Insular Power Poses Unique Issues on Bias

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 9, 2007 | Go to article overview

Insular Power Poses Unique Issues on Bias


Byline: Takehiko Kambayashi, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Doudou Diene, the United Nations' special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, who was in Tokyo last week, spoke with Takehiko Kambayashi of The Washington Times about racism and xenophobia in Japan. His report to the U.N. Human Rights Commission last year urged Japan to immediately adopt a law against racism, race discrimination and xenophobia.

Question: What made you investigate racism in Japan?

Answer: I was elected by the United Nations Human Rights Commission as a special rapporteur and given a mandate to investigate racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia. I issue a yearly report on racism worldwide and investigate racism in different countries.

First, Japan is a global economic power, but the country is insular. This contradiction interested me, and I investigated racism in Japan. Japan's population had been isolated for long [from the 1630s to the 1850s, under a national policy], but it is now becoming more multicultural and multiethnic. So I wanted to investigate how Japan is coping with this.

Second, I've come to Japan many times. I knew about the Burakumin, which made me interested. I visited Buraku communities. I spent a great amount of time with the people and looked at their situations and listened to them.

I also met the Ainu, [indigenous people living mostly on Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost main island] and learned how they tried to save their identity and were facing different forms of discrimination. And finally, I realized the complexities among Japan, China and Korea. I also learned of the discrimination Koreans and Chinese suffered in Japan.

[Editor's note: The Burakumin are not a racial minority but a castelike minority among the Japanese. They are recognized as descendents of an outcast population of the feudal days. According to the Buraku Liberation League, Japan has 6,000 Buraku communities with more than 3 million people. …

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