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  • Terumi Club refuses NJ for travel fares and tours, has cheaper fares for Japanese Only. Like H.I.S. and No.1 Travel.

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on May 11th, 2010

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    Hi Blog.  Speaking of “Peter Rabbit Taxes” for Japanese tourists:  Here we have more information about Japanese travel agencies overcharging, surcharging, or refusing to sell tickets at all to NJ.  Tellmeclub.com is offering different prices based upon nationality, according to A and J below.  Contrast with H.I.S. and No.1 Travel doing the same thing back in 2006, despite their claims that they would stop.

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

    Travel firm rapped over foreigner ticket policy
    Top travel agency charges foreigners more for ‘discount’ air tickets

    By VANESSA MITCHELL

    Japan Times July 4 2006

    The nation’s largest discount travel agency, HIS, which also runs foreigner-friendly No.1 Travel, has based the price of some air tickets from Japan on the nationality of the traveler, possibly in breach of Japanese law, The Japan Times has learned.

    Foreigners trying to buy discount tickets through the company were quoted higher prices than Japanese customers purchasing discount seats on the same flight.

    The policy came to light when the company offered a discount ticket to Los Angeles over the telephone to a Japanese caller, but said it was no longer available at the quoted price after finding out a Canadian was the intended traveler.

    It then informed the caller that the price for the ticket would be higher for a non-Japanese customer.

    However, Japanese Air Law, Article 105, Paragraph 2, clearly states that “no specific passenger or consigner will be unfairly discriminated against.”

    The company, which has acknowledged the ticketing policy, has defended its actions, denying ticketing pricing discrimination and suggesting foreign customers pose a threat to profits.

    Rest of the article at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/print/fl20060704zg.html

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

    Debito.org archives on H.I.S. et.al:
    http://www.debito.org/HISpricing.html
    http://www.debito.org/?s=%22H.I.S.+Travel%22

    Do watch yourself when dealing with travel agents in Japan.  Check pricing at the agency’s website after you get an estimate, and don’t buy on the spot.  Charging different fares by nationality, according to my investigations back in 2006, is not allowed by the Ministry of Transport.  But it happens in Japan, it seems quite unabated.  Where are you, government enforcers?  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

    Apr 7, 2010

    Dear Debito, First of all, lot of thanks for you daily effort to the cause of improving the living of the foreign community in Japan and arduous endeavor without any doubt.

    The last two years I have been witnessing how foreigners colleagues are denied travel tours (national and international) because they are foreigners and can not speak Japanese fluently.

    This time happened to my girlfriend when trying to make a reservation for a tour trip to Hong Kong for the both of us. It made her felt so bad that she automatically canceled.

    I don’t want to be excessively reactionary about this but it doesn’t seem right.

    I’m thinking about asking myself why are the reasons I have to extra pay, because I don’t really get it.

    Any thoughts would be really appreciate it.

    Please find enclose the mail.
    By the way I’ve been living 12 years in Japan and I do speak, read, write fluently Japanese.

    Thanks for your time. A inTokyo

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

    From: yuka.tatara@tellmeclub.com
    > To: ******@live.jp
    > Subject:
    〔てるみくらぶ〕オンライン予約受付確認 WB0119192
    > Date: Fri, 2 Apr 2010 15:11:07 +0900
    >
    *********

    >
    >
    この度はてるみくらぶをご利用いただき、誠にありがとうございます。
    >
    >
    一点ご案内させて頂きたいことがありご連絡いたしました。
    > 失礼ですが、お客様皆様の国籍はどちらになりますでしょうか。
    >
    >
    大変申し訳ございませんが、こちらのコースは日本国籍のお客様対象のコースとなりますので、
    > 外国籍のお客様にはお一人様¥5,000の追加料金をお願いしております。
    >
    >
    お申込みいただいたコースの詳細(料金についての注意事項)に「日本国籍の方対象コースです。
    > 外国籍のお客様は追加代金が必要になる場合があります。」と記載させていただいております。
    > 現地オペレーターとの契約上観光プランに参加される外国籍のお客様は追加代金がかかってしまうのが現状です。
    >
    > また、外国籍のお客様はお申込み書類と一緒にパスポートのコピーもお願いしております。
    > なお、国籍やお客様によってVISA、再入国の書類が必要となりますので、
    > 必要でございましたらご自身でご準備願います。

    >
    >
    今回は、請求書に外国籍のお客様の追加料金も計上してお送りしますのでご確認お願いいたします。
    > また、パスポートと請求書のお名前が一文字でも
    > 間違いがあると飛行機に搭乗できませんので変更ある場合は必ずご入金
    > 前にお電話にてお伝えください。入金後は取り消し手数料の対象となります。
    > また、混み合う時期は変更ができずチケットを確保できない可能性が
    > ありますので十分ご注意ください。
    >
    >
    それでは、何かございましたらお気軽にお問い合わせください。
    >
    >
    てるみくらぶ 香港課 多々良
    > 03-3499-4111

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

    Also from J:

    April 7, 2010

    Sorry to bother you, but a friend sent me this “gem”, and I’m itching to send them an e-mail:

    ■日本国籍の方対象コースです。外国籍のお客様は、追加料金が必要になる場合がございますので、別途お問合せ下さい。  (It was 5000 yen.)
    http://www.tellmeclub.com/tour/detail.php?al_id=9832&tour_no=KVNAV30RA003&ym=MMMM

    It gets better:
    ※日本国籍の方対象のコースとなります。外国籍の方のみでのご参加は承れません。
    http://www.tellmeclub.com/tour/detail.php?search=on&tour_no=KFNAT01CM004&ym=201001

    They don’t even bother explaining why.
    ENDS

    49 Responses to “Terumi Club refuses NJ for travel fares and tours, has cheaper fares for Japanese Only. Like H.I.S. and No.1 Travel.”

