Fukushima Prefectural Tourist Information website advertises that now 318 of its hotels refuse NJ clients

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Hi Blog.  Now back to business.  While doing research over the new year, I got quite a shock when I was doing some followup on a case of exclusionary practices.  I reported on Debito.org in September 2007 that Fukushima Prefecture’s Tourist Information website was advertising 35 hotels that refused NJ clients.  This is one of the few business sectors that actually has explicit laws preventing refusals of customers based upon nationality alone (thanks to the Hotel Management Law, see below), so when a government agency is even promoting “Japanese Only” hotels, you know something is rum indeed.

What’s even more rum is that even after I advised the Tourist Information Agency that what they were doing is unlawful, and they promised in writing to stop doing it, now two years later the same website is now promoting 318 (!!) hotels that refuse NJ clients (in other words, about half of the total).  You can’t help but get the feeling that you have been lied to, and by government bureaucrats.

A brief write up, with links to sources, follows.  At the very bottom are screen captures of the FTIA website evidencing the exclusionary practices.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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Place:  Fukushima Prefecture (35 hotels, now 318 hotels)[1]

Background:  In September 2007, the author was advised that the Fukushima Prefecture’s Tourist Information website[2] in English listed and advertised 35 hotels in the region that officially refused NJ clients.

Action taken by observers/activists:  In September 2007, the author contacted the Fukushima Tourist Information Agency, and advised them this practice of refusing NJ is unlawful under the Hotel Management Law (Hotel Management Law (ryokan gyouhou), Article 5[1], which says that hotels may not refuse customers unless 1) rooms are full, 2) there is a threat of contagious disease, or 3) there is a threat to “public morals” (fuuki)).  A FTIA bureaucrat who contacted all 35 hotels responded in October, stating, “Most of the answers were, ‘We do not explicitly refuse NJ’,” as they had never had a NJ client.  However, eight hotels of the 32 they were able to contact stated they would continue to refuse NJ, because they did “not have staff who spoke English”, therefore “they could not positively (sekkyoku teki ni) receive NJ”.  The FTIA said they advised them of the unlawfulness of this practice, and would be clarifying their website questions in future.

Current status (as of this writing):  A January 2010 search of the Japanese website[3] using search terms “gaikokujin no ukeire: fuka” revealed 318 lodgings refusing NJ lodgers, and amending the search terms revealed 335 places accepting NJ.  It would appear that the prefectural tourist agency officially offering the option to refuse NJ lodgers enables businesses to refuse.  This would appear to be within character:  The GOJ reported, in an October 2008 nationwide survey of 7068 responding hotels, that 27% of all hoteliers did not want NJ clients[4].


[1] Primary source information at http://www.debito.org/?p=1941

[1] http://www.debito.org/whattodoif.html#refusedhotel

[2] http://www.tif.ne.jp/

[3] http://www.tif.ne.jp/jp/spot/cat_search.php, enter 外国人の受入:不可 into the キーワード section.

[4] “No room at inn for foreigners”, CNN October 9, 2008, and 「外国人泊めたくない」ホテル・旅館3割 07年国調査」 朝日新聞2008年10月9日, both archived at http://www.debito.org/?p=1940

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Here are some evidentiary screen captures from the FTIA website as of January 3, 2010 (click on image to expand in your browser)
First, the site with search terms that indicate that 318 hotels refuse NJ clients:

Example of one hotel that explicitly says it refuses NJ clients:

Screen capture with different search terms, indicating 335 hotels of the total allow in NJ:

Example of one hotel that allows in NJ clients:

ENDS

56 comments on “Fukushima Prefectural Tourist Information website advertises that now 318 of its hotels refuse NJ clients

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  • I`ve got an interesting story to share. I`m currently staying in Kyoto, at the Kyoto Plaza Hotel. I arrived yesterday and was asked to fill out their check-in form with my name, age and address. They then asked me for my passport, which I didn`t have (2 year resident and counting), and then my gaijin card, which I refused. They told me the just wanted to check my address, and as I was tired I handed it over. The woman disappeared into the office with it without saying a word. When she came back, I asked why she had taken my card into the office. She replied that she was making a copy. I pointed out that she had not asked me if it was ok for her to make a copy, and then we had the following conversation (in English. My Japanese isn`t terrible, but if I`m going to fight I might as well do it on my own turf):

    Me: Why do you need a copy?
    Her: Police.
    Me: You`re not the police.
    Her: For office.
    Me: What information do you need from my card?
    Her: Please wait a moment!

    She then disappeared for a few minutes, and came back with a note saying “the visitor who is the foreigner must show it`s documents to the hotel”, or something similar. I asked my question again, and we had a few more minutes of back and forth, with me asking for the copy of my card to be returned. She asked me to wait again, and fetched a big book full of phone numbers. She phoned a few of them, had a conversation in Japanese that was too fast for me to completely understand, and then passed the phone to me and said “police”.

