Overseas online info site Traveloco.jp’s “Japanese Only” rules: “People with foreign-sounding names refused service”

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Hi Blog. Here we have an online information site called Traveloco.jp, which apparently reserves its services “for Japanese Only living abroad”. This is another permutation of Japanese corporate practices erecting arbitrary firewalls between people due to their nationality, ethnicity, etc., or, in Traveloco.jp’s case, “having a name that does not appear to be Japanese”. I wonder how “Arudou Debito” would fare.  And as MT says below, why can’t anyone who can read and write Japanese be allowed equal access and service?  Debito.org Reader MT sends this report. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

Date:  June 27, 2016
From: MT
Hi Debito,

I am thinking of suing traveloco.jp site because they closed and banned my account right after I informed them of my name ([MT]), which is not Japanese.

In the email below, the reason I was refused service is that “your name does not appear to be Japanese”.  Our correspondence, in reverse order:

================================
From: トラベロコ <info@traveloco.jp>
To: [MT]
Date: 2016/6/27, Mon 09:14
Subject: ご登録解除のご連絡(トラベロコ)

お返事ありがとうございます。
トラベロコです。

ご登録情報を確認させて頂きましたが、
日本人の方ではないようです。 [emphasis added]

大変申し訳ございませんが、当サイトにてロコに登録していただけるのは
日本人方に限定しておりますので、外国人の方はご登録頂けません。
[emphasis added]

よくある質問>私もロコになりたいのですが。
https://traveloco.jp/faq#faq-13

また、今回のご連絡いただいたメール内容から、社内で検討させていただき、
サイト利用規約「3条4.vi」に該当するとして、登録を解除させて頂きました。
https://traveloco.jp/pages/terms

ご了承下さい。

————————————-traveloco
トラベロコ
mail: info@traveloco.jp
URL: http://traveloco.jp/
> —– Original Message —–
> From: トラベロコ <info@traveloco.jp>
> To: [MT]
> Date: 2016/6/27, Mon 01:27
> Subject: Re: ロコ応募について
>
> お返事ありがとうございます。
> トラベロコです。
>
> ご連絡遅くなり、申し訳ございません。
>
> お問い合わせの件について、
> 具体的には、プロフィール情報のお名前欄などの項目が
> 正しく登録されておりませんので、正確にご登録
> いただいてから、ご応募頂けますでしょうか。
>
> プロフィール情報
> https://traveloco.jp/mypage/profile/
>
> Travelocoは匿名でご利用いただけるサイトになりますが、
> ロコへの登録にあたっては、最低限の個人情報を登録する
> ことは、皆様に安全にご利用頂くための必要条件とさせて
> 頂いております。
>
> なお、ロコの応募審査上、正しい情報の登録が確認できるまでは
> 一部機能は停止させていただいておりますので、ご了承下さい。
>
> どうぞよろしくお願い致します。
>
> ————————————-traveloco
> トラベロコ
> mail: info@traveloco.jp
> URL: http://traveloco.jp/
>
> 2016年6月25日 15:12 :
>> 私の説明をちゃんと詠んでください 問題の原点、教えたでしょう。
>>
>> 情報の一部に不備 は、回答となってない。
>> どの部分か、正確に教えなさい。どうやってなおせるか ということをちゃんと説明するのは、サポートの仕事でしょう?
>>
>> テンプレートの回答を出すよりちゃんとした回答を作ってください。
>>
>> 其の一 まずは、私の説明を読む。
>> その二 内容を理解する
>> その三 内容を理解した上、内容に沿って解決案を出す
>>
>> 上記が常識でしょう。
>>
>> ロコのサービスの二十%取って、こんな最悪なサポートをするつもり?冗談でしう。
>>
>> 私はナニをすればいいか、ステップバイステップで教えなさい。

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

MT: Their terms of use do not mention such a thing, nothing like “our services are meant to be used only an exclusively by persons holding a Japanese passport” or something similar, nothing. They just kick out those who has a western name, based on the NAME itself.

