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Hi Blog. This JT article has been sent to me by lots of people and has stirred up quite a bit of debate in cyberspace. Frankly, I’m a little surprised (albeit happily) that this was in any way treated as news. I thought that this sort of thing was so normalized a practice that people largely ignored it, treated it as part of the background noise/inconvenience of living in a place like Japan. Kudos to the reporter and the Ryuugaku student for taking it up afresh.
It has always been to Debito.org’s great chagrin that we have no page (aside from some “pinprick protest” posts and solutions here, here, here, here, here, and here) dedicated to exclusionary businesses within the rental market. Partially because landlords don’t hang up a shingle saying “Japanese Only” that we can take a picture of to name and shame (like we can and have done for exclusionary businesses open to the public). Racist landlords can instead launder their discrimination through third parties like realtors, keeping incidents scattered and individualized and more or less on the downlow, and making Japan’s rental market a racialized minefield for NJ residents.
One thing that can be done (in the Ryuukoku University case mentioned in the JT article below) is for the university co-op to simply refuse to do business with or advertise apartments to anyone on campus for places with exclusionary practices or landlords. Deny them the lucrative student market. This has to be done systematically back to combat the systematic practices in place. This should be standard practice at all universities, and it is something students (Japanese and NJ) should push for. I know of one place that is considering doing so (more later).
But one of the reasons why this situation persists is not only due to the lack of a law in Japan protecting people from discrimination by race and national origin in the private sector. It is also due to the pedants, apologists, and self-hating gaijin (see the copious comments below the JT article) who riddle debates with cultural relativism, general relativism (e.g., “discrimination happens to everyone in Japan and everywhere in the world”), apologism based upon culturally-based conflict and guilt by association, chauvinism and “the foreigner must have done something wrong” merely by existing in Japan, and red-herring points including privacy and landlord rights (overlooking the fact that landlords already have quite significant power already just as property owners in this situation — before you get to their carte-blanche privilege to be racists). These cyberspace sharks argue against themselves and deter people from banding together and helping each other. They also help to keep discrimination in Japan normalized. We had the same debates during the Otaru Onsens Case (1999-2005, immortalized in all their glory within our new Tenth Anniversary eBook “Japanese Only” on Amazon for $9.99), but fortunately they did not carry the day back then because we won our lawsuits against the racists.
Back to this issue: I look forward to Debito.org Readers sharing their stories of exclusionary landlords and realtors in the Comments Section. Do try to give names, places, and dates if you can. And if you have any visuals of clear exclusionary rules, please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll find ways to include them with your comment. Arudou Debito
Student seeking Kyoto flat told: No foreigners allowed
Campus cooperative says it is powerless to prevent landlords from discriminating
BY SIMON SCOTT
The Japan Times April 23, 2013, courtesy of lots of people
After spending 2½ years living the quiet life in buttoned-down Shiga Prefecture, Ryukoku University student Victor Rosenhoj was looking forward to moving into bustling central Kyoto, where things promised to be more lively and international. First, though, he needed to find a suitable apartment, so he picked up a copy of the student magazine, Ryudaisei No Sumai, from the cooperative store on campus.
Thumbing through it, Rosenhoj, originally from Belgium, came across an attractive and affordable place just a stone’s throw from Gojo Station in the downtown area. His heart set on the apartment, he made an appointment at the student co-op on the university’s Fukakusa campus, which arranges accommodation for students in the Kyoto area.
When he pointed to the apartment he was interested in, the shop manager told him that no foreigners were allowed to rent the place.
“Well, the very first moment I was told that, I thought I had misheard something. But it soon became clear that it wasn’t a misunderstanding,” Rosenhoj said. “I felt both hurt and angry at the same time, though it took a while for those feelings to really reach the surface.”
Rosenhoj said one of the things that surprised him the most was the “matter-of-fact way” the manager informed him that the apartment was off-limits to foreigners. After Rosehoj confronted the manager about the issue, he says he was somewhat apologetic about it, but at the same time dismissive of the idea that it could be construed as racial discrimination by a foreign customer.
Rest of the article and comments at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2013/04/23/issues/student-seeking-kyoto-flat-told-no-foreigners-allowed/