Later this month, the Diet's Upper House will pass a bill submitted by the ruling coalition addressing the problem of hate speech, specifically directed at non-Japanese. As sociologist Takehiro Akedo explains in his article for the Web magazine Synodos, the Liberal Democratic Party isn't enthusiastic about the bill, but when the Democratic Party of Japan was in power it drafted its own, so the LDP feels it has to follow through, especially since the U.N. has told Japan it needs such a law. Akedo pointed out the bill's flaws: The definition of victims is too narrow and — a flaw in the DPJ draft, as well — there are no enforceable punishments. The main opposition party complained that the LDP bill doesn't even "prohibit" hate speech.

In order to appreciate how pointless the bill is, it's important to know that the main target of Japanese hate speech is resident Koreans, most of whom were born and raised here. Since they don't have Japanese nationality, they are technically foreigners, though many have never stepped outside of Japan. The government has always insisted they can become Japanese nationals, and each year about 7,000 do, but in any case, many want to keep their Korean identity.

In his 1991 book, "Zainichi Gaikokujin" ("Foreigners Living in Japan"), Hiroshi Tanaka writes that after World War II, Japan reserved the right to decide on whether Koreans could naturalize, whereas almost all other erstwhile colonial powers at the time left the naturalization decision up to their former subjects. Though many Koreans "returned" to the peninsula, a large portion stayed and, in order to preserve their language and culture, which had been taken away by their Japanese overlords, they built 525 schools in Japan within a year of the surrender. This did not sit well with the government, which refused to recognize these schools. Those sentiments were duly expressed by Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida in a letter to Gen. Douglas MacArthur, head of the U.S. Occupation authorities, in 1949 suggesting that all Koreans in Japan be deported, citing as reasons their lack of "contribution" to rebuilding the country and their seemingly inherent penchant for criminal activity.