    1. amro Says:

      “…suggesting foreign customers pose a threat to profits.”

      All that’s missing now is blaming earthquakes on foreigners and we’re set.

      – Maybe if we all start jumping up and down really really hard at the same time…

    2. Rachel Says:

      I have a feeling certain people and companies in Japan misunderstand the actual meaning of “[racial] discrimination”. Otherwise, I cannot begin to fathom how so many people would claim they’re not discriminating despite overwhelming evidence that they are. Maybe they associate racism with stronger feelings (hate, disgust…)? It’s quite puzzling.

      – That is the essence of my next book. Racism that is NOT associated with hate and disgust.

    3. betty boop Says:

      hi – the pages of those two links to tellmeclub have been removed. so sad – really wanted to know what they said.

      – Sorry. Didn’t get this up fast enough. My bad.

    4. Al Says:

      JTB Story

      This is slightly off topic but we recently had a run-in with JTB. A couple of weeks ago we booked 8 tickets to the UK and back but on the day we went to pay for them they told us that the price had gone up. As we had booked the tickets we weren’t OK with that so we told them. They told us that British Airways had made a mistake by not updating their site to reflect the new prices. I didn’t believe that story. We told them that if BA made a mistake that JTB should sort that out. I called BA directly to get the information but all I got was bad customer service. They said they called BA and that there was nothing that they could do about it. We told them to try harder because if BA made a mistake they are obligated to provide the tickets at the advertised price.

      I don’t know for sure but I have a feeling that BA contacted JTB about my telephone call because JTB called us up and told us that it wasn’t BA’s mistake after all but their own. But we would still have to pay the extra. (The extra came to about 100,000 yen. It just affected two of the tickets.) So from this new information it seems that JTB just lied to us by blaming BA.

      Anyway we told them that if JTB made the mistake they should pay for it, not us and they told us that they would call BA again and see what they could do. I don’t know why they they were going to call BA but I guess they forgot that we caught them in a lie for a second.

      We had to pay by that day but we were waiting for them to get back us. Just in case they didn’t get back to us that say though we contacted them and gave our credit card details and told them that we would pay the original price only but as the person in charge of us wasn’t there we were told they couldn’t do anything about it until he got back.

      A few hours later they called back and said because it was their fault that they would pay up and we got our tickets for the agreed price.

      HIS Story

      I had a similar issue with HIS a few years ago when the fuel surcharge concept was first implemented. I bought my tickets and paid for them about a month in advance but was called up about 2 days before my flight and was told I would have to pay this fuel charge that had been implemented after I purchased my tickets. I refused of course but it took me going to HIS and arguing for 1 hour after work on a Friday and 2 hours after work on a Saturday to get to New Zealand without paying the surcharge. (It was about 5000yen extra per flight and as there were 4 flights in total and 2 people it came to about 40,000yen). There is a bit more to this story but the fact that they lied about several things made it a bit easier for me to win the argument. (Not easy though.)

      The moral to these stories? Don’t let these travel agencies bully you into paying more than you agreed to.

    5. alberto Says:

      Here some links from the same Companya:

      【重要】日本国籍、在日の韓国国籍のお客様のご参加のみのコースとなります。その他外国籍のお客様のご参加はいただけないコースとなります。
      Japanese and Korean nationals only.

      http://reserve.4travel.jp/overseas/tour/detail/21646/BBGXL71KB007/?ln=&sn=&dc=TYO&dm=5

      http://mobile.tellmeclub.com/mb/proxy/m/mm/fare_caution.php?tour_no=BANAN62B1004

      日本国籍の方対象コースです。外国籍のお客様は、追加料金が必要になる場合がございますので、別途お問合せ下さい。
      Japanese national only fares, extra charge for other nationalities please inquire.

    6. Allen Says:

      Debito, you should call them on the phone and trick them into thinking you are a regular old native blood japanese and catch them in the act. That would be a sight to see.

      Also, a new book? I am excited. After reading your essays, I have wanted to read more of your writings. Good luck with your book. (If I had money I would buy all your books, but I have none right now. -_-)

      – Buy the books after you make your next million!

    7. Shaun Says:

      I just sent an email to the address above asking her to explain why
      they are selling japanese only courses. I asked her if she thought
      that Japanese customers didnt like having NJ on their trip. I said if thats the case
      why would they want to leave Japan in the first place.

      I don’t expect to get a reply.

    8. Danny Says:

      amro wrote:

      > All that’s missing now is blaming earthquakes on foreigners and we’re set.

      Ah, but only the foreign women. Google for “boobquake” from a few weeks ago.

    9. HO Says:

      I think their practice is rather reasonable. HIS is not a discount ticket vendor but a packaged tour operator, and therefore is legally liable for the safety of its tourists during the length of the tour. If its tourist gets into trouble while traveling, it has to provide help for him.
      Things get quite complicated and unpredictable for HIS if a tourist who is a citizen of X gets into trouble while traveling in country Y. In that case, HIS has to study the rights and available resources of citizens of X in country Y. That study will cost a lot of legal fees for HIS. Who knows embassy of X in Y is friendly to Japanese tour operator.
      To provide for that contingency, it is reasonable to charge small fees or to decline tour for nationals whom it is unfamiliar with.

