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  • “Japanese speakers only” Kyoto exclusionary hotel stands by its rules, says it’s doing nothing unlawful

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on November 10th, 2009

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in JapansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

    Hi Blog.  As is my wont, I don’t like to leave exclusionary business practices alone.  Even if that means letter writing and cajoling people to cease a bad habit.  What gets me is when even cajoling doesn’t work, and the cajoled turns uncharacteristically rude towards a paying customer.  Then I get mad.

    Background:  Last October, I attended a writers’ conference in Kyoto, and discovered that even in September just about all hotels in Kyoto were booked (it was approaching peak fall color season).  The only one left was a place in Fushimi that advertised online that they refused anyone who could not speak Japanese.  This is, by the way, contrary to the Hotel Management Law (Ryokan Gyouhou, which can only refuse customers if all rooms are taken, or if there is a health or a “public morals” problem).

    I tried to vote with my feet and find alternative accommodation, but wound up having no choice, and made the reservation with the Fushimi place.  I did, however, the night before going down, find last-minute alternative accommodations at an unexclusionary hotel (at more than double the price).  Then I paid in cash by post to the Fushimi place the sizeable cancellation fee for the last-minute switch.

    But I also enclosed a handwritten letter telling them why I cancelled, expressing my discontent with the rule that people would be refused for a lack of Japanese language ability (what with this tourist town, there are always ways to communicate — including speaking electronic dictionaries; how does one judge sufficient “language abilities”?  and what about deaf or mute Japanese? etc. etc.).  I also asked them to repeal this exclusionary rule, pointing out that it was an unlawful practice.

    I got a rude reply back.  Without addressing me by name, I got a terse letter without any of the formal aisatsu or written tone that a customer-client relationship in this society would warrant.  It also included further spurious insinuated logic that since they couldn’t speak any foreign languages, this business open to the public was somehow not bound to provide service to the general public.  They also categorically denied that their rules are unlawful, coupled with the presumptuous claim that since they didn’t refuse me it was odd for me to feel any disfavor with their system.  And more.  In other words, thanks for your money, but we can do as we please, so sod you.

    Now I’m mad.  I sent this exchange off yesterday with a handwritten note to the Kyoto City Government Department of Tourism and the Kyoto Tourist Association, advising them to engage in some Administrative Guidance.  The latter organization has already told me that they are a private-sector institution, and that since this hotel is not one of their members they have no influence in this situation.  And if the city does get back to me (I’ve done this sort of thing before; government agencies in Japan have even abetted “Japanese Only” hotels), I’ll be surprised.  But I’m not letting this nasty place slide without at least notifying the authorities.  This is just one more reason why we need a law against racial discrimination.

    Here come the letters I sent, scanned, plus the reply.  Click on any image to expand in your browser. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    (And a quick word to the Protest Letter Police:  I’m not in the mood to have my grammar corrected, so don’t bother; my letters below have not been proofread by native speakers, but I think they get my points across just fine.  I’m doing the best that I can, and if you think that a letter has to be perfect before it goes out, and I’m somehow “shaming the entire gaijin community” if it’s not, fuck off.  Here are the letters warts and all.)

    My letter to the Hotel, Kyou no Yado Fushimi:

    kyotofushimi001

    My reservation, two pages, with their exclusionary rule based upon language ability:

    kyotofushimi002

    kyotofushimi003

    The hotel’s reply:

    kyotofushimi004

    My letter to the Kyoto authorities:

    kyotofushimi005

    ENDS

    44 Responses to ““Japanese speakers only” Kyoto exclusionary hotel stands by its rules, says it’s doing nothing unlawful”

    1. David Says:

      You tell ‘em Debito-sama! I’m glad that you are out there, making your name heard!
      Best (from Los Angeles!)
      -D

    2. Emanuele Says:

      GO DAVID GO!!!!!!

    3. adamw Says:

      why did you pay them the cancellation fee??
      not sure they deserved it

    4. Tom R. Says:

      “if you think that a letter has to be perfect before it goes out, and I’m somehow “shaming the entire gaijin community” if it’s not, fuck off”

      Right on!

      Weird that the government agencies in Kyoto aren’t doing anything about this, I thought pretty much hotels were prevented from discrimination that bars or other types of private business could get away with.

    5. K.Sen Says:

      Hi Debito San, Thanks for all the good work that you’re doing.

