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  • “Japanese Only” sign in Tsukiji Fish Market

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on February 6th, 2008

    Hi Blog. Here’s a sign I received a couple of days ago from a friend in the Kansai. “JAPANESE People ONLY” in a Tsukiji restaurant, along with a litany of what kind of food appreciation they expect from their customers.

    How urusai. Problem is, they indicate that NJ cannot have this degree of food appreciation, and so refuse them entirely.

    Click on photo to expand in your browser. Anyone want to run down to Tsukiji for me and get a definitive picture of the storefront with the sign? (These things usually need two photos–the sign and the storefront with the sign). And a confirmation of what the name of the restaurant (and the address if possible?) Thanks.

    Again, this is what happens when this kind of discrimination is not illegal in this society. More of this genre here. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


    UPDATE FEB 12: Readers at site “” contacted the owner of the restaurant and say they got the sign down. Well done. Details (highly critical of, mind; ah well) available here.

    48 Responses to ““Japanese Only” sign in Tsukiji Fish Market”

    1. Ke5in Says:

      I guess that clears up any confusion between “Japanese (language) only (spoken)” and “No gringos” …!

    2. DR Says:

      Feb 6 2008 at Japan Today: 10 Fingerprints being pushed on Japan by the USA, to add insult to injury:
      It seems that the “Japanese Only” will soon be put up at all points of entry.

    3. Greg M Says:

      What an eyesore! I wonder how many “JAPANESE PeoPle” actually take the time to read that. Does a naturalized Japanese gain the refined sensibility to enjoy fine fish? C’mon Debito, clue us in! Do you get ushered into a small room and told “now this is what it is all about…”


    4. Daniel J. Says:

      I can eat and appreciate ANY Japanese food. Even natto, sazae, raw horse meat, etc. I wish we could prove that to this restaurant. How about I go there with 3 other Japanese PEOPLE? Doesn’t that make up for being a smelly, ignorant, uncivilized gaijin?

    5. icarus Says:

      This is so unfortunate because I happen to actually like the theme of this restaurant. They seem to be appealing to the “true” fish lovers who can appreciate the taste of seafood. The rules are pretty strict even in Japanese and it seems like they are trying to preserve an atmosphere indicative of food enjoyment – i.e. no smoking or shouting.
      That being said though, the “no NJ” takes it over the top. Considering that Tsukiji is a go-to place for tourists, this policy is bad way to present Japan. If they would consider teaching NJ about fish they could probably increase their business ten-fold.

    6. Jamie W Says:

      If we wait 10 years there won’t be any fish left in the sea and the restaurant will close.

      Surely a simple “Sorry, no English spoken” would do 90% of the work and receive 99% less criticism?

    7. Turner Says:

      In the Tsukiji market?? That’s grounds for taking the matter directly to the MOJ. Why on earth would Japanese tourism companies encourage foreigners to visit what is quintessentially one of the biggest attractions in Tokyo, only to have them kept out?

    8. iago Says:

      Now, see, I assumed it meant the instructions that follow apply to Japanese People Only…

    9. Tony Says:

      Incredible. Tsukiji is pimped as one of the major tourist destinations in Tokyo, from ads at Narita to flyers in backpackers. Assuming that sign isn’t tucked away in a corner somewhere, a lot of people are going to see it…

    10. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      Looking at that laundry list of minutiae to be observed by any potential customer, I can easily see why the restaurant may have had trouble with foreign tourists in the past.

      Here are some of the things that they want patrons to understand:

      * The place opens after 7:30 AM, but there are certain special regulars who get to come in earlier. You can easily see how a non-Japanese-speaker peeking in the door at 7:15 and being turned away with a “we’re not open yet” while seeing other people being served could cause problems. These people have reserved seats, too, evidently.

      * They pour you tea before you order. I’m betting that this results in a seating charge that can be unpleasant for the unsuspecting customer.

      * They have limited quantities of their stuff, and it’s always fresh and high-quality and thus expensive, and takes time to prepare. Could mean frustration for the tourist on a budget.

      * Plus other unavoidable annoyances such as having parties larger than two sit separately, not letting people smoke or talk loudly, etc.

      This isn’t to say that I don’t mind seeing an outrageous sign like this one, though. And it doesn’t even say anything about non-Japanese being forbidden in the main Japanese text. I imagine that a serious fish lover who has the wrong skin color and accent but who is willing to abide by the rules could probably get in. Someone should get this store to rewrite their sign in a much more diplomatic manner and everyone will be happy.

    11. Don Says:

      Icarus, it’s not a matter of ‘teaching’ NJs about fish, 9 times out of 10, you have a love for the food if you decide to go to Tsukiji. No one can tell YOU how to appreciate fish or any other food or hobby you like, as if there was a ‘normal’ way. I love Japan, I do, but you need to do SOMETHING about this ignorance/fear of NJs.

