoker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by m477
    Yeah, I wouldn't refer to them as Yakuza. From what I have seen, real Yakuza are practically businessmen in comparison. Near my girlfriend's apartment there are a bunch of them, they run brothels and drive around in black Benzes with tinted windows, and generally mind their own business.
    Yeah, Yakuza can actually be really nice if you talk with them. I had a drink one time with a couple of them. They paid for everything and we really polite. To be honest, I had no idea they were Yakuza until after they left and the bartender thanked me for being nice to them (either way I didn't have to pay for my drinks and snacks that night ). The bartender told me that one of them was one of the higher people (exactly how high, I have no idea) and was extremely happy that nothing happened. Afterwards, I felt a bit weird but quickly blew it off. After that, the bartender said they asked for me a couple times but we never met again.

    But Yakuza can be better than Uyoku though. I guess the saying "lesser of two evils" fits here somewhere.

  19. #19
    Baka
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    Hehe that is a ncie story....in a way.

    It would seem you are fluent in Japanese from your journal, I would be slightly concerned to talk to them if my Japanese was poor incase I accidently insulted them.

    It is really the bigdaikon stories that got me, the school officials not wanting to give the JETs a decent place to live (no hot water!?) and the police and security guards being quite aggresive and insulting and general things like that.

    Hopefully if I was walking along a street and some Uyoku decided to drive past they would not all jump out and attack me.

    Back to yakuza, the only time I get to see them is generally through the media, films, anime, manga etc, quite often there seem to be "good" yakuza who are more samurai like and normally the old ones, and then you have the young punk yakuza that like to think they own the place and abuse everyone.

    Budha Smoker how did you come start talking to the yakuza? And also as you have lived in Japan for so long, what kind of racism have you encountered?

    Am I blind or is there no edit button?

    I wanted to add: I would never expect racism from a department store, they are just so huge you would expect them to encounter alot of gajin, and also be part of a chain that needs to keep a good reputation. You would expect a complaint and the racist person to be fired if it was in the USA or UK.

    At least with a bar it is probably privately owned, I think I am worrying too much, I won't be in Japan for at least another 3 years.

    I really do hope that when I get placed (JET) I have a fellow JETer nearby and not be off in the middle of no where with no english speaking contacts.

    Weird...looks like my messages got merged.

  20. #20
    *censored* Foxtrot Uniform's Avatar
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    Oh and most of the Uyoku are like rednecks who drove around in vans with stickers of the japanese flag on them, and most of the Yakuza I've seen look like rich business men. You'll probabaly get more trouble from the police than from the Yakuza or the Uyoku.

  21. #21
    Baka
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    So what is this occuring theme with Japanese police and Gaijin? How come they don't like us?

  22. #22
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    In my experience (first came to live and work in Japan in 1985), discrimination against foreigners was at somewhat of a peak in the 1980's, in large part due to (a) the trade war with the U.S. and the negative media coverage of all things American during that time, and (b) a certain nationalist arrogance Japan was feeling at the time due to their economic dominance.

    During that time, I was stopped by police for "bicycling while foreign" on many occasions, and a policeman stopping you while walking down the street and asking you for your gaijin card was far from unheard-of. In the many times I went apartment hunting, I had a 90%+ rejection rate just from when the landlord heard I was non-Japanese. The real estate agents even used the exact identical phrase when explaining it to me: "gaijin wa dame." Can't tell you how many hundreds of times I heard that phrase. I saw three specific notices at real estate agencies which read "pets, bar girls (mizushoubai) and foreigners not allowed."

    I was once told to leave a restaurant as I walked in, and one video shop said I could not join unless I held Japanese citizenship. However, these two locations were both in proximity to Yokota base, and likely the reactions there were to the perceived unruly behavior of military personnel, imagined or not.