Terms of use of their services: (from https://traveloco.jp/pages/terms)

4. 当社は、登録申請者が、以下の各号のいずれかの事由に該当する場合は、登録および再登録を拒否することがあり、またその理由について一切開示義務を負いません。
当社に提供した登録事項の全部または一部につき虚偽、誤記または記載漏れがあった場合
未成年者、成年被後見人、被保佐人または被補助人のいずれかであり、法定代理人、後見人、保佐人または補助人の同意等を得ていなかった場合
反社会的勢力等(暴力団、暴力団員、右翼団体、反社会的勢力、その他これに準ずる者を意味します。以下同じ。)である、または資金提供その他を通じて反社会的勢力等の維持、運営もしくは経営に協力もしくは関与する等反社会的勢力等との何らかの交流もしくは関与を行っていると当社が判断した場合
登録希望者が過去当社との契約に違反した者またはその関係者であると当社が判断した場合
第10条に定める措置を受けたことがある場合
その他、当社が登録を適当でないと判断した場合

Note that there is no mention of anything that refers to this funny “Japanese only” policy though (only in the QA section: https://traveloco.jp/faq#faq-13, but this is nothing to do with legal terms, since the terms of use are not mentioning it explicitly), so I gave it a try with registering, since I had some interesting ideas for them and some services to share with those Japanese who would be interested in my country or would be coming to [my country of origin].

The whole correspondence started via their website so the first part when I was asking why I cannot register my page and services (at first, it was a technical question but they failed to reply in details, instead they sent me some template bullshit to send me off – so, understandably, I got very upset), is missing since it was not done via email but via a form on their site on my account page – and I have no access to that any more.

I would like to ask The Japan Times to track this down, and ask them publicly why are they doing this in the 21st century, where human and personal rights should be taken very seriously? Even in Aichi, Nagoya, where they are located.

I would like an official apology from the company’s main rep, Mr. SHIIYA Yutaka (椎谷豊, facebook: https://www.facebook.com/yshiiya) via Japanese mass media. And I want them to review their policies, so that everyone (regardless of race) who is capable to communicate in Japanese could use the site with no discrimination against them – especially not based on their western-like names (if it is not a “Japanese” name)!

My correspondence above with them speaks for itself. And these are young entrepreneurs, not just some old folks, but the Y-generation!!! This sentiment and notion of Japaneseness is routed very very deeply even in these young men, who are brainwashed (or getting on some nationalist waves to make big money, maybe?). They are getting their foot in the door of the start-up world.

In the meantime I am seeking legal help, because I want others to know this. This site is “only for Japanese”, the online version of “Japanese only” bars, “Japanese only” onsens, etc…

Of course, you have my permission to make a report on your own site about this. In case I sue them, I will keep you updated.

Thanks a lot, Debito, and pls keep up the good work. I have just read about your book, Embedded Racism, and will get my copy soon. Sincerely, MT

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

ENDS

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20 comments on “Overseas online info site Traveloco.jp’s “Japanese Only” rules: “People with foreign-sounding names refused service”

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    I just checked out traveloco’s website myself. It looks like they are some kind of mobile, multi-lateral consulting business across the border. It’s not a conventional travel agency like JTB or HIS, since there’s only one headquarter in Aichi with no other branches at home or abroad. I’m pretty much skeptical of this kind of travel service(Note: I used to purchase a plane ticket via Amnet Japan only once, but I wondered how they would react if I were a non-Japanese. I’m not using that agent anymore, since it doesn’t seem to be better than other travel agents like Orbitz or Expedia.) I’m getting uncomfortable with terms like “日本人のためのサービス” or “日本人向け” in business and technical communication.Why do you need bother emphasizing J-word to paint as if they were illiterate? Yet, what’s more challenging is a growing emergence of new business model based on a network-based platform. That gives like-minded entrepreneurs more power to control their stakes and assets by camouflaging their consulting business as private network service or anything other than corporate entity in an attempt to escape accountability.

  • I signed up. Got this email a couple of hours later, obviously based on nothing but my name.

    ——————-
    From: トラベロコ
    Date: Wed, 6 Jul 2016 at 19:21
    Subject: 日本人以外のロコ登録不可(トラベロコ)
    To:

    こんにちは、トラベロコです。

    日本人以外の方がロコへの登録することは出来ませんので、
    ロコの登録を解除させて頂きました。ご了承下さい。

    I released registration of Loco, Non-Japanese isn’t possible to register.

