UC Law Constitutional Quarterly


Junko Kotani


The Diet of Japan enacted the Hate Speech Elimination Act in 2016 amid heated debates over the appropriate role that the government should play in confronting the vulgar racist hate speech that had been permeating the country. The Act, however, does not criminalize or make illegal hate speech and is thus criticized by Professor Craig Martin. This Article argues that while the principles of freedom of speech under the Constitution of Japan may tolerate criminalization of narrowly defined hate speech, one should be cautious in advocating for immediate criminalization of racist hate speech in the country. This Article provides an overview of the basic legal structures surrounding racist hate speech in Japan: the international laws, the Constitution of Japan, the provisions of both criminal and civil laws that could be applied to certain types of hate speech, and the judiciary decisions involving hate speech. This Article analyzes the impact of the Act on national and local government and the judiciary and examines the legislative history of the Act, which shows the intricate intent of the lawmakers.