    12. Jon Says:

      SO MUCH FOR “YOKOSO JAPAN”. And the morons want to increase tourism to Japan. What a joke.

    13. Andrew Smallacombe Says:

      Do they let in non-Japanese fish? Because I can’t see how a Japanese person could possibly fully appreciate a fish that was not caught in Japanese waters, and was possibly caught by non-Japanese fishermen.
      The logic used by the restaurant in question is about the same.

    14. Willie Says:


      Not to defend exclusion, but…

      Does your logic extend to how no sports club can tell you how to appreciate working out? My local gym wants people to bring in sneakers that are not used on the dirty street, plus you can’t wear your regular shoes very far inside.

      In other words, I’ve seen lots of inappropriate behavior by Westerners in Japan. And many of them are totally unapologetic for their acts. Debito could start another blog to cover this, if he wanted to show the other side of the cultural divide.

    15. Ke5in Says:

      No smoking, no shouting or loud talk? Hang on, that excludes like 90% of Japanese customers :O
      Surely there are gringos around who’d translate that into English
      for a free meal? To avoid all the hassle and negative publicity …

    16. John k Says:

      I always suprise the locals with the food that i eat. Im constantly asked, are you sure you’re not japanese, despite my very obvious ‘western features’! I eat more typical japanese foods than japanese do.

      I even make my dashi stock the correct way (it’s simple), non of this predried frozen chemical rubbish. I do think the japanese are loosing their palate for their own food with all the rubbish “ready made” meals and sauces i see in the supermarkets. I can taste all the subtle flavours that around 90% of my freinds cannot, becasue they eat ready made dashi stock and sauces etc, full of rubbish chemicals and flavours and salt etc.

      May be this is one reason for the sign…to keep philistines out!

    17. iago Says:

      Well, I’m kind of split on this one. Sign or no sign, the owner is still the same intolerant, prejudicial ass who I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to do business with. And he/she seems pretty prejudicial toward Japanese folk, too, juding by the list of directives. Maybe sometimes it’s better to be forewarned. If the sign’s not there, he’s not suddenly going to become an open-armed, gracious host. I would hope it doesn’t prove to be viral, though, and spread to other establishments.

      My guess is his fish tastes pretty much like everybody else’s fish at Tsukiji, and he’s trying to pander to egos to get a price premium. I’m happy just to go to someplace else and forget him.

    18. icarus Says:

      Don, I agree with you, but it seems that the point of the restaurant is to actually teach Japanese people about eating fish. That is the theme of the restaurant. They are basically, based on the rules above, trying to say that this place isn’t your typical izakaya and that they won’t put up with loud and drunk businessmen – they’ve purposely chosen an elitist theme possibly to bring in more sophisticated clientèle. Based on keeping with this theme, I think it would be perfectly suitable in keeping with the theme to “teach” NJ about fish and show them the ideal way to enjoy the seafood rather than excluding them entirely – this is what they are doing with Japanese people. I’m sure there are NJ who go to Tsukiji because they have a love of fish, but let’s be serious, most of the NJ there are most likely tourists trying to enjoy something traditionally Japanese. What better way to welcome these tourists than show them what even Japanese people consider the perfect way to enjoy the food.
      Something definitely needs to be done about the fear of NJ, but you can’t do this by slapping the owners on the wrist and saying, “bad racist!” You need communication – and what better way to do this than have the owners apply the elitist theme to everyone in a friendly and open way.

    19. scott lucas Says:

      Perhaps we all got it wrong. Perhaps Tsukiji loves its foreign tourists so much that this restaurant kindly wrote its “Japanese people only”(need to read the) rules for dining sign because these rules are aimed at the countless chain-smoking, drunkenly loud Japanese men and not the polite and courteous foreign tourists who the restaurant will, of course, welcome with open arms.

    20. Ken Says:

      Mark, those are some great rationalizations, but what does it do for those of us who know that stuff inside and out already because we’ve spent our entire adult lives here? All foreigners are lumped into one dumb mass by stuff like this. Anyway, I’d rather give my yen to someone else.

    21. adam w Says:

      mark in yayoi-sorry but your analysis of the sign is completely wrong.

