Guest blog post by Steve on “How to get the Japanese public to demand a non-discrimination law”


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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS now on iTunes, subscribe free

Hi Blog.  Yet another guest post today.  Thanks Steve.  Debito in Sapporo

Dear Debito, I became inspired to start a new thread, I hope it sparks some ideas and real action. Thanks again for continuing to be a beacon of light for humans who want human rights! 🙂 Sincerely, Steve (a.k.a “Mr. Ittemo Ii Desu Ka”)

“Problem, Reaction, Solution”
“How to get the Japanese public to demand a non-discrimination law”

I second DM’s motion. (

Seriously. Let’s make it happen. Our goal is a new law against discrimination here in Japan.

Who here has the courage to become this generation’s Mrs. Rosa Parks? I hope somebody reading this does.

Since currently barring entry to private establishments based on nationality is still practically legal in Japan (or at the very least, non-prosecuted and/or non-penalized), then I think DENYING JAPANESE PEOPLE entry to an establishment here in Japan will create subsequent outrage which will cause Japanese people to realize that Japan needs a law which clearly states, “Barring entry to private establishments based on nationality, or race, is hereby illegal, and violators of this law will be prosecuted and will face severe penalties.” The outraged Japanese public will DEMAND a new law like this.

Proposed plan of action: a law-abiding human here in Japan (with taxes, national insurance, and even pension – all paid-up in full (nod to Hoofin), preferably a permanent resident of Japan or Japanese national, to avoid the possibility of visa-denial retaliation) who has an establishment (a bar, restaurant, shop, whatever) AND COURAGE (very essential) and good property insurance (also essential, since some right-wing crazies will probably break some windows and/or start some fires) should put up a big sign out front proclaiming “No Japanese” and/or “No Japanese may enter” and/or “Non-Japanese Only” and/or “Entry Restricted to Non-Japanese” (in perfect Japanese of course) PLUS underneath this sign should be big poster-sized-laminated-PHOTOS of all the variations of “Japanese Only” signs found in Japan (e.g. – especially photos of the signs written in Japanese such as PLUS underneath those photos should be a sentence in Japanese which says, “Japan needs a law which clearly states, ‘Barring entry to private establishments based on nationality, or race, is hereby illegal, and violators of this law will be prosecuted and face severe penalties.’ “

A well-written (triple-proofread) press-release in Japanese together with this story’s dramatic money-shot: a well-taken photo which clearly shows the whole picture, meaning, the controversial “Non-Japanese Only” sign TOGETHER with the big poster-sized-laminated-photos of “Japanese Only” signs directly underneath that, TOGETHER with the solution to this problem stated underneath that, specifically, our proposed law against discrimination.

I predict many newspapers and television channels will cover this story. When the average Japanese person sees the top part of the photo (the “Non-Japanese Only” sign), they will be outraged of course. Then, when their eyes scan down to the middle part of the photo (the “Japanese Only” signs), they will realize this kind of discrimination exists here in Japan. Finally, when they scan down to the bottom of the photo they will see the new proposed law which will help prevent this kind of sign from ever being posted again, and hopefully they will clamor for this solution.

This “Problem, Reaction, Solution” technique has been used successfully by clever rulers to get the public to clamor for the wrong goals (e.g. the Problem of terrorism creates a Reaction of fear and anger, which leads to the public agreeing to the rulers’ desired “Solutions” of decreased human rights, decreased privacy, increased air-bombing of other nations, and increased taxes going towards weaponry contracts) well finally it’s about time average people create a PEACEFUL little Problem (namely, a sign which states a discriminatory entry rule) which will create a Reaction (in this case indignant outrage about such discrimination) which will lead to the public clamoring for a LAW against such discrimination.

Reducible Risk – I predict some newspapers and television channels will try to focus on just the top half of the photo, and will simply cut out the bottom half. Hmmm, then, maybe to reduce that possibility we should somehow put the photos of the “Japanese Only” signs WITHIN (e.g. in the CENTER of) our “Non-Japanese Only” sign (and maybe we should put the law proposal WITHIN that as well) so it will be harder for editors to attempt to cut out the most essential part of the story.

Now, If anyone here has a better, more effective, serious idea about how to get the Japanese public to demand a non-discrimination law, let’s hear it!

And after everyone here adds their positive ideas on this thread, let’s hope someone with courage actually steps up to “Make it happen, cap’n!”  Steve


34 comments on “Guest blog post by Steve on “How to get the Japanese public to demand a non-discrimination law”

  • great ideal steve, i hope that you have the courage to make this happen. i know some great office space near the american consulate over here in osaka that you can rent.

  • I do not have an alternative, but this is not the right way. “Japanese only” signs are bad, but that does not make this OK either. Do not stoop to the same level.

  • Like Mumei, I don’t have any alternative to offer that will speed up the cause of a law against racial discrimination, but I would still have deep misgivings over something like this. It would feel like stooping to their level, and like a slap in the face to far more people than the bigots who enforce these exclusionary rules.

    Yes we may balk every time we see a sign that refuses entry to foreigners, but do we really need to take it out on all Japanese collectively?

    — Well, “Japanese Only” signs take it out on all NJ collectively.

  • Hey, great idea, but how can anyone afford to keep the sign up in a bar that no one patronizes?

    Also, I’d be afraid of a Japanese gangs or more specifically, the Yakuza, taking notice and deciding to take matters into their own hands.

    Better, if the sign were on a billboard, hand bill or graffiti on the side of a building.

  • ThirdObserver says:

    One suggested change to your plan. The Japanese who do put up signs often say that their signs are not racist because they are prohibiting “gaikokujin.” Of course we know that in actual practice it is very much based on race. Thus they will bar or attempt to bar Debito since they view him as a “gaikokujin” [regardless] of his citizenship. Your plan using “No Japanese,” “No Japanese may enter,” “Non-Japanese Only,” and “Entry Restricted to Non-Japanese” would make race the explicit target unlike their signs. Thus I propose you use the old term “naikokujin” (inside country person) which applies only to those who are citizens of Japan and thus would basically be the same thing but without the explicitness. Of course with such a sign up Debito would not be allowed in to the establishment, but you could always say, “he doesn’t look a naikokujin” using the inverse of what they do thus further demonstrating that their concepts of “gaikokujin” and “naikokujin” are based in race and are so antiquated for the modern world.

