Plaintiff Ibrahim Yener provides Debito.org with details on his successful lawsuit against “Japanese Only” Nihon Autoplaza car company

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Hi Blog. As mentioned in the previous blog entry, Osaka resident Ibrahim Yener won his court case against a car company that refused him on the grounds (the company claims after the fact in court) of being a foreigner with insufficient Japanese language. However, Mr. Yener has just written in to Debito.org with more detail on his case, making it clear below that arbitrary language barriers were merely a ruse to refuse all “foreigners” (even those with Japanese citizenship) their business. Fortunately, the exclusionary Defendant’s reasoning didn’t wash in court.

The Defendant, not mentioned in the Asahi article in the previous blog entry, is Nihon Autoplaza, and they offer services such as buying used cars on Japan’s very vibrant second-hand automobile auction market. (I have bought cars through that auction system before, and lack of access to it will have a significant impact on your ability to get a used car affordably in Japan, something quite necessary for people in Japan’s ruralities or for small businesses.)

More detail follows from Mr. Yener himself, writing directly to Debito.org. Reproducing with permission. Well done, sir.

One more takeaway from this case is that, according to Mr. Yener, the Defendant acted even more idiotically in court, angering the judge. So I’m worried that this case might not have been as slam-dunk as it might seem for future victims of “Japanese Only” businesses who want to sue (because a lawsuit is the only real option Japan’s international residents have to protect themselves against discrimination).  Dr. Debito Arudou

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

From: “Ibrahim YENER”
Date: September 15, 2017
To: <debito@debito.org>

Dear Dr. Debito Arudou.

My name is Ibrahim YENER. I am the guy who took legal action against Japanese company.

You’re probably wondering where all those things started from.
Let me make a brief explanation.

Last year, I contacted that company to buy a used car through their web page contact form.

The very next day I got an e-mail (I am going to paste the entire reply below this mail) from that company saying they are not going to send me papers because of I am foreigner. Also EVEN IF a foreigner became a Japanese citizen they still won’t send it.

So, next day (20th of October) about 11am I contacted them by phone and I told the boss of that company that one of his employee sent me something weird by mistake. Even that time I was giving him a chance to apologize.

Then I asked him, did you guys really think about if I take you to court?

And what made me angry was his answer: “Do whatever you want.”

So, at that point I knew I have no opportunity but take this case to court.
Because, I faced so many discrimination cases in Japan in 14 years.

But this time I decided to stand and fight instead of be quiet.

Anyway, that sick-minded person shows up at court room with a mask on his face.
And the judge asked him to remove that mask, but he replied, “There is a foreigner here.  I have to protect my privacy.”

The judge became so angry and told him that “Here is court room, there is no privacy in here. Either you take that mask off or leave the court room”.

So, he replied, “Let me think about it”.

The judge told him that “I am not asking you to remove that mask off, I am ordering you to take that mask off or leave immediately.”

At that moment, I knew I won the case, but I prepared myself for high-court just in case the court will decide it was not discrimination.

Anyway, if you have any questions, I will be very happy to answer them.

Here is the original mail from that company:

—–Original Message—–
From: 日本オートプラザ 山下 [mailto:japan_support@autoplaza.co.jp]
Sent: Wednesday, October 19, 2016 18:21
To: Yener Ibrahim
Subject: 【日本オートプラザ】資料請求につきまして

Yener Ibrahim 様

お世話になっております。

大変申し訳ございませんが、当社ではご加盟頂く際の審査基準として
日本国籍の保有者の方を対象としておりますので
外国人の方には資料の送信を見合わせて頂いております。

また、日本国籍をお持ちであったとしても
日本語の能力にも問題が無いと弊社が判断した際にのみ
弊社と加盟契約が可能となります。

したがいまして、日本国籍をお持ちであり、
日本語の能力もネイティブと遜色が無いという場合には
再度ご連絡頂けば資料を送信させて頂いておりますが
日本語の能力につていては、最終的には弊社が判断し、
不十分な場合には加盟契約を受け付けておりませんので予めご了承ください。

