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Okinawan governor seeks to back anti-hate laws with criminal punishment

By Luke Mahoney, grape Japan

Japanese citizens are by and large peace-loving and tolerant. The vast majority obey the law, protect group consensus, and avoid rocking the boat. Nevertheless, in this largely homogenous society—approximately 98% of the country’s residents are Japanese—there are significant struggles experienced by social minorities.

According to a 2017 survey conducted by the Ministry of Justice, a third of foreign residents reported they had experienced inflammatory remarks owing to their ethnicity. While most comments reportedly came from strangers, often, the perpetrator was a business acquaintance such as a boss or coworker. Furthermore, 40% of respondents claimed they had experienced housing discrimination.

Over the last several years, organizations and residents have begun to push back on these disturbing findings. Government officials have pledged to educate the public on human rights issues, while large employers like Rakuten have openly embraced diversity platforms. Recently, Okinawan Gov Denny Tamaki, who is half American and half Japanese, is pledging to make anti-hate legislation even more powerful throughout the island prefecture.

Japan’s Anti-Hate Laws

Through the early-to-mid 2010s, tensions between Japan and Korea flared following the development of issues surrounding the historical detainment of comfort women, sex slaves, in Japan during WWII. During the period, gatherings of exacerbated ultra-right-wing groups in Japan increased. Labeled hate speech rallies, many called for the removal, or even execution, of Korean residents in Japan.

In Japan, The Hate Speech Act of 2016 is the law dealing with hate speech ratified in reaction to the treatment of Koreans during this period. Although the law was passed in order to comply with the United Nations “International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,” many view the legislation as toothless.

Critics are likely right. The law is narrowly aimed at speech involving physical threats against a minority resident. Nevertheless, no penalties are defined by the law, and racialized insults are not part of its purview. As such, in online arenas, in particular, hate speech is commonly experienced by ethnic minorities.

Okinawan Decision

At a press conference in Naha city hall on May 16, Tamaki announced a review of the island prefecture’s anti-hate ordinance. According to Tamaki, “Hate speech should not be allowed. It is necessary to study how to restrict [the behavior] and apply penalties.”

Okinawa isn’t the first prefecture to strengthen anti-hate laws. Last year, Kawasaki introduced legislation adding punitive measures against perpetrators who repeatedly harass residents. The ordinance includes a fine of up to 500,000 yen and is aimed at remarks such as "Get out of Japan," "You should die," "You are a cockroach," and the like in public places, using loudspeakers, banners, and so forth. The law is set to come into effect July 2020.

Tamaki plans to leverage the Kawasaki precedent as well as others throughout the country. He explained, "It is also necessary for the administration to thoroughly examine and study precedents in other prefectures.

Although this stance is not common among governors in Japan, Tamaki is no stranger to confrontation. The opposition lawmaker originally won the gubernatorial election based on his strong anti-U.S. military agenda.

Okinawa hosts some 54,000 American troops who often find themselves at odds with locals. As residents' frustrations have grown in recent history, calls to act have increased after numerous safety breaches occurred. Tamaki rode to victory by vowing to obstruct the relocation of the Futenma airbase to the remote northern Henoko district. Rather, the governor aligned himself with the public sentiment calling for the base to be removed entirely from Okinawa. Tamaki has been lobbying the central government to suggest the base be moved to Guam or Australia instead.

While the future of the airbase remains in question, it seems that local sentiment is unlikely to change anytime soon. Nevertheless, new measures against hate speech place restraints on the public expression of any ill-will that the controversial arrangement may garnish. Perhaps Tamaki's mixed background, if only figuratively, is helping him walk a fine line as he navigates the current issue of the Futenma airbase.

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© grape Japan

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Why American bases are still in japan ?? Almost 80 years gone since world war and still these guys are here...

japan government should stop funding these guys first so they can go to there home country atleast...

-10 ( +8 / -18 )

"Kawasaki introduced legislation adding punitive measures against perpetrators who repeatedly harass residents."

Only Kawasaki?

3 ( +6 / -3 )

"repeatedly harass residents." ..I know about that crap in Tokyo, and could have handled it my way, but then the kobanites ....

1 ( +7 / -6 )

Freedom of speech overrides hate speech no matter how vile.

Prosecuting threats of violence based on hate speech is understandable, hate speech just for hate speech sake is not.

And at least Japan is addressing this issue, unlike other Asian countries where open hatred of anything Japanese is perfectly acceptable and indoctrinated among its citizens since youth.

2 ( +10 / -8 )

"Okinawa hosts some 54,000 American troops who often find themselves at odds with locals"

When I was stationed there, once I left out the main gate, I could see the hateful stares from the JN Flops, the many Japanese only establishments. IMO It seems they all just wait complicity for you to make a wrong move , so they can hem you up. That can be very stressful.