      – Yet another spirited defense from HO, working backwards from the conclusion that Team Japan is blameless in these matters. This time it’s a safety issue? I don’t see that washing as a reason in tourist agencies abroad (and no doubt if Japanese overseas were surcharged similarly for being “unfamiliar” and “unsafe” you’d cry foul; or else tell them to book through JTB, right? Keep it in the family.)

      Pity the Transport Ministry has already said dual pricing like this is not allowed. Or have you conveniently forgotten to read the links I provided?

    10. Jake Says:

      Check any of the Hong Kong tours:

      http://www.tellmeclub.com/tour/detail.php?al_id=20634&tour_no=KANAN63LD004&bm=RRRR

      Down under the “point” section:

      “■日本国籍の方対象コースです。外国籍のお客様は、追加料金が必要になる場合がございますので、別途お問合せ下さい。”

      “This is a course for those with Japanese citizenship. Customers of foreign citizenship may be subject to additional charges, so please inquire with us.”

      So I inquired, first with the company itself. A fellow named Mr. Harino at the Asian Section explained the issue: the Hong Kong-based company that handles the tours applies this fee to non-Japanese tourists, so TellMe Club adds this fee to the price; he said he hates doing it himself, but that as a company they have no choice, and that it’s only for the Hong Kong tours; no other tours have this proviso. I responded by saying that I understand how this poses a problem in terms of business, but that as a Japanese company operating in Japan, considering HIS’s previous problems, the practice may very well be illegal. Mr. Harino said that of course, if it turned out to be an illegal practice, they would have to stop right away.

      Anyway, I just spoke with a Mr. Nakajima at the Ministry of Transport, who is checking things out. I’ll be sure to post whatever the results are here when (or if, I suppose) he gets back to me.

      – Thanks very much for the legwork!

    11. Simon Says:

      There’s another one viewable at http://www.tellmeclub.com/tour/detail.php?al_id=23108&tour_no=BANAN63D0004&bm=RRRR

      Basically, look for the cheapest Hong Kong tour packages they have and check the conditions. Most of them have the restriction mentioned in the article. :-(

    12. David in Fukuoka Says:

      When traveling to China, Japanese do not have to apply for a tourist visa, but most non-Japanese have to (Chinese policy). For non-Japanese, there is also more paperwork involved for both the traveler and the agent. I have been to China over 10 times for work, the most recent being in 2006, and I don’t remember the exact costs, but 5,000 yen for a single-entry visa to China sounds about right. If the travel company does the visa processing/paperwork for the tourist, I would say the extra cost is justified. Otherwise you have to go to a Chinese consulate in person at a very specific time in the day and do the paperwork yourself. I had to do that a couple times and it was a pain. I also learned travel agents also get preferred treatment for visa processing over individuals. Because of this there may be restrictions for group tours that occlude non-Japanese tourist visas. If we were to point/wag fingers in this case, it should be at China’s visa policies.

      Of course this doesn’t excuse them from not being clear about the reasons for these costs, but I don’t think this pricing is discriminatory. They are charging more for the extra processing and work required for non-Japanese (by China). It seems like just bad customer relations and an unclear pricing policy, not outright discrimination.

      – Quite. For the China trip example, don’t Chinese count as foreigners in Japan? If it’s a a Chinese visa issue, that should be made clear, and the onus of making that clear is on the travel agent.

    13. Oliver Says:

      It seems to be standard for them to offer tours which charge extra for foreigners (日本国籍の方対象コースです。外国籍のお客様は、追加料金が必要になる場合がございますので、別途お問合せ下さい):

      4 days in Hong Kong:
      http://www.tellmeclub.com/tour/detail.php?al_id=23108&tour_no=BANAN63D0004&bm=AATT
      or:
      http://www.tellmeclub.com/tour/detail.php?al_id=23109&tour_no=BANAN63D1004&bm=AATT

      Or 3 days in Singapore:
      http://www.tellmeclub.com/tour/detail.php?al_id=19967&tour_no=OSNNI30WH003&bm=AATT

      However, no such notice for 3 days in Seoul:
      http://www.tellmeclub.com/tour/detail.php?al_id=23170&tour_no=KNNAK60AA003&bm=AATT

    14. Kimpatsu Says:

      @Amro:
      Foreigners don’t cause earthquakes; Scantily-dressed women do.
      Or maybe not: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/04/26/ap/strange/main6433641.shtml

    15. Steve Says:

      within the site tellmeclub.com “外国籍のお客様は、追加料金が必要になる”
      http://www.google.com/search?q=site:tellmeclub.com+%22%E5%A4%96%E5%9B%BD%E7%B1%8D%E3%81%AE%E3%81%8A%E5%AE%A2%E6%A7%98%E3%81%AF%E3%80%81%E8%BF%BD%E5%8A%A0%E6%96%99%E9%87%91%E3%81%8C%E5%BF%85%E8%A6%81%E3%81%AB%E3%81%AA%E3%82%8B%22&hl=en&filter=0
      About 130,000 results