      Actually all Japanese study English as a part of their 義務教育(Compulsory Education) for a period of six years, in which case they are expected to have at least a basic understanding of Simple English( which most Japanese I suspect do have, but don’t let on quite so easily..). But the Problem of exclusion based on Language alone, is not the principal problem I guess. In Japan even NJ’s are under pressure to eat, sleep, talk, drink tea, sleep in the futon, etc.. look like the Japanese or else be socially rejected.

      In which case, as you have rightly pointed out the relationship between the Hotel and the Customer exceeds the bounds of a
      professional service relationship.

    6. Justin Says:

      Debito, in your experience, is there ANY chance that domestic media would pick up this story? As I have told you before, you need a PR agent.

      – None. It’s not news.

    7. Kimberly Says:

      I’m not completely sure that this falls into the racial discrimination category. Ability to speak a language has nothing to do with race, obviously. While I do have trouble imagining a hotel in a Western country for example, putting an “English speakers only” sign on their door, I can imagine that if a Japanese tourist walked into a hotel and spoke only Japanese to the non-Japanese-speaking staff, not even able to communicate the fact that they would in fact like to stay there, that in the end the hotel may not be able to accomodate them… I think deaf customers would be a different issue, as they could still communicate in writing.

      I do think it’s inappropriate to make such a statement up front… what constitutes “Japanese speaking” anyway? Is a first-semester college student who can say “I am an American college student” and not much else “Japanese speaking,” or do you need the JLPT level 1? Or would simply pointing to phrases in a guidebook instead of simply expecting the staff to speak English do? I don’t know that I’d consider it inappropriate though if they actually attempted to work with a potential customer and found that they simply could not communicate.

      It does go against the letter of the law… But I don’t know that inability to communicate what you want (on the part of the customer) or the rules and expectations associated with your service (on the part of the hotel) is quite the same as “I just don’t like the color of your skin.”

      – No, but this excuse is good tatemae for any visceral xenophobia.

    8. Al Says:

      Most of us make mistakes in our first language.
      Looking forward to the follow up.

    9. Oliver Says:

      Have you asked Rakuten to take this hotel down from their site? As the largest online shopping/reservation system in Japan, Rakuten does have a large responsibility, too.

    10. Graham Says:

      > お客様が来られてから対応に困る事がありましたので

      Their excuse for their exclusionary business is because they had a “problem” with non-Japanese speaker guest in the past? Maybe they should elaborate on this excuse, if they think it justifies their (lack of) service. Or does it really matter for them…?

    11. blvtzpk Says:

      On my first visit to Kyoto (and Japan) back i the early 1990s I used the visitors’ bureau and their English-speaking workers. They were of great help to me. I doubt that they would be in support of such a place.

      Refusing accommodation based on language ability is completely untenable, especially given the tourist nature of this city.

      I suppose they’ll say that they ‘didn’t want any misunderstandings’ which is usually the well-worn excuse (and often code for ‘we don’t want your types here).

    12. HO Says:

      I hope you will win eventually, but there may be some difficulties.

      Kyoto Prefecture’s Ordinance stipulates as follows.
      http://www.pref.kyoto.jp/reiki/reiki_honbun/aa30004611.html
      旅館業法施行条例(京都府)
      第5条 法第5条第3号に規定する条例で定める事由は、宿泊しようとする者又は宿泊している者が次の各号の一に該当する者であるときその他正当な理由のあるときとする。
      (1) 泥酔者その他宿泊客に迷惑を及ぼすおそれのある者
      (2) 宿泊中放歌、けん騒、歌舞、音曲等で宿泊客に迷惑を及ぼす言動のある者
      (3) 明らかに支払能力のないと認められる者
      (4) 挙動不審と認められる者

      Prefectural Ordinance on Hotel Management Law (of Kyoto)
      Article 5. The situations as stipulated by article 5 paragraph 3 of the Law are when the guest or the prospective guest falls in one of the following items or when “there are other justifiable reasons”.
      (1) The person is intoxicated or may cause nuisance to other guests.
      (2) The person sings loudly or makes loud noise to cause nuisance to other guests.
      (3) The person is apparently incapable of payment.
      (4) The person is suspicious (of committing crime).

      It is clear that inability to speak Japanese falls in none of the four items. So, the question is if there is “other justifiable reasons” to decline accommodation.

      I am wondering what kind of reasons they may bring up. Danger in case of fire evacuation?