I also remember being passed up by many taxi drivers. So me and by base buddies would then go off base in small groups, just for "backup and witnesses, The women present little problem from my experience, its usually he other side. The Japanese working on base are pretty much ok, because the US base police are very active.

One good thing is if there is a problem , the base police will come out and verify the circumstances, and make a report as well, to ensure no hanky panky by the nationals is involved. Almost forgot, they do have JNs there off base who try to setup troops, or provoke, etc, that's why off base we use the buddy system, with fast access to base police.

7 ( +12 / -5 )

This is about hate speech, and speech regardless of type should be allowed to be expressed, as long as it does not turn into physical action causing physical damages to others and property (which laws to control already exists) or by verbal and physical "threat" cause mental, emotional and other physical harm to others and their safety, health and well being. The key appears to be the determination of the "levels of threat" which may cause harm.

Hopefully such laws do not come into existence, as all that was and is apart of personal "expression" and have "two sides" to it. Such problems were controlled by the community based upon social "ethics" and religious "morality." Sadly people do not teach moderation in thought, speech and action so as not to harm others as in the past. One must realize that when there is any "relationship", "responsibility" automatically arise.

When people in power take drastic steps to "control" what they assume and determine as undesirable and unwanted based upon their own"values" and in the name of society only, it is no different than what the social media such as Google and Facebook is doing today. The best example may be what has happened when the States and Prefectures "control" the lives of citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

Problem with criminalizing hate speech is how subjective hate speech can be. Extremist on both sides can and will test the limit, recalibrate, and begin using coded language making the law more vague as it gets revised to keep up.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

"The women present little problem from my experience, its usually he other side."

Congrats; you've just "discovered" an utmost Universal "truth":

That in almost, probably every single country women are less racist(s) and bigoted than men.

This not applicable to Japan only, yer no?


From a man who's not to keen on "over the top" feminism.

Other than that, obviously a norm without enforcement clause(s) is "ineffective", as it fails to deliver on the spirit of the Law.

Probably on its letter too.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Hate speech cannot be fairly regulated by a government. Any such laws will be abused and used to censor legitimate points the government, web site operators and public decide they don't like. All that needs to be done is to take harassment more seriously.

I was once told by a junior high school student to "go home" in front of an entire class. Did I cry like a baby? No. I told him I was here in Japan at the invitation and approval of the Japanese government and I had an instructor visa to prove it. The only reason he was here legally was because he plopped out onto a birthing table. Forget hate laws. Grow a spine or set up a bottled tear business.

to ensure no hanky panky by the nationals is involved. 

That entire post is infuriating. The REAL hanky panky is by the occupation forces who need to go home and find a real job and stop leeching off my tax yen. Americans hated British redcoats for the same reason Japanese hate American camo caps. How can you not see this and feel deep shame? I am not a national (yet). I am American and if I lived near a base, the exact same treatment would be meted out.

The women present little problem from my experience

Women never were very political. Even Dutch, Belgian and French women dated German occupation soldiers in WWII because women tend to live in the here and now and don't fight the wind.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

If a the minority population becomes vocal and starts shouting hate speech at the majority, you'll see how fast laws can change. People who are the majority love shouting about free speech and how it should be protected at all costs until vocal people from the minority use it. Then, what's good for the goose won't be good for the gander.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

If somebody here makes fun of my background I simply make fun of them for being Japanese. They get a really puzzled look on their face but soon be quiet.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Hate and expression of hate, can take many forms. This is addressing hate "speech" which an be from simple expression to intentional (the motive). The first problem is in identifying and defining hate speech. The second problem is in identifying and defining what kind of hate speech is harmful. The third problem is to and for whom such hate speech is harmful. The fourth problem is who has the right and authority to control it.

It is also interesting if one considers the language and semantics of it all when expressed. But, in most cases when in public, it all comes down to lack of meaningful and pertinent information (causing frustration, doubt and insecurity) and the inability to "communicate" with those they hate and get a meaningful response from them. If such information was available and communication was or could be made, "action" would have been taken. If action could not be taken because of some form of social and political control a protest would have occurred.

As all such speech is a means of communication.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

"the governor aligned himself with the public sentiment calling for the base to be removed entirely from Okinawa"

"calling for the base to be removed entirely"

That complicit public sentiment is pervasive throughout the land.

Many acknowledge "they" implicitly want all bases removed.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I hate to see these stupid "hate speech" laws creep into Japan. "Hate speech" is a completely vague concept and having it criminalized opens to door to all sorts of abuse.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Up to a $5000 fine for hate speech!

Great idea. This shows Governor Tamaki's American roots.

A law w/o teeth is meaningless.

