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Hi Blog. A number of people sent me this article about the Tokyo Metropolitan government surveying NJ discrimination levels (I guess it takes an Olympics before people start caring about foreigners; watch this best behavior dry up afterwards). It is indeed good to see people acknowledging that discrimination towards NJ exists, and that the media is covering it. And that the most common answer by respondents chosen (since it is probably the most normalized and systemic NJ discrimination) is in residence rentals (not to mention the rise in awareness of hate speech; hurrah). I’ll return to the subject of realtors again right after the articles.
But one just has to love the methodology when it comes to the “how to improve things” section part of the survey: The leading questions assuming that Japanese and foreigners are “different”. After all, Japan is unique, therefore anyone who is not a Japanese is not a member of the unique J-culture club, therefore foreigners must be different because they aren’t, er, unique like us Japanese (as opposed to everyone being treated like a human being with similar interests and needs, such as, er, shelter and equal access to housing?). And those “differences” must be explained (as opposed to legislated away with anti-discrimination laws?) to them and us, no matter how long that takes, and regardless of how vague a concept these “cultural differences” are. Such a convenient patsy for differential treatment is “culture”, yes sir.
Anyway, here is the article in E and J. Further comment follows:
Discrimination against foreigners in renting apartments highlighted in survey
April 10, 2014 (Mainichi Japan), courtesy of JK
Discrimination against foreigners in renting apartments or other residences was given as an ongoing violation of their human rights by almost half of respondents to a survey by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
The survey was conducted in November and December last year with preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Games in mind. The survey was offered to 3,000 randomly chosen Tokyo residents, with responses gathered from 1,573 people.
A representative of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s human rights division said, “Violations of foreigners’ human rights continue, and we’d like to improve awareness of the issue within six years from now (when the Olympics are scheduled.)”
In a multiple-answer question on human rights violations against foreigners, “the difficulty of renting apartments or other residences” was the most common answer chosen, with 45.6 percent of respondents selecting it. Next was “receiving disadvantageous treatment at work or during job hunting” at 34.5 percent, followed by “insufficient acceptance in community activities and places of communication” at 21.9 percent and “bullying or harassment at work or school” at 21.1 percent. With the repeated instances of hate speech directed at foreigners going on around the country, 19.9 percent of respondents chose “discriminatory speech and actions.”
Regarding what is necessary to get along with foreigners, 60.1 percent answered “inform foreigners of the differences between traditions and habits in their country and Japan,” 44.3 percent answered, “create more opportunities for communication such as by encouraging participation in local society,” 41.1 percent replied, “inform Japanese of the differences between traditions and habits in Japan and foreigners’ countries,” and 24.3 percent responded, “improve foreign language support at help organizations.”
都民人権世論調査:外国人への人権侵害、「アパート入居困難」半数近く 「差別的な表現や言動ある」は２割 ／東京
毎日新聞 2014年04月10日 地方版
COMMENT: Now consider this recent email from John F.:
April 10, 2014
Dear Debito, First of all, I would like to thank you for your tireless efforts in fighting discrimination in Japan. I especially appreciate how you choose to try and educate those who engage in discrimination rather than simply expressing condemnation. As an American living in Tokyo, my personal experiences with discrimination have fortunately been few and far between. From time to time, though, I have felt as if my human dignity was violated. I wish I were more courageous in rationally approaching such incidents of discrimination rather than keeping my feelings bottled up.
I would like to share with you a few specific examples of housing discrimination in Tokyo concerning share houses, and how a certain popular website advertises share house properties on the Internet. The link to the website I am referring to is tokyosharehouse.com
I had a rather unfortunate experience visiting a property advertised on that website last August. The property is called ‘Share Vie Mizue’, located in the Edogawa Ward of Tokyo. Here is the link to the property’s description: http://tokyosharehouse.com/eng/house/detail/470/
I discovered the property’s website while reading a review of it on Gaijinpot. As the property is advertised in English, I was very enthusiastic about checking it out. Naturally, I supposed it would be very welcoming towards international residents. To make a long story short, the representative who showed me the property reluctantly informed me that the owners did not welcome international residents. He did his best to dissuade me from attempting to rent a room there, and tried to offer me a place at another location. It seemed as if he was personally embarrassed that the owner of this particular property would discriminate against international guests. I wasn’t angry with him, but I was extremely upset that I took the time to visit the property on the assumption that I would be welcome due to the website being advertised in English. The website made no indication that international guests were not welcome at this property. Perhaps, hopefully, they have changed their policies since. However, the website still makes no indication that international guests are not welcome at that particular property.
