Hi Blog. Here’s a breathtaking statistic. Courtesy of several people this morning:
Japan: No room at inn for foreigners
TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs says over 70 percent of Japanese inns and hotels that didn’t have foreign guests last year don’t want any in the future either.
The ministry says that a survey of such businesses showed they feel unable to support foreign languages and that their facilities are not suited to foreigners.
The survey released Thursday shows that over 60 percent of Japan’s inns and hotels had foreign guests last year, but the majority of the rest don’t want any.
It was released as Japan continues its efforts to attract more foreign visitors. The country’s “Visit Japan Campaign” aims to draw 10 million foreigners to the country for trips and business in the year 2010, up from 8.35 million last year.
COMMENT: This is not news to me (although I am grateful to the GOJ for conducting this survey and making this information available to the public). I’ve called a number of hotels (in places like Shinjuku, Wakkanai and Nagano) with “Japanese Only” rules and signs up and their most common excuse was, “we don’t speak any foreign languages” (they’ve also said “we don’t have Western beds” and “we can’t handle NJ problems if they come up”, precisely those listed in the Asahi article above). I’ve even pointed out to these hotels and to the local police box (with a keitai snap of the sign and a copy of the laws they have to enforce) that this is in fact an illegal activity under the Ryokan Gyouhou (which is very specific under what conditions hotels can refuse clientele; being a foreigner is not one of them); in all cases I was told to get lost. Even the police (in Ohkubo) couldn’t be bothered.
I even found a website last year put up by the Fukushima Prefectural Government Tourist Information Association which had several places stating (again, with government knowledge and sponsorship) that they explicitly did not want NJ to stay there. That was taken down after I pointed out the laws to the tourist agency and they spent several weeks researching, but gee whiz, doesn’t the government even know their own laws?
As the CNN article points out, how can Japan get more tourists when (mathematically) a estimable 27% or all hotels surveyed in Japan (72% of 38%, according to the Asahi above) don’t want their money because they can’t be bothered to offer their services properly? They are part of the sa-bisu gyoukai, aren’t they?
What to do? It’s pretty simple, really. Suspend their operating licenses until they shape up. And sic the press on them. Like the Kumamoto Pref Govt did the hotel that refused Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) ex-patients in 2004.
Arudou Debito in Sapporo
UPDATE: The Manchester Guardian quoted me soon afterwards. I’m not too comfortable with how my quotes came out, but here’s the article FYI. Debito
Japanese hoteliers turn backs on foreign tourists
Justin McCurry in Tokyo, The Guardian (guardian.co.uk)
Friday October 10 2008 14.57 BST
WITH ADDENDA TO MY QUOTES (I’m not all that comfortable with how they came out)
Japan’s mission to boost the number of overseas visitors suffered a setback this week after hundreds of hoteliers and inn owners said they would turn away foreign guests.
Of the 7,068 hotels and inns that responded to a survey by the communications ministry, 62% had received at least one foreign guest last year, while 38%, or 2,655 establishments, had received none. Of that number, 72% said they would prefer their doors to remain closed to non-Japanese.
The results were published only days after Japan’s newly formed tourist agency said it planned to increase the number of foreign visitors to 10 million by the end of the decade, compared with 8.35 million last year. It then hopes to double the number to 20 million by 2020.
Many cited language problems, while others said they did not have the facilities for foreign guests, although what that actually meant wasn’t specified. Some said they would be unable to respond properly if any problems involving foreigners arose on their premises.
Smaller hotels and traditional inns, called ryokan, are most reluctant to court the international tourist yen.
In theory at least, the country’s thousands of ryokan, often located deep in the mountains or near the coast, are supposed to offer old-fashioned hospitality: faultless service, rooms with sliding paper screens and tatami-mat floors, communal hot spring baths and exquisitely presented local delicacies.
“The survey sheds light on a pretty dark part of Japan,” said Debito Arudou, an American-born naturalised Japanese citizen. [I’m grateful to the Japanese government for dealing with this kind of problem, usually kept quiet.]
Arudou, the author of a book on racial discrimination in his adopted country, called on local government to enforce anti-discrimination laws and revoke the business licenses of offending hotels and inns.
“They are supposed to be part of the service industry, but they’re not providing that service to foreigners.
[It’s a paradox.] “They claim they can’t provide foreign guests with a proper standard of service, so instead they deny it to them altogether. That’s arrogance on a grand scale.” [How can the hotel decide what the customer likes like this, and based upon their presupposition just say they’re not even going to try? In any case, it’s the law. They legally cannot refuse people just because they’re foreign.]
Officials from Visit Japan, a government-sponsored tourist drive launched in 2003, conceded there was little they could do to encourage reluctant hoteliers to change their ways.
“It is up to the individual hotels and inns to decide who they have as guests, but we would like them to realise that the influx of foreign visitors represents a huge business opportunity,” Daisuke Tonai, a spokesman for the Japan National Tourism Organisation, told the Guardian.
“Although we can’t force them to act, we certainly want hotels and inns to do more to make overseas visitors feel more welcome.”
Renewed efforts to woo overseas visitors got off to an inglorious start last month when Nariaki Nakayama, the transport minister, was forced to resign after saying that Japan was “ethnically homogeneous” and that the Japanese, in general, “do not like foreigners”.
His replacement, Kazuyoshi Kaneko, whose brief includes tourism, admitted that foreigners were unwelcome in some places.
“Some people might not like the idea of having foreign tourists very much,” he told the Japan Times. “Although it’s not our intention to change the people’s mindset, [the tourism agency’s] major task will be to attract a large number of foreign tourists.”
Though tourist numbers have risen significantly from 5.21 million five years ago, Japan has strict visa and immigration rules and has been criticised for its sometimes frosty attitude towards outsiders.