Other progress in 2016: Actions against wasabi bombs in sushi for NJ customers, conductor officially chided for apologizing re “many foreign passengers” crowding trains

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Hi Blog, and welcome to 2017. And to start this year (which I am not at all optimistic about), let’s try to talk about two bright sides to 2016.

First up, this piece of good news that shows that targeting of foreign passengers (on an airport train, no less) is officially not cool — either from the passengers’ point of view or from the train company’s:

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Train conductor warned after apologizing for crowding due to ‘many foreign passengers’
http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161011/p2a/00m/0na/003000c
October 11, 2016 (Mainichi Japan), courtesy of JK

OSAKA — A Nankai Electric Railway Co. conductor was dealt a verbal warning after apologizing to Japanese passengers for crowding on a train heading to Kansai International Airport with a large number of foreigners, it has been learned.

The company said the male conductor, who is in his 40s, made the announcement on an express train bound for Kansai International Airport at around 11:30 a.m. on Oct. 10, a public holiday, after the train left Tengachaya Station.

“Today there are many foreign passengers aboard and it is very crowded, so we are inconveniencing Japanese passengers,” the conductor was quoted as stating in the announcement.

After the train arrived at Kansai-Airport Station, a Japanese woman questioned a station attendant about the announcement, asking whether it was within the bounds of company rules.

When questioned by the company, the conductor was quoted as replying, “I heard a male Japanese passenger at Namba Station yelling, ‘All these foreigners are a nuisance,’ so I made the announcement to avert trouble. I had no intention of discriminating.”

The company says it has received complaints in the past about the large pieces of luggage carried by foreign visitors, but the announcement made by the conductor was the first of its kind.

“Whether people are Japanese or non-Japanese, the fact remains that they are our passengers. Language that sets them apart is inappropriate,” a company representative said.

Japanese version:

車掌「多くの外国人で、ご不便を」
毎日新聞2016年10月11日 00時06分(最終更新 10月11日 12時32分)
http://mainichi.jp/articles/20161011/k00/00m/040/058000c

車内アナウンスして口頭注意 「差別の意図ない」と釈明
南海電鉄の40代男性車掌が10日、車内で「本日は多数の外国人のお客さまが乗車されており、大変混雑しておりますので、日本人のお客さまにはご不便をおかけしております」という内容のアナウンスを行い、口頭注意を受けていたことが同社への取材で分かった。

車掌は同社の聞き取りに「難波駅で車内の日本人男性客が『外国人が多くて邪魔』という内容を大声で叫んだのを聞き、トラブルを避けるために放送した。差別の意図はない」と説明したという。同社によると、これまでにも、車内の外国人観光客の大きな荷物に対する苦情が他の乗客から寄せられたことはあったが、この車掌が同様のアナウンスをしたのは今回が初めてという。

同社は「日本人でも外国人でも、お客さまに変わりはない。区別するような言葉はふさわしくない」としている。【井川加菜美】
ENDS
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Next up an article from the Grauniad, which coupled the above story with another one about some sushi itamae-san who took it upon themselves to wasabi-bomb some NJ sushi. Full article follows below, but pertinent excerpt:

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The incident follows an accusation by South Korean tourists that a sushi restaurant in Osaka deliberately smeared their orders with eye-watering quantities of wasabi, a pungent condiment that should be used sparingly.

The restaurant chain Ichibazushi apologised but denied accusations of racism, saying its chefs had decided to use excessive amounts of wasabi after other foreign diners had previously requested larger dollops for added piquancy.

“Because many of our overseas customers frequently order extra amounts of pickled ginger and wasabi, we gave them more without checking first,” the chain’s management said. “The result was unpleasant for some guests who aren’t fans of wasabi.”

It was not clear how many such incidents – labelled “wasabi terrorism” on social media – had occurred, but some disgruntled diners posted photos of sushi containing twice as much wasabi as usual.

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Again, the fact that this incident made news, and (Japanese) social media thought this was worth criticizing is a good thing. The restaurant acknowledged and apologized.

There is lots to bellyache about when it comes to how NJ are seen and treated in Japan, but when people (especially Japanese people, who are often not all that quick to leap to the defense of NJ, since what happens to NJ does not affect them) stand up against this, this is progress. Credit where credit is due. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Full Grauniad article:
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Japanese train conductor blames foreign tourists for overcrowding
Rail company reprimands conductor who made announcement blaming foreigners for inconveniencing Japanese passengers
Justin McCurry in Tokyo Tuesday 11 October 2016
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/11/japanese-train-conductor-blames-foreign-tourists-for-overcrowding

A railway company in Japan has reprimanded a conductor who blamed the large number of foreign tourists on a crowded train for inconveniencing Japanese passengers.

The outburst will have done little to help Japan’s attempts to become a more welcoming destination for foreign visitors as it prepares to host the 2019 rugby World Cup and the Tokyo Olympics a year later.

Japan’s successful pitch for the 2020 Games made much of the country’s reputation for omotenashi– traditional hospitality and service.

But there was precious little omotenashi on display when the conductor addressed passengers on a Nankai Electric Railway express train bound for Kansai international airport near Osaka on Monday morning.

“There are many foreign passengers on board today … this has caused serious congestion and is causing inconvenience to Japanese passengers,” said the conductor, a man in his 40s.

A Japanese passenger reported the incident to a station attendant at the airport, questioning whether the conductor’s wording was acceptable.

The conductor, who has not been named, later defended his choice of words: “I heard a male Japanese passenger at [another station] yelling: ‘All these foreigners are a nuisance,’” the Mainichi Shimbun quoted him as saying.

“I made the announcement to avert trouble and had no intention of discriminating [against foreign passengers],” he said.

A Nankai Electric spokesman told the newspaper that the firm had previously received complaints about foreign visitors with large suitcases, but added: “Whether people are Japanese or non-Japanese, the fact remains that they are our passengers. Language that sets them apart [from other passengers] is inappropriate.”

The incident follows an accusation by South Korean tourists that a sushi restaurant in Osaka deliberately smeared their orders with eye-watering quantities of wasabi, a pungent condiment that should be used sparingly.

The restaurant chain Ichibazushi apologised but denied accusations of racism, saying its chefs had decided to use excessive amounts of wasabi after other foreign diners had previously requested larger dollops for added piquancy.

“Because many of our overseas customers frequently order extra amounts of pickled ginger and wasabi, we gave them more without checking first,” the chain’s management said. “The result was unpleasant for some guests who aren’t fans of wasabi.”

It was not clear how many such incidents – labelled “wasabi terrorism” on social media – had occurred, but some disgruntled diners posted photos of sushi containing twice as much wasabi as usual.

Whether or not the incidents resulted from misunderstandings, the potential for friction between visitors and local people is likely to increase as Japan gains popularity as a tourist destination.

A record 2.05 million people visited the country in August, according to the Japan Tourism Agency, including 677,000 from China, 458,900 from South Korea and 333,200 from Taiwan.

Japan’s government hopes to double the number of foreign visitors to 40 million in 2020, and expects a tourism windfall of 8tn yen (£63bn).
ENDS
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