    — I’m not sure the semantics of “naikokujin” are going to work either. Irony doesn’t work well in this society. But it’s worth a try.

  • Great idea in principle, but it won’t work. Instead, the government will pass a law that says it’s illegal to deny Japanese entry to any such establishment, but not that it’s illegal to deny NJ admission to a similar establishment. Don’t forget, their core belief is Nihon uber alles, not equality and dignity for all.

  • It’s not “stooping to the same level”, Mumei. It’s entirely calculated and contextualised and political activism at its most brilliant. (Even better if someone married to a Japanese could do it.)

  • Punishing all Japanese collectively because such discrimination targets all nj collectively is pretty much the definition of “stooping to their level”.

    How about the sign instead saying “No Asians”? Many will assume that it only applies to nj Asians so will be shocked when they too are refused entry, grouped together with this much wider subsection of the world.

  • – Well, “Japanese Only” signs take it out on all NJ collectively. –

    But surely that is what we’re decrying as an affront to equality? The denial of people’s individuality, the lumping them all into a group. If this sign went up, it would be doing exactly the same to Japanese people, most of whom would be somewhat taken aback, never having even been aware of, let alone supportive of, the situation whereby foreigners are discriminated against. I wonder how we could hold the moral high ground when we’re doing the very thing we despise.

    To put it into less words, it’s an affront to the millions of Japanese who are entirely innocent of this kind of thing, and you can bet that the right-wing media would spin it that way.

    — But it WILL raise awareness by putting the shoe on the other foot.

  • [snipe deleted]

    Seriously, think about this.

    Here’s a serious idea for you to start with. Maybe Cap’n Steve you could get the ball rolling in a small way by refusing to provide service to Japanese at your place of work. If you are a businessman then this is exactly what you are hoping for. If you are a teacher, you could refuse to teach anyone but foreigners. If you are a clerk or work in a service industry of some sort, you can refuse to provide goods or service to anyone but foreigners. Let us know how this works for you and how long you remain employed/in business.

    I also think this idea does not rise to the level of the actions taken by people like Rosa Parks in the struggle against racism in America. Maybe it is still a little early in your plan to be calling for the Rosa Parks of a new generation.

    — Your idea is even less-seriously enforceable (or effective) than the original one. But then again you obviously are taking the piss. YOU seriously think about this.

    As for Rosa Parks, read your history: people said it was too early for her to do what she did back then too. There will always be somebody who asserts, whenever anyone tries to be activist or do anything progressive, that it’s too early. And if the naysayers get taken too seriously, nothing ever gets done.

  • Perhaps I should explain a little more about the reasoning behind this shocking idea.

    When I tell Japanese people accounts of Non-Japanese people being denied entry into Japanese establishments, most Japanese people don’t care. A few react with appropriately strong condemnation of that practice, but most give off the vibe of “So? Big deal, go to a different establishment. I’ve never personally seen, or noticed, such signs, so this must not really exist much, so no I don’t think any legal action needs to be taken, and no I don’t think a new law about that needs to enacted.”

    BUT whenever I verbally put the shoe on the other foot, by telling Japanese people accounts of JAPANESE people being denied entry into establishments OUTSIDE of Japan, almost ALL Japanese people care about THAT rare occurrence, and suddenly almost ALL of them react with appropriately strong condemnation of THAT practice.

    So physically “putting the shoe on the other foot” by denying Japanese entry here in Japan will hurt a few Japanese folks’ egos, yes, and I think that is exactly what is NEEDED to make them realize Japan needs a law against entry-denial (and no, I don’t think they would have the nerve to publicly pass a new law which would state that only people hereby protected are Japanese nationals. * But then again, read my next post.)

    Another important point I feel I should make now, is that the owner of the establishment should MAKE IT VERY CLEAR that he or she is absolutely AGAINST this kind of discrimination.

    So here’s a new tweak on the original idea, how about we add a sentence at the top which says, “We are totally AGAINST such discrimination, and we will keep up this sign as a PROTEST against the many documented signs in Japan which deny entry to Non-Japanese. As soon as Japan outlaws such discrimination, we will take down the sign of course!”

  • Human Rights campaigns only work if the people we attempt to influence actually acknowledge in their hearts that we are all members of the human race. Some DNA-groups (like the one I was born into, which will go unmentioned for fear of reprisals) still secretly hold in their heart (and their ancient scriptures, which they revere to the present-day) the idea that “we have Adam-DNA, thus people without our DNA (like goys) are in fact Non-Adam sub-human monkeys/swine that don’t deserve equal protection under the law, our God told us so.”

    If the majority of the “Yamato” people of Japan still secretly hold in their heart this kind of racist idea (even sub-consciously), then our “Human Rights” campaigns are simply the nonsensical sounds of inferior animals to them.

    Notice I qualified that statement with the word IF, because the fact is, we can never really know what ideas people secretly hold in their hearts – we can only see what comes out of their hearts in what they say, what they write, and what they do.

    The undeniable fact is: the reason Debito started this site we are communicating on, is because here in present-day Japan, Japanese people still allow establishments to post signs which say “Japanese Only.” Period.

  • Unfortunately I think that people on the list are getting too caught up on the idea of discrimination and missing the point it’s making.

    The WHOLE IDEA is to offend the millions of innocent Japanese – to get them to say “this is wrong, I don’t want to be discriminated against”. To be so obvious, in their face, and offensive that they will have to do something about it.

    As often as I pick on Debito for jousting with windmills this is an idea I can appreciate and support.

  • Its a great idea. And do put it near the US consulate. Watch them come banging on your door, telling you to take it down because they “dont support those values” all the while another Japanese vendor down the street could have a sign up that says “Japanese Only” and the embassy could care less. Observe the irony in that one.

