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TITLE:  JAPAN HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                             
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994


Japan is a parliamentary democracy based on a Constitution 
adopted in 1947.  Sovereignty is vested in the people, and the 
Emperor is defined as the symbol of state.  On the national 
level, power is divided among executive, legislative, and 
judicial branches.  Executive power is vested in a cabinet, 
composed of a prime minister and ministers of state, 
responsible to the Diet, Japan's two-house Parliament.  The 
Diet, elected by universal suffrage and secret ballot, 
designates the Prime Minister, who must be a member of that 
body.  Nearly 70 percent of the electorate usually votes in 
general elections contested by numerous political parties 
covering a broad ideological spectrum.  In the lower house 
general election in July 1993, the Liberal Democratic Party 
(LDP) lost its majority for the first time in 38 years.  The 
Government is now formed by a non-LDP coalition of seven 
parties.  The judicial system has several levels of courts; the 
Supreme Court has final authority.

A well-organized and disciplined police force generally 
respects the human rights of the populace and is firmly under 
the control of the civil authorities.  However, there continued 
to be reports of harsh treatment of some suspects in custody.

The Civil Liberties Bureau in the Ministry of Justice and the 
Human Rights and Refugee Division in the Ministry of Foreign 
Affairs monitor problems relating to human rights practices in 

Japan's highly industrialized free market economy is efficient 
and competitive in world markets.  The 1992 economic slowdown, 
including an increase in unemployment, continued in 1993.

The Constitution states, "all of the people are equal under the 
law and there shall be no discrimination in political, 
economic, or social relations because of race, creed, sex, 
social status, or family origin."  The human rights assured by 
the Constitution are generally secured by a just and efficient 
legal system.  However, the "Burakumin" (a group historically 
treated as outcasts), the Ainu (Japan's indigenous people), 
women, and alien residents experience varying degrees of 
discrimination, some of it severe and of long standing.


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no known cases of political or other extrajudicial 

     b.  Disappearance

There were no known cases of abductions, secret arrests, 
clandestine detention, or hostage holding by security forces or 
any other organization.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

While freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading 
treatment or punishment is provided for in the Constitution, 
reports by several Japanese bar associations and some prisoners 
indicate that police sometimes use physical violence, including 
kickings and beatings, as well as psychological intimidation, 
including threats and name calling, to obtain confessions from 
suspects in custody.  In Japan confession is regarded as the 
first step in the rehabilitative process.  Roughly 85 percent 
of all criminal cases going to trial include confessions, 
reflecting the priority that the Japanese system places on 
admissions of guilt.  While abuse remains a problem, appellate 
courts have overturned several convictions in recent years on 
the ground that they were obtained by forced confession.  In 
addition, civil suits have been brought against some police and 
prosecution officials, alleging abuse during interrogation and 
detention.  Most of these cases are still pending.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Freedom from arbitrary arrest or imprisonment is provided for 
in the Constitution and respected in practice.  Japanese law 
provides for judicial determination of the legality of 
detention.  Persons cannot be detained without charge, and 
prosecuting authorities must be prepared to demonstrate before 
trial that probable cause exists to detain the accused.  Under 
the Code of Criminal Procedure, a suspect may be held in police 
custody for up to 72 hours with limited representation by 
defense counsel.  This period is normally extended by a judge 
for up to 20 additional days for preindictment investigation.  
If an indictment follows, the suspect is transferred to a 
criminal detention facility.  In practice, defendants may 
consult with an attorney during the preindictment period only 
if they can afford to hire one.  Bail is rarely available.

The bar association and human rights groups have criticized the 
practice of "substitute detention."  While Japanese law 
stipulates that suspects should be held in "houses of 
detention" between arrest and sentencing, a police cell may be 
substituted.  This provision was added to cover a shortage of 
detention facilities.  Critics charge that allowing suspects to 
be detained by the same authorities that interrogate them 
heightens the potential for prisoner abuse and coercion.

The length of time before a suspect is brought to trial depends 
on the nature of the crime but rarely exceeds 2 months from 
date of arrest; the average is 1 to 2 months.  Critics charge 
that access to counsel is limited both in duration and 
frequency, although the Government denies that this is the 
case.  The Japanese Criminal Procedure Code grants the 
prosecutor's office and investigating police officials the 
power to limit access to attorneys when deemed necessary for 
the sake of the investigation.  This is interpreted to mean 
that counsel may not be present during interrogation at any 
time, before or after indictment.  As a court-appointed 
attorney is not approved until after indictment, suspects must 
rely on their own resources to hire an attorney for counseling 
before indictment.  Some local bar associations provide 
detainees with a free counseling session prior to indictment.  
In practice, suspects able to afford private counsel may 
consult with an attorney an average of two times during the 
detention period before indictment, sometimes without private 
access.  Counsel is provided at government expense after 
indictment when the arrested person cannot afford one.  