Having recently returned to Tokyo from five months back in New York, I am again searching for a share house to live in. I have come across tokyosharehouse.com again, and what I discovered while browsing other properties on their website still disturbs me.
Please have a look at this link: http://tokyosharehouse.com/eng/house/detail/1324/
Now I am not female, but I find it rather painful to see the requirements for the ‘La Felice Ikejiri’ property. The requirements for renting a room are listed as ‘Female / Foreigner_x’.
At first I was a bit confused as to what this means. Is it a ‘Foreigner Only’ house for females? If you scroll down further to ‘Move-in Conditions and Managing Style’ section, you’ll notice that there is no category of requirements for foreigners. The description of the property is accompanied by a side bar on the right describing whom I assume to be the property owners, ‘Tokyo Sanku Monogatari Co., Ltd.’ or ‘Many Smile Co.’
I am sorry to write you such a long email, but coming across these listings really makes my blood boil, especially after the personal experience I had. Although language is not specifically a problem, I find it rather unusual that a real estate website would choose to advertise properties in English where non-Japanese renters are not welcome. There are other properties on the site with similar discriminatory policies. This website has been advertised on Gaijinpot in the past as well. The owners of this website should be ashamed of themselves for advertising such properties, especially when they sheepishly use euphemistic descriptions like ‘Foreigner_x’ rather than what they really mean – ‘No Foreigners Allowed’.
I am sure I am not the only one who feels this way. As share houses become more mainstream, I am afraid more and more non-Japanese apartment seekers on low budgets will be met with housing discrimination. Thank you for taking the time to read my email, and thank you for helping to restore dignity to those who have been victimized by discrimination. Best regards, John F
COMMENT CONTINUES: Y’know, that’s funny. Why would this company go through all the trouble to put up a website in English and then use it to refuse NJ? So they’d look international? Or so they’d look exclusionary to an international audience? Especially since there’s no room for misunderstanding (not to mention, no room, har har) when you look at the Japanese version of these websites:
Yep, that’s “Gaikokujin Taiou Fuka“. Foreigners will not receive service. Japanese Only. No cutesy “Foreigner_x”. Whole page, for context:
Other places within this rental system with “No Foreigners” rules (gotta love how they pretentiously put the names in faux French, yet won’t take French people):
- Claris Sangenjaya (English) http://tokyosharehouse.com/eng/house/detail/1325/ (Japanese) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/1325/
- Domondo Sangenjaya (English) http://tokyosharehouse.com/eng/house/detail/1095/, (Japanese) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/1095/
- Aviril Shibuya (Japanese Only in both meanings): http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/1431/
- Pleades Sakura Shin-machi (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/847/
- La Vita Komazawa (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/500/
- La Levre Sakura Shin-machi (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/846/
- Leviair Meguro (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/506/
- Flora Meguro (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/502/
- La Famille (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/503/
- Pechka Shimo-Kitazawa (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/507/
- Amitie Naka-Meguro (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/508/
- Cerisier Sakura Shin-machi (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/504/
- Stella Naka-Meguro (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/501/
- Solare Meguro (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/509/
So, Tokyo Metropolitan Government, thanks for those surveys saying how sad it is that NJ are being discriminated against in housing. But what are they for, exactly? Mere omphaloskepsis? How about doing something to stop these bigots from discriminating? ARUDOU, Debito
UPDATE APRIL 26, 2014: HERE’S ANOTHER TOKYO EXAMPLE SUBMITTED BY DEBITO.ORG READER XY: NOTE HOW FOREIGNERS (HELPFULLY REFUSED IN ENGLISH) AND CATS ARE BANNED (BUT SMALL PETS ARE ALLOWED). MAYBE IF NJ ANNOYINGLY YIPPED A LITTLE MORE LIKE POMERANIANS OR OTHER PURSE DOGS…?