  • Yonatan Owens says:

    A little 形勢逆転? I’m all for it…

    On the flip side, it’s my policy to patronize any “Japanese-only” establishments that I may come across whether they like it or not (except sex-worker related places- it’s better if everyone boycotted those…) It’s true that I can’t realistically get the police to do anything about being refused service, but they more or less can’t do anything about me either, if you think about it. I’m not violent, not loud, not aggressive, but I am patently stubborn, dense to whatever excuses they produce, and insistent on getting the service in a way that suggests that they are the ones wasting time and causing a fuss instead of the other way around.

    It is basically a tweak on the American sit-in, but instead of being defiant, you just act as if you don’t know what the big deal is and continue to ask for your food/access to the bath/whatever regardless of their refusals. If enough people carried on in this way, seemingly completely oblivious to the establishment’s inclusive demands, they would eventually have to drop the policies. What are they going to do, call the police and tell them that you won’t leave? When the cops approach to you still sitting at the table inside the place (and it’s critical that initially get inside long before the owners have time to see you and bar the door, etc.), you can simply tell them that you’re hungry and don’t understand what the big fuss is about. Make the business look like the silly ones… If there is no law to prevent discrimination yet, we have to carry on our lives as if there was one. Essentially ignore discriminatory behavior where you find it actively, by forcing the establishments whenever possible to go against their own rules. Do not leave until they serve you. Come back again later that week and do it again. And again.

    — I like you.

  • I have been ruminating over this sort of strategy for a long time. It seems like the sort of publicity stunt that just might draw some good attention. Whether that attention wanes quickly, though, is another question. Such a stunt would likely register only a blip in the Japanese-language press, if even that. But it might be a question of chance. For instance, if the establishment refused service to some well-known TV personality, that could be just the scandal the issue needs; whereas, if it refuses service to Nantoka-san, it might only irritate that faceless individual and not have much effect beyond him or her. It might even be a good idea to get the well-known TV personality on board before the stunt even takes place; to find someone from TV Land who is sympathetic to the cause and who will act the part of the outraged citizen. Just a thought…

    I also like Yonatan Owens’ solution and look forward to trying it out in the near future.

  • Yonatan Owens – do you have any good stories about how your technique worked or played out? I think it would make inspirational reading for us all.

  • Deepspacebeans says:


    The signs being protested are predominately worded “Japanese Only”. Should one choose this form of protest (and this very idea has crossed my mind, as whenever I run into those Japanese nationals who are apathetic to this practice, I simply state, “How would you feel if you saw a restaurant with a sign that said “non-Japanese only” on the front door?”), it would be most effective to satirize your opposition COMPLETELY and UTTERLY.

    This would also allow one to defend the sign with the exact same argument that they sometimes utilize: It’s not discriminating against race, it is against nationality, these foreigners are rude/do not understand our culture.

  • Steve: I have had exactly the same sorts of experiences that you recount. For instance, in a conversation class, I recounted how a friend, newly arrived in Japan, was refused entry into the bar where his welcoming party had been organized by his new co-workers because of its “Japanese only” policy. I asked the students if this was a serious problem. One said, “no, not really; it doesn’t happen to that many people.” Then, I asked how the same student would feel if she were refused entry to an establishment while on vacation in California simply because she looks (and is) Japanese. She stated at once that such a refusal would be a serious problem.

    That particular student has been cold toward me ever since. That’s another part of this issue that I find fascinating. There are many Japanese who simply will not tolerate any NJ speaking ill of any other Japanese. I doubt I am teaching many readers here anything by saying that; but it’s the sort of thing that is perhaps hard to imagine if you haven’t actually lived in Japan.

    p.s. It doesn’t detract from your main line of reasoning, but I think you have confused DNA with race; or, I simply have no idea what you mean by the “DNA-group” into which you say you were born.

  • OK, I’ll admit, perhaps my Rosa Parks analogy was a bit of a stretch.

    Yonatan Owens’ sit-down and stay-put technique is much more in the spirit of Rosa Parks’.

    As Saine wrote, I too would like to hear more about that, and think more about that, and we should even attempt that ourselves.

    Plus the feigning of naiveté (feigning ignorance is very intelligent, it reminds me of the Socratic Method), “What’s all the fuss about? I’m simply waiting for my food.” that’s very intelligent, and yes, that works much better than giving a big angry speech, and is more effective than attempting to display high-level logic. Being like, “Duh, I don’t understand, what are you trying to say? Is my coca-cola coming soon?” is seriously a style I’m going to remember to use in the future.

    And let’s remember to ask simple questions when we deal with police officers as well, because giving them a big logic-filled speech is just going to be entered into the record as “disturbing the peace” or “interfering with the duties of an officer” when reported to the judge later. If instead one simply naively asks the police officer questions, such as, “Am I free to go? = ittemo ii desu ka?” or “Do I have the right to keep walking? = aruku tsuzuku kenri arimasuka?” or “What law requires me to talk to you? = nan no houritsu de watashi wa anata to hanasenakucha?” that seems much more effective than giving him a big STATEMENT-filled speech TELLING him “You don’t have the right to detain me! According to section blah-blah-blah…” Simply naively ASKING the police officer one of the above questions, calmly and repeatedly until he says yes, seems much more effective.

    In public conflicts like these, the person who seems like a simple-minded victim asking questions is seen by the audience (and later the judge) as the victim, and the people who slip into the role of making a big fuss and making lots of bold statements (like discriminatory managers and discriminatory police) will thus be seen properly as the aggressors.

    I am sure that Yonatan Owens’ technique changed the opinions of the many people he dealt with, and many people who watched it happen. So the next question we should think about is, “How can we show Yonatan Owens’ beautiful peaceful simple sit-down question-asking scene to a wider audience, so that Japan as a whole becomes the audience? Let’s do that!”

    OK, back to my relatively-ugly forcing of the shoe-on-the-other-foot technique, let’s review some of the ideas that you wonderful readers have shared so far:

    + Jim suggested a specific spot to rent (perhaps tongue-in-cheek, I’m not sure).

    + Allen reiterated the importance of full media coverage.

    + Tom suggested putting the same kind of display up on a billboard somewhere instead (to reduce the risk of loss of income due to loss of customers, and to reduce the risk of retaliation.)

