1st Quarterly, 2005 No.135

Answers to Questions Raised by the Special Rapporteur


During his interviews with NGOs representing affected communities as well as with governmental agencies, the Special Rapporteur basically raised the following questions. Buraku Liberation and Human Rights Research Institute prepared answers to the questions from the viewpoint of Buraku problem. Answers were made by Kenzo Tomonaga, the Director of the BLHRRI.

1. Is there racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia or related intolerance in Japan?

1-1. Yes
1-2. Traditionally, it has been based on the idea of the superiority of Yamato (Japanese) people with the emperor in the center. In recent years, opinions and activism supported by the idea of state-power-supremacy and xenophobia have become more conspicuous.

2. What are the manifestations of this racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia or related intolerance?

2-1. Discrimination at the time of employment or marriage.
2-2. Discriminatory acts and behavior in workplaces, communities and schools.
2-3. Discriminatory graffiti, letters and harassment calls (including those by mobile phone).
2-4. Discriminatory propaganda and incitement on the Internet.

3. What is the position of the public authority vis-?-vis racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia or related intolerance?

3-1 Police and Courts:

In the Sayama Case, the police conducted an investigation driven by the prejudiced belief that Burakumin would be likely to commit such crimes. Judges also conducted unfair trials without investigative procedures or fact-finding, indicating their ignorance about the reality of Buraku discrimination. During March 2005, the second special appeal for retrial was rejected. Defense counselors are currently preparing for the third special appeal.

3-2. Government:

For 33 years from 1969 to 2002, measures were implemented under the "Law on Special Measures for Dowa Projects." After its expiry in 2002, the position of the national government has significantly backslid, despite the fact that Buraku discrimination still exists.

The government faces the following specific problems:

  1. There is no department or section in the government set up to promote comprehensive measures or programs towards a complete solution of the Buraku problem.
  2. The government has not conducted any nationwide research to investigate into the actual conditions of Dowa (Buraku) districts since 1993.
  3. The government has not created any specific programs to resolve the Buraku problem since the expiry of the Law on Special Measures for Dowa Projects.

3-3. Local Governments:

With the expiry of the Law in 2002, local governments have tended towards one of two different courses: the continuance of efforts towards a solution of the Buraku problem and the establishment of human rights by issuing ordinances for the elimination of Buraku and other forms of discrimination and/or community building with respect for human rights; or backsliding along with the national government.

An example of the former is the Osaka Prefectural Government, which has a Human Rights Division in the Planning and Coordination Office, and a Human Rights Planning Section in the Board of Education. It also conducted a survey in 2000 to investigate into the actual conditions of Dowa districts in Osaka Prefecture in order to seek a solution to the Buraku problem, and has created an ordinance to develop communities with full of respect of human rights.

4. What are the affected communities? Are children and women particularly affected, and how? Are any other vulnerable groups particularly affected?
5. Which rights are the most affected by this discrimination: health, education, employment, access to justice, housing, etc.?

4-1. Buraku people, Ainu people, Koreans in Japan, migrant people, and Okinawan people.

5-1. About Buraku people:

Numbers of Dowa districts and total population: According to the last governmental research, there were 4,442 Dowa districts with 298,385 households and a population of 892,751 people. However, the statistics usually quoted by researchers and NGOs state that there are 6,000 Buraku areas containing 3 million people.

5-2. Buraku women have been suffering from discrimination in education and employment.

5-3. There are gaps between the mainstream population and Buraku youth in terms of academic ability, access to higher education, and unemployment rates.

5-4. Buraku elderly people have a shorter life-expectancy, higher proportions of physical disability, and higher proportions receiving public livelihood assistance.

5-5. Buraku areas tend to have higher proportions of people with disabilities.

5-6. Others: Buraku have more single parent families, and face a faster aging population as young people move out to non-Buraku areas.

6. What are the measures adopted by the public authority to fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia or related intolerance? Are these measures appropriate or sufficient? What has been their impact? Which other measures would be needed?

6-1. Government: From 1969 to 2002, different measures were taken by the government under the Law on Special Measures for Dowa Projects.

