As we approach 2020 and tourist numbers reach a whopping 20 million, the government is increasing its efforts to make foreigners feel more welcome in Japan, with the latest action being a large-scale survey on racism.
Every foreigner residing in Japan for a long period has probably experienced racism in one form or another. It may be as subtle as someone moving seats on a train to be further away from you – as Baye McNeil described in his article “On Being Black in Japan” – or as obvious as a train conductor apologizing for the large crowd of tourists on the train through the announcement system, or being denied a rental contract for an apartment.
Or, if you’re one of the country’s 400,000 Korean residents, it could mean being subjected to hate speech and having to endure anti-Korean demonstrations, which continue to be held by xenophobic extremist groups such as Zaitokukai.
But it seems, this year, the government is sitting up and taking notice. In June, the government passed Japan’s first law against hate speech, and now the Justice Ministry is planning to conduct an unprecedented survey on racism in Japan. The survey will include 18,500 foreign residents that are 18 years or older and will be translated into 13 languages. Among other questions, the survey will ask participants if they have experienced racial discrimination in their daily life or at the workplace. The survey will also include questions about which actions they would like the government to take.
So far the Justice Ministry has not explained how the survey will be conducted, or who will be approached, although some reports have indicated it will be mailed out to selected people. The survey’s outcome will be released by the end of March 2017 and the government plans to reflect its outcome in new policies.