    + ThirdObserver suggested writing “No Naikokujin” or “Naikokujin Only” instead (I’m not sure which was meant, but, uh, anyway, interesting.)

    + Kimpatsu suggested the risk of a subsequent law being enacted which merely says, “Denial of JAPANESE to establishments is hereby illegal.”

    + Chuckie mentioned that it would be best if the owner had a Japanese spouse (perhaps simply reiterating the need to avoid the risk of visa-denial retaliation, or perhaps bringing up a new point that we need to avoid the risk the media claiming the owner is racist, which would be harder to say if the owner is in fact married to a Japanese person. * Which brings up a new idea, let’s cut out both of those risks altogether, let’s have the owner be Japanese, both in terms of Passport and DNA!)

    + Kaoru suggested writing “No Asians” instead (although I support reminding Japanese folks that they are indeed part of the Asian group, we don’t want to deny entry to Non-Japanese Asians who are already being denied entry to places here in Japan, it is only the Japanese who need to experience the shock and outrage of entry-denial here in Japan.)

    + Jerry summed up the logic perfectly, “The WHOLE IDEA is to offend the millions of innocent Japanese – to get them to say ‘this is wrong, I don’t want to be discriminated against’. To be so obvious, in their face, and offensive that they will have to do something about it.”

    + Marc suggested a few more phrases to include, “Foreigners Only” “Japanese Nationals Prohibited” “Must be accompanied with a Foreigner”.

    + Mike seconded Jim’s motion to choose a spot near an American Consulate (yet since it is understood that they will simply support the Japanese response, regardless of the existence of “Japanese Only” signs, no I don’t see any plus about doing it near an American Consulate or Embassy.)

    + Phil Adamek suggested we get a well-known TV-Personality in our pocket first, one who happens to care about Human Rights, because when he or she is refused entry on the day we arrange, with all the media’s cameras rolling, this will increase the chances of, and extent of, media coverage (especially if we can include the famous Japanese person’s name in the initial press release which tells the Japanese media exactly what day and time to come) and this will increase the chance of the average Japanese viewer agreeing with our collective demand for the need of a law against denying-entry based on nationality or race (especially if the famous Japanese person is liked by most of the Japanese viewers).

    + And expanding on Phil’s great idea, I think the ideal TV news story would go like this: First, the well-known well-liked Japanese TV-Personality is shown reading the shocking entry-denial sign out front, then he or she is shown talking to the manager who calmly explains that is the establishment’s current rule due to the fact that currently such discriminatory entry-denial is not yet outlawed in Japan, and finally (here’s the kicker) our star walks back down to the press-conference table we have set up outside DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF OUR BIG SIGN DISPLAY, thus WITH OUR MESSAGE UNAVOIDABLY INCLUDED IN THE SHOT, our star begins explaining to all the cameras (and thus to all of Japan) the fact that “This kind of discriminatory entry-denial happens here in Japan everyday, and it hurts the people who experience it, and that’s why Japan needs to pass a law against discriminatory entry-denial immediately.”

    + And the last 5 words of Deepspacebeans’ post has sparked a new idea: many “Japanese Only” establishments often use the following lame excuse, “This rule is merely because we speak the Japanese language in this establishment, plus our customers follow rules and customs which Non-Japanese customers often don’t understand or follow, so that’s why we only allow Japanese people in.” OK, let’s remember to include this same lame excuse on our big display, and on the press-release, and in the press-conference, “”This rule is merely because we speak the English language in this establishment, plus our customers follow rules and customs which Japanese customers often don’t understand or follow, so that’s why we only allow Non-Japanese people in.”

    Let’s keep sharing ideas, because eventually someone who reads this thread just might decide to throw their hat into the ring and do it.

  • PS – to Phil: The following statement is relevant to Debito’s experience here in Japan, and all of the racism we face here, and relevant to this thread about Human Rights, so please just read it and let it shock you into learning something new: I’m not confused about this particular subject, my brutally honest statement above about races who think they have superior genes was partially inspired by Kimpatsu’s truthful comment about uber alles, and sums up a lifetime of honest studying of my own tribe’s racism. As it happens, I descend directly from a group of blatantly racist scribes who wrote that our blood is superior, because we follow the instructions from above to keep our blood relatively pure by marrying only people within our tribe to the extent possible, and thus we deserve special treatment in legal matters (i.e. capital punishment if a goy spills kills one of us, but no punishment when we kill goys, etc.) and yes, the fact is most of “us” have avoided marrying outside of our tribe for so long that we have a unique DNA marker. Especially my paternal line, we are the only ones allowed in the back room of the temple, and we are the only ones allowed to touch the special anointing oil. The part that might confuse you is that nowadays, to seem more politically correct, we proclaim that our group is not a race, we are simply a religion, and thus anyone can join our group by converting but… just like Debito and countless others have found after “joining the group”, you still will NEVER be considered by us to really be part of our group, because you lack the correct DNA. We’ll print you up a passport, sure, but still, your blood is simply not as superior as ours, sorry. How long will YOU outsiders live among us before you realize that we feel EXCLUSION of outside races is essential to OUR race’s survival?

    Whew, that’s like channeling the demon of discrimination there, what an awful feeling. But there you have it, that’s what racist races think.

    They got it so backwards. The truth is that mixing of the races leads to hybrid vigor, cooperation leads to synergy, and inevitably a few thousand years from now we will be harmoniously blended and united as one big worldwide family called the human race.

  • By the way, would posting a summary of Rosa Parks’ experience fighting discrimination be on-topic here?

    It’s kinda’ long, so feel free to simply scan through it if you want. I read it right now and found some good ideas.

    Feel free to underline or bold any sentences in here which you think might be relevant or useful for us Debito.

    Although Parks’ autobiography recounts that some of her earliest memories are of the kindness of white strangers, her situation made it impossible to ignore racism. When the Ku Klux Klan marched down the street in front of her house, Parks recalls her grandfather guarding the front door with a shotgun. The Montgomery Industrial School, founded and staffed by white northerners for black children, was burned twice by arsonists, and its faculty was ostracized by the white community.