      within the site tellmeclub.com “外国籍の方のみでのご参加は承れません”
      http://www.google.com/search?q=site:tellmeclub.com+%22%E5%A4%96%E5%9B%BD%E7%B1%8D%E3%81%AE%E6%96%B9%E3%81%AE%E3%81%BF%E3%81%A7%E3%81%AE%E3%81%94%E5%8F%82%E5%8A%A0%E3%81%AF%E6%89%BF%E3%82%8C%E3%81%BE%E3%81%9B%E3%82%93%22&hl=en&filter=0
      About 47,800 results

      within other sites: “外国籍のお客様は追加料金が必要になる”
      http://www.google.com/search?q=-site:tellmeclub.com+%22%E5%A4%96%E5%9B%BD%E7%B1%8D%E3%81%AE%E3%81%8A%E5%AE%A2%E6%A7%98%E3%81%AF%E8%BF%BD%E5%8A%A0%E6%96%99%E9%87%91%E3%81%8C%E5%BF%85%E8%A6%81%E3%81%AB%E3%81%AA%E3%82%8B%22&hl=en&filter=0
      About 21,200 results

      within other sites: “外国籍の方のみでのご参加は承れません”
      http://www.google.com/search?q=-site:tellmeclub.com+%22%E5%A4%96%E5%9B%BD%E7%B1%8D%E3%81%AE%E6%96%B9%E3%81%AE%E3%81%BF%E3%81%A7%E3%81%AE%E3%81%94%E5%8F%82%E5%8A%A0%E3%81%AF%E6%89%BF%E3%82%8C%E3%81%BE%E3%81%9B%E3%82%93%22&hl=en&filter=0
      About 19,400 results

      And even if tellmeclub.com and those other sites try to erase the evidence, the evidence of the discriminatory practice they posted is still going to be stored in Google’s cached pages for awhile.

    16. Jake Says:

      …and Mr. Nakajima called back. Apparently, this practice does not constitute unlawful behavior on the part of TellMe Club. He said that while it does seem unfair, it’s not unlawful, and that the circumstances (as related to me by Mr. Harino) are unique.

      Kind of disappointing. It’s basically saying that if a third party discriminates, then it’s OK to pass that discrimination along… Japan really needs a law on the books about equal service regardless of nationality.

      – Pity. That’s quite different than what I was told in 2006. Round One to the HOs of the world.

    17. Alex Says:

      The 在日の韓国国籍 part is also ambiguous in my opinion. Does this imply to just 在日韓国人 or does it also include 韓国籍 people whom are actually from South Korea? Unless they can make it clear as to why they are charging different prices (Instead of having HO do it for them) according to nationality I am going to assume that they want to keep Japanese tours on the surface `Japanese`. (As pretty much all zainichi pass for Japanese if they don`t say a word about their nationality)

      In that case though they might have trouble explaining why a 韓国籍 as simple as a 日本国籍 in terms of dealing with problems even though Koreans born in Japan whom only speak Japanese still have to go to the Korean embassy.

    18. Chuckie Says:

      Ho
      “To provide for that contingency, it is reasonable to charge small fees…” To go towards what? A hypthothetical and barely conceivable international incident involving legal fees and embassies? What utterly ridiculous logic. Even if there is some kind of diplomatic incident with someone – and I can’t believe I’m even typing this and thus giving it any credence – why wouldn’t they offer to refund the fee to all those foreigners who don’t get in trouble? There are a few of us around…

      – Ah, but you see, in HO’s trolling little world, “foreigners” and “trouble” are never too far apart.

    19. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      I’m curious as to whether or not these fees can be charged to travelers who are visiting their own countries.

      When I went to Guam with a group of Japanese a few years ago, the travel agency demanded a copy of my passport so as to determine that I was eligible to enter the US visa-free like Japanese people (the default) are. I informed them that as an American, there was no reason for them to do any of that (and that I’d rather keep such a valuable personal document to myself).

      I wonder if I could have gotten a small discount for saving them that legwork!

    20. Jair Says:

      Jake:
      Thanks a million for inquiring.
      Pity even the few Japanese laws that do forbid discrimination are not enforced.

      David in Fukuoka:
      We are talking about Hong Kong, not China. As I’m sure you are very aware, Hong Kong has different immigration policies and exempts a whole lot more countries from visas, unlike mainland China. So no extra paperwork for NJ.
      http://www.immd.gov.hk/ehtml/hkvisas_4.htm#part2

      Debito:
      Really looking forward to that book about racism without hate. I hope you get a Japanese version out to try and bring the debate to the spotlight.

    21. Iago Says:

      “…the Hong Kong-based company that handles the tours applies this fee to non-Japanese tourists, so TellMe Club adds this fee to the price…”

      I read something along these lines before. Guess I’ll have to go digging for it. Apparently, these “tours” essentially ship all the Japanese tourists from one shop to the next where they are all but confined while attended to by Japanese speaking shop clerks. The Japanese tourists spend handsomely and the Hong Kong tour company gets a nice little kick-back from the store.

      Non-Japanese, again apparently, are more careful with their wallets, so much less profitable for the stores and therefore for the destination tour company…

      Damn, I wish I could remember where I saw this story.

    22. Jake Says:

      Well, after some net surfing, this armchair lawyer thinks that the problem is that TellMe Club operates not under the Japanese Air Law (航空法), which is where HIS got hung up, but under the Travel Business Law (not sure if that’s the proper translation; the Japanese is 旅行業法, and a link is here: http://law.e-gov.go.jp/htmldata/S27/S27HO239.html).

      However, since TellMe Club does have partnerships with many airlines, which it actively advertises on its homepage, I wonder if this mightn’t fall under the Air Law as well.