      1.maybe they did have probs with nj not understanding the rules in the
      past.but having the rules written like that means that they have had
      problems with japanese not understanding the rules as well.
      If your logic is correct ,why arent they banned??
      of the examples you give,seeing reg customers before 7.30am in the shop and
      people being on a budget, are problems which apply equally to j and nj. says clearly that nj are not welcome in english.
      why would they put that in japanese when its in english?
      furthermore it does make clear(though indirectly) that foreigners are not
      welcome in using (日本人の方でも)it makes clear that even
      japanese can be refused.

      it is this use of でも that I find the most outrageous about the sign.the
      sense is that it is perfectly normal to refuse nj ,but
      guess what amazingly,we can even refuse japanese as well if they dont obey
      the rules..
      this of course also implies foreigners dont love fish,and that foreigners
      dont follow the rules.

      the only rule that this shop wants foreign patrons to understand is that
      they are not welcome.

    22. anonymous Says:

      One of the best things of capitalism and market forces is that you as a customer, always have the right to choose. Even Japanese clientèle will get pestered by those countless regulations. What’s the point? I am going just to sit and eat fish, not going into some spacecraft construction site where cleanliness and unwanted vibrations (shouting) can be really bad for the spaceship ( The best thing we can do is just take our money elsewhere, is the owner who loses. In a country with such excellent customer service, I know there will be plenty of other places in Tsukiji that will give me excellent food.

    23. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      Ken and Adam, I’m not trying to justify the owner’s policy, but rather to try and imagine from his perspective why he might want to institute rules like this, whether they’re rational or not.

      As I said in my earlier post, I think this the kind of thing that can be fixed with a simple visit from a Japanese-speaking, fish-loving foreign person who’s willing to help the owner out on a better-written sign. With all those eccentricities listed there, it looks to me like the owner more paranoiac about the quality of his fish and the perfectly-tuned atmosphere in his store than in anything specific to foreigners.

      There might also be a bit of the “we discriminate against all people of your kind, so you shouldn’t feel bad as an individual” convoluted logic that you occasionally see from Japanese people, such as some of the bath owners that Debito dealt with during that case. The guy is too lazy or fearful to worry about fairness, andb probably expects non-Japanese to look at the first line of the sign, say “shoganai” in their own language to themselves, and move on to the next fish place.

      What he should probably do is just swap that sign for one bearing the famous “ichigen-san okotowari” (no first-time visitors), and then when people who have no acquaintances among that able-to-enter-before-7:30 super-elite inquire about actually coming in, he reads them the rules and then only the sakana-otaku who share his unusual views get to sit down.

    24. KokuRyu Says:

      It’s pretty depressing situation, but it doesn’t seem to be a place I would want to eat at anyway. And the owner must be frustrated when clueless foreign tourists enter the place and demand tempura and miso soup or something.

      But it would be nice if Japan did recognize human rights conventions instead of relying on ‘duty + humanity’ all the time.

      Food culture is declining all over the world, anyway. I went to a deli at a farmer’s market in a gentrified rural part of the region where I live (investment bankers and their hobby farms) to order a sandwich. I asked what kinds of sandwiches they had, and the clerk pointed wordlessly at the menu board.

      Due to the ‘labour shortage’ or whatever, people just don’t give a shit anymore (and why should they, for minimum wage?).

    25. Gyaretto Says:

      Perhaps the “JAPANESE PeoPLE ONLY” bit of the sign is meant to dismiss non-Japanese speakers from trying to read the sign and to advise non-Japanese who speak and read Japanese as well as English primarily to follow the rules if they can read them. LOL. I’d like to think these “Japanese Only” signs are taken out of context a little and even to extremes sometimes. I’m not fluent in Japanese so I wouldn’t be able to say what the signs contents entail but I can assure everyone who see signs like these that there are many sides to them. Don’t just jump to conclusions.

      Besides, even if it were a possible exclusion of foreigners, who are foreigners to say they ARE welcome in another country? Especially in a country like Japan…? It doesn’t matter how International people think of themselves, being foreign isn’t a golden ticket, and you still have to follow the rules, even as a guest. Guests only receive good treatment from hosts when they behave according to a hosts expectations. That’s the way I think it should be, I know when it comes to the customer in the Western world it’s completely opposite but Westerners still have to follow an owners rules of an establishment, as long as they don’t go against the law.

      Think of it like this, if you have a mint Japanese coin set and you break it open and take a coin out and jam a non-Japanese coin into it, it’s not worth much anymore.

      If it is exclusion from just one restaurant, why can’t the Japanese have a place to (possibly the only restaurant in Tsukiji)go to where only Japanese people are served? In a sense, it happens here in America still…we just can’t put up signs enabling it anymore. For some reason in certain regions of the U.S. there still seems to be an unwritten code on where certain groups may gather…it’s just the Japanese way to be very thorough, specific and precise by putting up signs prohibiting natural tendencies to highlight the un-natural (seemingly natural and acceptable to Japanese society). Without the un-natural (deemed natural to Japanese) social constraints in Japan, Japanese people would not be able to preserve their traditional love and appreciation of actual naturality.