  1. Improvements: Improvements were made in the housing environment.
  2. Problems to be solved: There are still gaps between Buraku and non-Buraku in terms of education and employment. Deeply-rooted discriminatory attitudes in society have not yet been eradicated.
  3. Problems that have not been challenged: Eradication of discriminatory incidents and provision of remedies for victims of discrimination.
  4. Newly emerged problems: "Discrimination from envy," which is discrimination from people who are envious of Buraku, believing that only Buraku areas enjoy improvement.
  5. Measures needed for the future:

-1. Improvement in housing conditions: To be improved to accommodate a variety of age groups and different levels of family income in Buraku areas. Also, to facilitate settings in which Buraku people and non-Buraku people can live together in harmony.
-2. Dissolution of gaps in education and employment.
-3. Eradication of discriminatory attitudes against Buraku: Promotion of human rights education and training in schools, public life and workplaces.
-4. Eradication of discriminatory incidents and remedies for victims: A law to prohibit discrimination and provide redress for victims has to be enacted.
-5. Elimination of "discrimination from envy": Supporting community development that improves both Buraku areas and neighboring communities.

7. Are the positions of the Government and the measures it adopted (legislation and others) in conformity with the international obligations undertaken by the Government (international human rights conventions ratified by Japan) as well as with international standards?

7-1. Japan concluded the International Covenants on Human Rights in 1979, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1985, the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1994, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in 1995.

7-2. From the viewpoint of a solution of Buraku problem, the following problems still exist:

  1. The Japanese Government does not admit that the term "descent" prescribed in Article 1 of the CERD also refers to Buraku.
    Note: In the concluding observations on the first and second periodic reports of Japan by ICERD, it clearly states that the Buraku problem falls under the term "descent."
  2. No adjustments or improvements have been made in national legislation to implement the CERD. At least, the following improvements should be made:
    -1. The development of a basic law that supports effective national implementation of the CERD.
    -2. The development of a law that prohibits racial discrimination and provides effective remedies to victims.
    -3. The creation of a section responsible for the effective implementation of the CERD within the government, as well as the creation of a council of concerned researchers and individuals to develop plans for effective implementation.
  3. During the UN Decade for Human Rights Education, the government set up a headquarters to promote human rights education with the Prime Minister as its head in December 1995. The UN Decade was concluded by the end of 2004, and succeeded by the World Program for Human Rights Education that began on January 1, 2005. With this, the government should have evaluated the UN Decade and created a new headquarters for the promotion of the World Program and developed a new plan of action accordingly, but it has not yet done so.

8. Have some measures been adopted specifically in favor of the affected communities? Are these measures appropriate or sufficient? What has been the impact? What other measures would be needed?

8-1. At the national level, representatives from organizations related to the Buraku liberation movement were appointed, though not recently, as members of councils for these measures, and asked for advice or opinions.

8-2. At the local level, many local governments have appointed representatives from the Buraku liberation movement as members of councils, and provided direct or indirect subsidies for the implementation of such measures.

8-3. It is important that representatives of the Buraku liberation movement be continually appointed as members of councils for the Buraku problem or human rights issues set up by national and local governments in the future.

8-4. It is important that national and local governments continue their support of human resource development from the Buraku liberation movement as well as projects that facilitate better understanding of the Buraku problem by non-Buraku people.

9. Is there an appropriate collaboration between the public authorities and NGOs? What is the role of NGOs in the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia or related intolerance and how does it complement with the action of public authorities?

9-1. The relationship between the state and the Buraku liberation movement has sometimes been confrontational, but otherwise cooperative. Examining the relationship by department, it has been confrontational with the Ministry of Justice, and cooperative with the Ministry of Welfare and Labor.

9-2. With regard to the relationship between local governments and the Buraku liberation movement, it was confrontational during the early stages, but has lately become cooperative in general.

9-3. Through interaction with the national and local governments, the movement has presented real problems caused by Buraku discrimination, convinced them of their responsibilities concerning those problems, and provided support in the effective implementation of resolution projects taken up by the government.

9-4. The Buraku liberation movement has made great contributions to Japan's conclusion and implementation of the International Covenants and the CERD through the campaign calling for ratification of these conventions and the preparation of NGO reports to be presented to relevant treaty bodies.