Preventive detention does not exist.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for the right to a speedy and public 
trial by an impartial tribunal in all criminal cases, and this 
right is respected in practice.  The defendant is informed of 
charges upon arrest and assured a public trial by an 
independent civilian court with defense counsel and the right 
to cross-examination.  The Constitution assures defendants the 
right not to be compelled to testify against themselves as well 
as free and private access to counsel, although the right to 
such access is sometimes abridged in practice.  For example, 
the law allows prosecutors to control access to counsel, and 
there are persistent allegations of coerced confessions.  
Defendants are also protected from the retroactive application 
of laws and have the right to access to incriminating evidence 
after a formal indictment has been made.  However, Japanese law 
does not require full disclosure by the prosecutor, and 
material that will not be used in court by the prosecution may 
be suppressed, even if favorable to the accused.

The judiciary is independent and free from executive branch 
interference.  Judges are appointed by the Cabinet for a 
10-year term, which can be renewed until the age of 65.  
Justices of the Supreme Court can serve until the age of 70, 
but face periodic review through popular referendum.  A 
defendant who is dissatisfied with the decision of a trial 
court of first instance may, within the period prescribed by 
law, appeal to a higher court.  There are several levels of 
courts, with the Supreme Court serving as the highest judicial 
authority.  There is no trial by jury in Japan.

There are no political prisoners.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

Under the Constitution, each search or seizure must be made 
upon separate warrant issued by a judge.  Standards for issuing 
such warrants exist to guard against arbitrary searches.  There 
are no reports that the Government or any other organization 
arbitrarily interfered with privacy, family, home, or 

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution, an independent press and judiciary, and a 
functioning democratic political system combine to ensure 
freedom of speech and press.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

These freedoms are provided for in the Constitution and 
respected in practice.  In 1993 the Japanese media drew 
attention to the alleged efforts of the Tokyo municipal 
government to restrict the rights of Iranians living in Japan 
to assemble in a popular local park.  Citizen groups have taken 
up the cause, arguing that the city's actions are 
discriminatory.  While the Government has not stood in the way 
of efforts to resolve the problem through appropriate legal and 
administrative means, neither has it acted to resolve the issue.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Freedom of religion is provided for in the Constitution and 
respected in practice.  While Buddhism and Shintoism remain the 
two major religions, there are many others, including several 
Christian denominations.  Foreign missionaries are welcome and 
gain admission to Japan through a specific visa category for 
foreign religious workers.  Some temples and shrines receive 
public support as national historic or cultural sites.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Japanese citizens have the right to travel freely both within 
Japan and abroad, to change their place of residence, to 
emigrate, and to repatriate voluntarily.  Japanese nationality 
can be lost by naturalization in a foreign country or failure 
to elect Japanese nationality at the proper age.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Japanese citizens have the right and ability peacefully to 
change their government.  A parliamentary democracy, Japan is 
governed by the political party or parties able to form a 
majority in the lower house of its bicameral Diet.  From 1955 
until 1993, all prime ministers and almost all cabinet 
ministers were members of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), 
which enjoyed a majority in the lower house throughout this 
period.  In 1993 the party lost its parliamentary majority.  
The Government is now headed by a non-LDP coalition.  Local and 
prefectural governments are often controlled by coalitions.

Elections on all levels are held frequently; suffrage is 
universal; and ballots are secret.

Postwar population movements have contributed to significant 
imbalances in size among parliamentary electoral districts.  In 
the most underrepresented lower house district--mostly in urban 
areas--there are nearly three times as many voters per 
representative as in the most overrepresented districts--mostly 
in rural areas.  Among upper house districts, the maximum 
disparity exceeds six-to-one.  Court rulings have called for 
more equitable electoral districts.  One court in December 
declared the July 1992 upper house election unconstitutional 
because of the malapportionment problem, but the lack of a 
nonpartisan redistricting mechanism has hampered the process of 
adjustment.  Prposed political reform legislation would 
significantly reduce the disparity among lower house districts 
but would not affect the situation in upper house elections.