    13. Guest Says:

      I recommend sending details on to the Tourism Agency. Unlike the Kyoto Tourist Association, it is an arm of government, being part of the Ministry of Land, Transport & Infrastructure.

      http://www.mlit.go.jp/kankocho/

      They have a “suggestion box” which you can reach as follows:

      【連絡先】 観光庁総務課
         E-mail:kankocho@mlit.go.jp    電 話:03-5253-8111
         F A X:03-5253-1563

      – Thanks for this. I’ll fax them today too.

    14. john k Says:

      Ahh of course there is always the “inside” / “outside” approach. They are not part of their inside ‘tourist system’ so cant do anything. Hmmmm…what is the Hotel Management law for then?

      That is the problem when laws here are based upon custom, not common law, as almost everywhere else. Which is why all us NJs have a great difficultly when faced with such hypocrisy. The J’s just bow, bite their tongue and carry on….we NJs don’t.

      The “Laws” are just for show to the outside world…because in reality they are almost totally meaningless.

    15. Wil Says:

      Kyoto is notorious for this kind of thing. I’ll never forget about 4 or 5 years ago I went to the Kyoto city tourist information center at Kyoto station and they had big signs in English, Korean and Chinese that said they could not (or would not) help anyone that didn’t speak Japanese. Instead they referred people to the Kyoto Prefectural tourism information center (also at Kyoto station but up on the 14th(?) floor of the department store). I went there and they were very helpful and answered all of my questions in English.

      However…

      There was another tourist in the center, if I remember correctly she was Canadian of Japanese decent, and she needed help in making accommodation arrangements. Something that many, many tourist information centers in this country do. Here is the wrinkle, the prefectural center wasn’t allowed to do that and although they were very apologetic, all they could do is refer her to the city center, who wouldn’t help her because she didn’t speak Japanese. Long story short, she stayed in Nara that night.

    16. Ben Says:

      I question if they would reject a mute Japanese person?

      Debito – kick some hotel a$$, I would also file a complaint with Rakuten Osaka office of their practices.

      大阪営業所
      〒553-0003
      大阪市福島区福島5丁目1番7号住友不動産西梅田ビル6階

    17. twop Says:

      Good luck on the fight. It’ll be a hard one, but I’m glad someone’s doing it.

    18. Eric Says:

      Will a law against racial discrimination really do anything here? All they have to do is say “We’re discriminating based on language, not race” and the Japanese officials will say “shikatanai”. And of course, as Kimberly pointed out, language ability is a relative concept. Even if you are fluent in Japanese, they can just say your accent is incomprehensible and legally deny you service. In any case let us know how it goes, but given my experiences in Japan I won’t be holding my breath.

    19. BeppuBill Says:

      Having a look at this hotel’s site on Rakuten, it would certainly seem that customer service or flexibility is not this hotel’s forte.
      http://travel.rakuten.co.jp/HOTEL/8140/8140.html
      In the Conditions/Reminders section, it reads that check-in is strictly between 16:00 – 20:00, and those arriving after then will not be accepted and will be charged a cancellation fee. Further, it also discriminates by saying that children are not welcome.
      It’s also interesting to read some of the guest comments:
      http://travel.rakuten.co.jp/HOTEL/8140/review.html
      The place has an overall rating of 2.5 out of 5 and at least 4 of the 7 comments on its review page are negative.

      It’s almost surprising that this place is still in business!

      – Yes, I saw that. I tried to add this as kuchikomi myself, but my cancellation means that I wasn’t an official lodger, and so can’t access. Ah well.

      The only reason I can see a place like this staying in business is location, location, location. Anyplace less touristy would probably mean it couldn’t be so exclusionary.

    20. MD Says:

      Wow, you really did put them on the defensive on this one. They wouldn’t have reacted like that if they had really thought they were doing nothing wrong. Good job.

      Although a lot of people really do believe that as long as it’s “private,” it’s “anything goes.” The repercussions of that can be really bad

    21. Taylor Says:

      On the face of it, as they say, they do not accept non-Japanese speaking customers. In reality, this serves to block most foreigners. They do not like “foreign culture” (if there is such a thing) and all that it entails, and use this excuse to avoid a head-on conflict.

      I suspect J-businesses are learning how to exclude w/o being sued. Can you imagine if a certain onsen in Hokkaido used the language excuse rather than the “no foreigners” policy? I seriously doubt the result of your lawsuit would have been the same.

