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Japan 2022

The authorities’ response to the climate crisis was insufficient. Long-standing discrimination against women, migrants, asylum seekers, ethnic Korean people and LGBTI people remained ongoing. Prolonged detention and inhumane treatment of foreign nationals in immigration detention facilities continued to be reported.


Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe died in hospital after being shot at a political campaign event in July. In November, Minister of Justice Yasuhiro Hanashi resigned after making a joke about the death penalty, in which he stated that the justice minister can only make the news headlines by signing off execution warrants.

Failure to tackle climate crisis

Japan continued to be the world’s biggest public financier of oil, gas and coal projects and one of the largest users of coal in electricity generation, policies which undermined the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

The Sixth Basic Energy Plan, approved by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s cabinet in October 2021, remained in place. The plan aimed to decarbonize Japan’s economy by 2050 and to achieve a 46% greenhouse gas reduction (on the base year of 2013) by 2030; targets which did not reach the level needed to achieve the 1.5°C average warming goal of the Paris Agreement. The plan also retained 19% of coal-fired power generation, inconsistent with the almost total phase-out of coal needed by 2030. A total of 166 coal-fired power plants were in operation, delaying the transition to renewable energy sources. Japan continued to plan for the construction of new coal-fired power plants.


Online advocacy of hatred directed towards ethnic Korean people continued to proliferate. Disinformation was circulated on social media, erroneously claiming that ethnic Korean residents of Japan were behind the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. In August, a man was sentenced to four years in prison for burning down seven buildings in Kyoto’s ethnic Korean district of Uji. The perpetrator was allegedly influenced by anti-Korean comments on social medial platforms and admitted that the purpose of the attack was to make Koreans afraid to live in Japan.

LGBTI people’s rights

The National Diet (parliament) again failed to pass a bill to eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics. In June, Osaka District Court rejected the claims of three same-sex couples – two male and one female – who argued that Japan’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.1

Also in June, the Tokyo metropolitan government adopted legislation recognizing same-sex partnerships, extending some rights that already applied to married heterosexual couples. It began issuing partnership certificates from November, but this fell short of allowing same-sex unions as legal marriages. Tokyo District Court upheld the Japanese government’s ban on same-sex marriage but acknowledged that the absence of any legal route for same-sex couples to have families was an infringement of their human rights.2

Women’s rights

Japan ranked 116th in a survey of 146 nations conducted by the World Economic Forum which measured progress towards gender equality based on economic and political participation, education, health and other opportunities for women. Women were severely under-represented in politics nationwide, accounting for just 10.6% of all prefectural assembly members.

In July, the Supreme Court upheld a High Court ruling which ordered Noriyuki Yamaguchi to pay journalist Shiori Ito around JPY 3.32 million (USD 24,000) in damages. The High Court had previously ruled that he had raped Shiori Ito at a hotel while she was unconscious. Shiori Ito continued to speak out about her experience, influencing the #MeToo movement in Japan and prompting other people to speak publicly about their experiences of sexual harassment and violence.

Refugees’ and migrants’ rights

Foreign nationals continued to be subjected to prolonged detention and inhumane treatment in immigration control facilities. The government decided not to resubmit a controversial bill revising the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, days after demonstrations against the revisions were held across Japan. The bill maintained the presumption of detention, and the proposed amendments did not provide for maximum periods of detention and continued to deny due process to individuals by failing to allow for judicial review of detention orders. Protesters in central Nagoya included the family of Ratnayake Liyanage Wishma Sandamali, a Sri Lankan woman who died during detention at the Nagoya Regional Immigration Services Bureau in March 2021.

In January, two asylum seekers sued the government, claiming that arbitrary detentions by the country’s immigration authorities violate international law. The two men, from Iran and Türkiye, were each detained at Japanese immigration facilities for more than 1,350 days between 2016 and 2020. Both were designated for deportation and had been repeatedly detained, and received provisional release status for more than 10 years.

Death penalty

In July, Tomohiro Kato was executed by hanging while in the process of requesting a retrial. He had been convicted of killing seven people in 2008. This marked the second execution carried out since Prime Minister Fumio Kishida assumed office in October 2021.

  1. “Japan: ‘Discriminatory’ ruling on same-sex marriage a crushing blow to equality”, 20 June
  2. “Japan: Tokyo ruling on same-sex marriage a sign of hope”, 30 November