There are no legal or de facto impediments to women's 
participation in government and politics, but cultural 
attitudes are not favorable to their participation.  Women hold 
14 seats in the 511-member lower house of the Diet, and 38 
seats in the 252-member upper house.  Three women--a record 
high--are members of the current 21-member Cabinet.  Women make 
up nearly 20 percent of all government workers but hold less 
than 1 percent of top (section chief and higher) government 

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

A number of local human rights organizations function freely, 
with no governmental restrictions or impediments.  The 
Government does not obstruct or inhibit the investigative 
activities of international human rights nongovernmental 

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status


The position of women in society and the home, although 
significantly improved during the last few decades, continues 
to reflect deep-seated traditional values that assign women a 
subordinate role.  In this environment, violence against women, 
particularly domestic violence, often goes unreported due to 
social and cultural concerns about shaming one's family or 
endangering the reputation of one's spouse or offspring.  
Typically, victimized women more often return to the home of 
their parents rather than file reports with authorities.  
Therefore, Ministry of Justice statistics on violence against 
women undoubtedly understate the scope of the current 
situation.  Many local governments are responding positively to 
a need for confidential assistance by establishing special 
women's consultation departments in police and prefectural 

Although discrimination by private employers against women is 
prohibited by the Constitution, it persists.  Legislation over 
the past 30 years has been enacted to accord women the same 
legal status as men.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Law of 
1986 was aimed at eliminating sex discrimination in such areas 
as recruitment, pay, and working hours.  Yet the law does not 
expressly forbid discrimination; it merely states that 
"employers should endeavor" to avoid it.  Under this law and 
other regulations, the Ministry of Labor attempts to encourage 
corporate compliance with its objectives by positive 
inducements, including subsidies; it does not enforce 
compliance through fines or other punitive measures.

Significant disparities in pay and access to managerial 
positions persist.  Women comprise over 40 percent of the 
employed population.  A 1989 Ministry of labor report noted 
that the average wage of women workers is about half that of 
men.  In March 1992, nine working married women filed lawsuits 
with the Tokyo district court, citing discrimination in wages 
and promotions.  Other cases are pending which question 
management's use of Japan's two-track (general versus 
administrative) system of hiring women employees.  Initially 
designed to create a "career" track for employees while 
maintaining a separate "clerical" track, observers say the 
system is used to discriminate against women, who traditionally 
have not been hired for managerial positions.

Public awareness of discrimination against women and sexual 
harassment in the workplace has increased.  An increasing 
number of government entities are establishing hotlines and 
designating ombudsmen to handle complaints of discrimination 
and sexual harassment.  Nevertheless, sexual discrimination and 
stereotyping in the workplace continue to be major problems for 


Japan has child labor laws, and the rights of children are 
adequately protected.

     Indigenous People

The Ainu are a Caucasoid people descended from the first 
inhabitants of Japan.  They now probably number less than 
100,000; almost all of them live on Hokkaido, the northernmost 
of Japan's four main islands.  Their primary occupations are 
hunting, fishing, and small farming.  The ultimate effect of a 
law passed in 1898, the Former Aborigines Protection Act, was 
to leave the Ainu with only about 15 percent of their original 
landholdings.  Ainu leaders, including Giichi Nomura at the 
Sapporo International Indigenous Peoples Symposium held as part 
of the U.N. Year of the World's Indigenous Peoples, continue to 
express grievances about this situation.  Meanwhile, the Ainu 
continue to face social discrimination while engaging in an 
uphill struggle against complete assimilation.  The Government 
has done little in response to Ainu grievances.  An interagency 
study group opened hearings in January 1990 with the stated 
goal of reviewing Ainu history and making recommendations, but 
it has not played an active role.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The ethnocentric nature of Japanese society, reinforced by a 
high degree of cultural and ethnic homogeneity and a history of 
isolation from other cultures, has impeded the integration of 
minority groups.  This primarily affects Burakumin, Koreans, 
and alien workers against whom social, economic, and legal 
discrimination is widespread.

The Burakumin (descendants of feudal era "outcasts" who 
practiced "unclean" professions such as butchering and 
undertaking) are frequently victims of entrenched social 
discrimination.  Their access to private housing, employment, 
and marriage opportunities has been greatly restricted.  
Beginning in 1969, the Government introduced with some success 
a number of social, economic, and legal programs designed to 
improve conditions for the Burakumin and hasten their 
assimilation into mainstream Japanese society.  The Government 
has extended basic legislation to provide funding for Burakumin 
programs until 1997, but the Burakumin continue to lobby for a 
new law that will expand current programs.  In recent years, 
however, some within the Burakumin community have questioned 
whether "assimilation" is an appropriate goal.