    The media could be very bad. If you saw a foreigner on TV during that time, it was quite common for them to be portraying a criminal or AIDS carrier or something of the like. America was seen as a violent, crime-ridden nation. One drama had a Japanese couple visit Hawaii and suffer as victims of five different crimes in the span of a few days, including mugging and rape. One well-publicized TV movie, "Rosu no Dai-ikkyu Satsujin" (The First-Degree Murderer of Los Angeles) was "based upon" the story of a Japanese woman living in L.A. with her husband and two small children; her husband cheated on her, she found out, committed oya-ko suicide (took her kids with her)--her kids died but she didn't, and she was charged with murder. The jury sentenced her to time served upon understanding the cultural differences. But in the TV movie, the woman was made out to be a heroic victim, she did not commit suicide, but rather violent Americans started a fire which killed her kid and she was unmercifully disbelieved and sentenced to prison time. This was kind of typical of the era.

    Sports was also a big area of discrimination. Foreign batters, brought in for their home run power, were commonly beaned by Japanese pitchers who believe that this was the way things were done in the U.S.--without thinking that rushing the mound and beating the **** out of such a pitcher was also the way thing were done. But the foreign players were blamed for the violence, even though a majority (around 2/3rds, I believe) of the violence was perpetrated by Japanese players, coaches and managers. But TV shows didn't reveal that--one sports show had about 20 clips of violence on the field, all but one of which was foreign players rushing the mound--and the last clip being of a coach shouting at an ump, followed by the announcer 'reasonably' admitting that "Japanese could be violent, too."

    Sports magazines commonly changed the kanji for "gai-jin" ("outside person") to the homonym "gai-jin" ("harmful person"), and the term was used so commonly as an epithet that it had to actually be banned by the league.

    -----

    Today, things are quieter. Japan has suffered not only a decade-long recession, but has seen a surge in home-grown crime (witness the schoolgirl killing just a few days ago) as well; it has been my observation that both of these have humbled Japanese people somewhat in terms of how they relate Japan to the rest of the world. The contrast between the late 80's and today is very marked. I rarely hear stories of foreigners on bikes being pulled over, and never hear of gaijin-card checks any more. Landlords still discriminate, but not as much nor as brashly as before.

    Discrimination will exist, as it always does in all places, but in my past six unbroken years of residence I hardly see any of that at all. It is a good time in that respect to live in Japan, though the job market is far less attractive than it was.

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  23. #23
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Very interesting post BlogD.

    Quote Originally Posted by BlogD
    The contrast between the late 80's and today is very marked. I rarely hear stories of foreigners on bikes being pulled over, and never hear of gaijin-card checks any more.
    I am not sure how often you used to be checked by the police, but I have been checked 4 times in one month between mid-January and mid-February this year, including 3 times the same week, and everytime well before midnight (between 8 and 10pm) and everytime less than 2min from where I live. I have been checked twice by the same guy 2 consecutive days and had to show my alien registration card each time (as if he couldn't remember me). Everytime I was wearing a suit as I was going back home from work. I haven't been checked since then though. They only briefly checked, were polite and didn't ask too many questions, but it is quite annoying (and embarassing when Japanese around are watching you) to be the only person checked like that. Usually they check if the bike is not stolen with the registration number, and I am aware that Japanese could be checked too after the last train (around 12:30). But in my case, they only checked the bike's number twice, and the other 2 times only asked for my gaikokujin torokusho (which mean they didn't care about the bicycle at all).

    I have only been checked one other time outside these 4 and it was 2 years ago when I was going to the combini around 1am. I was shocked as it was my first time and 2 policemen got out of their car and came running toward me as I was waiting for the pedestrian traffic light to turn green. They asked me about 10 questions (do you speak Japanese, where do you live, what do you do, why are you in Japan, etc.) before finally asking if that was my bicycle. I said yes and immediately showed them my registration paper I still had in my wallet since I had bought the bike just a few weeks before. They were quite surprised I had that paper with me (nobody does) and apologized after checking one more time my bike's number by talkie-walkie. Bastards. That won't help my contempt for policemen as being people who haven't been able to finish high school and have nothing better to do than bully working citizens while getting paid with their taxes to release their frustration.

  24. #24
    Hi Keiichi's Avatar
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    What is the reason they're checking, might I ask?
    K1

  25. #25
    Japan Blogger
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    Wow. I have noticed that police behavior is specific to certain areas--in Tachikawa I was never stopped, for example, while in Koganei, just a few stations down the Chuo, I got stopped constantly.

    Sounds like you have a bad area.

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