———————————————————————–
株式会社日本オートプラザ
本社 〒532-0011大阪市淀川区西中島6丁目2−3チサン第7新大阪ビル8F
tel:06-6101-0015 fax:06-6101-0016
東京支社 〒111-0053東京都台東区浅草橋5−2−14浅草橋ハイツビル3F

http://www.autoplaza.co.jp/
————————————————————————
—–Original Message Ends—–

Regards,
Ibrahim YENER
//////////////////////////////////////////

Translation of the email from Nihon Autoplaza by Debito:

To: Ibrahim Yener
From: Mr. Yamashita, Autoplaza

Thank you for your email.

We are sorry but our company’s screening standards for accepting members are applicable to people with Japanese citizenship, so we will not be sending our materials to a foreigner.

In addition, even if the applicant has Japanese citizenship, our company only allows membership contracts from those who have been determined by our company to have no problems in Japanese language ability.

Therefore, even if someone has Japanese citizenship, and can hold their own (sonshoku) against someone with native ability in Japanese, we can send you our materials if you contact us again, but in terms of determining Japanese language ability, the final decision rests with our company, so kindly understand in advance that we will not accept an application if we decide the Japanese language is insufficient.

Nihon Autoplaza KK
Osaka-shi Yodogawa-ku Nakashima 6-2-3, Chisan Dai 7 Shin-Osaka Bldg. 8F
tel:06-6101-0015 fax:06-6101-0016
ENDS

=====================================
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20 comments on “Plaintiff Ibrahim Yener provides Debito.org with details on his successful lawsuit against “Japanese Only” Nihon Autoplaza car company

  • May peace be upon you and your family Mr. Ibrahim YENER.

    We highly respect your action of seeking justice, honorable sir.

    The time and energy you expended will help future generations.

    Thank you for having taken a stand against Racial Discrimination in Japan.

    And thank you for also sharing with us here valuable details about the case.

    I wonder, did you use Civil Code Article 90, or Civil Code Article 709, or some other Article?

    Actually, could you please consider sharing ALL the sentences which you submitted to the court?

    I know, I am requesting a big favor, because it took a lot of time and energy to choose those sentences.

    It would be very kind and altruistic to share your lawsuit sentences, so readers here will be able use them.

    Maybe you can share those sentences, maybe you would prefer to not share them (perhaps everyone should go through the challenge of learning which sentences to use, as you did), but either way, no matter what, I highly respect you, brother Ibrahim.

    Thank you again, for inspiring all people to take legal action towards equality and justice. 🙂

    Reply
    • Ibrahim YENER says:

      Dear Anonymous
      Thank you for your comment. Your comment made me so happy.

      I am afraid i cannot provide detail of trial (Actually i filed and archived every single conversation) because i think publishing is illegal.

      I will be happy to answer for other questions if you have any.

      Regards
      Ibrahim YENER

      — Actually, I think materials filed in court are a matter of public record. I released all information about all of my cases without problem. Your hanketsu in particular would be of interest, and that is definitely public.

      Reply
  • Ahh, the old ‘I have to wear a mask to protect my privacy from the scary foreigner I just discriminated against’ excuse!
    Pathetic.

    Reply
  • Thank you so, SO much for fighting this case. I’m deeply appreciative of all your efforts to fight this. It sounds like you really ended up with a very appropriate target of such a lawsuit considering that guy’s behavior.

    Thank you. I would love if someday you consider writing or speaking about the process of HOW to follow in your footsteps and get through the legal process, what to consider, and how to successfully file a lawsuit on discrimination.

    You set a great example for all.

    Reply
  • Accountings like this remind me of how far the rabbit hole goes here in Japan.

    When a man can wear a mask into a courtroom and pull these kind of shenanigans without any kind of media response, you really have to wonder – Is the problem with the outliers like this guy or with a society that doesn’t perceive this kind of situation to be a problem worthy of social opprobrium? Sometimes it’s not the person that commits the crime but the people who look the other way that constitute the real threat.

