Posted on October 9, 2013

Japanese Court Fines Rightist Group over Protests at a School in Kyoto

Martin Fackler, New York Times, October 8, 2013

In a widely watched decision, a court in Kyoto on Monday ordered a far-right group to pay $120,000 in damages to an elementary school for ethnic Koreans after the group staged demonstrations using slogans that the court characterized as racist.

The ruling, by the Kyoto District Court, is one of the first court decisions in Japan to address a recent proliferation of street protests using hate speech against ethnic minorities, usually Koreans and Chinese. Most of the protests appear to have been organized by a vocal new group called the Zaitokukai, whose Web site says has almost 14,000 members.

The Zaitokukai is the most extreme part of a new generation of ultranationalists known as the “Net right” because it uses the Internet to organize. While the group represents a tiny fringe in this otherwise law-abiding nation, its members have recently drawn attention for marches in Tokyo’s ethnic Korean neighborhood of Okubo, during which they shouted anti-Korean slogans. In June, several marchers were arrested after a confrontation with counterprotesters turned into fistfights, a rare occurrence in usually peaceful Tokyo.

While some Japanese have compared the Zaitokukai to the skinheads or neo-Nazis of the West, sociologists say its members lack the same sort of clear race-based ideology and usually draw the line at violence. Rather, they say, members tend to be young Japanese men who feel disenfranchised by such personal failures as an inability to get a stable corporate job and then take out their resulting frustration by blaming foreigners.

In the Kyoto case, members of the Zaitokukai held protests outside the Kyoto No. 1 Korean Elementary School between December 2009 and March 2010 and called the students spies and cockroaches, school officials said. As the marchers shouted through bullhorns, parents rushed to block them from entering the school, and teachers led the children in songs to drown out the insults, school officials said.


Zaitokukai members said the group was protesting the school’s unauthorized use of a neighboring city park for assemblies and other school activities. It also criticized the school for having a pro-North Korean stance, as many ethnic Korean schools in Japan do. {snip}

In his ruling, the court’s presiding judge, Hitoshi Hashizume, said the group’s actions were illegal because they constituted racial discrimination. {snip}