      I believe we will see much more of this “borderline” racism – it successfully keeps foreigners out w/o providing strong grounds for an anti-discrimination lawsuit.

      We need to speak with our feet, and vote with our wallets – to let our voices be heard. Is there any chance of organized protest against this hotel?

      – Start one.

    22. Bob Says:

      The army of foreign-looking JLPT1 passers, given the government recognition of the test, should suffice to determine whether the discrimination is linguistic or racial, so a racial discrimination law should still solve the problem.
      Incidentally, I and several other obvious foreigners frequent a Japanese-fluent-only establishment near where I live, so I would like to note it is possible that this is just what they say. However, I find it implausible for a plain-jane hotel. What do they need to explain, how to sleep?

    23. Tyler in Nagano Says:

      Debito-san,

      Complaint letter fwd’d to Rakuten Travel as below. Will revert if/when I rec’v their reply.

      井上様、 (楽天トラベル株式会社【長野県担当】)

      毎度です。信州戸倉上山田温泉の亀清旅館(施設番号 : 16078)のタイラーです。

      ご存知だと思いますが、私はインバウンドに関心のあるものです。楽天トラベルに登録している京都の施設がアンチ・インバウンド、尚且つ法律違反の行動をやっているそうで、楽天トラベルはそういう行動を認めているかどうか確認したいと思って、ご連絡をさせていただいております。

      つまり、京都の「京の宿 伏見」の楽天のページ(http://travel.rakuten.co.jp/HOTEL/8140/8140.html)に
      「外国語の対応は出来ません。日本語の話せない方はお泊り頂けません。」
      と書いてあります。これは旅館業法(http://law.e-gov.go.jp/htmldata/S23/S23HO138.html)の第5条に違反となります。

      ご参照の為に:

      旅行業法 第五条  営業者は、左の各号の一に該当する場合を除いては、宿泊を拒んではならない。
      一  宿泊しようとする者が伝染性の疾病にかかつていると明らかに認められるとき。
      二  宿泊しようとする者がとばく、その他の違法行為又は風紀を乱す行為をする虞があると認められるとき。
      三  宿泊施設に余裕がないときその他都道府県が条例で定める事由があるとき。

      この問題は井上さんの担当している地域でも部門でも何でもないけれども、正しい担当者に回して頂ける様にお願い申し上げます。

      楽天トラベルさんからのお返事をお待ちしておりますので宜しくお願い致します。

      亀清旅館
      タイラー

    24. A Says:

      I’d like to see ‘Gaijin-carding’ stop in Hotels too. While it’s not exclusionary it creates an uncomfortable situation and it’s a bother having to explain to them they have no legal right to do so. A hotel recently tried to card me, but were quick to say to wasn’t necessary when I refused. They were polite, but still I’d rather not have to deal with this.

    25. Manule Says:

      Well, we see this kind of practice from time to time, there is always going to be some cave men thinking that they can have their own way with discrimination, but wait, we are talking about the tourism industry! and in Kyoto! What about the Yokoso! campaign? and the expectations to raise the number of foreign visitors to Japan? If the government doesn’t do anything to amend this monstruosity they don’t deserve any credibility in promoting the image of Japan as an interesting tourist destination,let’s face it, foreigner unwelcoming hotels and spas, foreigner unfriendly police (to the point of unbelievable),how can they expect to raise the number of visitors in these conditions? Why do they take it for granted their “utsukushii kuni”?

    26. Ben Says:

      I sent a complaint to (www@mail.travel.rakuten.co.jp) Rakuten this morning, received a reply this evening that they will look into it.

      -*-*-*-

      件名
      —————————————————————
      京の宿 伏見
      —————————————————————
      ご案内 (三上) – 2009年11月11日 19:01
      Dear Sir/madam,

      Thank you for your inquiry.
      This is Rakuten Travel, Customer Service.

      We will check the details about your inquiry.

      We will reply to you as soon as we get information about
      this matter, please kindly wait for a while.

      Thank you for your patience.

      Best regards,

      O. Mikami (Mr.)
      Customer Service
      Rakuten Travel, Inc.

      ==============================================
      Rakuten Travel, Customer Service, Dpt.
      http://travel.rakuten.co.jp/en/
      OPEN: 09:00~17:30(CLOSED: Sat, Sun, Holiday)
      ==============================================

      お客様 – 2009年11月11日 13:26
      http://travel.rakuten.co.jp/HOTEL/8140/8140.html

      Please be informed that this hotel discriminates against non-speaking Japanese.