      But then again, since the source of the discriminatory behavior stems not from arbitrary pricing changes based on their own sketchy business model, but rather from the sketchy behavior of a partner company, they may have an out in this case.

      Either way, I definitely encourage others who have the time and interest to make a call to the 国土交通省 and tell them you’d like to lodge a complaint. Mention the Japanese Air Law, section 105, paragraph 2, and see what they say… it would be nice to see TellMe Club have the gumption to tell their partner companies to curb such discriminatory behavior.

    23. Hiroshi Says:

      > 失礼ですが、お客様皆様の国籍はどちらになりますでしょうか。
      > 大変申し訳ございませんが、こちらのコースは日本国籍のお客様対象のコースとなりますので、
      > 外国籍のお客様にはお一人様¥5,000の追加料金をお願いしております。

      Should have a dual citizen (such as a “half” college student) test the system.
      I would like to see how they handle that situation.

      – That’s easy. They treat him or her as a Japanese citizen. No surcharge.

    24. Kimberly Says:

      This is why I don’t go to the travel agencies anymore, just buy my tickets directly from the ANA website. It may cost a little more, but I know I’m getting ANA instead of United or Delta or some other provider of non-service, and the only place I have to indicate my nationality is if I’m going to the US, and even then it’s got nothing to do with Japan, just “US citizen or green card holder” (as one checkbox, so Japanese with green cards would also check there), vs “visa holder” vs “visa waiver program.”

      JTB didn’t give me any grief the one time I booked a tour with them either… it was an optional tour of Pompeii, just one day (the rest of the package was just hotel and transportation, we weren’t on a tour bus all week), but I was on a bus with other JTB tourists and the tour guides only spoke Japanese… I booked those tickets in person so it was obvious that I wasn’t Japanese, ethnically or native-language-wise, and they still didn’t have a problem with it… so at least for JTB I’d say it’s not that they don’t want you on the same bus, anyway. (Either that, or caucasian females are the magical exception? I hate to say it myself but it does seem to be the case sometimes)

    25. DR Says:

      I had a similar problem with HIS in 2006. Seven days before I was to go on a package to Hong Kong they called me and asked for JPY30,000 more for my wife and I (combined) for hotel surcharges. I immediately canceled, refused to pay for the tickets they were to have given me, and demanded my JPY20,000 deposit back, which they gave me(!). Quiety, and in a very serious tone, I quoted their breach of contract provisions to them and promised to bring the police, from the koban next door, into the office to have the office manager arrested for fraud on the spot. White faced, he went silent, handed over my cash, and I left after signing a receipt.

      Being flexible, and just wanting to be “out” of Japan for a few days, I walked across the street to JTB and asked for, and got, flights, to Bangkok, plus hotel and tours etc. for about 35% less than HIS was offering to HK before the gouging for extra surcharges. With late reservations on a flight that wasn’t quite full, JTB couldn’t have cared less who I was, or where I came from. They just wanted to know that I wouldn’t need a translator for the tour, and that I had a re-entry permit all ready to go.

      My last dealings with HIS was for my final departure from Japan. They sold me return tickets from Japan to Spain return for a good price. They said it was Air France outbound. It wasn’t. It was a JAL codeshare. I loathe JAL. Despite charging fuel surcharges, the flight was 60% empty but they made me unpack baggage and redistribute it in the airport so as to meet the exact weight requirements. (They were flying way underweight anyway!)

      I discovered later, when sorting out paper for recycling, that when purchasing I also had to sign to say that I would use the return portion of the ticket, or else HIS would be charged fines to the tune of 100% of the cost of the ticket if I didn’t. (Small print, page 4 or so of the ticket) A one-way ticket was 3 x times the price of the return fare! Suffice it to say, I never returned.

      There is also another travel company, IACE, which charges penalties on unconfirmed travel reservations canceled, no tickets issued, nothing. Give these guys a wide berth! Shock and horror!

    26. Colin Says:

      I`ve never heard of this in Canada and there are tons of foreigners living there. Japan sure has some ridiculous excuses and gets away with pretty much anything. Where is the logic?

      – Try this on for size:

      1) Fair is fair as long as all Japanese are treated fairly.

      2) It’s only fair if Japanese win. This is Japan, after all. You want to win, go to your own country. Too bad if there are other notions of fairness over there that keep the playing field fair for Japanese over there. We Japanese have our own notions of fairness. Shikata ga nai.

      That handles the logic behind the majority of the unfair situations you’ll face over here.

    27. snowman Says:

      I look forward to reading your new book. Any idea when it’ll be published yet?

      – Thanks. But it’s nowhere near finished. Only two chapters done out of eight.

    28. Jerry Says:

      I have to wonder, though, how say an American with a Japanese name and a Japanese with an American name would be treated.

      (or even more how a mixed nationality family would be treated where only 1 member lacked Japanese citizenship)

      – Oh that. In the last case, the sole NJ in the family would be charged extra. Of course. Rules is rules.

    29. The Shark Says:

      Hi Debito,

      I wonder how we as Caucasian Japanese citizens would fit into all this? Could we join? And if yes, with or without “rabbit” tax if traveling to the U.K.?
      But even though I have a Japanese passport, I guess I wouldn’t wanna join any ‘Japanese only’ package tours anyway.

      About buying air tickets:
      Buy from the airline directly (mostly online nowadays) and you’ll be treated without discrimination. Airlines just have the simple rule that all passengers are responsible for whatever visas etc. they might need. That’s fair. Why can’t package tour operators do it the same way?

