The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Racism is calling on Japan to adopt anti-discrimination legislation.
United Nations Special Rapporteur on Racism Doudou Diene says Japan needs to take steps to formally abolish discrimination.
Speaking to reporters in Tokyo Thursday, the U.N. envoy says Japan suffers from what he called a "deep and profound" racism - which needs a legal remedy.
"Japan has no official, no national, legislation against discrimination," said Diene. "And this is against the international instruments, especially the international convention for the elimination of racial discrimination, which is required of member states."
Japan is now a member of the U.N.'s new Human Rights Council and Diene says he expects this will prompt Tokyo to focus on the issue.
Japan's minorities, including indigenous Ainu, Koreans and other Asians, have traditionally faced discrimination. Some domestic critics here contend that Diene's views are biased because he relied heavily on input from special-interest groups with political agendas.
Diene, an international legal expert from Senegal, is also criticizing the Japanese parliament's move this week to require foreigners be fingerprinted and photographed when entering the country. He contends the current global campaign against terrorism is stirring a worrying nationalism in many countries.
"Doing this in an ideological atmosphere where there is a strong growth of nationalism and xenophobia clearly leads to discrimination of foreigners," he added.
Human rights activists say the Japanese government needs to come to terms with modern realities that foreigners and ethnic minorities are in Japan to stay and their rights need to be guaranteed in what has traditionally been a homogenous society.
Professor Debito Arudou of Hokkaido Information University is one of the very few Westerners granted Japanese citizenship. The American-born activist says he hopes the government will heed the U.N's call.
"I think the government itself still is unaware of one, that foreigners are here to stay, two, that they are immigrants and three, that they are human beings that deserve protection under the constitution," said Arudou.
Japan's mainstream media has given scant coverage to the topic and references to minorities.