Domestic Violence in Japan

Neon signs in Kabukicho, a “red light” district in Shinjuko, Tokyo, Author Basile Morin (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

Domestic violence is not solely a Western phenomenon.  As of June 2017, there were 72,455 cases reported in Japan [1A].  That set a new record.  However, only 2.2% of the victims of spousal abuse there actually contact police.

A Private Matter

Japanese law does allow courts to issue restraining orders [2].  However, domestic violence is largely viewed as a private matter.

In one survey, 58.2% of the 650 victims injured did not feel their problem warranted police help [1B].  Another 34.3% did not seek police intervention because they believed themselves partly at fault, while 22.3% felt police intervention would be pointless.  Many did not recognize that they had been victimized.

Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking

Since the late 1980s, Japan has accepted migrants from Thailand and the Philippines through its entertainment industry visa program.  Over 250,000 Filipinos work in Japan, the third-largest foreign population in the country.

“They bring in people and make them work.  Their passports are taken away and they are told:  ‘You owe us.  We paid for your fare…And you have to pay us for your board and lodging.’ ”

-Darna (not her real name), Filipino migrant worker [3A]

Unfortunately, many migrant women are drawn toward work in bars, but wind up as exotic dancers or forced into prostitution.   Children of mixed race are often bullied in school because they are not Japanese.

Initially, migrants were excluded from legal protection against domestic violence.  In Kawasaki, the Kalakasan Migrant Women Empowerment Center (founded by Maryknoll Sister Margaret Lacson) lobbied to correct this.

Kalakasan means “strength” in the Filipino language.  The Center offers migrant women crisis intervention, as well as follow-up care [3B].

“Before, they were told, ‘You’re useless.  You’re nothing.’  And now they see that they’re able to work, manage their money, raise their children by themselves.”

-Sister Margaret Lacson [3C]

Some women need years to recover.  But the path is now open to them.

[1A and 1B]  Nippon, “Only A Fraction of Domestic Violence Victims Contact the Police”, 8/27/18,

[2]  We News, “Japan Adopts Tough Domestic Violence Law” by Melinda Rice, 12/2/01,

[3A, 3B and 3C]  Maryknoll Magazine, “Victims No More” by David Aquije, March/April 2020, pp. 34-38.



Filed under bullying, Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Christianity, domestic abuse, domestic violence, Emotional Abuse, Justice, Law, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Prostitution, racism, Rape, Religion, sex trafficking, Sexual Abuse, Violence Against Women

25 responses to “Domestic Violence in Japan

  1. So much sad truth in the world. Let it move us to pray for others.
    God loves you, Anna! Praying for you!

  2. This is really a very sad reality. I have known women (Filipino) who fell victim to this kind of trade. They were promised of a good and descent work then ended up as prostitues and dancers.

  3. Dear Anna, rather than trying to see the light at the end of the tunnel, societies have chosen poorly- to extinguish that light. Excellent post.

  4. Very sad but it is worldwide the abuse of immigrants. They go looking to improve their life and family’s life only to find more hardship and abuse. Good Post Anna.

  5. Very sad subject. Thanks for writing about it.

  6. Excellent post, Anna. Thanks for shedding light into the plight of trafficked women. As long as there is one who is fighting for justice, there is hope.

  7. It is shocking that this still happens in apparently civilized societies in the 21st century. It is such a terrible injustice against women, and an abuse of basic human rights. i feel so sad when I read something like this.

  8. Immigrants faces the real struggle. I can’t even think what they have to go through.
    But I surely know that they have to face racism.

  9. I have loved the Japanese culture and heritage throughout my life, but this phenomenon of domestic abuse has disturbed me much.

  10. I have always prayed that this scar fade from the Japanese culture.

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