      People should realize that Japan is Japan, and Japan is not the U.S., nor the U.K., nor anywhere else they wish Japan had the policies of.






    26. Lionel Dersot Says:

      But Mark in Yayoi, after you stay 23 years in this country, you wake up one morning thinking that it does not make sense ”to try and imagine from his perspective why he might want to institute rules like this, whether they’re rational or not”, unless you want to prove yet another point in your still unpublished sociology thesis on “Japanese patterns of behaviour (and Me)”. I understand his perspective (wakaru). I don’t agree with it (nattoku shinai).

      There is no point to think that this is “the kind of thing that can be fixed with a simple visit from a Japanese-speaking, fish-loving foreign person who’s willing to help the owner out on a better-written sign. “ Especially this last one smells so paternalistic and good doctor ethnocentricism – I’ll tell them what’s good for them that is good for me!

      Racism and ostracism have no color. Period.

      And by the way, daily life is not “Applied intercultural communication in real life” (with 5 credits at the end of the term) but comes down to very tangible things: 1 – they don’t want gaijin, 2 – I don’t want to eat in any place, whatever the cook’s creed be who plays the “ganko oyaji” and where the regular fish cognocentis in the back grin at you, watching your every munching jugular movement as if you were a walrus in the zoo. And the reason is that 1 – if I were a restaurant owner, I would shriek at the idea of screening patrons based on skin colors, and 2 – I would hate myself if I were the kind of person lurking at others like queer animals. It is that simple and doesn’t call for further action than scoffing at the shop’s owner and calling for a boycott.

    27. Ken Says:

      Don’t just jump to conclusions.

      So – should we assume the sign means something other than what it says?

      Besides, even if it were a possible exclusion of foreigners, who are foreigners to say they ARE welcome in another country?

      They are according to the laws of Japan and the visas they received at immigration. So, the Japanese government and courts is who is to say they are welcome.

      Especially in a country like Japan…?

      Please enlighten us as to why the word ‘especially’ is used before Japan as opposed to any other political entity with borders arbitrary defined by war or geography?

      if you have a mint Japanese coin set and you break it open and take a coin out and jam a non-Japanese coin into it, it’s not worth much anymore.

      I’m lost on the analogy. Who would do such a thing anyway?

      The guestism arguments are the most self-defeating, especially when Japan is trying to boost the number of tourists and the number of skilled working people living here (the latter is not universally supported, but enough so that it’s bringing people into the country). The practice has to match the stated goals, or else the goals won’t be achieved.

      In my opinion, the guy who runs this place is probably a little beyond eccentric. It doesn’t excuse the sign, but it would be good to have an insight into the thought process that lies behind such behaviour.

    28. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      Gyaretto, I can’t get my mind around:

      you still have to follow the rules, even as a guest. Guests only receive good treatment from hosts when they behave according to a hosts expectations. That’s the way I think it should be

      The guy’s sign says something about “Kawasaki spirit”, so it looks like he’s not a Tsukiji native. Isn’t he a “guest” in Tokyo? Where are the lines drawn between “native” and “foreign”? Would you approve of a “Tokyoites Only” sign? How about “Dosanko Only” up in Hokkaido? Yet this guy can move from Kanagawa up to Tokyo and arbitrarily define non-Japanese people as outsiders?

      Lionel, I am not a sociologist (indeed, I have neither a thesis nor a single “credit” in it), just an ordinary person looking to make sm contributions to solving the problems in our society. How about leaving the childish insults at home?

      When you confront people with the irrationality of their policies, often (admittedly, not always) they change. Debito’s done it many times. In this case, nobody’s even spoken with the owner yet. Give him a chance to defend his ill-thought-out and discriminatory policy (difficult, I’m sure) and then get him to revise it.

    29. kani Says:

      この注意書きは、店主がマナーに厳しく、マナーを守れない人間を歓迎しない旨を書いているだけだろう。過去の経験から、外国人の多くがルールを守れずトラブルを起すことが多く、その経験則(a rule of thumb)から外国人客を拒否している可能性が高い。

      無論、そういう理由により全ての外国人客を拒否するのは不当な差別ではある。しかし、店主の本意は「マナーを守れない人間」の拒否(refusal of customers who cannot follow the rules)が第一であって、外国人を外国人という属性故に拒否(refusal of foreign customers by virtue of being foreigner)しているとは考えられない。

      つまり、この店主は(1)一般的に偏見的(generally prejudicial)な思考をする人物というだけであって、(2)特に外国人を差別する人種差別主義者(directly racist)であるとは思えない。この店主が、外国人は劣等であるとか、外国人は汚れているとか、そうした外国人プロパーの属性に関するの偏見故に外国人客を拒否しているとは思えない。例えば、もしも過去に関西弁を喋る人間がマナーを守らず迷惑をかけることが多かったなら、この店主は同じく関西人を拒否する旨を示す可能性が高いだろう。



