Japan harbors deep pockets of racial discrimination and its leaders show little will to fight the problem, an independent investigator for the UN said yesterday after a nine-day tour of the country.
Doudou Diene said he was encouraged by the support that the government gave him during his stay, but said he found officials often failed to understand or recognize the seriousness of racism and discrimination, especially against the ancestors of Japan's former outcast and ethnic Koreans.
"The lack of a strong political will to fight discrimination is a serious problem," Diene, an independent investigator for the UN Human Rights Commission, told a news conference after touring several Japanese cities to meet with officials and minority groups, and visit slums.
Though Japan is a largely homogenous society, there are several significant minority groups that Diene said continue to suffer from social and economic discrimination. He noted the ethnic Koreans and Chinese, along with the former outcastes, or Burakumin, and the indigenous Ainu group.
Diene, who has made similar visits to about a dozen nations as an independent investigator for the UN Human Rights Commission, said he will submit his final report to the UN General Assembly in March.
He said that although the government "fully cooperated" with his visit, he felt a contradiction between the level of the problem as seen through official eyes and how the minorities perceived it.
He said he was also concerned by the use of racist or nationalist themes by politicians seeking to whip up popular emotions. Diene said he had been refused a meeting with Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, an outspoken nationalist.
He said he was discouraged by the general exclusion of the nation-building contributions of minorities in textbooks.
"The place accorded to the national minorities," he said, "is highly important."