    In 1932, Rosa married Raymond Parks, a barber from Montgomery, at her mother’s house. Raymond was a member of the NAACP, at the time collecting money to support the Scottsboro Boys, a group of black men falsely accused of raping two white women. After her marriage, Rosa took numerous jobs, ranging from domestic worker to hospital aide. At her husband’s urging, she finished her high school studies in 1933, at a time when less than 7% of African Americans had a high school diploma. Despite the Jim Crow laws that made political participation by black people difficult, she succeeded in registering to vote on her third try.

    In December 1943, Parks became active in the Civil Rights Movement, joined the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP, and was elected volunteer secretary to its president, Edgar Nixon. Of her position, she later said, “I was the only woman there, and they needed a secretary, and I was too timid to say no.” She continued as secretary until 1957. In the 1940s, Parks and her husband were also members of the Voters’ League. Sometime soon after 1944, she held a brief job at Maxwell Air Force Base, a federally owned area where racial segregation was not allowed, and rode on an integrated trolley. Speaking to her biographer, Parks noted, “You might just say Maxwell opened my eyes up.” Parks also worked as a housekeeper and seamstress for a white couple, Clifford and Virginia Durr. The politically liberal Durrs became her friends and encouraged Parks to attend—and eventually helped sponsor her—at the Highlander Folk School, an education center for workers’ rights and racial equality in Monteagle, Tennessee, in the summer of 1955.

    Many people were moved by the brutal murder of Emmett Till in August 1955. On November 27, 1955—only four days before she refused to give up her seat—she later recalled that she had attended a mass meeting in Montgomery which focused on this case as well as the recent murders of George W. Lee and Lamar Smith. The featured speaker at the meeting was T.R.M. Howard, a black civil rights leader from Mississippi who headed the Regional Council of Negro Leadership.

    In 1944, athletic star Jackie Robinson took a similar stand in a confrontation with a United States Army officer in Fort Hood, Texas, refusing to move to the back of a bus. Robinson was brought before a court-martial, which acquitted him. The NAACP had accepted and litigated other cases before, such as that of Irene Morgan ten years earlier, which resulted in a victory in the U.S. Supreme Court on Commerce Clause grounds. That victory, however, overturned state segregation laws only insofar as they applied to travel in interstate commerce, such as interstate bus travel, and Southern bus companies immediately circumvented the Morgan ruling by instituting their own Jim Crow regulations. In November, 1955, just three weeks before Parks’ defiance of Jim Crow laws in Montgomery, the Interstate Commerce Commission, in response to a complaint filed by WAC Sarah Keys, closed the legal loophole left by the Morgan ruling in a landmark case known as Keys v. Carolina Coach Company. The ICC prohibited individual carriers from imposing their own segregation rules on interstate travelers, declaring that to do so was a violation of the anti-discrimination provision of the Interstate Commerce Act. But neither the Supreme Court’s Morgan ruling nor the ICC’s Keys ruling addressed the matter of Jim Crow travel within the individual states.

    Black activists had begun to build a case to challenge state bus segregation laws around the arrest of a 15-year-old girl, Claudette Colvin, a student at Booker T. Washington High School in Montgomery. On March 2, 1955, Colvin was handcuffed, arrested and forcibly removed from a public bus when she refused to give up her seat to a white man. She claimed that her constitutional rights were being violated. At the time, Colvin was active in the NAACP Youth Council, a group to which Rosa Parks served as Advisor.

    Parks was raising money for Colvin’s defense, but when E.D. Nixon learned that Colvin was pregnant, it was decided that Colvin was an unsuitable symbol for their cause. Soon after her arrest she had conceived a child with a much older married man, a moral transgression that scandalized the deeply religious black community. Strategists believed that the segregationist white press would use Colvin’s pregnancy to undermine any boycott. The NAACP also had considered, but rejected, earlier protesters deemed unable or unsuitable to withstand the pressures of cross-examination in a legal challenge to racial segregation laws. Colvin was also known to engage in verbal outbursts and cursing. Many of the legal charges against Colvin were dropped. A boycott didn’t materialize from the Colvin case, and legal strategists continued to seek a complainant beyond reproach.

    In Montgomery, the first four rows of bus seats were reserved for white people. Buses had “colored” sections for black people—who made up more than 75% of the bus system’s riders—generally in the rear of the bus. These sections were not fixed in size but were determined by the placement of a movable sign. Black people also could sit in the middle rows, until the white section was full. Then they had to move to seats in the rear, stand, or, if there was no room, leave the bus. Black people were not allowed to sit across the aisle from white people. The driver also could move the “colored” section sign, or remove it altogether. If white people were already sitting in the front, black people could board to pay the fare, but then had to disembark and reenter through the rear door. There were times when the bus departed before the black customers who had paid made it to the back entrance.

    For years, the black community had complained that the situation was unfair, and Parks was no exception: “My resisting being mistreated on the bus did not begin with that particular arrest…I did a lot of walking in Montgomery.” Parks had her first run-in on the public bus on a rainy day in 1943, when the bus driver, James F. Blake, demanded that she get off the bus and reenter through the back door. As she began to exit by the front door, she dropped her purse. Parks sat down for a moment in a seat for white passengers to pick up her purse. The bus driver was enraged and barely let her step off the bus before speeding off.

    After a day at work at Montgomery Fair department store, Parks boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus at around 6 p.m., Thursday, December 1, 1955, in downtown Montgomery. She paid her fare and sat in an empty seat in the first row of back seats reserved for blacks in the “colored” section, which was near the middle of the bus and directly behind the ten seats reserved for white passengers. Initially, she had not noticed that the bus driver was the same man, James F. Blake, who had left her in the rain in 1943. As the bus traveled along its regular route, all of the white-only seats in the bus filled up. The bus reached the third stop in front of the Empire Theater, and several white passengers boarded.

    In 1900, Montgomery had passed a city ordinance for the purpose of segregating passengers by race. Conductors were given the power to assign seats to accomplish that purpose; however, no passengers would be required to move or give up their seat and stand if the bus was crowded and no other seats were available. Over time and by custom, however, Montgomery bus drivers had adopted the practice of requiring black riders to move whenever there were no white only seats left.

