Last October, the Ministry of Justice announced it would conduct a survey on racism in Japan, allowing 18,500 foreign residents to address their concerns on the topic. Though similar surveys have been conducted on a local level, this was the first time a survey regarding discrimination was made on a national level.

The results of the Foreign Residents Survey (FRS) were released on March 31st and indicated that about 30% of respondents asked had experienced some form of discrimination in the past 5 years while living in Japan. The survey was conducted by the Center for Human Rights Education and Training and was mailed out to mid-to-long term foreign residents in 37 municipalities across Japan. It was sent to approximately 500 people per municipality and was provided in 13 different languages.

Out of the 18,500 people who were contacted, 4,252 (almost 23% of the total) responded. The largest number of respondents were from China (1,382 people), followed by South Korea (942 )—the two nationalities made up over half of the respondents—and the Philippines (285). Other nationalities surveyed include Brazilians, Americans and Vietnamese, among others.

Regarding the survey’s responses, 33.5% of the respondents admitted to having been targets of discriminatory language and over half of those said it was from a stranger. More pressingly, almost half of the respondents had looked for a new home in the last 5 years and 39.3% of them (803 people) said they had been denied a rental contract because they were a foreigner. Work-related issues were also apparent. 25% of those surveyed reported their job applications were rejected because they weren’t Japanese, and 17% said they couldn’t get promoted. Nearly 20% stated they had less pay than Japanese coworkers doing equivalent work.

While the nationwide survey is a good start, it has only scratched the surface of the discrimination foreign residents living in Japan are faced with daily. Currently, there are no laws in place specifically against racial discrimination. Last year the Hate Speech Act was passed, yet the law neither bans hate speech, nor enforces any penalties for conducting it. What the law does do is provide consultation systems for those affected, as well as promotional measures to inform the public about the issue.

The Center for Humans Rights Education and Training also reported that over 80% of the survey respondents were not aware of where they could seek help regarding discrimination issues. For human rights queries in Japan, you can visit your local Legal Affairs Bureau or District Legal Affairs Bureau, or call the Foreign Language Human Rights Hotline on 0570-090911, or receive foreign-language counseling online. For more details, visit the Ministry of Justice website.

To see a copy of the Foreign Residents Survey, click here.

Have you ever experienced discrimination in Japan?