      About package tours in general:
      How can Japanese really get the kick out of overseas Japanese only package tours? Don’t you travel to other countries to meet and talk to people from other nationalities?

      Final note:
      Sometimes Japanese people tell me that they went to Canada or whatever and were happy to meet so many foreigners. I politely suggested that referring to those people as ‘local people’ would be more appropriate because whether or not you’re a foreigner does not depend on who you are but where you are.

    30. Mark Hunter Says:

      Shark…ah, you poor, misguided innocent. ‘Gaijin’ does not mean foreigner. It means someone who is not of Japanese ethnicity, primarily white. That’s all. Therefore when Japanese people translate ‘gaijin’ to foreigner, they are correct because it doesn’t matter where one is at all. In Japanese conversation among themselves, the ‘gaijin’ word is lobbed around as a natural part of communication, no matter where they may be, even among highly educated, internationally exposed people. That’s why I’ve often told people that racism in Japan won’t change until using certain expressions and words in the Japanese language evolves into a more sensitive, less binary view of the world. i.e. until words like ‘gaijin’ leave the vernacular altogether. This can happen and has happened in other countries. There are cultures in some countries where the word foreigner has become somewhat offensive and considered racist, like large chunks of Canadian society. Cheers.

      – Any more of these posts today with this degree of digression from the topic at hand will not be allowed through, sorry, now matter how well considered. Gokyouryoku o

    31. Jair Says:

      Allen:

      If you’re anywhere near Tokyo, go to the National Diet Library! Nice place, they have all the books ever published in Japan – including those by Debito.

      You just have to search for them in kanji even in the English page:
      http://opac.ndl.go.jp/index_e.html

      ジャパニーズ・オンリー / 有道出人. — 明石書店, 2003.4
      ニューカマー定住ハンドブック / 有道出人,樋口彰. — 明石書店, 2008.3

      BTW, maybe they just have the Japanese version of Japanese Only, but the Guide is bilingual.

      Wait, actually you can ask for the books you want to be loaned to a library near you, so you just need to be inside Japan:

      http://www.ndl.go.jp/en/service/index.html#remote

      Great service.

      – Thanks for the shout out, but back on topic, please.

    32. Iago Says:

      “…because whether or not you’re a foreigner does not depend on who you are but where you are.”

      Kind of, though I think it’s less where you are, more where you’re from. I’m in Japan, but not Japanese, therefore I am a “foreigner” to the Japanese and likewise they are “foreigners” to me.

      I think, though, there are some for whom being the “foreigner” in any circumstance does not seem to compute. There are also those who do not understand that you can change where you are from (i.e. citizenship), or that physical characteristics are not a reliable guide to where someone is “from”.

      – Let’s get back on topic.

    33. liza Says:

      Here’s another travel agency story. About two years ago my boyfriend and I booked a trip to Guam (we’re both NJ) at No. 1 Travel in Ikebukuro. He speaks Japanese well but we started out speaking English to the staff member. We wanted to get in on a cheap hotel/flight “free” package, but she got a funny look and asked if we spoke Japanese. He said yes, then she said she would ask him some questions as a way of a “test”!! We were both a bit weirded out, but he went along with it and apparently passed as we were allowed to book the “Japanese-only” package.. in which the only group aspect was the transfer from airport to hotel. She said something about the terms and conditions only being available in Japanese, hence the “test.” Weird, right? These companies really need a clear policy on these things. Random staff members should not be allowed to give tests at their whim.

    34. The Shark Says:

      About Terumi Club:

      They just say:
      “外国籍のお客様にはお一人様¥5,000の追加料金をお願いしております。”
      Has anyone actually been told the reason for this surcharge?
      Has anyone asked them: 何か論理的な理由があるんでしょうか。/ Is there any logical reason for that?

      Would it be helpful if many people e-mailed the following person below directly and politely suggested that such a surcharge might constitute an act of discrimination?
      [yuka.tatara@tellmeclub.com]

    35. Allen Says:

      Thanks Jair, but I am in the States right now. It will have to wait for now. (;_;)

      Speaking of agencies, this reminds me of a travel agency in America that I encountered. When asking about tickets, this old lady yelled at me “YOU CAN’T GO TO JAPAN! They only let CERTAIN Americans in there!” When I tried to correct her, she said “No, I know about Japan”. If she was like the Terumi Club here, then that would cause a ruckus in the states, but alas….

    36. Jair Says:

      The Shark:
      “Has anyone actually been told the reason for this surcharge?”

      I think the answers by Jake (comment 10 on this thread) and Iago (21) have solved the mystery nicely.

    37. Steve Says:

      @Jair

      Nope, check again, it’s NOT just about tours to Hong Kong.

      Tell Me Club’s Mr. Harino lied to Jake, plain and simple.

