Language Barrier and Migrant Workers in Japanese Courts
February 27, 2002 / 6.30 P.M.
Tomonori Taki, University of Warwick
Compared with the recurrent reports on the growth of crime in Japan suspected to have been committed by foreigners after 1990, the increase of pre-trial investigations and court hearings of foreign language speakers has drawn far less attention from the general public. The Japanese laws stipulate that the language used in pre-trial investigations and court hearings must be Japanese. The resulting language barrier in the courts highlights the tension between globalization and state sovereignty. From the late 1980s, civil rights campaigners raised alarm that, due to the language barrier, the new comer migrant workers were unduly put at disadvantage. In the early 1990s several White Papers also acknowledged the significance of this issue. Since that time, provision of interpretation has improved for relatively frequently spoken languages and in urban areas. Remaining issues, however, include availability of interpreters of less frequently spoken languages and in rural areas, costs of interpretation, and guaranteeing and certifying the competence of interpreters. The aim of this presentation is twofold. First, to account for how and why judicial interpreters were introduced to Japan’s criminal justice system in the last decade. Second, to consider implications of the introduction of interpreters for the reformulation of the Japanese state in the context of globalization.
Tomonori Taki is a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Warwick. He graduated from the Faculty of Economics, Yokohama National University.