Hi Blog. This is a slightly edited version of a letter I snailmailed today to the Kitakyushu Mayor’s Office, the local Bureau of Human Rights, the local Nishinihon Shinbun, and JALT Admin. It’s pretty self-explanatory, so read on. Debito in Sapporo
ARUDOU Debito, Associate Professor
(contact details deleted)
November 9, 2006
To JALT National, Steve Brown, President
JALT Central Office Urban Edge Bldg 5F, 1-37-9 Taito
Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-0016, Japan Tel: 03-3837-1630 Fax: 03-3837-1631
Dear President Brown and JALT National Leadership,
First of all, let me express heartfelt gratitude for the most recent national conference in Kitakyushu. I consider it to be a great success, and look forward to more future conferences.
The reason I am writing is to notify you of an incident which occurred in Kitakyushu during the JALT conference to a JALT member.
On November 3, 2006, said JALT member was refused entry to a restaurant named “Jungle” (Kitakyushu-shi Kokura Kita-ku Kajimachi 1-7-4, Kajimachi Kaikan 3F, Ph: 093-512-7123, FAX 093-512-7124). The reason given was that the establishment was full, even though to the JALT member it visibly had open tables. Arudou Debito was then informed about this situation.
On November 4, at around 9PM, five friends and I went to Jungle. I first went in alone and the manager, a Mr. Matsubara Tatsuya, indeed tried to refuse me entry by claiming the restaurant was full. I then took a quick walk around the restaurant to confirm that the establishment, with at least eight large tables plus counter space, was in fact almost completely empty. When it was clear that Matsubara and I could communicate in Japanese, Matsubara then offered me counter space. I then brought in my friends and confirmed that we could have a table.
We then confirmed (after being seated and ordering drinks) that a) Matsubara did refuse foreigners entry, b) because he cannot communicate in English–he finds it his “nemesis” (nigate), c) and because he finds foreigners frightening (kowai). When asked if he had ever had any bad experiences or altercations with non-Japanese customers, Matsubara said no. He just (for reasons never made very clear) did not want to have to deal with them.
When we softly and calmly pointed out that a) non-Japanese are customers too, with money, not to mention language abilities (or at least forefingers to point to items on the menu), b) refusing them entry hurts their feelings, as it did the person refused the previous evening, c) that welcoming customers was part of Matsubara’s job description in his line of work (kyaku shoubai), he apologized and said he would try harder not to refuse non-Japanese customers in future.
The irony of the situation was that at the end of our drinks, one of the waiters who attended us (a student at the local technical college) talked to us in very good English. Why couldn’t Matsubara just have passed any customer with whom he was unable to communicate on to his staff?
I have since put “Jungle” up on a website cataloging the spread of exclusionary establishments around Japan.
Please refer to www.debito.org/roguesgallery.html#Kokura
We look forward to future reports from readers of this website who might wish to investigate this restaurant in future to see if Matsubara keeps his promise.
I would like to ask JALT to send a letter of concern to the appropriate offices within the City Kitakyushu, particularly Mayor Sueyoshi Kouichi, who wrote the kind message of welcome for this JALT Conference. I am also sending this message in Japanese to Mayor Sueyoshi’s office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Bureau of Human Rights, and the Nishi Nippon Shinbun. I hope they also will look into this matter, and take sufficient measures so that something like this does not happen again.
Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.