    What followed was a nearly hour-long conversation with an English Speaking representative from the Kyoto police department. Obviously I can`t reproduce the whole thing, but these are the edited highlights:

    Him: We have asked the hotels to help us by making copies of the passports or residents cards of foreigners.
    Me: But why? The hotels are not the police, and they shouldn`t be asking for my personal information.
    Him: We have asked them to help us. If you support the police, please co-operate and give them your card. (this was something of a through-line, repeated often during the conversation)
    Me: Why?
    Him: This is in case foreigners have an accident and we need to contact people quickly.
    Me: Do you require the same information from Japanese citizens?
    Him: Japanese citizens have drivers licenses.
    Me: Do you ask for copies of all Japanese citizens drivers licenses?
    Him: It is different in that case, because Japanese can speak Japanese.
    Me: So if I could speak Japanese, you wouldn`t need a copy of my card?
    Him: But this is also about security. We need to take your information to check that you are who you say you are.
    Me: So I`m likely to be lying, because I am foreign?
    Him: Almost foreigners are nice, good people, but maybe two or three in a thousand are bad and commit crimes. We need to check for fake address and fake name. For example, just recently some Koreans committed a crime and then ran away to their country.
    Me: That`s racial discrimination, and even if you need to check the ID of every foreigner in Japan it should be done by the police, not by hotels. I`m not comfortable having my personal information in the hands of hotel workers. It`s insecure and it`s unsafe.
    Him: We have asked them to help us. If you support the police, please co-operate and give them your card.
    Me: What information do they need from my card?
    Him: Your name, age and address.
    Me: I already gave them that information when I checked in.
    Him: We need to check that your address is true
    Me: That isn`t their job…..

    This went on for a long time, and eventually the the policeman asked to speak to the hotel staff, who returned the photocopy of my card (which I am keeping as proof). He then told me to enjoy my stay in Kyoto, and to call the police if I had any problems.

    This whole experience has stained my trip, and totally ruined my first night in the city. It didn`t help that during the conversation, a number of staff from the hotel office came and stood in the reception area to stare at me. I was absolutely furious about it. I would say that not only should people stay away from the Kyoto Plaza Hotel, but also stay away from Kyoto. Especially if a visit means an hour long chat to a racist policeman defending illegal practises, blatantly lying about their motives, and then implying criminality on the part of the discriminated-against party.

    Still, it shows you can beat the system by being stubborn, and being more bother to ID than to leave alone.

    I`m still staying in the hotel, so if anyone`s got any advice about what I should do now, please let me know.

  • The law is that ‘if you have a Japanese address’ then you don’t need to produce this ID. Debito has a copy of this law somewhere on this site. I suggest you print it out and show them.

    If indeed they need to confirm your address, i.e., prove you are not lying, then you should merely show them your card so that they can confirm that the address you wrote is the same. Do not give them your card and definitely don’t let them make a copy. There is so much information on your gaijin card that surely it violates some privacy laws when someone demands to see, then copy this.

    Good luck and great job. Even if you get the time, you should think about mailing the hotel this law so that they don’t do this again. Perhaps even send the Kyoto police a copy too.

  • Well, I printed out a copy of the law, and passed it on to the hotel as I left. I also emailed them with the same information. I can’t help but think though that if the police are encouraging the hotels to do this, they’re going to pay more attention to them than to the laws.

    I was mostly surprised at the amount of ignorance and lazy stereotyping I got from the policeman, and that he admitted they were asking the hotels to violate the law….in order to catch criminals. Hmmm.

  • If what these hotels are doing is in fact illegal, isn’t about time we banded together and sued at least one of these hotels to make an example out of them? I’ve also received this treatment, so would be willing to participate.
    At least getting some kind of international publicity would help. If the tourism industry is damaged anymore than it already is they might think about changing.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    Astrix, it really wouldn’t be fair of us to sue the hotel — they’re doing what they’re doing not because they want to discriminate, but because of “guidance” from the National Police Agency.

    Can we get together with a hotel owner and sue the police for deliberately bending an already-police-favoring law to force the hotel to discriminate against customers and thus lose money?

  • Mark in Yayoi Says: Can we get together with a hotel owner and sue the police for deliberately bending an already-police-favoring law to force the hotel to discriminate against customers and thus lose money?

    As far as I know the police are only requesting the hotels to do this, because legally they can’t force them. So it wouldn’t be possible to sue the police on this matter. Suing hotels that ‘illegally’ refuse entry to NJ who don’t hand over their card on the other hand could generate publicity. Anyone out there with deep pockets to pay the legal bills?

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