      ” 外国語の対応は出来ません。日本語の話せない方はお泊り頂けません。 ”

      This is in direct violation of the hotel law in Japan. Hotel may only
      reject a person based on these 3 situations -

      旅行業法 第五条 営業者は、左の各号の一に該当する場合を除いては、宿泊を拒んではならない。
      一 宿泊しようとする者が伝染性の疾病にかかつていると明らかに認められるとき。
      二 宿泊しようとする者がとばく、その他の違法行為又は風紀を乱す行為をする虞があると認められるとき。
      三 宿泊施設に余裕がないときその他都道府県が条例で定める事由があるとき。

      As Rakuten is a public traded company and this hotel is advertising on
      Rakuten servers, I ask you remove this company from your systems until
      such racist policy is revised.

      Regards,

      [---001:001672:34945---]

      – Thanks Ben.

    27. Chris Says:

      Doing a quick search, I found two more hotels on the Rakuten site that have exclusionary practices.
      I don’t have the time right now to translate this to English for those who can’t read the Japanese, sorry.
      I’m sure I could find more if I looked.

      南阿蘇・高原の家 ノア
      http://travel.rakuten.co.jp/HOTEL/40771/40771_std.html
      ◆海外からのご予約は自動的にキャンセルさせていただきますのでご了承ください。
      また海外の方のみのご利用、および日本語ができない方の
      ご利用はできませんので注意ください。

      はだの万葉倶楽部
      http://travel.rakuten.co.jp/HOTEL/20112/20112_std.html
      日本語が喋れない方のご予約は承れませんので予めご了承下さいませ。

    28. Kimberly Says:

      For the record, my husband was apparently (I wasn’t with him, but have no reason to think he’d lie) refused service at the Softbank shop in Shin-Okubo (Koreatown, but the closest shop to his office) because the staff didn’t speak Japanese (although they obviously spoke enough to tell him to go to the Shinjuku shop, he doesn’t speak Korean).

      It’s okay to put up a sign saying “English spoken here,” but why is the reverse not acceptable? “Sorry, we do not have any English speaking staff.” If anything, isn’t that a kindness? Someone with limited language ability can take that information and decide whether they trust their own Japanese/gesturing ability, or whether they would prefer to find a more international hotel. I don’t think that all hotels should have to be international… they shouldn’t be able to refuse people based on race or nationality, but what is the proposed solution here? That they should serve all customers with gestures and drawings if they have no common language? That all hotels should be required to have at least one person who speaks English? How about Chinese? Korean? Latvian? How far do you expect them to go? And why should the hotel staff be responsible for providing service in a foreign language, but the customers should NOT be expected to speak the language of the country they are in?

      I see hotel websites all the time that say “Handicapped accessible? No”… obviously the best thing to do in that case would be to MAKE it so but failing that, isn’t it better to let someone know up front that their needs can’t be met, rather than creating an embarassing situation when they arrive? Why is language any different? Except of course for the fact that a language CAN be learned, at the very least a phrase book purchased… most people in wheelchairs can’t just decide to get up and take the stairs. Letting someone know what services your hotel does and doesn’t offer does not seem like a bad thing to me… although the phrasing could have been a little nicer, and their reply to your letter I would agree is downright rude.

      – There is a huge difference between saying, “Sorry, we do not have any English speaking staff.”, and “Sorry, we do not have any English speaking staff, so we’re going to refuse you service.” You might want to do a little more research on what licensing laws and “being open to the public” exactly entails.

    29. Paul Says:

      Re Kimberly… I have yet to find hotel services that cannot be understood thru gestures and pointing to signs so long as a smile is included. As an international traveler, I have stayed in many hotels where this is how the communication took place.

      A hotel is a business – and businesses want customers, and generally all customers. These restrictive hotels need to follow the law – or should be fined into oblivion. Long before that, I suspect they could invest just a bit and find some alternate language assistance, even if that is a lesson in providing a smile while pointing.

    30. adamw Says:

      chris,

      the first one you mention is outrageous-worse than the one debito found

      南阿蘇・高原の家 ノア
      http://travel.rakuten.co.jp/HOTEL/40771/40771_std.html
      ◆海外からのご予約は自動的にキャンセルさせていただきますのでご了承ください。
      また海外の方のみのご利用、および日本語ができない方の
      ご利用はできませんので注意ください。

      any reservations from overseas will be automatically cancelled.
      foreigners not accompanied by a japanese and those who cant speak japanese will be refused.

      kimberly,

      instead of wasting everyones time writing posts that because they dont offer service in latvian its ok to reject non japanese speakers -why dont you do something more useful like complaining about this.or is that too much like hard work when you can just sit about criticizing those who are?