    So, following standard practice, bus driver Blake noted that the front of the bus was filled with white passengers and there were two or three men standing, and thus moved the “colored” section sign behind Parks and demanded that four black people give up their seats in the middle section so that the white passengers could sit. Years later, in recalling the events of the day, Parks said, “When that white driver stepped back toward us, when he waved his hand and ordered us up and out of our seats, I felt a determination cover my body like a quilt on a winter night.”

    By Parks’ account, Blake said, “Y’all better make it light on yourselves and let me have those seats.” Three of them complied. Parks said, “The driver wanted us to stand up, the four of us. We didn’t move at the beginning, but he says, ‘Let me have these seats.’ And the other three people moved, but I didn’t.” The black man sitting next to her gave up his seat. Parks moved, but toward the window seat; she did not get up to move to the newly repositioned colored section. Blake then said, “Why don’t you stand up?” Parks responded, “I don’t think I should have to stand up.” Blake called the police to arrest Parks. When recalling the incident for Eyes on the Prize, a 1987 public television series on the Civil Rights Movement, Parks said, “When he saw me still sitting, he asked if I was going to stand up, and I said, ‘No, I’m not.’ And he said, ‘Well, if you don’t stand up, I’m going to have to call the police and have you arrested.’ I said, ‘You may do that.'”

    During a 1956 radio interview with Sydney Rogers in West Oakland several months after her arrest, when asked why she had decided not to vacate her bus seat, Parks said, “I would have to know for once and for all what rights I had as a human being and a citizen.”

    She also detailed her motivation in her autobiography, My Story: “People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”

    When Parks refused to give up her seat, a police officer arrested her. As the officer took her away, she recalled that she asked, “Why do you push us around?” The officer’s response as she remembered it was, “I don’t know, but the law’s the law, and you’re under arrest.” She later said, “I only knew that, as I was being arrested, that it was the very last time that I would ever ride in humiliation of this kind.”

    Parks was charged with a violation of Chapter 6, Section 11 segregation law of the Montgomery City code, even though she technically had not taken up a white-only seat—she had been in a colored section. E.D. Nixon and Clifford Durr bailed Parks out of jail the evening of December 2.

    That evening, Nixon conferred with Alabama State College professor Jo Ann Robinson about Parks’ case. Robinson, a member of the Women’s Political Council (WPC), stayed up all night mimeographing over 35,000 handbills announcing a bus boycott. The Women’s Political Council was the first group to officially endorse the boycott.

    On Sunday, December 4, 1955, plans for the Montgomery Bus Boycott were announced at black churches in the area, and a front-page article in The Montgomery Advertiser helped spread the word. At a church rally that night, those attending agreed unanimously to continue the boycott until they were treated with the level of courtesy they expected, until black drivers were hired, and until seating in the middle of the bus was handled on a first-come basis.

    Four days later, Parks was tried on charges of disorderly conduct and violating a local ordinance. The trial lasted 30 minutes. Parks was found guilty and fined $10, plus $4 in court costs. Parks appealed her conviction and formally challenged the legality of racial segregation. In a 1992 interview with National Public Radio’s Lynn Neary, Parks recalled:

    “I did not want to be mistreated, I did not want to be deprived of a seat that I had paid for. It was just time… there was opportunity for me to take a stand to express the way I felt about being treated in that manner. I had not planned to get arrested. I had plenty to do without having to end up in jail. But when I had to face that decision, I didn’t hesitate to do so because I felt that we had endured that too long. The more we gave in, the more we complied with that kind of treatment, the more oppressive it became.”

    On Monday, December 5, 1955, after the success of the one-day boycott, a group of 16 to 18 people gathered at the Mt. Zion AME Zion Church to discuss boycott strategies. The group agreed that a new organization was needed to lead the boycott effort if it were to continue. Rev. Ralph David Abernathy suggested the name “Montgomery Improvement Association” (MIA). The name was adopted, and the MIA was formed. Its members elected as their president a relative newcomer to Montgomery, a young and mostly unknown minister of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    That Monday night, 50 leaders of the African American community gathered to discuss the proper actions to be taken in response to Parks’ arrest. E.D. Nixon said, “My God, look what segregation has put in my hands!” Parks was the ideal plaintiff for a test case against city and state segregation laws. While the 15-year-old Claudette Colvin, unwed and pregnant, had been deemed unacceptable to be the center of a civil rights mobilization, King stated that Mrs. Parks was regarded as “one of the finest citizens of Montgomery—not one of the finest Negro citizens, but one of the finest citizens of Montgomery.” Parks was securely married and employed, possessed a quiet and dignified demeanor, and was politically savvy.

    The day of Parks’ trial — Monday, December 5, 1955 — the WPC distributed the 35,000 leaflets. The handbill read, “We are…asking every Negro to stay off the buses Monday in protest of the arrest and trial … You can afford to stay out of school for one day. If you work, take a cab, or walk. But please, children and grown-ups, don’t ride the bus at all on Monday. Please stay off the buses Monday.”

    It rained that day, but the black community persevered in their boycott. Some rode in carpools, while others traveled in black-operated cabs that charged the same fare as the bus, 10 cents. Most of the remainder of the 40,000 black commuters walked, some as far as 20 miles (30 km). In the end, the boycott lasted for 381 days. Dozens of public buses stood idle for months, severely damaging the bus transit company’s finances, until the law requiring segregation on public buses was lifted.

    Some segregationists retaliated with terrorism. Black churches were burned or dynamited. Martin Luther King’s home was bombed in the early morning hours of January 30, 1956, and E.D. Nixon’s home was also attacked. However, the black community’s bus boycott marked one of the largest and most successful mass movements against racial segregation. It sparked many other protests, and it catapulted King to the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement. In so doing, it created fertile ground for the enforcement of the Supreme Court’s 1946 ruling in Irene Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia and the Interstate Commerce Commission’s 1955 ruling in Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company, which governed travel across state lines.

