“Japanese Only” rules mutate: Hagoromo-yu, a bathhouse excluding LGBT in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, in reaction to local same-sex-partner ordinance

mytest

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Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog. As Debito.org has argued for decades, if you don’t make discrimination explicitly illegal, it spreads and mutates.

Now we have a bathhouse (the most famous type of “Japanese Only” businesses in Japan) named Hagoromo-yu, in cosmopolitan Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, which has a sign up explicitly refusing custom to all LGBT customers “who don’t follow rules and morals, or don’t practice moderation” (setsudo o mamoru).

But here’s the nasty kicker (and brazen nastiness seems to be the hallmark of Japan’s excluders these days; just consider the antics of Osaka car dealer Autoplaza in the recent Yener Case).  The sign even includes this iyami on the bottom, striking back against the unusual progressiveness of the local government:

Shibuya-ku has established the ‘same-sex partners ordinance’, but we at this store will refuse service to any LGBT customers who who don’t follow rules and morals, or don’t practice moderation.”

How nice. Here’s where this place is located, for the record:

料金:入浴料 460円/サウナ使用 ・ 入浴料 1,000円
営業時間:14:00 ~ 深夜 1:00 (日曜日は14:00 ~ 深夜 24:00)
住所:東京都渋谷区本町3-24-20

Hagoromo-yu, 〒151-0071 Tokyo, Shibuya, Honmachi, 3−24−20 Tel. 03-3372-4118, no dedicated website.

Courtesy of TL on Sept. 4, 2017.  Although this isn’t explicitly a Debito.org issue (on the treatment of International Residents and Visible Minorities in Japan), this is still an issue of minority treatment, and as such warrants a mention.  Feel free to give them a piece of your mind, as “moderately” as you like.  Dr. Debito Arudou

============================

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Nikkei: Japan’s “Japanese Only” apartment rental market may adversely affect NJ worker retention during labor shortage

mytest

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Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog. Earlier this year the GOJ released a nationwide survey of discrimination toward NJ in Japan (details on Debito.org here and here). Debito.org predicted that the results of this could be (and would be) something the media would cite, now that they had tangible statistics.   (Even though, as reported previously on Debito.org, in the Nikkei Asian Review’s case, they would periodically still try to explain them away. But it would still be cited nonetheless.)  Here’s the latest example, again from the Nikkei Asian Review, with the shocking statistic, “Almost nine of 10 private housing units in Tokyo do not allow foreign tenants”.  Dr. Debito Arudou

/////////////////////////////////////////////////

As Japan looks for river of foreign talent, landlords erect a dam
Discrimination could hinder companies hiring more from overseas
Nikkei Asian Review, August 23, 2017
By TSUBASA SURUGA, Nikkei staff writer
https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics-Economy/Policy-Politics/As-Japan-looks-for-river-of-foreign-talent-landlords-erect-a-dam

TOKYOSamith Hilmy, a 26-year-old student from Sri Lanka, was waiting anxiously at a real estate office in Tokyo as an agent went through the procedure of ringing the Japanese landlord of an apartment the student was interested in renting.

Following a brief exchange, which lasted no more than 10 seconds, Hilmy said, the agent hung up the phone and uttered the same three-word phrase he had heard from a dozen or so agents over a month of home hunting: “Sorry, no foreigners.”

When Hilmy first arrived in Japan in April, his Japanese language school set him up in an apartment for six months in Shin-Okubo, a district in the capital’s Shinjuku Ward. But he has to leave the place soon, and time is short.

He said he has also encountered some real estate agents that demanded four to five months’ worth of rent up front — some want a year’s worth — as “insurance” in case he leaves the apartment or the country without notice.

“I felt,” he said, “like I was being treated like a criminal.”

Hilmy’s odyssey is not unlike the reality faced by many foreigners living in Japan. This year, the country released a first of its kind national survey that highlighted the extent of housing discrimination foreigners face.

According to the study, released by the Ministry of Justice in March, out of 2,044 foreign residents who had sought housing within the past five years, 39.3% reported being turned down because they were not Japanese.

The impact is now being felt by employers. In recent years, numerous Japanese manufacturers and services have been trying to make up for the country’s shrinking labor force by looking elsewhere for workers. They want to create an inflow of talent, but housing discrimination could become a dam.

As of last October, Japan had 1.08 million foreign workers, up 58% from five years earlier, accounting for around 2% of the total workforce, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

They have to endure the humiliating phone call that often ends with a “sorry, no foreigners” because some landlords worry about tenants from other countries flying the coop, so to speak.