    31. adamw Says:

      of course the most magnificent thing about it all is that if you dont speak japanese you wouldnt know that you were going to be rejected for not speaking japanese when you arrived at the hotel.
      and if you were trying to book it you wouldnt know that your reservation would be automatically be cancelled for living overseas.
      wonderful service

    32. Gary Says:

      “There is a huge difference between saying, “Sorry, we do not have any English speaking staff.”, and “Sorry, we do not have any English speaking staff, so we’re going to refuse you service.” You might want to do a little more research on what licensing laws and “being open to the public” exactly entails.”

      Is anyone here a lawyer? I can’t speak for anyone else, but I would feel more comfortable with an authoritative answer from a professional on this question.

      – Sorry I’m not credible enough (or the point is not axiomatic enough) for you.

    33. Tyler in Nagano Says:

      Debito-san,

      FYI, Our Rakuten Travel contact advised that the Kyoto hotel in question has inquired about changing the wording to “Service available in Japanese (language) only”. Will revert when the change is made.

    34. Gary Says:

      “Sorry I’m not credible enough (or the point is not axiomatic enough) for you.”

      Well, obviously you’re emotionally disturbed by this managerial policy and you would like to let your readers know about your personal reaction to the sign. That’s fine. I have no problem with anyone wanting to be a political agitator.

      What I am simply asking is if there are any lawyers on the thread who can shed some dispassionate well-informed legal background on this particular type of issue. With all due respect, it is unclear to me (and perhaps others) how refusing service based on language inability is automatically synonymous with racial discrimination. This is something you are claiming above. There was nothing in your letter to point to legal precedent on this matter linking the two concepts, and I am unfamiliar with any courts — anywhere really — suggesting a linkage, let alone legally establishing one.

      As I said, it would be helpful if a lawyer could comment for the benefit of everyone.

      – You’re establishing the linkage here. I never said it was racial discrimination in this case, so don’t put words in my mouth. What I am saying is that a law against racial discrimination would very likely stop this sort of thing from happening.

      Sorry if you think I’m being Clintonesque, but laws that stop one type of discrimination in specific can be used to stop others in general. As the UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (which is what a RD law would be modeled upon, since Japan agreed to do so in 1996 when they effected it) states:

      Article 1
      1. In this Convention, the term “racial discrimination” shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.

      By this definition, things that are not NECESSARILY something “racial” (by scientific definition) are still covered. This can also include the Burakumin (“descent”) and the Ainu (“ethnic origin”), even though the GOJ has constantly argued to the UN (and won’t be able to since the Diet declared the Ainu a separate ethnic minority last year) that Japan has no races or minorities, therefore the treaty they signed they can’t put into effect. The UN doesn’t accept that. My point is, “race” as a construct has a much broader definition than the purely scientific one when enforced in law, as the CERD demands.

      Furthermore:

      Article 5
      In compliance with the fundamental obligations laid down in article 2 of this Convention, States Parties undertake to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of the following rights:
      ( … )
      (f) The right of access to any place or service intended for use by the general public, such as transport, hotels, restaurants, cafes, theatres and parks.

      Now, with all due respect, is this definitive, credible, dispassionate, and unemotionally disturbed enough for you? Or do you need a lawyer to read it to you?

    35. Gary Says:

      “Now, with all due respect, is this definitive, credible, dispassionate, and unemotionally disturbed enough for you? Or do you need a lawyer to read it to you?”

      I think if you are seeking to have a conversation with a disinterested third-party who’s not looking to trade barbs with you (and I’m not), it doesn’t make any sense to adopt an adversarial or defensive tone. I was wondering if there was a lawyer on the list because you are not a lawyer or a legal scholar. That’s not meant to be an insult; it’s just a statement of fact. More importantly, I’m operating under the good-faith assumption that Debito.org is looking to educate people on case law and legal precedent (correct?). If that’s not part of your mission statement, and it’s rather more about — what’s the term? — firing people up, then I’m sorry to have wasted your time and mine.

      “I never said it was racial discrimination in this case, so don’t put words in my mouth. What I am saying is that a law against racial discrimination would very likely stop this sort of thing from happening.”