    どうぞよろしくお願い致します。

    ————————————-traveloco
    トラベロコ
    mail: info@traveloco.jp
    URL: http://traveloco.jp/

  • irezumi_aniki says:

    @Debito

    “And as MT says below, why can’t anyone who can read and write Japanese be allowed equal access and service? ”

    Because that’s not their business model. Their customer base is comprised of Japanese who want to travel abroad and be able to rely on fellow Japanese/people who understand Japanese culture.

    Safety blankets.

    More than speaking/reading/writing/listening abilities though*, they go out of their way to make mention that contributors who were raised in Japan and well versed in Japanese culture are free to register. Nikkeijin, etc.

    結婚して国籍が変わった方など日本国籍以外の方(日系人を含む)の場合、日本育ちで、日本の文化を理解し、日本語で円滑に日本人とのコミュニケーションをとれる方であれば応募可能

    That’s seems to be their selling point.

    Is it all bull shit? Yeah.

    I know this will fall upon deaf ears, but the company isn’t necessarily at fault (assuming that no laws have been broken). The customers that they are catering to just don’t want to deal with non-Japanese. I suppose that you (general you) can say that the company is both facilitating and encouraging racism, but good luck properly proving that such intent exists.

    *yeah they also mention being able to communicate properly with Japanese. I’m not going to turn this into a pissing contest, but MT’s reply is full of mistakes and not on par with what’s expected of service providers. That reply alone would give sufficient reason to deny him access. If MT does decide to pursue legal action, I have a feeling that the company would insist that his reply and previous messages were grounds enough to block him via 3.4.vi’sその他、当社が登録を適当でないと判断した場合

    From their reply:

    「また、今回のご連絡いただいたメール内容から、社内で検討させていただき、
サイト利用規約「3条4.vi」に該当するとして、登録を解除させて頂きました。
https://traveloco.jp/pages/terms
    ご了承下さい。」

    @MT

    Good luck with legal action. I’m looking forward to hearing more about this as things transpire.

    Also, their site makes brief mention of foreign countries/regions and applicable laws. You may want to look into your own country’s laws and see if you can take legal action from over there.

    「ロコとして、法律や規制などで気をつけることはありますか?

    国やエリアによって、ロコとして提供できるサービス(例:観光ガイド業など)を規制する法律や、資格・事前登記・許可を必要とする地域もあります。その為、ロコとして活動するにあたり、在住エリアの法令などを理解していることが重要です。 
現地ルールはロコの方の置かれている状況やエリアの法令の適応方法によっても大きく異なるため、原則在住エリアの法令を順守しロコ自身の責任においてサービスを提供していただくことになります。」

  • Japanese people trust other Japanese people more than even experts who are non-Japanese. And that seems to be their business model. I see this pattern all the time. Want to find out what it is like to live in Paris? Go to some Japanese woman’s blog about her life in Paris. Do not consult anyone alse. lol.

    This may be familiar with others here, but here is the heirarchy of who my J-wife will trust before she trusts what I say:

    1. Her Sister
    2. Her Brother
    3. Any Japanese news reporter
    4. Any Japanese old man
    5. Any Japanese person
    6. Any Asian adult
    7. Any Asian child
    8. Any Japanese robot and/or infomercial

    It does not matter at all how many times I am proven right in my initial view – they are all put down to anomalies

  • Actually, I may understand Traveloco’s feeling to provide a true Japanese environment for it’s customer.
    If a minimum Japanese proficiency, knowledge of Japanese customs and/or citizenship is required it should be made clear in their TOS pages.
    Discrimination by bloodline assuming that is the same as the above is conceptually wrong and frankly racist.
    I know plenty of Japanese people who are just pure bozos and plenty of foreigners who are worthy of being “Japanese” as much as anyone else in Japan.