    Through her role in sparking the boycott, Rosa Parks played an important part in internationalizing the awareness of the plight of African Americans and the civil rights struggle. King wrote in his 1958 book Stride Toward Freedom that Parks’ arrest was the precipitating factor, rather than the cause, of the protest: “The cause lay deep in the record of similar injustices.” He also stated, “Actually, no one can understand the action of Mrs. Parks unless he realizes that eventually the cup of endurance runs over, and the human personality cries out, ‘I can take it no longer.'”

    The Montgomery bus boycott was also the inspiration for the bus boycott in the township of Alexandria, Eastern Cape of South Africa which was one of the key events in the radicalization of the black majority of that country under the leadership of the African National Congress.

    Immediately after the initiation of the bus boycott, legal strategists began to discuss the need for a federal lawsuit to challenge city and state bus segregation laws, and approximately two months after the boycott began, they reconsidered Claudette Colvin’s case. Attorneys Fred Gray, E.D. Nixon and Clifford Durr (a white lawyer who, with his wife, Virginia, was an activist in the Civil Rights Movement and a former employer of Parks) searched for the ideal case law to challenge the constitutional legitimacy of city and state bus segregation laws. Parks’ case was not used as the basis for the federal lawsuit because, as a criminal case, it would have had to make its way through the state criminal appeals process before a federal appeal could have been filed. City and state officials could have delayed a final rendering for years. Furthermore, attorney Durr believed it possible that the outcome would merely have been the vacating of Parks’ conviction, with no changes in segregation laws.

    Gray researched for a better lawsuit, consulting with NAACP legal counsels Robert Carter and Thurgood Marshall, who would later become U.S. Solicitor General and a U.S. Supreme Court justice. Gray approached Aurelia Browder, Susie McDonald, Claudette Colvin and Mary Louise Smith, all women who had had disputes involving the Montgomery bus system the previous year. They all agreed to become plaintiffs in a civil action law suit. Browder was a Montgomery housewife, Gayle the mayor of Montgomery. On February 1, 1956, the case of Browder v. Gayle was filed in U.S. District Court by Fred Gray. It was Browder v. Gayle that brought segregation to an end on public buses.

    On June 19, 1956, the U.S. District Court’s three-judge panel ruled that Section 301 (31a, 31b and 31c) of Title 48, Code of Alabama, 1940, as amended, and Sections 10 and 11 of Chapter 6 of the Code of the City of Montgomery, 1952, “deny and deprive plaintiffs and other Negro citizens similarly situated of the equal protection of the laws and due process of law secured by the Fourteenth Amendment” (Browder v. Gayle, 1956). The court essentially decided that the precedent of Brown v. Board of Education (1954) could be applied to Browder v. Gayle. On November 13, 1956, the United States Supreme Court outlawed racial segregation on buses operating within the individual states, deeming it unconstitutional. The court order arrived in Montgomery, Alabama, on December 20, 1956, and the bus boycott ended the next day. However, more violence erupted following the court order, as snipers fired into buses and into King’s home, and terrorists threw bombs into churches and into the homes of many church ministers, including Martin Luther King Jr.’s friend Ralph Abernathy.


  • Most of my experiences are tied to Kyushu, and maybe because of a lack of any serious (noticeably) non-Japanese populations here, there aren’t really systematic policies here like the “Japanese Only” signs in most areas. Instead, establishment owners just refuse to give you service if so inclined. A good example is that literally 30 or so meters from the local university’s foreign student dormitory is a small, one room rice shop run by a single elderly man who sits at a folding table all day waiting for customers. It’s not close to the city center, so even though he is barely scraping by, he has refused to sell his rice to ALL of the foreign exchange students who have ever entered his tiny shop in the past couple of years. He gives no excuses, there are no signs- he simply gives a quick 「ダメ」 and a shake of the head. He even refused a half-Japanese, half-African American student who was 100% fluent in Japanese and quietly polite to a fault.

    The point is that rural Kyushu is still in a stage where most owners of any businesses may have never actually had to consider before whether they want to accept non-Japanese, and basically make that decision on the spot. If I hear about a place that has decided to informally start refusing non-Japanese, I try to go. There is one particular onsen that I always go to that originally seemed to have some kind of quiet policy against allowing foreign users, but due to their payment system (you put your money in a box without having to speak to anyone), they have been very surprised to see me emerge from one of the rooms afterwards. Although their guests still get surprised, they no longer get that frantic alarmed look when they see me anymore, since I’ve done it so many times now.

    I think what is most important about this kind of strategy is that you essentially act as if what you are doing is completely normal (since outside of the twilight zone of racism, it actually is anyway…) and let the momentum of your actions carry you through it. I’m not going to pretend to understand anything fundamental about Japanese thinking, etc., but one thing I have noticed is that people here almost want to go along with the flow of a situation, even if it is against their personal wishes. Acting as if what you are doing is natural and can’t be stopped (not because it can’t authoritatively, but due to inertia) often causes Japanese people to continue through the motions despite themselves. And because another idea that is very important to people is precedence, if they bend the rules for you once (even despite their reluctance to do so), it sets the mental precedence for them doing so again in the future. That’s why it’s also so important to not appear to be causing any actual stir if you go this route- if you give them no excuses to actively oppose you, it’s easier to push them towards bending their own rules.

    What Debito does with places that have hardcore “no exception” policies like the onsen in his book (setting the law on them, etc.) is probably required if you find yourself getting the door slammed in your face before you can even step inside. But for all of those places still riding the fence, preferring that foreigners didn’t enter, but not yet militant about it, this strategy might work best. The goal is to have them say to themselves, “Well, we normally don’t allow foreigners, but that guy keeps coming back and hasn’t really caused any actual trouble, so…” If you can manage that, they probably will never go the hardcore route in the first place.

  • Michael Weidner says:

    They actually already have an establishment like this in existance. The Sakura Hostel located in Asakusa, Tokyo has a foreigners only policy. I’ve personally seen them turn away Japanese people for being, Japanese. You are only allowed to stay there if you have a foreign passport.

    I’m not completely sure if there has been outrage over this or not, but they are still running after opening about 3 years ago and do what appears to be a booming business.

    — Source or website?