      Okay, I understand better now. This is simply your subjective interpretation of how the treaty might be employed if a domestic court chose to interpret the passages the way in which you prefer. I see.

      Here’s the question to ask: has a court worldwide ever interpreted the treaty this way? If not, the important question to ask is why? Again, it would be helpful if a lawyer or a legal scholar or someone with first-hand experience could shed some light on this matter because I’m unaware of a lawsuit using the discrimination treaty to protect against a business’s refusal to serve a customer over the issue of language.

      The Ana Bortz Case of 1999 (Shizuoka District Court) cited the CERD to protect against a business’s refusal to serve a customer because she is foreign. Not because of language in specific, however.

      But the judge interpreted the CERD the same as I have. It was the only thing he could interpret in this case because pertinent treaties have the force of law in Japan in the absence of an actual law in Japan.

    36. Chris Says:

      OK,
      Here’s one I am sure Gary and Debito can agree on!

      http://travel.rakuten.co.jp/HOTEL/52014/52014.html
      宿泊センター 樹 in Wakkanai
      外国人のお客様は対応ができない為、ご宿泊できません。覚悟してください!
      We are unable to accept any foreign people. <— This phrase was written in English.

      Also,

      http://travel.rakuten.co.jp/HOTEL/18497/18497_std.html
      強羅温泉 桐谷 箱根荘 in Hakone
      このサイトでの外国人,外国にお住まいの方の予約は不可
      Foreign people and those living overseas cannot make reservations from this site (My translation)
      (This could be a gray zone issue. Doesn't say foreigners can't telephone and make reservations, just can't reserve online.)

      Maybe the issue of exclusionary policies should be brought to the attention of Rakuten. I am sure they have enough clients that they can drop the 5 or 6 places that won't change exclusionary practices.

      PS.
      Debito, please try to be bit less hostile to someone simply asking for a third-party professional interpretation. "Or do you need a lawyer to read it to you?” is a bit rude. Let's be gentlemen and keep the debate civil.

      – I don’t think the person was “simply asking” (read a little more closely into the iikata used), but that’s again only my subjective interpretation. Thanks for responding and researching.

      And by the way, I called that place in Wakkanai about a year and a half ago on this. The surly old man who answered the phone says he refuses NJ cos he himself doesn’t speak English (again, the language barrier as excuse), and got testy much the same way the Kyoto hotel did (except not in writing, and I hadn’t made a reservation, which is why it was less easy for me to take it up with authorities), then hung up on me. The Wakkanai City government is moreover famous for turning a blind eye to “Japanese Only” signs and rules. I wanted to see if far more tourist-reliant Kyoto could do better.

    37. debito Says:

      UPDATE NOVEMBER 13, 2009

      I just got a call at 3:50 today from a Mr Sunagawa of the Kyoto Tourist Association (and a letter by sokutatsu today). He said the KTA has called the hotel in question and told them to change their rules. They agreed that this rule was a violation of the Hotel Management Law.

      The hotel, according to Mr Sunagawa, said they would “fix” (naosu) their instructions on Rakuten Travel. I asked what “fix” exactly meant, and that was left, naturally, vague. But they would keep an eye on the Rakuten site (which hasn’t, by their last check, been “fixed” yet). Here’s hoping they actually rescind the exclusionary rule (as opposed to finding some other loophole or hurdle to put up).

      I’m pleased with this. I’ll have the KTA letter scanned and up as tomorrow’s blog entry. Arudou Debito

    38. DS Says:

      Just a thought, as a way to collect some valuable data;

      Howzabout a couple or three of us actually try to make some reservations at places that claim not to want foreign guests? I dont mean to be malicious or try and hurt them financially. Make a reservation for a quiet weekday in February, all in correct Japanese, but using an obviously gaijin name. Let’s see how these businesses react at the prospect of losing money during a slow period. Of course, cancel the reservations (if indeed they are accepted) well in advance, so as not to cause any trouble.

      Sound borderline ethical, or a bit of a dickish thing to do?

      – The borderline ethical dickish thing here is for them to refuse NJ customers.

    39. DS Says:

      Actually, the homepage of the place that refuses to accept foreigners is even more direct- they say that any reservations made by foreigners will be CANCELLED!