    For what is worth, Traveloco has also a Facebook page and a Twitter account.
    I wonder what are Facebook and Twitter’s policies for discriminating people by bloodline.

    https://www.facebook.com/Traveloco
    https://twitter.com/travelocojp

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    Some posters touch on business model of this private-network enterprise. I describe traveloco in this way because of its deviance from conventional travel agency such as JTB, HIS, Kinki-Tourist etc. What makes it even more deviant from foreign travel agency catering to Japanese living overseas(such as I-Ace, Amnet) is their business philosophy which offers service to Japanese living at home and abroad. They use the term Loco(ロコ) as a made-up Japanese word referred to any Japanese who are living outside their home country. In their website, they write (in Japanese):

    >>”海外在住日本人(ロコ)があなたの旅をお手伝いします。トラベロコでは現地在住日本人をロコと呼びます。世界中のロコがもっている知識や経験、能力がサービスとして提供され、あなたの旅を楽しくします。”

    Here their use of term smacks politics of exclusivity down to your throat, by creating dissociation from the origin of the term “loco” in Latin(which means, “crazy”).

    So, there you have it. They create their ideal customers in a narrow definition through their business philosophy. In this respect, I think post #3 is technically correct, although I don’t agree with his indictment that accuses an informant of ‘mischaracterizing’ the situation. S/he has a legitimate gripe for the problematic message that appeared open widely to the general public in the cyberspace. That is quite troubling to the interest of property owner as well, because there’s obviously no firewall installed to block access for those who are ineligible, based on his standard, for successful operation of his back-door private service. As I mentioned in my previous post, this kind of private-network enterprise platform is becoming a growing concern(if not, I would say, we should take it seriously) especially to NJ. Why? Because its private sphere allows the owners to control her/his assets and stakes by 1) limiting access to selective group of community despite the universal visibility of cyberspace; and 2) compromising human rights/civil liberty of others regarding the power of labor practice.

    There are a couple of legal constraints on the issue. First, communication in cyberspace makes it really hard for one to make the case for discrimination due to anonymity of users in terms of race, gender, nationality, and the place. We just don’t know “where interaction happened,” and detecting specific location for both user and administrator at the time of incident is not an easy task. Even though both a user and an administrator are located in the same country(let’s say, Japan, for example), that alone does not automatically prove the illegality of discrimination. Second, unlike discrimination in open and public space like Otaru Onsens, net properties are usually under the protection of DMCA and other affiliated copyrights law. In this venue, owner’s actions are usually considered as exercise of free speech in relation to business & ownership of net property. Even in case of defamation(i.e.,2-channel), cyberspace provides a safe haven to the offenders so that they could execute uncivil/offensive speeches with little threat of legal watchdog. I wonder how much current UN CERD can cover the case for net neutrality or digital access.

  • Could you imagine if an american travel company refused service to anyone with asian sounding names? I cant either, oops this is japan the irony!

  • Bihada_shoojo says:

    @Irezumi_aniki
    Wow, you are just justifying a business model that is based on embedded racism. Nice! Good luck with raising your children with your 19th century beliefs.

    Since you seem to be smart, you might be able to precisely define below

    ×Japaneseness
    ×japanese culture and understanding japanese culture

    As you are totally missing the point here, let me give you an easy example, my friend.

    Judging from your nickname, you are a yakuza or chinpira, so let us say, the owner of this HP decides that you have no rights to comment here – since it is obvious for him now, that you are some sort of japanese yakuza. And all the info we have about you, is your nickname and some typos you made. Of course, we cannot ban you because of our belief that you seem to be a chinpira or yakuza, but how about banning you on the basis of those typos you made? Your typos are not up to our standard, mate, so go somewhere else and place your comments there!

    See the point now?

    It has absolutely nothing to do with language ability, or the level of understanding of a certain culture. Hope you understand where the real problem is in this case. Imagine Facebook working on the same grounds…

  • Irezumi_Aniki says:

    @6 Loverilakkuma

    “. . . although I don’t agree with his indictment that accuses an informant of ‘mischaracterizing’ the situation.”

    That wasn’t what I was trying to do. I understand that it may have been seen like that though. I was just giving my perspective.

    I tend to agree with the majority of your opinion, though. Particularly the legal constraints which you pointed out.

    @8 Bihada_Shoojo

    Although some (most?) may disagree with me, I was just giving a realistic opinion. Is it ideal? Does it make me feel warm and fuzzy on the inside? No.