A few years ago, a 63-year-old landlord from Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district who asked not to be named rented an apartment to a male Chinese student. After six months or so, he said, neighbors began reporting that two other men had moved into the same flat, “often making a racket late at night.”

When the neighbors confronted the student, the tenant pretended not to understand Japanese. “It made me more hesitant [to rent to foreigners],” the landlord said. “I just don’t want any more trouble.”

Hiroyuki Goto, CEO of Global Trust Networks, a Tokyo-based guarantor service provider for foreign tenants, said not many landlords have actually had these kinds of experiences but the stories “have spread across the country, causing fear among landlords.”

Other reasons include landlords who assume foreign tenants would trouble neighbors — from Brazilians throwing large home parties and firing up the barbecue to American college students who like partying into the night in their apartments.

Goto said even if prospective tenants are skilled workers with stable jobs at big-name Japanese companies, many housing units remain out of reach.

Total OA Systems — a Tokyo-based IT consultancy with 200 or so employees, including those in China and the Philippines — plans to expand the number of its foreign engineers working in Japan. It currently has only a handful.

The IT industry is suffering from a significant labor shortage, and the consultancy was acutely aware of the discrimination problem last year when it welcomed a systems engineer from the Philippines. To dodge any hassles, the company consulted a property agent that caters to foreigners, whom industry players describe as an “underwhelming minority” in Tokyo.

Even real estate agencies with experience helping foreigners run into the same problem: “Almost nine of 10 private housing units in Tokyo do not allow foreign tenants,” according to Masao Ogino, CEO of the Ichii Group. “It is still an extremely exclusive market.”

Tsuyoshi Yamada, a human resources manager at Total OA Systems, said a lack of sufficient support for non-Japanese employees, including in regard to housing, could throw a hurdle up in front of the company’s plan to bring in overseas talent.

This concern is particularly strong for smaller IT companies like Yamada’s. “Even if we finally find a promising engineer,” he said, “retention could become a problem.”

Some companies are taking the matter into their own hands. YKK recently opened a small serviced apartment complex for its foreign-born employees in Kurobe, Toyama Prefecture, central Japan. Its flagship plant is a 10-minute drive away.

The world’s leading zipper maker is getting ready to expand into the low-end segments in China and other parts of Asia. To get a head start, it is training more foreign employees who could go on to become managers at these plants and elsewhere. These trainees work stints of up to three years in Kurobe.

The 10 apartments are close to full with engineers from Indonesia and other countries, and YKK is already considering whether it needs more housing for the more than 30 overseas engineers it plans to welcome every year.

YKK’s foreign employees used to live in other company dormitories or in private housing rented by the company. YKK said it has not experienced landlords rejecting its foreign-born employees but feels its serviced apartments help these workers avoid cultural quibbles with would-be neighbors.

More serviced apartment units would “allow [the foreign employees] to concentrate on their training from the day after they arrive to Japan,” a representative said.

Japan has no law prohibiting landlords from refusing applicants based on ethnicity or nationality.

“Judicially, the only way to resolve such a rejection is through civil lawsuits, which is an extremely high hurdle for foreigners,” said Yumi Itakura, an attorney with the Tokyo Public Law Office, citing costly trial fees and a lack of law firms with enough capacity to help non-Japanese clients.

But there have been efforts by industry players to tackle the issue. The Japan Property Management Association, a group of over 1,300 companies handling some 5 million properties, in 2003 created guidelines that include advice for landlords and real estate agencies in dealing with prospective foreign tenants.

“In some countries, a rental contract doesn’t require a guarantor [which is common in Japan],” one piece of advice says. “Housing rules differ by country and region, therefore you should carefully explain the values and customs that are behind Japan’s housing rules.”

For foreign tenants, the association created an “Apartment Search Guidebook,” which describes the country’s common housing rules in six languages. An example: “Living with people other than those stated in the rental agreement or sub-leasing the property are violations of the rental agreement.”

At the local government level, Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward is a forerunner in trying to tackle housing rental rejections. In 1991, the ward specifically stated in an ordinance that it will “strive to resolve [tenant] discrimination” based on nationality.

The issue is particularly important for Shinjuku, which has the highest proportion of foreign residents in Tokyo. As of Aug. 1, of 341,979 residents, 42,613 were not Japanese, more than 12% of the total. People from 130 or so countries live in the ward.