    “Everyone from everywhere are welcomed”

    That quote is from the answer to the question about age limits, but I see no explicit conditions on nationality nor ethnicity anywhere on the site and the Japanese web page explicitly says “あらゆる国籍” = “all nationalities”. You can select Japanese nationality on the booking form – maybe someone would like to try this to see what they say?

    BTW, since I’m posting, I also think the idea in the post is an interesting and worthwhile one.

  • I think I found their website. Here’s their reservation page:
    In Japanese:

    Not only do they have a Japanese page, but “Japanese” is included in the list of nationalities on the page. Also their Japanese top page says:
    > 今では個人・グループ問わず、あらゆる国籍、年齢、性別のお客様にご愛用いただいています。
    They accept all groups and individuals regardless of nationality, age, or gender. So they say.
    It doesn’t sound like they reject Japanese nationals, at least not anymore.

  • Well, Steve, I’m glad and flattered that you took a liking to the idea. Again, to the “don’t sink to that level” responses, I think of this as an ironic gesture, social satire or performance art if you like. Shoe on the other foot or fight fire with fire clichés aside, it is more about creating an unexpected situation to introduce a fresh perspective. The plan requires media attention to be effective, so yeah it’s something of a publicity stunt in that regard. And we’d have to have fun with it. Good luck, and Debito knows how to get in touch with me if you’d like to do that.

  • My main fear would be that later when the issue of “Japanese Only” signs are brought up someone will point at the “Non-Japanese Only” sign and say “See, they do it too, so it’s okay.” In other words, that instead of causing the Japanese public to demand a non-discrimination law it would instead be met with approval by those wishing to keep things segregated.

  • By the way, to those who simply say, “Why don’t you do it Steve?” I’ll answer honestly: I’m not going to do it.

    Do I have an establishment, or or even money to rent a hole in the wall for a week? Nope.
    (That limiting factor could be easily solved, but the next 4 limiting factors listed below can not be easily solved.)

    Am I law-abiding? Nope.
    I wouldn’t be the right poster boy for this campaign, I’m on probation (“suspended execution” of a 4-year sentence because I broke 3 major laws during a car accident – which fortunately no one was injured in.) So, the media would rightfully make a big deal about that fact.

    Am I fully-paid into the system? Nope.
    (Taxes: yep. Kokumin Hoken: yep. Pension: nope. My employer doesn’t want to pay half of any of his employees’ pension payments, and since I want to keep working for my present employer, I’m simply going to start paying pension directly 100% out of my own pocket from January, when the pension agency becomes part of the tax agency. And yes, the bureaucrat I talk to in January might ask for 2 years of back-pay, in which case I’ll come back and try again with a different bureaucrat during the first bureaucrat’s lunch-break. And if the second bureaucrat says the same thing I’ll temporarily “move” to another prefecture and repeat the process. And after 6 or 7 fresh attempts with different bureaucrats, if I still can’t join the pension system without paying 2 years of back-pay, then I’ll just bite-the-bullet and pay the damn 2 years of back-pay. Bottom line is, according to Hoofin, I need to join the pension system soon if I want to continue living here in Japan – which I do.)

    Do I have a permanent-resident visa? Nope.
    Since I’m on probation, I have to beg for a one-year spouse visa renewal each year, so I don’t want to make any waves. (After my probation period is finished I’ll ask for a 3 year visa, and then a permanent resident visa, and then finally I will try to become a Japanese national, if the people who make that decision somehow forgive my car accident transgression.)

    Do I have the necessary COURAGE? Nope.
    I’m not willing to risk the chance that I and/or my family will receive death threats from crazies, as Debito and his family did, or actual harm, or actual arrest. Sorry, we need someone with more courage than I have.

    As mentioned in my initial post, and as seen in any civil rights movement, COURAGE is very essential if one wants to actually take a stand against racism.

    There we have it, I hope someone who has all of the necessary qualifications, someone better than myself, will step up to the plate someday.

    — I volunteer Phred Kaufman up here in Sapporo.

  • Good, thought-provoking post. I hope someone can put the plan in motion, and stay focused on the point – putting the shoe on the other foot.

  • Tony In Saitama says:

    Steve –
    >Perhaps I should explain a little more about the reasoning behind this shocking idea.

    Fully understand your motives, but I would like to offer one suggestion that may remove one of the brick walls you will run into when trying to get people to understand this point.

    Many people will (and do) justify such discrimination on the basis of foreigners not understanding the language/culture, thus such discrimination is inevitable. Some will even accept you refusal of Japanese on the basis of wanting to maintain a “foreign” atmosphere in your shop, as mentioned elsewhere.

    So, make it a completely inexcusable form of discrimination, such as “No Fat People” or “No ugly women”. (I have been refused access to bars for wearing a) white socks, b) sneakers, so nothing is outside the realm of possibility).
    When people then challenge you on the illogicality of such discrimination standards, you can then point out that not all foreigners speak English/don’t speak Japanese/pick fights over bartabs/don’t know how to bathe communally/cannot separate garbage/wear jackboots on the tatami/cannot use chopsticks/whatever the gripe is… so discriminating on ANY basis is unfair. It may serve as a more gradual introductory slope into the intellectual jump required to understand you argument.
    Just a suggestion, anyway, go for it.

    (NOTE: Tongue in Cheek Factor = Infinite )
    PS. If you were attempting to hide your ethnic background by referring to your tribe only as “us”, the “goy” reference was not helpful. 😉


  • Gilesdesign says:

    What about Yonatans pacifist idea but with lots of people, like a “flash mob”, with the help of this blog that has many like minded people we can get together lots of people and visit one of these bars or restaurants that try to refuse NJ looking people. We specify a particular place (a worthy target – with a sign and a history of an enforced racist door policy) at a particular time we all enter not as a group but as peaceful individuals and sit quietly until we get served. Even bring Japanese people with us to illustrate how ridiculous it is to split up friends and families.
    Everyone would have to be extremely polite and show no signs of anger or aggression so the establishment and police have not even a hint of a reason to evict us besides racial discrimination. Preferably someone can use a video camera to innocently film their “family outing”.

    — Go for it!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>