Hate Speech in Japan : The Meaning of Race and the Net Right Activism

My project will focus on the racism in Japan through analyzing the recent prevalence and increase in the case of hate speech. This is quite meaningful and important topic as it contradicts with the fact that Japanese government, companies, and universities are trying hard than ever before to promote foreign workers and students to join their community. This project will try to draw out the concept of race in Japan, which is very different from that of the U.S.A., and how it is related to the representation and rhetoric of the hate speech.

Meaning of Race In Japanese Context

Racism toward non-Japanese, especially permanent ethnic Korean residents, is not a new phenomenon. Discrimination of Korean residents has always existed since the beginning of the 20th century when Japan colonized Korea. However, the concept of “hate speech” has only been shared and used widely among people and media since 2013, as the anti-Korean rhetoric on-line started to emerge on the off-line public space. What is significant about this phenomenon is that the discussion about race was brought up on the table finally that it has been hard for anyone to ignore to face the root of this problem, which the society always carried but was recognized only among particular people, such as Korean residents themselves or their supporters.

How does race matter to Japan, where many people still think it as a homogeneous country? If the “color of the skin” is the same, why is it important for the racists to distinguish the race of ethnic Korean from Japanese? Is there a difference between anti-foreigner and racist attitude? Is it really racist to exaggerate the difference between Japanese and other race/ethnic/nationality? Through the project, I would like to explore the concept of race in Japan by comparing it with the U.S.A.

Here is a TV commercial by All Nippon Airways which arose much controversy as being racist especially among non-Japanese residents in Japan, and also surprised the world as one of the biggest airline companies in Japan could produce such commercial without considering the reaction and impact they will receive internationally. This incident tells how naive Japan is regarding the topic of race and racism.

Hate Speech On-Line and Off-Line

Zaitoku-Kai (在特会) is the major hate speech group. It is an abbreviation of the group’s name which means “Citizens Group That Will Not Forgive Special Privileges for Koreans in Japan.” According to their website, Zaitoku-kai was formed in 2006 and they claim that Korean residents have “privileges,” such as preferential treatment for receiving public welfare benefits, reductions and exemptions on taxes, and easier to gain Japanese citizenship than other resident foreigners etc. Their ultimate goal is to “let the government treat resident Koreans equal to other resident foreigners.” They claim that since Japanese and its government has a perception that “resident Koreans are the victims of the colonial history,” the unequal treatments of resident Koreans have been prevailed. Zaitoku-kai’s criticisms are not only against resident Koreans, but also Korean government who argue that Koreans were forcefully brought to Japan as a labor force or that women were force to serve as a military prostitute, which are against Zaitoku-kai’s understanding of the historical “truth.”

Zaitoku-kai uses apparently racist words. However, I assume and will try to confirm through the project that Zaitoku-kai lacks, or Japanese as a whole lack an clear concept of race and racism. An article of The New York Times states that “Though some here compare these groups to neo-Nazis, sociologists say that they are different because they lack an aggressive ideology of racial supremacy.” In his reportage of Zaitoku-kai, Yasuda (2012) argues that fro the members of Zaitoku-kai, their aggressive rhetoric is rather performed to radiate their frustration towards the society, which has been diminishing political and economic status internationally, facing many social issues, and losing the traditional value which is leading the individual to isolation in the.

As the background of Zaitoku-kai’s formation is different from other nationalist groups or traditional far-right groups, not only their contents of claims and the membership (many young people and women) are unique, but also the methodology of demonstration performance is new. Zaitoku-kai’s demonstration on the street is always released on-line,thus, their demonstration filled with extremely harsh and insane expressions toward resident Koreans are widely and quickly spread in order to expand their membership. As such, they are also called “Net Right Wing.”

"Net Right Wing" organization Zaitoku-Kai's website. The website design is quite simple, but has already attracted 14,000 members.

“Net Right Wing” organization Zaitoku-Kai’s website. The website design is quite simple, but has already attracted 14,000 members.


Japan does not have any law that regulates hate speech. The need to establish regulations against hate speech and hate crime has been brought up, but many argues “the freedom of speech” on the constitution, which is a similar discussion in the U.S.A. According to Akedo (2014),as Japan entered the World War by regulating the speech, people are careful about the regulations of hate speech as it could be expanded to regulate many different types of speech. However, as Morooka (2013) insists the need to set the regulations and argues the importance to focus on the severe mental effect of the targeted victims.This summer, Japan got recommendation and suggestions from the UN Human Rights Committee to “develop concrete plan and carry out comprehensive education programme for the elimination of discrimination.” In the project, I will also focus on the discussion about regulations and the government’s reaction.

Recently, I attended a meeting at Harvard where students who received the threat emails gathered. There, I could recognize for the first time how those words toward particular group of people could actually threaten the individual, as the students there complained with tears their fear to walk out side. The speech of Zaitoku-kai is extremely indecent and filthy that you cannot stand listening to it after few minutes. I can now better imagine the enormous effect the targeted victims will experience, which is too dangerous to ignore.

Works Cited

Fackelr, Martin. (2010, Augst 28). New Dissent in Japan Is Loudly Anti-Foreign. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/29/world/asia/29japan.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Koichi, Yasuda (2012). Netto to Aikoku : Zaitoku-Kai no “Yami” Wo Oikakete [Net and Nationalism- the “darkness” of the Zaitoku-Kai.” Kodansha Publish.

Miky1209 (2013, April 4). Japanese racist in action- We Will Start Tsucuhashi Massacre like the Nanjing Massacre! [Video file] . Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrxOVbkMG-A

Morooka, Yasuko (2013). Heito Speech Towa Nanika [What is hate speech]. Iwanami Shinsho Publish.

Network for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Japan (ERD Net). “NGO Report on The Issue of Hate Speech in relation to the Issue No. 10 of the List of Issues adopted by the Human Rights Committee (CCPR/C/JPN/Q/6)” Web. 20 Oct. 2014. http://imadr.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Hate-Speech-in-Japan_ERD-NET_Human-Rights-Committe_111th-session.pdf

Nippon Chikusho [日本畜生!] (2014, January 20). Racist Japanese ANA (All Nippon Airways) Commercial [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCjxzpSrFP4

Takahiro, Aketo. America ni Okeru heito speech kiseiron no rekishiteki bunmyaku : 90 nenndai no kiseironson ni okeru kouminken undou no “keisho” [ Discussion of Hate Speech Regulation in the United State : Discussion during the 90s’s civil rights movement and its “heritage”]. Retrived from http://www.keiho-u.ac.jp/research/asia-pacific/pdf/review_2014-03.pdf

Zaitoku-Kai. Retrived from http://www.zaitokukai.info/

This entry was posted in Uncategorized by tigerkay. Bookmark the permalink.

About tigerkay

Hi, my name is Kay. Interested in immigration, race, and diversity in the society we live. For now, I will be focusing on mainly writing stories about people living around Fukuoka, Japan who have cultural/national/racial roots other than Japan. Through this listening (interview) and writing process, I wish to find out how differences foster creativity, imagination and tolerance in the society, what it means to be living in a place where one is the minoroty, how we can accept differences, and how we can all live together by respecting each other.

2 thoughts on “Hate Speech in Japan : The Meaning of Race and the Net Right Activism

  1. Pingback: A Decent Japanese Village Vs. Ugly Hate Groups | The Marmot's Hole

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s