      相手(この店主)の考え方を説明(または弁解)するのは私たち(客)の仕事ではないと思う。客商売をする店主は自分の立場をきちんと説明する義務があると言える。顧客に誤解が生じる書き方はしないのは店主の責任である。「JAPANESE PeoPle ONLY」という書き方は「国籍」(結局外見になろう)のみで門前払いとあるようなので、少なくとも無責任であり、最悪の場合で店主の差別主義を反映している。いずれに、我が国日本では、これは正当化できない。

      とにもかくにも、どうぞ直接当店に行き確認して下さい。この議論は堂々巡りだ。張本人の理屈が把握していないとただ憶測のみに基づいている議論となる。有道 出人

    30. sendaiben Says:

      I heard an interesting take on this from my wife, that I had not heard before. Apparently Japan has a much stronger culture of exclusionary establishments than the UK, for example. Not so much up here in the frozen north, but especially in Kansai it is common for commercial establishments to be very picky about their customers.

      Not that it excuses anything, but this may be one source of the conflict here, between people who think it is normal to exclude specific groups (‘foreigners’ being one of them here), and people who country of origin doesn’t do that anymore, at least on the surface (the gentlemen clubs in London got hammered in the courts, but you still can’t get into a night club if the bouncer doesn’t like the way you look).

      I would certainly like to see someone with good Japanese and a real love of sushi to go to this shop and see if they can change some attitudes (maybe translate the rules into English so they can be posted alongside the Japanese ones). I do suspect that the ‘Japanese people only’ thing is part ignorance and part giving up on communication before it has even happened. I think the best thing we can do it to try to add some shades of grey to the foreigner/Japanese dichotomy. Plenty of foreigners in Japan who have absorbed a lot of the culture and language, but we need to be more visible, and not in a ‘cute foreign clown on TV’ kind of way.

    31. Andrew Smallacombe Says:

      I think we need to give this the acid test – a visit by some Japanese people like C.W. Nicols, Ramos Rui and Arudou Debito, and some non-Japanese people like Wada Akiko, Oh Sadaharu and Ito Yuna at the same time – see who gets let in and who doesn’t.


    32. GordonM Says:

      any progress on this issue?

      –Until I know where this place is, there’s not much I can do. I’m up in Hokkaido, can’t go to Tsukiji to track this place down. Got no address, so I can’t even dial 104 and give the place a call. I put the information up in hopes somebody would do what I can’t, but the person who said he’d go and check things out hasn’t responded. Somebody else claims to know the whereabouts of the place, but no progress on getting him to tell me. That’s really the best I can do with the information I have, sorry.

      If you or anyone wants to go there and try to resolve the situation, please do. For me, getting that sign to no longer say “JAPANESE PeoPle ONLY” would definitely be an improvement. Debito

    33. GordonM Says:

      seems the guys over at have resolved the situation and have managed to get the sign taken down, and an interview with the owner of the shop, explaining the situation in his own words.

      –Yes, I read. Well done, everyone. I look forward to a full report and a photo of the new sign. Please do the same thing next time another exclusionary sign like that pops up (or work on some of the ones still up that are recorded on the Rogues’ Gallery).

      Not being sarcastic. I do appreciate your efforts. Glad it got done. Debito

      PS: I take it from your email address you’re a Pink Floyd fan…

    34. Tokyo Restaurant Removes “Japanese People Only” Sign : Japan Probe Says:

      […] Remember the above sign, which was featured on Arudou Debito’s blog last week? A group of users at Occidentalism report that they made a couple phone calls, talked to the restaurant owner, and the sign has been taken down: We have done it! The sign that Debito has been complaining about has been taken down thanks to the actions of Occidentalism commenters MaidoOido and Ponta, and also the policy of Occidentalism of bringing foreigners and Japanese people together, rather than driving a wedge by misunderstanding and prejudice. […]

    35. GordonM Says:

      Hi, thanks for your response.

      It wasnt my effort at all, it was Matt and some other posters over at, namely Ponta and MaidoOido.

      Am I too bold to suggest that more often than not it’s a case of misunderstanding rather than out-and-out racism? (**I accept that there are some (rare) cases of racism here in Japan, e.g. in your “Rogue’s gallery”, there is a sign that reads something like “no mixed bloods, no chinese war orphans, pure blooded Japanese males only”, no mistaking that!**) but in my 6 (well, 5 and a half years..) of being in Japan, I have never come across such a sign myself – and I’ve been looking.