    Unfortunately, some people who are looking to make money search out untapped markets and potential cash cows regardless of ethical/moral objections. Businesses provide services to those who are willing to purchase. I’m not sure what you studied back in Uni or where you’re from, but I’m an American who majored in finance. It may seem like a cop-out, but my course work preached a fairly cut throat philosophy. My international trade/finance classes were down right heartless. That’s my background. It’s kinda hard to unlearn.

    “Since you seem to be smart, you might be able to precisely define below
    ×Japaneseness
×japanese culture and understanding japanese culture”

    Seeing that it’s not my business, my definitions really don’t matter. I can’t say anything beyond that.

    “…the owner of this HP decides that you have no rights to comment here – since it is obvious for him now, that you are some sort of japanese yakuza. And all the info we have about you, is your nickname and some typos you made. ”

    The email address I use to post here – which the owner can see – is my full name followed by @gmail.com. If Mr. Arudou decides that my posts are unwanted and deletes them . . . what am I suppose to do or feel? It’s his domain and I agreed to his conditions upon commenting.

    I get your point though.

    Unfortunately, I don’t believe you got mine. The website in question is trying to sell a particular service to a particular type of person. Having people who can’t reply properly in Japanese has a negative impact on the business image and thus on the bottom line. Why would a company sabotage its own business model by allowing something like that? My agreeing or disagreeing with their point of view is moot. Same with yours and same with MT’s. If anything, MT gave them a seemingly legitimate reason to deny him based off of the email published on this blog.

    I’ve fought with Japanese companies before and I have received money from those that have wronged me. There’s a proper way to go about things though. But yeah.

    — This is why business and human rights don’t mix. Anything that might possibly affect the bottom line negatively can (and in this case, in your view, should) result in denial of service. Whatever arbitrary line the owner wishes to draw is okay for those who see the issue only in terms of profit. Got a funny name, an accent or imperfect language skills? DOS. Read up on the logic used by the owners of the onsens in the Otaru Onsens Case and you’ll find similar parallels.

  • Irezumi_aniki says:

    @debito

    “— This is why business and human rights don’t mix. Anything that might possibly affect the bottom line negatively can (and in this case, in your view, should) result in denial of service.”

    Should is a strong word. From what I’ve said though, I really can’t argue much.

    If anything though, as you said, “This is why business and human rights don’t mix.” I hope that others realize that, and if nonsense occurs on a business/economical level, they react not only accordingly, but appropriately. It’s their cause to lose if they don’t. You know more than most, but the legal system here isn’t all fun ‘n games. In my own opinion, and deviating a bit, but people need to be properly prepared if they want to toss their hats into that arena.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    Loverilakkuma, let me offer a correction to your point:

    “Here their use of term smacks politics of exclusivity down to your throat, by creating dissociation from the origin of the term “loco” in Latin(which means, “crazy”).”

    This use of “loco” (and variants) to mean “crazy” only happens in Spanish and Portuguese; the Latin word loco is modern/Vulgar Latin for locus, which means “place” and is the root for words like “location”, “local”, and many others. (In Italian today, it has morphed into luogo.)

    I don’t know of any uses of this word to mean “a person who lives in a place”, but here is one theory: it is a faux-clever katakana-ization of the English noun “local”, which does mean that. We occasionally see Japanese speakers who somehow feel that words that end in the sound [-əl] should end with [-o] in katakana, so “people” and “wonderful” become ピーポー and ワンダフォー. Using this logic, a “local”, which is what these Japanese people living abroad are, is a ロコ.

    This does not address their reprehensible denial of service based on what one’s name sounds like, but is merely a possible explanation for the strange neologism they use for the people whom they accept as members.

  • Someone should register just to troll them. Say you are a japanese american with japanese citizenship but an American name like George Tanaka or whatever and see if they deny you.

    My boss’s son is born and raised in japan to two japanese parents and has a western first name and japanese surname. Guess he would be denied as well?

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    @Irezumi_aniki,

    >MT’s reply is full of mistakes and not on par with what’s expected of service providers. That reply alone would give sufficient reason to deny him access.