Anything to fight racism is a great idea.

Take a look at what is happening across the United States in wake of the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis cop.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

They could pass a law, but as with most things in this country, it won't be enforced. And it certainly won't be used to help the foreigners here.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Does he understand that would include automatic hate of Americans and the troops there?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

A law w/o teeth is meaningless.

Not in Japan. Look how well the government stay at home request worked. Japanese largely complied. And so they do with so many other toothless laws.

This shows Governor Tamaki's American roots.

As an American myself, I suggest he go back to America with that. This is Japan and Japanese people are different and should be handled differently.

Anything to fight racism is a great idea.

No it isn't. You are suggesting throwing the baby out with the bathwater. We only get the correct answers through dialogue. Suppression of free speech is the death of reason.

Take a look at what is happening across the United States in wake of the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis cop.

That is EXACTLY why Japan is doing well to reject many American examples. George Floyd was not killed because of hate speech. He was killed because American cops are rogue. Japan punishes cops like that. America is more likely to give them a promotion.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Send the US military home and a lot of the hate would disappear.

I stress the military only. Real Americans who live and love here are fine, they are not occupiers and will always be welcomed and appreciated.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

Confronting bigotry by being bigoted? Yeah, that always works.

I don't understand your apparent negative response. Giving people a taste of their own medicine is very effective. You do not have to actually believe the medicine is truth for it to work properly.

In other words, some people must be made to walk a mile in the shoes of another before they will ever understand another person.

Or yet other words, empathy is not gained by viewing the hardship of others. Its gained by experiencing hardship for oneself.

Turning the tables often creates mutual understanding. Its all sad truth of being human but its still true.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I got confused. The article starts with hate speech not eventually is talking about US bases in Japan.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Furthermore, 40% of respondents claimed they had experienced housing discrimination.

Back in March I was looking for a new apartment. From the seven places I was interested, four of them refused me when the real estate agent mentioned that the wife is this nationality and the husband is this other nationality. Didn't matter that we have jobs, speak Japanese and everything else was in order. And the fact that the real estate agent had to mention this every time was even more frustrating. Also last year when I was looking for a parking spot so I can buy my car, they said "our clients don't like foreigners, we can't help you" even though they haven't even seen any of my documents. Oh well, their loss.

So yeah, housing discrimination is real.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

The term "hate" should just be abolished as it is much too harsh. When you remove a person's opinion despite what it may be whether one likes to hear it or not is oppression of that right to speak or be heard. Some may be overly hyper about a particular topic, but oppression is oppression. A person could be educated in proper speaking so as to not come across too strong on a topic that becomes racial, bigot etc and yet still make their voice heard. Oppression leads to censorship, censorship in turn and historically speaking leads to well you get the picture...

-3 ( +1 / -4 )


"they said "our clients don't like foreigners, we can't help you" , I've experienced that and many of my friends all too much also.



3 ( +4 / -1 )

"According to a 2017 survey conducted by the Ministry of Justice, a third of foreign residents reported they had experienced inflammatory remarks owing to their ethnicity. "

"Furthermore, 40% of respondents claimed they had experienced housing discrimination"

That percentage is discouraging.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

"Okinawa hosts some 54,000 American troops who often find themselves at odds with locals. As residents' frustrations have grown in recent history, calls to act have increased after numerous safety breaches occurred. "

This is fake news!

Hosts? Never! Nah, the Ryukyuans are hostages of the 54,000 da-kine American troops that refuses to leave even when 'requested' to depart to Guam or Subic and Clark where they belong.

The virtual forced occupation of Okinawa by foreign forces makes Naha the 'Crimea of Asia' .

Under such a grimy condition hates crimes will flourish naturally.

-9 ( +2 / -11 )

I could post a picture of a bumper sticker, in English, thanking US Forces in Japan for being present, yet, as noted, this is about something else.

Act a fool, you will be treated as one, that’s all someone can tell you...figure it out.

The Racism (Reverse) is not universally prevalent.

When I first went to a Leasing Agent with my wife, I heard the first question the owner asked was: “Where was I from?

I drove a truck where a Mainlander { in Okinawa}(couple, male driver, sideswiped my work truck, blames ME, and sits back thinking he’s gunna’ WALK.

Nope, didn’t work that way sonnie. You reap what you sew.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Hiro S Nobumasa I agree with you and I think the votes are rigged here. Pathetic when people cannot handle other opinions so badly they need to cheat.

The U.S. military belongs in the U.S.A.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Wonder if this applies to green vans and buses with driver and crew in boots and imperialistic uniforms. Been yelled at and called names by them, many times. Endured some of their extreme fascist lectures and racist superiority nonsense at work places also ( they seem to like to work where there are gaijin, I dont think "normal Japanese would tolerate them).