      Part of my job involves sales (I’m an engineer, but a totally charming bastard, so they occasionally let me handle a few sales accounts), and sales in Japan involves a bit of the ‘ol mizu-shobai (hostess bars, snack bars, nothing too seedy) to oil up the transaction from time to time. I have noticed that since I first came here in 2001, heads would turn if I walked into such a place, but now nothing what-so-ever, rarely even a “nihongo daijoubu?” (I’m a white Australian) Are the times-a-changin’ or is there something else I’m not aware of? It’s not like I smell of money, either. As a humble suggestion, maybe it’s time for a methodical update of the Rogue’s gallery, I’d bet that many of the signs have been altered, or taken down. Also, I bet a few of the remaining ones could be taken down after a calm conversation and a polite request.

      –Thanks Gordon. I meant “you” in the plural… :) Thanks to Ponta, Matt, and MaidoOido in specific.

      Anyway, I have contacted all of these places on the Rogues’ Gallery one by one over the years, even visited some (except the prurient places, which are the minority on the RG anyway despite claims made by others), confirming details and ascertaining whether or all NJ by appearance or nationality were to be banned. The results, where clear, are up as reports on the Rogues’ Gallery. These exclusionary signs and practices were not based upon mere “misunderstandings”. These were more often than not clear and systematic policies to bar people by nationality and, yes, race (which became clear when they banned me too, even when presented a J passport). Those are unavoidable facts of the case.

      And I too have gotten signs down after entreaty. As I have indicated on the RG. Sometimes entreaty works. Sometimes it doesn’t. The Tsukiji sign went up on because it said what it said. If I had had more details on where the place is, I would have contacted them, gotten their justifications and, yes, tried to reason with them to get the sign down myself. Others on Occidentalism did instead, good work.

      I’m pleased the owner of the Tsukiji restaurant was open to entreaty. But not all of these kinds places are. I’ve been doing this for nearly a decade, and sorry, but experience (and history) indicates that not everything can be fixed by simple “communication”.

      Above all, it is the shopkeep’s responsibility to make shop rules towards customers clear. Not doing so for NJ (instead, outright banning them, as was written), is not justifiable under ANY circumstances. So the sign went up on There was no concealment (the sign was up in full), and all the information I had was visible to the public eye. Blame me for doing things in ways you don’t approve, whatever. I can live with that. Just don’t try to justify this sort of exclusionary practice–as some people were trying to do (those posts have no place on, sorry). Just get the sign down.

      You say it got down. Bravo. If what happened here over the past week motivates people to take action against this sort of thing in future–put it down to “miscommunication”, whatever–then good. The sign would still be up today if not for you, so thanks.

      Let’s get a photo of the new sign for confirmation if and when there is one. Arudou Debito

    36. Bryce Says:

      Debito says; “I’m pleased the owner of the Tsukiji restaurant was open to entreaty. But not all of these kinds places are. I’ve been doing this for nearly a decade, and sorry, but experience (and history) indicates that not everything can be fixed by simple “communication”.”

      So you’ve been doing this for 10 years? And there are what, thirty or so, signs up on the rogues gallery including the ones you succeed in having taken down? So you are finding about three signs per year, on average, even when you have a website encouraging your fanbase to send you pictures of such signs.

      Don’t you think you are making a mountain out of a molehill when you say that such behaviour is rife in Japan?

      (Don’t worry, I know this post won’t see the light of day on your site. I think I might post it over at Orientalism though, they have a somewhat more enlightened moderation policy over there.)


      –Hi Bryce. Is it really a matter of degree? To me it’s a matter of existence. One sign is too many. It would be too many in your society too. Good thing NZ laws reflect that.

      Moreover, your counting is way off. For example, according to the Hokkaido Shinbun there were at least 90 exclusionary signs up once in Monbetsu (2000). They were the same sign, but signs up nonetheless. Thanks to our efforts (I personally have gotten down four signs after polite entreaty), as of January 2008, they are now down to nineteen (yes, I went and counted). In any case, this is going to add up to far more than 30. It’s hard to get every single sign photographed, sorry. But this should not be a reason to doubt the veracity or the existence of the problem. If you’re talking moles, if anything, what I have wound up doing is mogura-tataki. That, plus the same public exposure I have always done, is what has gotten those signs down.

      And if you mean to cite the Rogues’ Gallery as my assertion of “rifeness”, where did I use the word “rife” on the RG? I did a google search, and I only use the word “rife” on when talking about discrimination in general, which certainly stands the test of “rifeness” when you consider how many NJ have trouble getting, say, apartments or tenured university jobs in Japan.

