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  • Latest addition to Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments: “Japanese Speaker Only” Okinawa Moromisato Karaoke Maimu

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on August 2nd, 2013

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    Hi Blog. The Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments, an information site constructed by and its supporters to catalog the spread of “Japanese Only” establishments nationwide, has added yet another karaoke parlor to its collection. As per the entry:

    Okinawa City Moromizato (Okinawa Pref)
    Karaoke Hall Maimu
    (沖縄市諸見里1−1−2 Ph (098) 931-9114、カラオケの店舗)

    Website: (which does not mention their exclusionary rules)


    (Courtesy of Maimu Website)


    (Note exclusionary sign on left wall before the staircase.  Photos taken July 14, 2013, courtesy of Justin. Click on photo with sign to expand in browser)



    Submitter Justin rightly notes: “Shop is located near Kadena US Air Force base. While these signs are a step up from completely discriminating against all NJ, it is ridiculous that they can get a sign saying people who can’t speak Japanese are not admitted, but can’t have someone translate a paper listing the ‘rules and regulations of the shop’ in English.”

    Quite. Plenty of hotels (especially the pre-disaster Fukushima ones) use the same excuse.  And Maimu’s English translation is quite good, so this “language barrier” feels more like an excuse just to exclude like the ones proffered by Onsen Yunohana back in 2001.

    The Rogues’ Gallery Moderator also wonders how Maimu will be testing customers’ language ability, what the sufficient linguistic thresholds are to “pass”, and if it will be only be enforced on people who “look foreign”.  Also, since their website also says children are welcome (and has no rules to bar deaf or blind people), I wonder if Maimu is as worried about potential communication problems during emergencies with them?  No, I bet it’s just “foreigners” that cause “inconvenience to our customers”.

    Another one duly recorded.  Any more places like this out there, Readers?  Submissions welcome as per the parameters up at the Rogues’ Gallery.  Arudou Debito

    13 Responses to “Latest addition to Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments: “Japanese Speaker Only” Okinawa Moromisato Karaoke Maimu”

    1. Johnny Says:

      Hanako, an izakaya in Shinbashi also has this language policy. We were let in as we all speak decent Japanese, but it seemed a bit strange at the time.

    2. Loverilakkuma Says:

      So, in their standards, English language is NOT in the list for staff training requirement to provide better service? Then, how could you run your business right in the middle of intercultural hub where there’s high likelihood of many visiting your place for service???

      I’m calling this the pots kettle black. Funny use of adjectives creates contradiction: “well-trained” staff can’t take care of NJ or anyone who doesn’t speak Japanese, because they are incapable of communicating due to their “limited English skill.” Well, then, it means that their staffs are not “well-trained,” after all.

      One important point: This notice doesn’t say “foreigners” or “NJ.” What about a Japanese-looking person speaking American English(note: I’m a native speaker of Japanese)? Well, I think I would visit the place and talk to them in English all the time to see how it works, if I had a chance to visit Okinawa.

    3. Dave G Says:

      Usually I’m on board with you when you find an exclusionary place… but this time I’m finding it hard to agree with you that this place is being unreasonable.

      If it is true that they actually only enforce it on people who “look foreign”, as you suggest, then I agree it would be racist. But I don’t see why anyone should automatically jump to the conclusion that this place doesn’t follow their own posted rules and impose unsaid standards. Until there is evidence of that, then they should only be judged on whether or not requiring Japanese ability is a reasonable standard for a private business.

      I think it is. I don’t see how it’s any worse than insisting that you wear a shirt and shoes, or refusing credit cards. I’m sure there’s grey areas around how any staff determines sufficient Japanese ability, but it’s no worse than the bouncer at a club enforcing a dress code.

      So long as a business builds its standards around the things that people can make choices about, then I think it’s defensible.

      — Okay. For starters: How is it different from the hotels and onsens requiring Japanese language for service (see also link here)? Otaru Onsen Yunohana eventually also eventually amended its “Japanese Only” sign to one requiring Japanese language ability for service too.

    4. Vincent Says:

      I translated the kana as “karaoke mime” and found it hilarious to imagine Marcel Marceau doing a number.

