I am currently living in Japan as a student. I have been working with a program that has advisors that are great 95% of the time, but this advisor has the power to tell me at anytime that I have to buy a plane ticket and return home, if for example I break any of the program's rules. (For example, I am not allowed to drive for insurance reasons.) In my case my advisor has a temper that will rise up out of nowhere over things that would have not ever been an issue before. (I have to write a report every month for my program, and it always has been typed two pages. Last month I was yelled at twice for 10 to 20 minutes at a time because it was typed. So this month I hand wrote it and it was still two pages and he proceeded to yell that it needed to be one page for 20 minutes. This was never addressed before in any manner. Each time he yelled until I was able to escape to the woman's restroom.)

What are the laws for emotional abused in Japan regarding students and people who have power over their actions? At this point I am afraid to walk around my campus for fear of running into him. Is there any part of Japanese laws that can help me stand up to him with out the fear that he will demand my return home?

Sorry if this is long and confusing but I am begging you for help I am terrified of him, and the repercussions from standing up to him. Thank you.

  • If you want my advice, file a complaint, stand up to him, and leave the program. Good luck.
    – ouflak
    May 12, 2016 at 10:00
  • @ouflak are you speaking with experience of Japanese culture or of Japan's legal system?
    – phoog
    May 12, 2016 at 17:26
  • 2
    Are you on an exchange program? If so, talk to the on-site advisor, or the one at your home school.
    – mkennedy
    May 12, 2016 at 18:02
  • 1
    @mkennedy this is the person I am having the issue with May 12, 2016 at 23:51
  • Ouch. Another sympathetic professor? Or someone in the study abroad program at your home institution.
    – mkennedy
    May 13, 2016 at 3:49

1 Answer 1


Sorry, but unless this escalates into violence or sexual harassment, I'm afraid you likely have little to no legal recourse. "Power harassment" (パワハラ) and authoritarian bosses like yours are endemic in Japan, and since you're a student, even employment laws and the usual channels for dealing with it don't apply.

You have essentially two options, both of which I'm afraid you'll find unpalatable:

  1. Be a doormat, don't attempt to defend yourself, just apologize and promise to try harder next time. This is the societal expectation and how a Japanese employee would react to criticism from their boss, and if you do this, it's virtually certain you will not be forced out.

  2. Don't be a doormat, stand up for yourself, try to pull in external authorities, file a formal complaint etc. (In that order: the further you go, the higher the stakes for both of you.) This is a crapshoot: he might shut up and mend his ways, but he might also escalate the harassment. I think it's unlikely that he will actually force you to leave, because that would reflect badly on him, but if you cause him to lose enough face, it's a possibility.

Now I'm just a random stranger speculating on the Internet, so I'd advise you to find a trusted person familiar with your boss to discuss the situation. For example, in a typical Japanese university lab setting, the lab secretary/office manager will know everything and is very much worth taking out to lunch. Does he treat other students the same way? If yes, talk to them and see what do they do and think.

  • 3
    Thank you this was a great answer. Also yes he does treat the other students like this past and current. May 23, 2016 at 7:21
  • 1
    @SarahAdkins I'm assuming that you go (went?) to a college or university. Don't (or didn't?) you have a 留学生課 (Foreign Student Section) at your school admin office? They usually take care of these matters. I kinda agree with jpatokal's answer but Japan is gradually changing. パワハラ is now getting harder to do as it will reflect not only on your advisor's reputation but on your school's as well.
    – XVD
    Oct 19, 2018 at 0:59
  • 4
    @XVD I was a high school exchange student in rural Japan, I went via a youth exchange program. this issue was resolved the next year by a student who reported the staff member and then when he was asked to apologize he decided to leave the country. This action shamed the staff member to the point that they replaced him. Mar 16, 2019 at 4:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.