National

Japan's first-ever hate speech probe finds rallies are fewer but still a problem

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

Although less widespread than before, a “significant” number of xenophobic rallies organized by nationalist groups still occur on a regular basis in Japan, the Justice Ministry revealed Wednesday in its first-ever probe into hate speech.

The investigation into hate speech, which began to manifest itself around 2013 amid Japan’s deteriorating relations with South Korea, found that anti-Korean activist group Zaitokukai and other ultraconservative organizations held 1,152 rallies on various themes from April 2012 to September 2015.

A total of 347 happened in 2013, 378 in 2014 and 190 from January through September in 2015.

The ministry said it kept tabs on the rallies by tracking event schedules posted on the websites of such organizations and through online videos of the events.

Although 2015 witnessed a “substantial” decrease in the scale of such rallies, “it’s still not at all the case that they have subsided,” the ministry concluded.

Most of these rallies, ministry official Atsushi Maeda said, ostensibly seek to protest certain diplomatic issues, such as North Korea’s abduction of Japanese citizens, a territorial dispute with South Korea over islets in the Sea of Japan and the wartime “comfort woman” issue of Asian women forced into sexual servitude by the Imperial Japanese Army before and during World War II.

But despite their purported political nature, a “significant” number of the demonstrations in reality featured a string of derogatory invective against ethnic minorities, Maeda said.

Prominent examples of vitriolic language favored by the protesters include violent slogans such as “You should all be massacred,” phrases such as “Get the hell out of Japan,” and insults calling Koreans “cockroaches,” according to video analysis of 72 such rallies conducted by the ministry.

In the rallies, participants typically brandish placards and yell epithets while marching on the streets of neighborhoods home to large numbers of ethnic Koreans such as Shin-Okubo in Tokyo and Tsuruhashi in Osaka.

The ministry, meanwhile, attributed a recent drop in the frequency of these rallies to a 2014 Osaka High Court ruling that ordered Zaitokukai to pay about ¥12 million in damages for a series of hateful rallies it organized in front of a Kyoto-based Korean school.

The survey also followed an unprecedented move by the ministry last December to issue an official warning to Zaitokukai to halt its hateful activities.

Separately, Justice Ministry officials tasked with protecting human rights also surveyed 20 ethnic Korean residents living in Tokyo, Osaka and Kawasaki to hear their thoughts on demonstrations that feature hate speech.

“Those rallies basically call for a genocide of Koreans. It’s beyond disappointing that they occur in Japanese society,” said a woman in her 60s who lives in Shibuya Ward, the survey showed.Meanwhile, a 40-something woman who took part in a rally to protest the government’s decision to exclude Korean schools from a tuition waiver program shared her experience: “People on the sides of the road screamed things like, ‘Why are you even alive?’ and ‘You have filthy blood.’ I was on the verge of tears.”

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