Despite improvements in Japan's legal system, Korean permanent 
residents (most of whom were born, raised, and educated in 
Japan and who are estimated to number approximately 2 million) 
are still subject to various forms of deeply entrenched social 
discrimination.  In recent years, the Government has enacted 
several laws and regulations providing permanent resident 
aliens with equal access to public housing and loans, social 
security pensions for those qualified, and certain public 
employment rights.

The legal obligations to carry an alien registration card and 
to be fingerprinted have been leading concerns among permanent 
resident aliens in Japan.  This is particularly so for second- 
and third-generation Korean residents, who constitute 82 
percent of all such aliens.  In response to continued appeals 
from the Republic of Korea, the Government in 1993 halted the 
fingerprinting of permanent foreign residents.  Instead, the 
Government has established a family registry system that uses 
the resident's picture and signature and contains information 
on parents and spouses living in Japan, a system similar to 
that used for Japanese nationals.  The new law leaves intact 
the requirement that all foreign residents must carry alien 
registration certificates at all times.

Some immigrants reportedly face police harassment and 
discrimination in obtaining housing, jobs, and health care.  In 
recognition of the difficulties faced by foreigners in these 
areas, Tokyo city recently issued a law to prevent housing 
discrimination against foreigners.  There have also been 
efforts by the central and local governments to disburse 
information on health insurance plans to enroll foreigners into 
the system.  Some communities are using existing social welfare 
programs to cover emergency medical expenses incurred by 
uninsured foreign visitors.

The January 1991 memorandum between the Japanese and South 
Korean Governments extended employment rights to local 
government positions, giving each locality the authority to 
decide which jobs may be held by non-Japanese nationals.  Local 
governments are also being urged by the Government to allow 
Korean residents to take the teacher entrance examination and 
to employ them on a full-time basis.  Private-sector employment 
and social discrimination are still common.  Antidiscrimination 
laws affecting Korean residents were initiated as government 
guidance and are not backed up by penalty provisions.

According to law, aliens with 5 years of continuous residence 
are eligible for naturalization and the simultaneous 
acquisition of citizenship rights, including the right to 
vote.  In fact, however, most eligible aliens do not apply for 
citizenship, in part due to fears that their cultural identity 
would thereby be denied.  De facto obstacles to naturalization 
include broad discretion on the part of adjudicating officers 
and great emphasis on Japanese language ability.

The Justice Ministry's Immigration Bureau estimates that, as of 
May 1993, there were 298,646 foreign nationals residing 
illegally in Japan, an increase of 7 percent from the previous 
year.  Many are laborers from Southeast Asia and South Korea.  
Additionally, there are a number of Iranian workers, but that 
number declined by 13.8 percent, apparently as the result of 
the Government's suspension on April 15, 1992, of a visa waiver 
agreement it had with Iran for short-term visitors.  While many 
of Japan's illegally resident foreigners came in search of 
better-paying manufacturing and construction jobs, there are 
indications that these opportunities are disappearing with 
Japan's economic slowdown.  Thus, more of the foreign workers 
are unemployed or marginally employed.  Law enforcement sweeps 
against South Asians and other foreigners have increased.  
Activist groups claim that, with little or no knowledge of the 
Japanese language or of their legal rights, foreign workers can 
easily be discriminated against by employers.  Some illegal 
alien workers have suffered exploitative treatment.  The 
Government has tried to reduce the inflow of illegal foreign 
workers by prosecuting employers.  Recent revisions of the 
Immigration Law provide for penalties for employers of 
undocumented foreign workers.  Suspected foreign workers may 
also be denied entry for passport, visa, and entry application 
irregularities.  The Government continues to study the foreign 
worker issue, and several citizens' groups are working with 
illegal foreign workers to improve their access to information 
on worker rights.

Japan has granted asylum in only a small number of cases to 
those claiming fear of persecution upon return to their 
homeland.  The Government believes that most people seeking 
asylum in Japan do so for economic reasons.  According to 
representatives of international organizations in Japan, since 
1981 Japan has determined that only about 200 people have met 
the required standard.  As for Chinese student dissidents, the 
Government has shown flexibility in dealing with visa 
extensions, though it continues to be reluctant to grant 
permanent asylum.