      I know you’re an academic, not a troll (as I have confirmed who your identity online). But I reckon you should use a more academic approach when quoting somebody.

      I hate to nit-pick back, but that’s what you’re doing here in your comment. It’s a bit unbecoming.

    37. Bryce Says:

      So you don’t think that such behaviour is rife in Japan?

      –Your question is too vague, Bryce. If by “such behavior” you mean the exclusionary signs, I said “nationwide”. Look, I’ve made my statements clear on the RG, so cite that and don’t try to put words in my mouth. It’s trollery.

      Sorry guys, I know you guys at Occidentalism are really spoiling for a fight (and anything I say–even if I answer at all–is clearly going to be, and has been, taken negatively). So I’m not going to answer any more. I’ve got a life to lead, other jobs to do, and a book tour to prepare for. One of the reasons my Japanese translations on this blog have been rushed recently (and thanks for the corrections) is because I’ve got Galleys to read, and only got a month to prepare for my book’s publication and tour in March. It’s tough enough to keep up a daily blog regimen without having to deal with comments picking fights.

      No doubt I’ll get some cries of “so what?” or “boo hoo to you” over there. Ah well. Now you know why I don’t participate in debates online. There’s lots of you and only one of me–and nobody really knows who or where you are anyway. Everything I’ve said about the issues is already online now, in more than fifteen years of essays, and if you just keep raising questions I’ve answered elsewhere I’m not going to repeat myself.

      Nor am I going to bother approving messages that don’t make cogent arguments, or are just seeking to get a rise out of the readership. Again, “don’t feed the trolls” is a golden rule of blogging. Don’t like it? Oh well. Condemn me as unfair and get on with life. Surely you’ve got better things to do than care this much about what I think.

    38. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      I’m very happy to see that this thing has been solved. The new non-discriminatory signs (which focus on the fish and the service and not the color of the patrons’ passports) can be seen over at the blog.

      Supposedly it was a foreigner who suggested the “Japanese PeoPle Only” sign, but I wonder what kind of person woud do that. An integrated Japanese-speaker who doesn’t care what happens to others? A craven “guestism” advocate who revels in being second-class? A prankster looking to get the owner in trouble?

      And one final observation: the layout of the sign practically invites the wrath of the non-Japanese-reading visitor. You’ve got inflammatory wording right on top, and then each rule below is headed with a big erd dot that looks suspiciously like a hinomaru flag. Someone who couldn’t read the content of the rules might indeed be suspicious that this owner was anything but a racist.

      Fortunately, things turned out fine. Kudos again to MaidoOido and Ponta.

    39. Bryce Says:

      DA said: “If by “such behavior” you mean the exclusionary signs”

      I think that it is pretty clear that that is exactly what I mean.

      I’m not trying to put words in your mouth. Comments on your Rogues Gallery give me the impression that you consider exclusionary signs prevalent and increasing, the very dictionary definition of “rife”. The fact that the gallery exists suggests to me that this is the case, as does some of the wording (“spreading nationwide” is the most prominent example).

      So, the best way to avoid any confusion about this is for you to answer my question. Do you consider these exclusionary signs to be rife, i.e. prevalent and increasing in number?

      It’s a simple question. I’ll admit that prevalence is a subjective concept, but I am after your opinion anyway.

    40. GordonM Says:

      Hi Debito (btw, do you prefer to be called “Dave” or “Debito”?)

      Thanks for your response.

      First of all, I’d like to apologize if my earlier posts were somewhat caustic.

      In response to your response, yes I accept that there are some places that are out-and-out racist, but I believe the following:

      1. many of the places that are listed on your “Rogues gallery” have either changed hands by now, or are out of business.

      2. many of the places have probably changed the signs for other reasons (either way, I bet many of the signs are already gone)
      Like I said, I’ve actually been looking for such signs but in my 5 and a half years here have so far not been successful in finding them. Therefore, I believe the problem is not so severe. I feel a different vibe in Japan now than I did when I first arrived in 2001. Times are a-changin’.

      3. (Although this does not excuse racist behavior in Japan, or anywhere else…) my native country, Australia, despite having “anti-racism laws” is (as far as I’m concerned) far more racist than Japan. Despite it being technically illegal, racial segregation is still practiced at certain country pubs (glasses for the whites, plastic cups for the aboriginals), certain ethnic and religious groups are effectively barred from certain country, golf and rowing clubs, which have “selective membership” (I’m going to hazard a guess that it’s the same the USA)

      4. The only significant influx of non-military foreigners happenned post WW2, once it became economically viable to do so, so a history of about 30 years or so. I would say that taking this into account, Japan is doing surprisingly well at dealing with all these “new” faces. During the 60s and 70s, there were black commedians on UK television who’s only gag was having a Yorkshire accent. I see the same sort of thing today in Japan, but I bet that it’s easier for NJ’s in Japan today than it was for ethnic minorities in the UK in the 60s and 70s.