    Brings to mind one time I walked into a local restaurant in Sugamo with my Japanese wife for lunch. Although I entered with a smile and cheerfully requested a table for two in Japanese, the owner explained to me that they don’t serve foreigners and promptly showed me the door, but not before I looked around to see tables of people pointing at us and laughing. Yes, laughing about the owner discriminating against a foreigner.

    And then there was the time I was at a small meeting being held in Japanese and, at a time I felt was appropriate, made some comments in Japanese. There was no problem with what I said or the timing, but the partner sitting next to me became physically enraged that I dared to speak Japanese at the meeting. Of course, no one at the meeting batted an eye.

    And these are just two examples. I have experienced thousands and thousands of similar instances of abuse in Japan, and out of all of those times, I would say a Japanese may have stood up for me once or twice (and, if memory serves me correctly, each time it was my Japanese girlfriend at the time). Given how psychologically damaging this can be, it is no wonder, really, that many foreigners suffer severe bouts of depression and ultimately find that the only way to deal with the abuse is to leave Japan, either temporarily or permanently.

    Reply
    • “became physically enraged…at a meeting”- I was assaulted once at a meeting as I was happy to be there.

      Read that again. The reason I was assaulted was that I was just acting too happy (and ironically, “GENKI”) about being there. It was my first paid work trip to do what I wanted to do in Japan and apparently my happiness/genkiness (I was in my early 20s) radiated out a bit too much to some grumpy oyaji who thought I was being “majime” (miserable?) enough.

      I hadnt said a word, I just made a grsture of agreement- with a smile- when I was ordered to do something.

      Read that again. I AGREED, worldlessly, with my instructions.

      Apparently that wasnt obsequious enough so they guy assautled me. What was more shocking was the group went along with him!

      What was interesting was a group of Okinawan paerticipants at the next table saw what happened and invited me to hang out with them instead, and that was the beginning of a twenty year friendship. They really looked after me.

      When I returned later to my workgroup, one oyaji drunkenly said “you one man play. You so selfish”. So apparently the violence was permitted.

      So the next day, I bailed.

      What is more telling is that none of that collective of so called “artists”- who saw themselves as “Bohemian” and “open minded” were working in this very regimental manner. And I can at least take succor in that none of them are working in that field to this day; though the Okinawans are doing well. There was also another NJ in the workgroup, an American lady married to a Japanese, who stayed out of it, and she was allowed to do her own thing because 1. She didnt speak Japanese and 2. She was with her husband/gaijin minder and 3. She had separate accomodation, so they couldnt really “lord it over the older gaijin”.

      This was a real eye opener to me about hierarchies and bullying at the workplace in Japan, and do not for a minute think that J-hipsters or seemingly “alternative” Japanese will not necessarily fall back into this way of pushing people around in a workgroup under pressure.

      “Fear and Trembling” indeed. Except Amélie Nothomb’s book is marked as a “comedy”. I was so upset I was trembling for days after.

      I was not laughing. No smiling was allowed.

      Reply
    • I hear you on this, JP. Racism undoubtedly plays a big role in this problem, but the reluctance to stand up for or help others in trouble is not specifically directed only towards minorities. This is a big reason why bullying and harassment at school and the workplace, as well as sexual assault on public transit, is such a pervasive problem. Nobody has any sense of responsibility or duty to their fellow man. My perspective is specifically biased towards the area of school, but school can perhaps be said to be a microcosm of society, I think.

      In my very limited experience, teachers often overlook bullying and make little effort to teach children how to treat others, perhaps both because they were never taught themselves and also have no incentive or duty to. Some teachers are bullies themselves, as they know in any given class there are A) students who will complain (and generate drama and trouble) if they are scolded and B) students who were raised to properly submit to teachers. My senpai proudly explained this to me and compared the distinction to sexual harassment–it’s all a matter of knowing who will put up with what kind of behavior from you.