Strict administrative procedures contribute to the low rate of 
approval of asylum applications.  For example, appeals of 
initial denials are reviewed by a higher authority of the same 
body, and decisions are rarely overturned.  Asylum seekers 
claim that the processing of asylum applications is not readily 
understandable, making it difficult for them to comply with 
Government procedures.  For example, the Government's "60-day 
rule" requires applicants to appear at an immigration office 
within 60 days of arrival or within 60 days of the time they 
learn they are likely to be persecuted in their home country; 
most asylum seekers arrive in Japan without knowledge of this 
requirement and can inadvertently waive their claim by not 
acting promptly.  The Government recently stated that it is 
striving to reform its asylum procedures and make them more 
accessible and understandable to asylum seekers.  

     People with Disabilities

Japan has no national law protecting the rights of the 
disabled, including access, but some prefectures and cities 
have enacted their own legislation addressing the issue.  

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The right of workers to associate freely in unions is assured 
by the Constitution.  Approximately 25 percent of the active 
work force belongs to unions.  Unions are free of government 
control and influence.  The Japanese Trade Union Confederation 
(RENGO), which represents 8 million Japanese workers, was 
formed in 1989 through the merger of several confederations and 
is Japan's largest labor organization.  There is no requirement 
for a single trade union structure, and there are no 
restrictions on who may be a union official.  Members of the 
armed forces, police, and firefighters, however, are not 
permitted to form unions or to strike.  The International Labor 
Organization's Committee of Experts in 1991 criticized Japan's 
denial of the right of firefighters to strike as unwarranted.  
Government and union representatives have engaged in talks to 
address this issue over the past 2 years, but no resolution has 
been reached to date.  Japanese law allows unions to lobby and 
to make political campaign contributions, and most unions are 
involved in political activity as well as labor relations.  
RENGO and other labor groups are active in supporting political 
parties and individual candidates and in promoting their 
political and social programs.

Organized labor generally supports two social democratic 
parties that are presently part of the governing coalition and 
provides them with significant amounts of funds and manpower.  
Unions are active in international bodies, most notably the 
International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, and maintain 
extensive international contacts.  The right to strike is 
implicit in the Constitution and is exercised.  During 1992, 
231,000 man days were lost to strikes.  Public employees do not 
have the right to strike, although they do have recourse to 
mediation and arbitration.  Government employees have their pay 
raises determined by the Government, but the raises are based 
on a recommendation by the Independent National Personnel 

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The Constitution states that unions have the right to organize, 
bargain, and act collectively.  These rights are exercised 
freely, and collective bargaining is practiced widely.  The 
annual "spring wage offensive," in which individual unions in 
each industry conduct negotiations simultaneously with their 
firms, involves nationwide participation.  Japanese management 
usually consults closely with its enterprise union.  However, 
trade unions are independent of management and aggressively 
pursue the interests of their workers.  Antiunion 
discrimination is prohibited by law, and in practice does not 
take place.  Members of the armed forces, police, and fire 
fighters are not permitted to organize.  There are no export 
processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Labor Standards Law prohibits the use of forced labor, and 
there are no known cases of forced or compulsory labor.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Under the revised labor Standards Law of 1987, minors under 15 
years of age may not be employed as workers, and those under 
the age of 18 years may not be employed in dangerous or harmful 
work.  Child labor laws are rigorously enforced by the labor 
Inspection Division of the Ministry of Labor.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

Minimum wages are administratively determined by the Minister 
of Labor or the Director of the Prefectural Labor Standards 
Office, based usually on the recommendation of the tripartite 
Minimum Wage Council.  Minimum wage rates vary by industry and 
region.  In the Tokyo area, a steelworker's rate is $5.65 (620 
yen) per hour.  The wage rates are sufficient to provide 
workers and their families with a decent living.  The Labor 
Standards Law provides for the phased reduction of maximum 
working hours from the present 44-hour, 6-day workweek to 40 
hours by 1994.  The Ministry of Labor effectively administers 
various laws and regulations governing occupational health and 
safety, principal among which is the Industrial Safety and 
Health Law of 1972.  Standards are set by the Ministry of Labor 
and issued after consultation with the Standing Committee on 
Safety and Health of the tripartite Labor Standards 
Commission.  Labor inspectors have the authority to suspend 
unsafe operations immediately, and the law guarantees that 
workers may voice concerns over occupational safety and remove 
themselves from unsafe working conditions without jeopardizing 
their continued employment.

[end of document]


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