      Link;

      http://itukiweb.fc2web.com/yoyaku.html

      The place is in Wakkanai, so someone in the neighbourhood may want to give them a shout…

      ・宿泊する方の名前 (フルネームでお願いいたします)
      ・会社名(観光のお客様は必要ありません)
      ・宿泊の日程
      ・人 数 (必要なお部屋の数も書いてください)
      ・住 所
      ・連絡先の電話番号(携帯も教えていただけると便利です)
      ・車、バイク、レンタカー、飛行機、JR、タクシー、自転車、徒歩などの交通手段をお知らせください。 できれば車種もお願いします(駐車場やガレージの関係上)
      ・喫煙、禁煙を希望の方はお知らせください。できる限り配慮いたします。
      ・PC持込のお客様は予約時にお知らせください。 (禁煙室では無線が届かないため)
      ・「外国人のお客様は対応ができないため宿泊できません。」
       We are unable to accept any foreign people.
      ・「外国人の方の予約が入った場合はキャンセルとさせていただきます。」
       Any reservations from foreign people would be cancelled.

    40. Tom R. Says:

      “If that’s not part of your mission statement, and it’s rather more about — what’s the term? — firing people up, then I’m sorry to have wasted your time and mine.”

      It always amazes me Debito to find people who come up with new ways to test you. As if you haven’t been through enough, giving up your American citizenship, learning to speak Japanese, devoting years of your life to Japan, and providing tons of evidence, photos, emails from universities, letters, and all presented in a straight forward, logical order. Someone comes along and tries to prove some kind of a bias to undermine your credibility.

      After reading your website for awhile I am convinced not only of your authenticity but that discrimination exists not only in Japan but the world over, sometimes in very subtle ways. This is a truly just cause you have taken up.

      Thank you for fighting Debito. And thank you for contacting this hotel, it has prevented someone from an embarrassing and potentially frightening ordeal.

    41. Ben Says:

      reply from Rakuten Travel about 2 hours ago.

      -*-*-

      Dear Sir/madam,

      Thank you for your inquiry.
      This is Rakuten Travel,Customer Service.

      Thank you for your precious opinion.
      We have informed to the hotel for the indication.

      Please kindly be noted that it might take some time
      for the hotel to change such policies on our web site.

      We take customer service seriously at Rakuten Travel
      and look forward to serving you again in the future.

      If you have any other inquiries, please don’t hesitate
      to contact us.

      Best regards,

      O. Mikami (Mr.)
      Customer Service
      Rakuten Travel, Inc.

      ==============================================
      Rakuten Travel, Customer Service, Dpt.
      http://travel.rakuten.co.jp/en/
      OPEN: 09:00~17:30(CLOSED: Sat, Sun, Holiday)
      ==============================================

      – Huh?

    42. let`s talk Says:

      Kimberly says: “Why should the hotel staff be responsible for providing service in a foreign language, but the customers should NOT be expected to speak the language of the country they are in?”

      I have been to about 25 countries and I can operate in 4 languages, more ot less well enough or perfect. I didn`t study the languages of all 25 countries that I visited. Why should I? I am on vacation. I stayed in hotels in villages in France, Bavaria or Italy where nobody could speak English. They wanted to see my passport and my credit card. I got the key and went to my room. That is called hotel service.
      In Japan some hotels are moved by cowardness: if you, a foreign customer, complains, they simply do not wish to deal with you. The lack of anti-discrimination law is a comfortable thing for them.

    43. let`s talk Says:

      Gary,

      The legal counselor is just around your corner or a couple of train stops. The question is why do you need it.
      You don`t have to possess a lawyer`s degree to know your human rights. Or the right and wrong stuff that I am sure you were taught at school. The “dispassionate well-informed legal background on this particular type of issue” is the non-existence of anti-discrimination law in Japan . And that is what this thread is about.
      The written law is not a gift. It is the result of social movements and opinions. Lawyers just create the text. Ask for it.

    44. adamw Says:

      what a joke – on the noa one below,rakuten got them to change their discriminatory blurb:

      南阿蘇・高原の家 ノア
      http://travel.rakuten.co.jp/HOTEL/40771/40771_std.html
      ◆海外からのご予約は自動的にキャンセルさせていただきますのでご了承ください。
      また海外の方のみのご利用、および日本語ができない方の
      ご利用はできませんので注意ください。

      but guess what?
      they took out the bit about foreigners and non japanese speakers being unwelcome and left in the bit 海外からのご予約は自動的にキャンセル
      !!
      ive complained about this of course again and also debitos friend in wakkanai

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