Racism? Nationalism? The Reality Of Japan’s Xenophobia


Racism is a global issue.

Some people discriminate against minority.


Some people try to segregate themselves from “others” based on their race.

When we talk about racism in Japan, it’s a little bit different story.


Certainly, racism exists in Japanese society just like any other place around the world. 

But instead of “racial discrimination”, the term “xenophobia” fits more to this issue in Japan.


In this article, I will introduce you the racial issue in Japan.



Table of Contents

Racism? Or Xenophobia?


As mentioned above, racism exists in Japan very deeply.

But it’s bit different from the original concept of racism.


Well, what is the original concept of racism?

When we say “racism,” it’s probably discrimination against people with different race.


But in Japan, most of Japanese people don’t have that much hatred against white, black, Latino, or any other “non-Asian race.”  

In fact, there is no conflicts between people with different race in its history.


Hate crimes against non-Asian race are also rare in Japan.

At least, people don’t get killed in Japan only because of their skin color.




If you have been to Japan or are even living in Japan right now, you are probably saying “what is this article talking about??”

Yes, racism DOES exist in Japan.


If you are black or white, you will be stared very awkwardly and even get avoided in the public train.

In fact, there are “only-Japanese restaurants” that publicly reject to serve for foreigners, and it’s not rare to find that kind of restaurant in Japan.


Some apartment owners don’t rent a room for foreigners.

In Japan, it is more difficult for foreigners to make a bank account.


Difference Between West And Japan


You may already get the difference in racism between Western countries and Japan.

If there is, for example, “only-American restaurant” in the U.S., it would be a huge problem and completely illegal in the first place.


But in Japan, it’s somehow allowed both legally and publicly.

Many Japanese people don’t see it as racism because it’s understood that some people do not want to deal with foreign people because of the language barrier.


Some people try to avoid foreigners in the train because they are just scared of “different people.”

It might be understandable since 98% of people living in Japan are originally Japanese.


In such extremely homogeneous society, people with non-Asian race are seen as very unique. 

On the other hand, some Japanese people are sometimes overfriendly to others from different countries because they are just “visitors” and basically customers for Japan.


It’s often said that it is very hard for foreigners to get along with Japanese people because of that kind of mindset.


You may see it as racism.

But it’s probably closer to the term “xenophobia.”  



Nationalism Is More Serious


Well, now we know that there is not much hatred against other race in Japan, but it’s rather xenophobia or stereotypes that come from lack of information or ignorance.

But the truth is racism against other Asian people is much more serious in Japan, and it’s actually common to see Japanese people raising their voices in demonstration against presence of Chinese and Korean people in Japan.


And those hatred are often associated with history and political disputes.

After all, Japanese people don’t discriminate Chinese and Korean people because they are different race, but they have different nationality.