    5. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ David G #3

      Sure, they have every right to refuse service. They don’t need the money right? They have a business model that would be upset if their minimum wage, skeleton crew staffing, meant that MIME had to be taken to explain things to customers, right? Even McD’s can provide an English menu…

      ‘Japanese only’ signs? Let them get on with it. Now that Japan has a weak yen, and record numbers of visitors, I guess a record number of NJ will go home saying Japan is racist and exclusionary. It’s all good; truth will out.

    6. Loverilakkuma Says:

      @Dave G, #3

      >So long as a business builds its standards around the things that people can make choices about, then I think it’s defensible.

      If that’s the case, Karaoke Maimu would automatically be disqualified because they made their choices not based on customer requests and concerns. It is employer’s choice to protect the staffs from potential embarrassment. Making poor language skills as an excuse for limiting access to Japanese customers is totally inexcusable, since the staffs are supposed to be “well-trained” for any customer who visits the place to enjoy service. Even a notorious Yunohana Onsen made their reasoning based on their concerns (despite its incredulity) over the influence of particular foreigners (i.e., Russian sailors) on Japanese customers. But this one doesn’t. It’s bad business decision, and bad business practice. I don’t think most Japanese see Maimu defensible for making such rule.

    7. Markus Says:

      It will be hard to prove that a racist attitude motivated the people to put up such a sign, but then I don’t think it’s the most interesting aspect anyway. Because it is obvious that the need to set up these signs is stems from deep-set, pathologic xenophobia, i.e. “fear of the different”.

      In the minds of these people, someone using their establishment without a perfect understanding of every button of the karaoke machine or menu or closing times or whatever, is a huge crisis. It would challenge them to be flexible, accommodating and able to react to a new situation, two character qualities I have yet to encounter in Japanese people. Someone not following the script puts people into panic mode here, which I find amusing because Japanese people on vacation abroad rely on foreigners being accommodating by using their hands, feet, and broken English to explain things all the time.

      Since the day I first visited Japan to now as I live here, I was always puzzled at the length and intensity of explanation that my Japanese acquaintances were given (and seemed to need) if they were to receive a service from someone – like buying a cell phone contract and such. At first my Japanese wasn’t sufficient enough so I gave it the benefit of doubt, but as I became able to understand what was being said, it is hard for me to not break out in laughter whenever a staff member starts their sermon to explain the most obvious things as if we were all hundred-year olds with hearing aids.

      In this kind of culture which cannot function without the conformity, such signs may not be intended directly racist, but that doesn’t make them or the people who make them any more acceptable.

    8. Karjh12 Says:

      So what if Tokyo’s Olympic bid is successful and thousands of non Japanese speaking foreigners
      and athletes enter the country ?

    9. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ Karjh12 #8

      There will be a mini-eikaiwa boom in Tokyo, and a flurry of Google translate gibberish menus will appear at restaurants, hotels, karaoke and the like, the owners of which will be paraded in the local press as internationally minded super business people.
      Then it will be back to business as usual.

      Although, with all the right-wing aggravation and nazi gaffes, combined with the daily bad news from Fukushima, maybe many won’t bother to come, except the Japanophiles, who will be pleased to be denied service, because it will give them a chance to ‘respect Japans unique culture’.

    10. Karjh12 Says:

      Jim Di Griz @9
      Scenario continued
      I was thinking more along the lines that if the Tokyo bid is successful, that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs together with the Ministry of Education could offer complimentary Japanese language lessons at all Japanese embassies and consulates to all teams of participating countries and ticketholders….that way there will be a 4 year lead in to learning Japanese and no stress placed on local hospitality staff to engage in other languages and cultures.

      But we have to wait until the IOC decision in September

    11. Douglas Meyer Says:

      Traditionally, language policies (big & small) exist for one reason only- to keep people out. To separate ‘us’ from ‘them’, to exclude others while the safe majority can carry on uninterrupted.

    12. Andrew in Saitama Says:

      So… we could put up a sign saying that we can’t guarantee our staff’s English ability and apologise in advance for any inconvenience this may cause, or we could put up a sign saying that you are not welcome if you don’t speak our language…
      Which should we choose?

      — Or, as alluded to in Justin’s writeup (reading comprehension please), we can put up a sign or create a pamphlet explaining the rules (if management can take the trouble to put an exclusionary sign in a foreign language, they can do the same for an inclusionary one). It’s been done before. I did it in Akita. Use your imagination.

    13. Adam2 Says:

      I just found today but not sure if it’s good for this article.
      Articles are in JT

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