There is an undertow, below the surface, of racism in Japan, in many flavors. What some of you have experienced, is really nothing. You have to leave your comfort zone, and go into theirs....better yet, not a good idea, ignorance is bliss.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Japanese citizens are by and large peace-loving and tolerant.

If you need to say it, then it's probably not true.

lol....thats real talk..)

But everything must be prefaced like that....."Let me start by saying...I LOVE JAPAN...but...."

so sick of that act, answer to your master.

Just tell it how it is

It is facts, that Japanese are polite, and a very clean, orderly people, but Ive never experienced somewhere so racist and close minded. Thats just my experience, and I cant lie about it. I hear China and Korea are worse, but on a personal level, never had any trouble with them, but my experience with them has always been in a comfort zone, not in their lane.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

It's NOT just YOUR Experience Mr LongTime; that's the Norm:

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It's unfortunate that opposing US military presence is somehow associated with hate. A bit like in the US where criticizing the policies of Israel is considered antisemitism. That is why I am generally opposed to anti-hate laws, since the powers that be can define what is considered hate to help achieve their agenda...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

On the Job hunting front, I think they should start banning the use of "Native Japanese speakers only to apply"... now if that's not Racist/Discriminatory then what is ?

As to the general, "Gaijins" comments, etc, these are something you get used to, but, it certainly made me appreciate the problems foreigners, and coloured folks especially experienced back in my own home Country.

I doubt that the Okinawan law will be replicated elsewhere, particularly here in Tokyo. Those "Get out of Japan" slogans are popular with the Right wingers driving around certain areas playing overly loud "patriotic?" music, and waving banners. It's commonly known that those organisations are paying-off the Police force, who need to justify their large presences in certain areas. But the reason why those extremist organisations still exist... that's puzzling, and is the danger going forward for Japan - should the US Forces leave.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Japanese citizens are by and large peace-loving and tolerant.

just not towards nurses and doctors in a pandemic, Japanese from Fukushima, fellow students in schools, issues leading to massive suicide rates, rampant bullying and discrimination up and down. But yeah other than that, sure

Japan needs to get to the 20th century let alone the 21st and any movement along that spectrum of justice has to be a good thing. But why Japanese continue to bully themselves to such an extreme is something that has to be considered undesirable

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Some of the most vociferous "haters" are leftist ideologues who, in their more honest moments, will admit that they believe that only their opinions should be allowed to be heard. Younger foreign (sorry--what should I call you?) residents of Japan do not remember when the Japanese were much more "tribalistic" than they are now. Children would scream "haro!" (not that they were trying to mean or were causing any real harm) and store clerks would, on occasion, freak out. Japan is a vastly more pleasant society for those who look "different" than it was fifty years ago (and I go back further than that)...This evening I went out shopping with my wife, both of us wearing masks. I saw two young men in the supermarket who were not. No one badgered them...In at least one foreign country I am thinking of, where until just recently wearing a mask was considered a freakish "East Asian" thing to do, there have been fistfights over non-wearers...Japan has common sense and more or less agreed-upon behavior. She doesn't need Prussian-style "laws" to enforce omoi-yari...Hmmm....I wonder how "hate-speech" is treated in Minneapolis, where looting and pillaging are taking place even now.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Pleas Japan. ..don't become Europe! Let them all know constantly, where they are . !!!!

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

"protect group consensus, and avoid rocking the boat." Sadly, in Japan (as in many other countries), not rocking the boat includes being racist.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

There is no such thing as tolerance for intolerance. Hate speech is not free speech. There is no free speech without responsibility. If you oppose a law that is aimed at preventing organized, public hate speech, then you are part of the problem.

Minnesota is burning because no one listened.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

There are so many lovely Japanese people out there that I am saddened when I meet the vile, xenophobic and ill educated ones...

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I, as well as my American friend have been treated horribly in japan. But not only was it verbal, it was very subtle and sneaky,.. something in the air at times and those eyes through the surgical masks that would somehow create a xenophobic air and atmosphere were you didn't fit in.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

As was seen in the inflammatory hate speech used by Osaka police sent to quell demonstrations in Okinawa a year or so ago, it is no accident that Okinawa is pushing for real teeth behind hanko-dori laws not worth the paper they are written on.

Hmmm ... Judging by this article, https://www.nippon.com/en/in-depth/d00479/no-rights-no-regret-new-ainu-legislation-short-on-substance.html, the Ainu have a good case for extending the (nearly) global 'Black Lives Matter' to 'White Lives Matter too' movement.

But they'll have to get permission from the authorities for the exact time and place of any demonstration of protest. Japan Inc. has long since successfully made 'Disruptive Protest' an oxymoron.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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