The ward office provides a weekly consultation session on real estate transactions for foreign residents who are having trouble finding a place to stay. In addition, it has set up a mechanism that offers help to residents in Chinese, Korean, English, Thai, Nepalese and Burmese.

Shinjuku periodically holds liaisons with property agents for better collaboration and smoother information exchanges, according to Shinjuku’s housing division. The effort is, in part, to support the elderly, disabled and foreigners, “who tend to be the most vulnerable when it comes to securing housing,” said Osamu Kaneko, the division’s manager.

According to a survey that Shinjuku conducted in 2015, separate from the justice ministry’s study, of 1,275 foreign residents, 42.3% said they had experienced discrimination in Japan. Of those, 51.9% felt discriminated against when looking for housing.

The justice ministry study underscores just how widespread discrimination is in Japan’s housing market. But the problem could be about to swell. At least the number of foreign residents in the country is trending up. At the end of 2016, it reached an all-time high, 2.38 million, 77% more than 20 years earlier.

Experts say access to housing in Japan is becoming ever more important as the third largest economy takes steps — though small ones — to open its door to more foreigners.

Chizuko Kawamura, a professor emeritus at Tokyo’s Daito Bunka University and an immigration policy expert, has proposed that the government set up a specialized body on multicultural initiatives that would make way for foreign resident support systems — from housing, education, medical access and fair employment.

This is “not limited to housing,” Kawamura said. “If our government cannot address the social needs of [foreigners] already living in Japan, we won’t be able to support those coming into the country in the future.”
ENDS
============================

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Plaintiff Ibrahim Yener provides Debito.org with details on his successful lawsuit against “Japanese Only” Nihon Autoplaza car company

mytest

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Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog. As mentioned in the previous blog entry, Osaka resident Ibrahim Yener won his court case against a car company that refused him on the grounds (the company claims after the fact in court) of being a foreigner with insufficient Japanese language. However, Mr. Yener has just written in to Debito.org with more detail on his case, making it clear below that arbitrary language barriers were merely a ruse to refuse all “foreigners” (even those with Japanese citizenship) their business. Fortunately, the exclusionary Defendant’s reasoning didn’t wash in court.

The Defendant, not mentioned in the Asahi article in the previous blog entry, is Nihon Autoplaza, and they offer services such as buying used cars on Japan’s very vibrant second-hand automobile auction market. (I have bought cars through that auction system before, and lack of access to it will have a significant impact on your ability to get a used car affordably in Japan, something quite necessary for people in Japan’s ruralities or for small businesses.)

More detail follows from Mr. Yener himself, writing directly to Debito.org. Reproducing with permission. Well done, sir.

One more takeaway from this case is that, according to Mr. Yener, the Defendant acted even more idiotically in court, angering the judge. So I’m worried that this case might not have been as slam-dunk as it might seem for future victims of “Japanese Only” businesses who want to sue (because a lawsuit is the only real option Japan’s international residents have to protect themselves against discrimination).  Dr. Debito Arudou

///////////////////////////////////////

From: “Ibrahim YENER”
Date: September 15, 2017
To: <debito@debito.org>

Dear Dr. Debito Arudou.

My name is Ibrahim YENER. I am the guy who took legal action against Japanese company.

You’re probably wondering where all those things started from.
Let me make a brief explanation.

Last year, I contacted that company to buy a used car through their web page contact form.

The very next day I got an e-mail (I am going to paste the entire reply below this mail) from that company saying they are not going to send me papers because of I am foreigner. Also EVEN IF a foreigner became a Japanese citizen they still won’t send it.

So, next day (20th of October) about 11am I contacted them by phone and I told the boss of that company that one of his employee sent me something weird by mistake. Even that time I was giving him a chance to apologize.

Then I asked him, did you guys really think about if I take you to court?

And what made me angry was his answer: “Do whatever you want.”

So, at that point I knew I have no opportunity but take this case to court.
Because, I faced so many discrimination cases in Japan in 14 years.

But this time I decided to stand and fight instead of be quiet.

Anyway, that sick-minded person shows up at court room with a mask on his face.
And the judge asked him to remove that mask, but he replied, “There is a foreigner here.  I have to protect my privacy.”

The judge became so angry and told him that “Here is court room, there is no privacy in here. Either you take that mask off or leave the court room”.

So, he replied, “Let me think about it”.

The judge told him that “I am not asking you to remove that mask off, I am ordering you to take that mask off or leave immediately.”

