Black Lives Matter In Japan – A Look At The Language

Approx Japanese level

Text Type

Black Lives Matter sparked some serious debate in Japanese media and social media. Here are some of the texts we found, both supportive of the movement and critical of the movement. 


Cocoa Lizzy posted a series of insightful video entries on her Instagram. She highlighted several examples of her own experiences of racism in Japan as a black Japanese person in this post

Here is a translation of an excerpt:



When I was doing a casual job in Japan I had someone say “I don’t want to buy stuff from a black person, you should get rid of her”. 


At a restaurant someone told me “I don’t think you could work here because you’re black and you may scare the customers”.


But really that’s the least of it


Over here there are people who are killed or arrested 


And Japanese people might just think that’s just some fight between black people and white people


But, from a distance, what do you think about the fact that black people are in this position of weakness?

という。考えてくれていますか。Are you thinking about these things?


There are a lot of people who think things have to change that are standing up.



So whether you are black, white, Japanese it doesn’t matter, it’s what you think about the situation.


But if people have a singer that they like and listen to


And that person had been treated as a black person from the moment they had been born


And if that person was putting out an SOS signal, would you act like you had seen nothing or would you acknowledge that they have the same humanity as you.


Wouldn’t  it be great if there were many many more people that stood up to the idea of changing the way you treat people according to the color of their skin?



Across twitter there were a lot of comments. We don’t want to give too much air to people espousing more or less racist views, but it is important to acknowledge the debate that is happening. Here is a selection of some of the posts we saw:




Japanese people have never been racist towards black people.




Has there ever been a black person murdered in Japan?

Has there ever been a black person that has beef refused entry to a shop? Really, we don’t racially vilify do we?


Melissa Luna:



So all the racism we have experienced is just a load of rubbish right?

It is clear just how self centered and non-seeing the people writing these comments are. This is the privilege of the majority.




Japanese people are doing everything they can to go social distance and fight the coronavirus. But I guess Japanse lives aren’t worth anything right?


宇多田ヒカル Tweet



To people who are born and raised in Japan, racism may seem like they have no connection to. What is happening in America may be a historic moment in the future…it least that’s how I hope this may be.





明日は土砂降りになりますようにUmbrella with rain drops

This is Japan. Japanese lives matter!

I hope the rain buckets down on you tomorrow.




Don’t generalise the problem according to your own agenda. This is like how Germany called the need to accommodate refugees a “world problem”.




In these past few days my opinion of black people has really changed. I’m going to do my best to not associate with black people.



I was born and raised in Japan and I’ve never thought for a moment from elementary school onwards that Japan is a country without racism. Around me there were members of the Korean diaspora, and a Korean school. I believe these people have been the subject of ongoing racism. It is us Japanese that have created that environment. There is no place for racism.



川崎大助 | 作家 Yahoo



This problem isn’t “a fire on the far coast”. This may be something that is happening on a far away continent, but “I’m Japanese” isn’t an excuse to ignore the problem. If Japanese people are just one people within a larger human race, then there is no excuse to turn a blind eye.


Ruru Ruriko ピンク 55 Telling Asahi 55



For people who have never had occasion to think about racism, or have never been racially vilified, it is probably difficult to imagine what it must be like to be the subject of racism. But if we keep saying “I don’t understand” or “this is not something I know about” the situation will never change. 

When in doubt, start by lending your ears to those directly affected.


Cocoa Lizzy (Part 2)

We’ll end this look at the language around BLM in Japan with 2nd entry by Cocoa Lizzy

白人の特権とみんなの特権 #BLACLIVESMATTER Understanding own privilege


さて今日はホワイトwhite privilege (白人の優遇)と私達それぞれのprivilageについて話していきます!最近ドールテストの動画をストーリーに上げたりして、みんなも興味を持ってくれました。沢山の人はまだ肌の色だけで、”怖い” ”強そう” ”危なそう”などのステレオタイプ(思い込み、先入観)があると思います。でもそのステレオタイプを政府や世間、警察に持たれた黒人はアメリカでどのような扱いをされているか考えたことはありますか?黒人である私達は、肌の色のせいだけで、政府から悪いイメージをずっと持たれ、今も普通の生活をしたいだけでも他の人種の人と比べられて公平な支援やサポートをしてもらえません。

Today I would like to go ahead and talk about White privilege, and all of our own privilege. Recently I added a Doll Test video to my story, and people were kind enough to show some interest. I believe there are a lot of people who see black skin and, through stereotyping, think “they look scary” or “ they look strong” or “they look dangerous”. But have you ever thought about how black people in America are treated by a government, a society or a police force that hold this stereotype. For a black person such as myself this means I am looked down on by the government just for the color of my skin. Even now, all I want to do is lead a normal life, but I am compared to people from other ethnic backgrounds and am not offered the same backing or support.




Conversely, I am Asian, but I am black so people don’t call me “yellow” or say “Corona” to me. That is one of the ways that I am privileged. Each person, has their own ethnic background, family make up, way of living that, that can’t help but come to influence their social status. There are still many people, and governments, in the world that believe that this is only natural and are willing to attack others as a result. I may even be guilty of doing the same thing without even being aware of it.




If humans are supposed to all have the same human rights, then there shouldn’t be such a thing as drawing comparisons or losing opportunity according to gender,  place of birth, appearance or family background. All of us create this unequal world out of our own place of privilege. But I believe that through gazing into our own privilege, we are able to draw closer to those experiencing hardship and become a force for good.


Some Japanese words around racism:

有色人種 ゆうしょくじんしゅ People of Color

人種差別主義者 じんしゅさべつしゅぎしゃ Racist person

黄色人種 おうしょくじんしゅ asian “yellow” race

特権 とっけん privilege

優遇 ゆうぐう privilege

対岸の火事 たいがんのかじ Fire on the far coast


See also this videothat aired on NHK during this period that was widely criticised, and later withdrawn, because of it charicaturing of African Americans:

Which has been abley translated by Japanse For Morons here:

Language Learning Program Reviews

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Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).