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  • Japanese Attitude Towards The Disabled

     atf-admin updated 1 year, 1 month ago 4 Members · 15 Posts
  • ivan_p_raven

    January 10, 2019 at 6:45 pm


    I’ve recently started saving money to travel to Japan, but I’ve been having concerns due to a few articles I’ve read accusing Japanese people of being biased against disabled people. Is this true?

    I find this hard to believe because the Japanese people have a reputation of being extremely polite.

    Did anyone of you guys have a bad experience regarding this in Japan?

    Thanks in advance,


  • Josh_Grisdale

    January 11, 2019 at 11:55 am

    Hi Ivan!

    I have CP and use a power wheelchair.  I visited Japan in 2000, 2003, 2004, 2006, and then moved to Japan permanently in 2007 – I even have citizenship!

    Now, someone like myself who likes it here enough to move here, is possibly a bit biased, but I have not really experienced any prejudice more than anywhere else.  Sure, there is some prejudice, but it is rare and more of a thing you will encounter if you are living here (work, marriage, etc) not just visiting.

    Guest trumps disability when in Japan. People here are generally excited that people are interested in Japan.

    Can you share the articles?  I would be interested in seeing them.

    If you have any questions, keep them coming – that is what this forum is for!

  • ivan_p_raven

    January 12, 2019 at 11:15 pm

    Hi Josh!

    Thank you for responding.

    I’d say you’re one of the lucky ones who had the chance to move to Japan. I’m a quadriplegic by the way, and it would be a dream of mine to have the opportunity to live and work in Japan. Lately I’ve been very interested in the country and its language.

    Here are a couple of the articles I’ve read. One of them mentions you.

    Why is Japan Still Biased Against People with Disabilities?

    Prejudice towards the disabled in Japan has been also mentioned in forums by various users, but one can’t be sure exactly how reliable their claims are. I guess prejudice exists anywhere, regardless of the country. But, given Japan’s history, one can’t but wonder.

    Thank you for your reassurance!



  • Josh_Grisdale

    January 13, 2019 at 12:43 am


    I’m quadriplegic too, so it certainly is possible to visit and live here!

    Anyway, prejudice would be a thing you would only need to worry about down the line if you live here, as opposed to visiting.

    Maybe @melanie_lmt or @bookman have some thoughts?

  • Josh_Grisdale

    January 13, 2019 at 12:45 am

    Also @mowhoa

  • ivan_p_raven

    January 13, 2019 at 12:53 am

    May I ask what kind of prejudice are you referring to?

  • Josh_Grisdale

    January 13, 2019 at 1:01 am

    Mmm… like getting into a good school, or finding a job, or getting married.

    Schools here are still segregated to a degree and those with physical disabilities my have difficulty getting into a good high school (“you should go to the special school so we can protect you”), and therefore a good university may be out of reach.

    Jobs as well, often government-mandated requirements mean jobs for the disabled, but not ones with a future career path.

    In the love real, even if a partner is fine with a disabled person, their older parents may not be …

    That kinda stuff.  So, not really a worry for a visitor.  Also, I feel this happens in many countries.

  • bookman

    January 13, 2019 at 1:40 pm

    Hey Ivan,

    Before I answer your question, let me give you a bit of background information about myself so you can understand where I’m coming from.

    I’m a visiting researcher at the University of Tokyo. My work focuses on the history and politics of disability in Japan over the last one-hundred years. I’ve traveled back and forth between Japan and the United States four times over the last ten years (2008, 2012, 2014, 2018), each time with a different kind of embodiment. The first time, I was walking with a cane. The second time, I used a manual wheelchair. The third time, I used a motorized wheelchair. And the fourth time, I needed a caregiver to help me get around.

    Like Josh, I can say that I’ve encountered prejudice against persons with disabilities in Japan each time I’ve visited, but no more than I’ve experienced elsewhere. Sometimes, the prejudice that I’ve faced has been subtle: casual assumptions about what persons with disabilities want or need. Other times, the prejudice that I’ve faced has been visceral, with engineers and other ‘experts’ (un)wittingly forcing me into dangerous situations.

    Let me give you two examples to clarify my meaning. For subtle prejudice, we can think about toilet height. Toilets in Japan are often built low to the ground to accommodate manual wheelchairs, which makes it harder for electric wheelchair users to transfer onto them. This is a kind of prejudice – an assumption that all persons with disabilities can use the same assistive technologies. There’s also another kind of prejudice that I’ve faced, with more drastic bodily consequences. Sometimes, my caregivers have ignored my requests and (un)intentionally hurt me because of their imagined ideas of what care should be. This is often tied to cultural/historical precedent and presents a problem for foreigners.

    Now, these same kinds of prejudice exist in most places I’ve visited: London, France,  Canada, the United States, etc. Japan is not exceptional in its prejudices. There are, of course, most explicit incidents of violence and abuse against persons with disabilities in Japan, but the same can also be seen elsewhere.

    I’d argue that the reason you’re reading reports like those linked above is precisely because Japan is trying to become more accessible. Over the last twenty years, Japan has introduced a ton of legislature to protect persons with disabilities, including the “Barrier-Free Transportation Law” of 2000, the “New Barrier-Free Law” of 2006, and the “Law for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities” in 2016. Those laws have contributed to an environment where access for persons with disabilities is expected. Any time something rocks the boat (the Sagamihara Stabbings, for instance), there’s bound to be a flurry of media coverage precisely because it’s not normal.

    I’d encourage you to think about the sensational aspect of the articles you’ve linked and suggest that they do not necessarily reflect conditions on the ground in Japan. Especially as a tourist, you’re not likely to encounter many of the subtle or visceral prejudices against persons with disabilities because you’re not occupying many of the spaces where those prejudices play out: schools, houses, etc.

    This has been a relatively long explanation to say don’t trust what you read in the media. For the most part, Japan is very accessible, and that’s only bound to improve as the nation marches toward the Olympics and Paralympics in 2020. Sure, there will be stumbling blocks, but those are more-or-less the same as anywhere else in the world.

    Let me know if you have any specific questions or concerns.


  • ivan_p_raven

    January 14, 2019 at 2:02 am

    I see. But you’re right, these things tend to happen anywhere. Though I was thinking, maybe down the line, of completing my graduate studies there. I hope by then things will get better.

  • ivan_p_raven

    January 14, 2019 at 2:05 am

    Hi Mark,

    Thank you for taking the time to write a thorough explanation. I must say I’m impressed by your research of which kind I never knew existed. Obviously this requires a certain amount of discipline and dedication, and for that I applaud you.

    I do believe Japan as a country is trying to become more accessible. The legislatures you stated are still fresh, and it’s only fair to give the country time to adjust to them.

    Though, the emphasis of my concern was more of an individualistic nature rather than a societal one, if that makes sense. Yes, more ramps can be integrated in train stations; yes, more “regular” schools can take in disabled students. This would definitely shape a more accessible Japan, but what about the mentality of the Japanese individual towards the mentally and physically disabled? I remember watching a video on YouTube titled “Living in Japan with a Physical Disability”, and there’s a Japanese lady by the name of Yuriko Oda who said something that stuck with me. She said that Japan is a Samurai country, and the people there don’t know how to help a weaker person. Her statement fascinated me. There is obviously some truth in it. So if that mentality has been ingrained into people’s minds for hundreds of years, would it be possible to reshape it in the near future?

    By the way, I’m sorry for the unnatural English. I’m not a native English speaker.

    Thank you.

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