      I’ll post the links again so you can see the full extent:

      within the site tellmeclub.com “外国籍のお客様は、追加料金が必要になる”
      http://www.google.com/search?q=site:tellmeclub.com+%22%E5%A4%96%E5%9B%BD%E7%B1%8D%E3%81%AE%E3%81%8A%E5%AE%A2%E6%A7%98%E3%81%AF%E3%80%81%E8%BF%BD%E5%8A%A0%E6%96%99%E9%87%91%E3%81%8C%E5%BF%85%E8%A6%81%E3%81%AB%E3%81%AA%E3%82%8B%22&hl=en&filter=0
      About 130,000 results

      within the site tellmeclub.com “外国籍の方のみでのご参加は承れません”
      http://www.google.com/search?q=site:tellmeclub.com+%22%E5%A4%96%E5%9B%BD%E7%B1%8D%E3%81%AE%E6%96%B9%E3%81%AE%E3%81%BF%E3%81%A7%E3%81%AE%E3%81%94%E5%8F%82%E5%8A%A0%E3%81%AF%E6%89%BF%E3%82%8C%E3%81%BE%E3%81%9B%E3%82%93%22&hl=en&filter=0
      About 47,800 results

      within other sites: “外国籍のお客様は追加料金が必要になる”
      http://www.google.com/search?q=-site:tellmeclub.com+%22%E5%A4%96%E5%9B%BD%E7%B1%8D%E3%81%AE%E3%81%8A%E5%AE%A2%E6%A7%98%E3%81%AF%E8%BF%BD%E5%8A%A0%E6%96%99%E9%87%91%E3%81%8C%E5%BF%85%E8%A6%81%E3%81%AB%E3%81%AA%E3%82%8B%22&hl=en&filter=0
      About 21,200 results

      within other sites: “外国籍の方のみでのご参加は承れません”
      http://www.google.com/search?q=-site:tellmeclub.com+%22%E5%A4%96%E5%9B%BD%E7%B1%8D%E3%81%AE%E6%96%B9%E3%81%AE%E3%81%BF%E3%81%A7%E3%81%AE%E3%81%94%E5%8F%82%E5%8A%A0%E3%81%AF%E6%89%BF%E3%82%8C%E3%81%BE%E3%81%9B%E3%82%93%22&hl=en&filter=0
      About 19,400 results

    38. Jake Says:

      Hm… Steve’s right. The same sort of restrictions are placed on trips to Singapore, anyway…

    39. rabuho Says:

      And to America, too:

      http://www.tellmeclub.com/tour/detail.php?al_id=24505&tour_no=BLNAA0110005&bm=CCCC

      The last point under その他の注意事項 reads:

      “■:航空機のお座席はご同行の方と隣同士にならない場合がございます。お座席の事前リクエストはお受けできませんのでチェックインの際にご確認下さい。日本国籍のお客様専用の料金となっているため、外国籍のお客様の場合、お受けできない場合もございます。

    40. Steve Says:

      and Bangkok, and…

      – We gotcha. Terumi Club lied.

    41. Steve Says:

      @Jake

      Of course, if you call up Mr. Harino again, and confront him with this evidence, he’ll simply use the Japanese technique of:

      “Well, you specifically asked me about Hong Kong, so I merely replied about Hong Kong, see, I didn’t lie per se, I merely intentionally withheld the truth. I knowingly gave you the wrong impression, because the truth is not important to me, my goal is merely to selfishly continue avoiding self-improvement, this is the goal of Japan. I’m not going to voluntarily mention the various other countries where we apply descriminatory fees and restrictions, unless you phrase your question in the correct way. And even then, even if you phrase your question in the correct way, my priority is still going to be the same: protect harmony (which is a tatemae/lying way of saying “protect my current lifestyle”) regardless of the truth.”

    42. Peter Says:

      while I don’t want to defend the travel agencies here, the reason for this nationality-based ticketing is _the airlines_

      Mid 2000s lots of asian carriers started it (air china) to make sure their “poor fellow countrymen” could visit their home country once in a while (and accidently otherwise empty regular flights would be full again). I personally witnessed how such a ticket was offered to a japanese friend in europe. It was from air china, and only eligible for korean, japanese or chinese nationals having a permanent residence in europe.

      Soon afterwards european carriers followed and did the same for european expats in asia. Not sure whether they continue ’till now, but I am wondering how much responsiblity lies within the carriers, and how much within the travel agencies…

      – Somehow that doesn’t make sense. We have Chinese (as NJ in Japan) being charged extra for tickets to China. No?

    43. Steve Says:

      There are 2 problems here.

      外国籍の方のみでのご参加は承れません。

      This first problem is an undefendable case of illegal discrimination: Tell Me Club is stating they for some tours they won’t sell a ticket to a Non-Japanese national unless accompanied by a Japanese national.

      Perhaps some people will try to defend the act of not selling a tour ticket to someone due to on their supposed lack of language ability, but: not selling a tour ticket to someone based on their nationality is illegal discrimination.

      The second problem here, is less important, but also undefendable. For those who need a visa, and for those who want help getting that visa, tour agencies offer a Visa Help service for a Fee, fine, but: Tell Me Club is forcing the Tell Me Club Visa Help Fee onto people regardless of whether they want the help or not, and EVEN regardless of whether they NEED the visa or not.

      A Visa Help Fee pays for a tour agency employee to take your passport, together with a bunch of other customers’ passports, to the local consulate here of the country the tour is going to, and standing in the group processing line, and getting all those passports stamped with visas. Nice service, but some people prefer to NOT give their passport to some travel agency employee. Some people prefer to go to the consulate themselves to get the visa themselves.

      The small complaint is the fact that Tell Me Club is requiring people to pay the Tell Me Club Visa Help Fee whether the customer WANTS the help or not.

      The larger complaint is that Tell Me Club is requiring only Non-Japanese people to pay the Visa Help Fee whether the customer NEEDS the visa or not.