      My perception of the issue is that the teacher, herself or himself bullied by other teachers or superiors, passes along those feelings of inferiority or reproach, which are compounded by the knowledge that he/she is essentially being controlled by children (again, there’s a risk of a complaint from certain kids) and so takes out this feeling of helplessness on the weak ones, those who will not retaliate. I also knew a teacher in whose class two students were placed whom the teacher felt should not be there, but it was by request of the parents, which we could not deny, so to exact revenge the teacher mercilessly ridiculed and bullied the two students endlessly in the hopes that they would voluntarily withdraw from the class. My boss knew about this–using innocent children as pawns in a pointless power game–and did not care at all.

      Reply
    • (continued)
      I’ve of course been on the receiving end of it, too. The above senpai who compared disciplining children to sexually harassing women was observing one of my classes one day. Deciding he wasn’t happy with something I was doing, instead of talking to me about it after class like a normal human being, he chose to clap his hands together as loud as he possibly could from the back of the classroom while I was in the middle of teaching, to interrupt me and bark out an order. After class, he then later came to where I was sitting with a student giving some instruction and tried to beckon me to him with that under-handed manekineko-style hand gesture, like I am a small child. I promptly stood up, stuck my hand out in his face and (politely, but very firmly) told him, “I will to talk to you later.”

      After the students left, I pulled the boss aside and explained the inappropriate behavior. The boss’s reaction? He stated that because he had not witnessed anything, he could take no action, and advised me to confront the senpai in question personally. When I did so, senpai threw a huge fit, face turning red, hollering, spitting at me sarcastically, talking down to me, and so on. I sat unmoving, never letting him provoke me, never responding to his hissy fit with any emotion. The boss watched all this and never even once tried to reprimand him or even suggest that his childish temper-tantrum was inappropriate. This dragged on for nearly an hour, and I never once swayed. At the end, I had to go home or else miss the last train. Senpai, perhaps realizing that he could not bully me, angrily spat as I left, “Tonight’s conversation is whatever! (今夜の話しはどうでもいい!)” The next day, he greeted me when I arrived at work as usual and pretended like nothing had ever happened.

      Since then, I have had occasional moments where senpai gets pissy over trivial BS, but he never crosses the line, so I play along, and he mostly leaves me alone, which is exactly what I want. I can’t fix him, so I just want him to stay away.

      Reply
      • I can fully empathize with the statements by the previous three posters.
        About 10 years ago when I was teaching at a university, I had a classroom across the hall from a Japanese teacher. She always conducted all of her lessons with a microphone and her classroom doors open.
        I was trying to get timid first year students to speak English, but she was drowning out their timid voices, even with my classroom doors closed. After our classes had finished, I went across the hall, and, introduced myself, and explained that I would be ever so grateful if she could try making making sure her classroom doors were closed in future. She apologized and said she would.
        The next day I get called into the office of the English Department head, and she’s standing behind him looking like she’s going to burst; face red with fury, and spitting fire. The way she told it to the department head, I had burst in on her while her class was in progress, shouted at her to shut up, and humiliated her in front of her students.
        I explained what had gone down. Then she repeated the allegation herself (she was really worked up). I was really shocked by her (and her story’s!) difference from the way things had actually transpired, and said that that had not been the way it happened.
        She became even more angry, and stated yelling the whole lie again.
        I calmly looked at her and told her that if she said that lie again, she was going to need a lawyer, a really good one, because my brother-in-law was a lawyer who graduated from Keio University Faculty of Law, and he’d represent me for free.
        She went open mouthed trying to think of a response, but the depart head instantly told her to be quiet and calm down.
        The department head then went through a kind of ‘let’s pretend this never happened’ routine, I guess, because he didn’t need the trouble of me taking legal action, but likewise he didn’t really have the desire (or balls) to call her out and fire her.
        End result? She continued to disrupt my lessons as noisily as she could, I smiled broadly at her and gave her over the top genki aisatsu every time I saw her, and at the end of the year I took off for a better job and left those losers to it.
        Why fight it? There’s nothing to win worth the struggle.

