Asura’s Three Faces? : “Nation State”, “Multiculturalism” and “Sovereign State” in Japan


Asura’s Three Faces? : “Nation State”, “Multiculturalism” and “Sovereign State” in Japan

Room 609, Level 6
Melbourne Law School


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Three controversial Acts have been recently enacted in Japan: The Hate Speech Act of 2016, the Immigration Act of 2019 and the Ainu Act of 2019. The Hate Speech Act deals with hate speech that includes death threats and extreme insults especially against foreigners living (legally) in Japan. This Act does not ban hate speech and provides no penalty for committing it, but promotes both central and local governmental measures in order to eliminate such behavior. The Immigration Act aims to attract foreign workers over the next five years, seeking to fill gaps in the country’s rapidly shrinking and aging workforce. The Ainu Act that first legally recognizes the Ainu as an indigenous people of Japan obligates the government to adopt policies to facilitate people’s understanding of the traditions and the culture of the Ainu and the importance of the diversity that ethnic groups contribute to society. In addition, the government must adopt measures to ban discrimination against the Ainu. Each Act has a distinctive purpose and subject, as if there is no relation to each other on the surface. Truly, each Act has been discussed from different perspectives, as constitutional and legal issues, related to e.g. freedom of expression, discrimination, human rights of foreigners, equality for foreign workers, cultural rights, and rights of indigenous people. However, this seminar explores a possible common denominator between the three Acts, aiming to lead Japanese society into a certain direction.

Statements such as “Japan is a racially homogeneous nation” by some Japanese politicians, including former Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro in 1986, have been strongly criticized each time they were made, but until quite recently the majority of the Japanese population seemed to be indifferent to the discourse and to the “race” they might belong to. That’s probably because Japan kept being a closed society for a long time. By looking at the aspect of the “autonomous individual(s)” in these new three Acts, such as the resident alien, the foreign worker and the native, the speaker tries to explain a tendency in modifying the concept of the “nation state” (theory) in Japan. It will be also discussed, whether “multiculturalism”, which is often advocated as one of the ideal solutions to the continuing globalization, is adaptable to Japan, and from a comparative perspective how other legal regimes in the EU, South Korea, Germany and Australia offer valuable insights for the development of Japan as a “sovereign state” in the world.


  • Professor Towa  Niimura
    Professor Towa Niimura, Seikei University Law School