At that moment, I knew I won the case, but I prepared myself for high-court just in case the court will decide it was not discrimination.

Anyway, if you have any questions, I will be very happy to answer them.

Here is the original mail from that company:

—–Original Message—–
From: 日本オートプラザ 山下 [mailto:japan_support@autoplaza.co.jp]
Sent: Wednesday, October 19, 2016 18:21
To: Yener Ibrahim
Subject: 【日本オートプラザ】資料請求につきまして

Yener Ibrahim 様

お世話になっております。

大変申し訳ございませんが、当社ではご加盟頂く際の審査基準として
日本国籍の保有者の方を対象としておりますので
外国人の方には資料の送信を見合わせて頂いております。

また、日本国籍をお持ちであったとしても
日本語の能力にも問題が無いと弊社が判断した際にのみ
弊社と加盟契約が可能となります。

したがいまして、日本国籍をお持ちであり、
日本語の能力もネイティブと遜色が無いという場合には
再度ご連絡頂けば資料を送信させて頂いておりますが
日本語の能力につていては、最終的には弊社が判断し、
不十分な場合には加盟契約を受け付けておりませんので予めご了承ください。

———————————————————————–
株式会社日本オートプラザ
本社 〒532-0011大阪市淀川区西中島6丁目2−3チサン第7新大阪ビル8F
tel:06-6101-0015 fax:06-6101-0016
東京支社 〒111-0053東京都台東区浅草橋5−2−14浅草橋ハイツビル3F

http://www.autoplaza.co.jp/
————————————————————————
—–Original Message Ends—–

Regards,
Ibrahim YENER
//////////////////////////////////////////

Translation of the email from Nihon Autoplaza by Debito:

To: Ibrahim Yener
From: Mr. Yamashita, Autoplaza

Thank you for your email.

We are sorry but our company’s screening standards for accepting members are applicable to people with Japanese citizenship, so we will not be sending our materials to a foreigner.

In addition, even if the applicant has Japanese citizenship, our company only allows membership contracts from those who have been determined by our company to have no problems in Japanese language ability.

Therefore, even if someone has Japanese citizenship, and can hold their own (sonshoku) against someone with native ability in Japanese, we can send you our materials if you contact us again, but in terms of determining Japanese language ability, the final decision rests with our company, so kindly understand in advance that we will not accept an application if we decide the Japanese language is insufficient.

Nihon Autoplaza KK
Osaka-shi Yodogawa-ku Nakashima 6-2-3, Chisan Dai 7 Shin-Osaka Bldg. 8F
tel:06-6101-0015 fax:06-6101-0016
ENDS

=====================================
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NJ Osakan Ibrahim Yener wins lawsuit against “Japanese only” car dealer

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Good news.  Another NJ wins in court against a “Japanese Only” establishment, this time a car dealer who wouldn’t send Osakan Plaintiff Ibrahim Yener information about their goods because he’s a foreigner.

Yener joins the ranks of Ana Bortz, the Otaru Onsen Plaintiffs, and Steve McGowan, all of whom won and/or lost in court in varying degrees.

The positive thing to note here is that Mr. Yener filed suit all by himself, without legal representation, and still won.  He no doubt had the company dead to rights because he had their refusal in writing.  That means that anyone else with a case as watertight as his can also take it to court and win, and I advise people to do so whenever possible.

The negative thing to note here is that once again the award amount has been reduced.  In the Bortz Case, the award was 2 million yen, in the Otaru Case it was 1 million yen per plaintiff, and in the McGowan Case, after a ludicrous defeat in lower court, it was eventually only 350,000 yen on appeal, which didn’t even come close to covering his legal fees.  In the Yener Case, it’s now been reduced to a paltry 200,000 yen, which means it’s a good thing he didn’t seek legal representation.

(And as the article notes, the discriminator is thinking of appealing, claiming this amount — essentially pocket change for a company — is too high.  The idiots also try to make the common excuse that “Japanese Only” alludes to a language barrier, not a racial one; nice try, but didn’t hold up in court.)

Anyway, glad that Mr. Yener won.  It’s just a pity that after all this time and effort, there isn’t any deterrent of punitive damages against racial discriminators.  That’s why we need a criminal law against racial discrimination in Japan — because the excuse the Japanese government officially keeps making (that laws are unnecessary because there is a court system for redress) becomes less compelling with every lawsuit filed.  Dr. Debito Arudou

UPDATE:  Ibrahim Yener writes to Debito.org directly to provide more details on his case.