        Reply
        • too often this is the outcome “The department head then went through a kind of ‘let’s pretend this never happened’ ”

          Why woudnt she close the door? Its so (typically) weird.Interesting how she got angry the next day, not the moment you spoke to her. She mustve dwelt on it and twisted it in her mind. Mountains out of molehills:” the gaijin bullied me to close the door”

          No solution, swep under the carpet until next time, the problem never gets solved, the students or the people suffer. Repeat ad infinitum, until Japan is bypassed or becomes an economic satellite of China.

          I wish people in power would grow a pair, throughout J society.

          Reply
          • Absolutely, agree with you on that. She most likely convinced herself that I bullied her, since she could rationalize, after the fact, why she should have accommodated someone she deems to be her inferior. What really happened (I suspect) is that she didn’t have the courage of her convictions to be racist to me face-to-face when I caught her unprepared in the classroom. Her indignation at being powerless to exercise any discrimination over me then likely replayed until she realized she could invent a lie and recruit the department head to enforce it on the basis that ‘we japanese’ in-group identity would do the heavy lifting for her? I don’t know.

            Grow a pair? Yeah, but more often than not, without decent role models, the japanese get it all wrong, confusing arrogance for confidence, rudeness for strength, bullying for leadership and intolerance of other opinions for dedication.

        • Jim (and others) I think there are some “cultural” issues here:
          1. She apologized and said she would.
          TATEMAE, and her gut reaction.
          The next day I get called into the office of the English Department head, and she’s standing behind him looking like she’s going to burst; face red with fury, and spitting fire.
          2. She went home and decided you had violated the HIERARCHY. Shes been there longer than you.
          Shes furious because its a showdown.

          3. The way she told it to the department head, I had burst in on her while her class was in progress, shouted at her to shut up, and humiliated her in front of her students.

          -MOOD/RANK OVER MEANING. Time and again in Japan I have seen people utter complete BS but it doesnt matter about the content, if they are “erai hito”.
          Another issue is that as an NJ, she wasnt sure of your position in the HIERARCHY. NJs are usually honored guests, or, in Abe’s zeitgeist, the only people any ordinary Japanese can lord it over.

          4. I was really shocked by her (and her story’s!) difference from the way things had actually transpired, and said that that had not been the way it happened.

          -USO MO HOUBEN.

          5. She became even more angry, and stated yelling the whole lie again.
          -Why cant the UPPITY GAIJIN just know their place?

          6. brother-in-law was a lawyer who graduated from Keio University Faculty of Law, and he’d represent me for free.

          JAPANESE TRUMPS JAPANESE. Also, FAMOUS NAMES. I remember this doctor coming into our school demanding we put his wife in a higher English class “because he is a doctor from Keio University”.
          Needless to say, the western teachers laughed, but the poor old Japanese staff had to bow down before him.

          7. the depart head instantly told her to be quiet and calm down.
          THE END OF THE PERFORMANCE/ HIERARCHY #2.
          Her ego and position acknowledged, she said her piece, but this NJ has powerful Japanese allies. So the depart Head pulled rank and shut it down.

          I could write a book on this.

          Reply
          • Ha! Yes! That’s about the way it was. You should write a book about it.
            You’re right about the power of name-dropping my brother-in-law. Her expectation was that Japanese institutional racism would leave me disenfranchised and powerless, her Japanese institutional racism led her to (incorrectly) believe that only an equally socially disenfranchised Japanese woman would marry me. Hence, she was unprepared for the revelation that I had not only ‘married above my station’, but above hers too!

    • The fact that he is referred to as カズオ・イシグロ in the press here pretty much answers that question! He was born in Nagasaki and presumably would have had Japanese citizenship until he was forced to choose at 20 or whenever it is required by Japan…

      Reply

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