    I’m curious about the statement above(appeared in your comment #3). What exactly are you referring to!? On what ground are you suggesting informant’s action is “not on par” with owner’s expectation? Are you aware that it was his/her personal information filled in online form(likely his full name) that caught the eyes of owner’s suspicion–not the way he replied? Never mind that he made a reply in Japanese.

    I don’t mind what your cultural backgrounds is. Ditto to your expertise. But I have to say the way you imbue your argument with accusatory tone is exactly characteristics of business-minded people(or so-called reformists) who love to pull off privatization scheme for obscene profiteering. See, for example, PR guys working at David Coleman’s College Board, Gates Foundation, Walton Foundation, the Eli Broad, Eva Moskowitz’s charter schools chain Success Academy, Turkish Gulen Charter Schools, Wendy Kopp’s TFA(Teach For America/Teach For All), etc. I would not say that you are inclined to such venues, but your framing becomes an easy target for the scrutiny of reform discourse concerning the plight of human rights from several aspects, although it’s innocuous.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    Mark in Yayoi, #14

    Thanks for correction. That helps a lot.

    It’s about their weird use of “loco” with katakana phonetic sound I pointed out for their justification of back-door business.

  • I understand that their business model is to provide access to opinions of Japanese people living abroad, for the benefit of other Japanese people to read. However, as everyone’s opinion is written in Japanese, and includes their name and sometimes their picture too, I can’t see why the consumer cannot pick and choose which person’s opinion to read. If they want to, for example, choose to read only the opinions of purely Japanese (this phrase is problematic but leave it for now) then they can avoid the people who look like foreigners or who have foreign sounding names, can’t they. I find this rather short-sighted and patronising of the business.

    Having said all of that – the interesting point here is that such a business model is not so unusual for a Japanese cultural landscape. Can you imaging another major country where the inhabitants only wanted to hear opinions about world events from people of their own race? Almost unthinkable. So, what it highlights about Japanese society even in this day and age, is the remarkable thing for me.

  • 5.4K people like this
    Local/Travel Website

    Conversation started today
    Thisis Maebashi
    3:53pm
    Thisis Maebashi

    Why do you discriminate against foreigners?!!! I want an ANSWER!
    Travelocoトラベロコ-世界とつながってあなたの「したい」がかなう!
    5:13pm
    Travelocoトラベロコ-世界とつながってあなたの「したい」がかなう!

    Our service is for Japanese who are not good to speak foreign languages. So that we are not accept foreigners to be a loco.
    Please understand our policy.
    Thisis Maebashi
    5:16pm
    Thisis Maebashi

    And if they SPEAK JAPANESE? Will you “allow” foreigners who speak Japanese? or is that Not good for you too!?
    Travelocoトラベロコ-世界とつながってあなたの「したい」がかなう!
    5:36pm
    Travelocoトラベロコ-世界とつながってあなたの「したい」がかなう!

    Native japanese and Japanese speakers are not same in many points like culture and communication. These are important for us.
    Thisis Maebashi
    5:37pm
    Thisis Maebashi

    I am talking about being a customer, not great literature or writing a play. Tell me why you think your policy is not discrimination?

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    @Sam, #16

    I would call it ‘Wajin privilege’ in negativity. As far as their narrow definition of ‘ロコ’ stands, they will make an unending list of excuses for the politics of exclusivity (or cultural tokenism). I would call it a problem should they expand their businesses for market competition.

  • This is kind of interesting. It ties in really well with something I have noticed recently.

    My wife and I have been watching travel programs on TV recently, and many of them feature some minor Japanese celebrity going around a foreign city being shown around by some random Japanese person who lives there.

    Perhaps this is the image/experience this company is going for?

    While I think it is stupid/short-sighted and enables racist attitudes, I don’t think their restricting service providers (the Locos are people who provide advice on the site, right?) to the kind of people they want is an urgent problem in the same way that discrimination by landlords/estate agents is, for example.

  • This is pretty damn bold for discrimination, especially with the emails they are sending out. I really hope to see this followed up on later and see how this “business” addresses this.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    @ Loverilakkuma #14 – Yes, it’s actually a pretty nifty trilingual pun, and a clever name for their service. Which makes it all the more bizarre that only one specific language is acceptable for the names of the participants in this service.

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