      For example, according to Tell Me Club’s statement under the pages describing the Hong Kong, Singapore, and Thailand (and possibly more countries still yet to be discovered in the 130,000) tours:

      外国籍のお客様は追加料金が必要になる。

      All Non-Japanese nationals will be charged an extra fee!

      So Tell Me Club is forcing even Hong Kong, Singapore, and Thailand nationals to pay the Tell Me Club Visa Help Fee even though they don’t need visa to visit their own country!

      And for tours to America, where the Japanese nationals need a visa:

      日本国籍のお客様専用の料金となっているため、外国籍のお客様の場合、お受けできない場合もございます。

      So Tell Me Club is warning they “may” force even American nationals to pay Tell Me Club’s Visa Help Fee even though Americans don’t need a visa to visit their own country!

      Is it really legal for Tell Me Club to require Non-Japanese nationals to pay a Visa Help Fee even when they don’t need a visa?

      Interesting, I wonder why Tell Me Club doesn’t Japanese nationals to pay a Visa Help Fee even when THEY don’t need a visa.

      For example, on the tours to Hong Kong, Singapore, and Thailand, why doesn’t Tell Me Club write the same warning:

      外国籍のお客様専用の料金となっているため、日本国籍のお客様の場合、お受けできない場合もございます。

      Japanese national customers wouldn’t agree to paying a Visa Help Fee when they don’t need a visa, so why is Tell Me Club forcing Non-Japanese national customers to agree to paying a Visa Help Fee when they don’t need a visa.

      Here’s the solution: simply say, “If the country you are planning to visit requires your particular nationality to get a visa, you have two options: you can go to the consulate yourself, or Tell Me Club can go to the consulate for you for a 5,000 yen Visa Help Fee.”

      Then, under that sentence, provide a link to a chart which shows: “The following countries require Japanese nationals to get a visa, and the following countries don’t. The following countries require Korean nationals to get a visa, and the following countries don’t. The following countries require American nationals to get a visa, and the following countries don’t. etc.” This will decrease the chance of Tell Me Club being sued for discriminatory practice.

      Now back to the first problem, the main problem, the real problem that is going to get Tell Me Club sued for discriminatory practice:

      外国籍の方のみでのご参加は承れません。

      Tell Me Club is stating they for some tours they won’t sell a ticket to a Non-Japanese national unless accompanied by a Japanese national.

      Aha, I see you Tell Me Club has now deleted the 21,200 pages where they wrote that sentence, and even used the extra safe technique of having Google clear their cache of those pages, so the evidence is gone.

      The question remains: did the Tell Me Club president and employees actually stop their illegal discriminatory practice of denying Non-Japanese nationals from joining certain tours, or did they simply erase the evidence and will now simply lie to Non-Japanese nationals, “Sorry, those tours are fully booked.”

    44. DL Says:

      The reason for the cheaper price for Js for a lot of these packages is because they lock the Js in duty free shops in the destination city and force them to buy crap (effectively making their package more expensive). NJs would absolutely refuse to be allowed to be taken advantage in this way, thus, the higher price for us.

      – I don’t see. It’s not as if the J customers are buying Duty Free at gunpoint. And I would like to see some evidence to back this assertion. You’re only surmising at this point.

    45. Johnny Says:

      Once went on a package with HIS Fukuoka to Pusan.

      The guide met us at the port and took us to a department store and said ‘I’ll be back in an hour’. We ended up taking a wander around outside as there was nothing of interest we wanted to buy.

      On the way back to the port two days later she took us to a souvenir store where we spent very minimal money.

      Looking back it was way cheaper than had we booked the boat and hotels separately, but we lost a lot of our time due to being taken to places we had no interest in.

      Not defending Tell Me club, but maybe they have had too many cheapskate NJ like me on their tours.

      – Or maybe the tour company should just tax YOU! :)

      Here we get into the slippery slope of nickle-ing and diming every tourist, gradating them based upon how much money they HAVE to spend as a tourist, and moreover by nationality in this case. Kinda like that Denny’s restaurant in Rochester NY that decided unilaterally to add on a surcharge to all Asian customers because the manager didn’t believe they tipped enough. (Can’t find an article online, but others welcome to search. This is the closest I got.) That wasn’t allowed there. Shouldn’t be allowed here.

    46. DL Says:

      The story is firsthand from a friend who took a trip to HK on one of these. While these things are discriminatory, I don’t believe the discrimination is based on bigotry–it’s monetary. The discount that Js are receiving is subsidized by the kickbacks from the shops that are patronized. I find it extremely hard to believe that the Js are receiving a discount based on some racial solidarity. Whether it’s right or not is more a business practices issue than a discrimination one. Most likely, these tour groups could use a bit more imagination in structuring these tours to eliminate the appearance of racial discrimination. Possibly, requiring all tour participants to buy discount coupon booklets only redeemable at designated shops. You refuse to buy the booklet, you don’t get the tour discount.

      – Whatever. However you slice it, or try to justify it by claiming it’s a business practice, requiring all NJ to pay a surcharge like this is a discriminatory practice. By definition. You telling me they’re filtering the kickbacks by nationality too?

    47. Aaron Says:

      The fact that big Japanese travel companies like HIS still to this day do not accept payment by credit card and require cash within days of placing a reservation is what makes me use American-based travel companies even though I live and work in Japan.

    48. adamw Says:

      his do accept credit cards

    49. Aaron Says:

      Well they didn’t last fall when I tried to buy plane tickets. If they do now, then that is a good change.

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