//////////////////////////////////////

Turkish man wins solo battle in fight against discrimination
By SATOKO ONUKI/ Staff Writer
Asahi Shinbun, September 4, 2017, courtesy lots of people
http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201709040042.html

PHOTO: Ibrahim Yener, a 40-year-old Turkish national, in Osaka’s Kita Ward on Aug. 29. He successfully fought a court battle against a car dealer that declined to offer information about a used car on grounds Yener does not have Japanese citizenship. (Satoko Onuki)

OSAKA–Incensed at a car dealer’s refusal to send him literature on its range because he is not Japanese, Ibrahim Yener, a Turkish national, decided to wage a legal battle against the company for discriminating against a foreigner.

And Yener, who is 40 and a resident of Osaka, did it all alone–without a lawyer to represent him.

He said he opted out of hiring legal representation because he was confident his claim “is 100 percent legitimate.”

Yener went online to learn how to write a complaint to the court in Japanese and got friends to help him.

His complaint seeking 1 million yen ($9,090) in damages, filed with the Osaka District Court in March, reads: “I was informed by a company official that they will not serve foreigners.”

On Aug. 25, his efforts paid off.

The court ordered the company to pay Yener 200,000 yen in damages for “discriminating against him merely on grounds that he is a foreign national.”

Yener’s quest for equal treatment began when he made an online request last October for information on a second-hand car he was thinking of buying from the Osaka-based dealer.

The company replied: “We serve only those with Japanese nationality, and we do not meet requests for information from foreigners.”

Yener, a big fan of Japan and its culture, arrived in 2003.

His fascination with Japan began after he watched “Seven Samurai” by internationally-renowned filmmaker Akira Kurosawa while he was still back in his home country.

After his arrival in Japan, he studied the language in earnest and has worked for an information technology company and other businesses.

On occasion Yener had been distressed to hear people ridicule foreign nationals who cannot read kanji. He said there are times when he feels he is not treated “as an equal.”

“Regrettably, many people in Japan, not just the car dealer, think that they can discriminate against foreigners,” he said. “Since I admire Japan, I am very saddened by that.”

Many of Yener’s work colleagues sympathized with his plight and extended their assistance when he took the case to court.

“The lawsuit represents more than his personal battle as it raises an important question for everyone who lives in Japan,” said a colleague.

Preparing the documents was an enormous effort, and Yener was forced to take a day off from work so he could testify in court.

Nevertheless, Yener felt he was on a mission and prepared to fight to the end.

“Our world is certainly becoming a better place, compared with 100 years ago,” he said. “We can enjoy today’s world because people in the preceding era plucked up the courage and challenged (what was unreasonable). I, too, fought for people who will live in this society 100 years from now.”

The president of the car company said he is considering filing an appeal, adding that the sum ordered by the court is too high.

“Our original intention was to refuse to serve people who have difficulty understanding Japanese,” he said.
ENDS

UPDATE:  Ibrahim Yener writes to Debito.org directly to provide more details on his case.
=========================
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Positive book review of “Embedded Racism” in “Sociology of Race and Ethnicity” journal (American Sociological Association)

mytest

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Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Book Review: “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination“, By Debito Arudou (Lexington Books, 2015)
Reviewed by Rebecca Chiyoko King-O’Riain
Citation: King-O’Riain, R. C. Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination. Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, 0(0), 2332649217723003.
http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2332649217723003
DOI:10.1177/2332649217723003
First Published August 11, 2017

(Excerpt)

[…] It is a brave critique of Japanese society and its failure to look outward in its demographic and economic development. The book will, no doubt, add to a lively discussion already afoot in Japanese studies, critical race studies, and critical mixed race studies of racism in Japan.

[…] The strongest part of the book, in my view, is chapter 5, which illustrates how “Japaneseness” is enforced through legal and extralegal means. The examples of visa regimes and even exclusion from sports and other contests through educational institutions show how everyday racism leaks into larger organizational practices, often without challenge.

[…] The book is clearly written and seems to be aimed primarily at undergraduate students, as it makes an important contribution for those wishing to understand racism in Japan better, and it compiles interesting documentary legal data about the history of cases of discrimination in Japan. The book would easily suit courses that address global conceptions of race and ethnicity and how these are changing in Japan at both the micro and macro levels because of globalization. ENDS

See other reviews at http://www.debito.org/embeddedracism.html

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