    41. Tsukiji Restaurant Says Japanese People Only | Neil Duckett Says:

      […] Image courtesy of Arudou Debito […]

    42. Neil Duckett Says:

      Gordon …. in all my years i have never heard of `glasses for the whites, plastic cups for the aboriginals` ….. what state did you grow up in / come from? …. I`m an Adelaide boy via Queensland then Melbourne and i have never heard such a term. I`ve spent my fair time in all the other states too.

    43. GordonM Says:

      hi Neil,

      The first time I saw it was at a miner’s pub near Broken Hill, NSW. That was on a uni field trip in 2000.

      The second time was in 2003 in Katherine, up North.

      I’m from Melbourne, you’d never see that sort of stuff there.

    44. DM Says:

      Bryce Says:
      February 12th, 2008 at 10:35 pm
      …Do you consider these exclusionary signs to be rife, i.e. prevalent and increasing in number?”

      I’m not Debito, but I can walk out my front door and see three such signs in five minutes. Would it be acceptable if there were only one? This is the 21st Century, not the Tokugawa Jidai, if you don’t mind this sort of sign then fine. Some of us have different concerns.

    45. james Says:

      An interview with the owner of this place can be found at:
      He took the sign down…

    46. GordonM Says:


      dude, you must live in a seriously unfriendly part of Japan! 3 signs in 5 minutes?! I’ve never seen one sign in five years! (… I’m not saying that you’re bullshitting)

    47. DM Says:


      Well I don’t live in Hiroo or Aoyama hehehe. I’m curious, in your five years, have you ever heard of fudoyasans refusing to rent someone an apartment on the basis of ethnicity? Or will this suggestion elicit more exclamation points of disbelief?

    48. GordonM Says:


      Yeah, I have heard of that, of course. Those are two different issues, however. Look, dude, I’m not saying you’re bullshitting. All I’m saying is that the signs are rare, and that racism is no more entrenched in Japan than in my native country, Australia.. By the way, are the said 3 signs in the “Rogue’s gallery”?

      I’m *not* saying that that discrimination based on ethnicity is okay under any circumstance, however I will tell you what I real estate agent (my brother in law) said to me once after I mentioned it beign tough for us whities to get an apartment in Japan:

      Him: “what sort of people find it tough to get an apartment in Australia?”
      Me: “I dunno, but when I was a student I used to find it tough getting an apartment that wasnt specifically “for students”.”
      Him: “Why do you suppose that is?”
      Me: “Lots of reasons, many students are unreliable, messy, have parties, break stuff, etc.”
      Him: “Do they *all* do that?”
      Me: “No, of course not.”
      Him: “Did it piss you off not being able to get an apartment.”
      Me: “Sure.”

      so, what am I getting at? Maybe the real estate agents/land lords don’t see it as racism. To them, they have an expensive, depreciating asset, and want to get the most out of it with the least risk. You’ve got to be able to prove to the land lord that you’re a reliable person, and that you will follow the rules (garbage neatly stacked and placed neatly outside on the collection days, etc.), and that they can easily communicate with you. If you turn up hungover, don’t have a stable income, don’t bother with a hoshounin, or can’t speak Japanese, what do you think the land lord would say? Do you really consider it racism if the land lord turns someone away based on these facts? I’ve never had a problem with getting an apartment in Japan because I’ve always had a lot of help from Japanese people, always had a stable job, always had a hoshounin, always turned up freshly shaved and clean to the appointments with the land lords/real estate agents. I believe most Japanese people (including land lords) are fairly reasonable. However, I accept that I was probably lucky. I’ve moved a total of 4 times since being in Japan… once when I first got here, once again about a year after that (then I buggered off to Australia to do a post grad degree), once more when I came back, and once again after I got married. During my first stint in Japan, the first lot of housing was arranged through my employers (so I guess it doesnt count), but the second place I lived in I arranged by myself, it took a lot of convincing and a lot of effort, but I got the place. The first time around my visa/gaijin card said “specialist in humanities and international services visa”, the second time it said “engineer” or “technology specialist” or something, and now it says “spouse”. Anyway, I noticed that it was significantly easier for me to get an apartment when I didn’t have the eikaiwa teacher visa. However, this may be due to other factors, such as the fact that I was a little older, dressed a little better, spoke a bit better Japanese than before, knew what “the deal” with a Japanese apartment was, etc.

      What I’m getting at is, maybe race isn’t always the “big” issue for landlords, and that (as with many things), there is often more than meets the eye. However, I accept that some landlords might be dicks.


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