QB House Tameike Sannou, Tokyo, requires Japanese language ability for a haircut (UPDATE: Sign has been replaced)

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Hi Blog.  Here is the latest permutation of the “Japanese Only” signs nationwide.  Instead of saying they refuse all foreigners, QB House, an international bargain barbershop chain since 1995, has a sign up in one of their Tokyo outlets saying they may refuse anyone who doesn’t speak sufficient Japanese.  While some may see this as an improvement (i.e. it’s not a blanket refusal of NJ), I just see it as another excuse to differentiate between customers by claiming a language barrier (which has been the SOP at exclusionary businesses in Japan for years now).  Who’s to judge whether or not someone is “able to communicate” sufficiently?  Some panicky manager?  I’ve seen it in practice (in places like Wakkanai), where a barber sees any white face, assumes he cannot communicate, and reflexively arms the X-sign at you.  This time, however, QB House has managed to make an exclusionary sign in perfect English in one of the more international areas of Tokyo.  How about catering to the customers instead of finding ways of snippily enforcing a “culture of no”?  Photo of the sign and note from submitter follows:

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January 6, 2011

Dear Debito, Happy New Year!  I’m sending you a picture taken yesterday of a new CAVEAT that the put on QBHOUSE of Tameike Sannou (http://www.qbhouse.co.jp/shop/detail.html?salon=detail&id=84)

It’s pretty self-explanatory.

It wasn’t there a couple of months ago. The non-Japanese population density is rather high in this area, especially north-American and European, I guess they had some understanding issues.

It’s not the way of doing things anyway, especially with their outspoken passion for 国際化 and theit willingness to open further the country to tourism.

Best regards, Alberto Estevez, Tokyo

ENDS

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UPDATE JANUARY 14, 2011:

According to Japan Probe et.al, the above QC sign has been replaced with this, as of January 13:

60 comments on “QB House Tameike Sannou, Tokyo, requires Japanese language ability for a haircut (UPDATE: Sign has been replaced)

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  • Debito, I just spilled my afternoon coffee across the keyboard…
    “Those who are not able to communicate with our STUFFERS…”
    Who’s getting stuffed, and why?
    Are only NJ getting stuffed?
    Just wonderin’…

    — It’s all part of the stuff and nonsense…

  • What an upgrade! This new sign changes the wording very insignificantly and looks unwelcoming now to Chinese and Korean speakers as well. I’m not impressed, QB House.

  • Mark Austin says:

    I don’t think this is quite as awful as it might look at first glance. At worst, it’s a sadly typical example of parochial “foreigners = trouble” thinking. There must have been at least one case of a foreigner with poor Japanese kicking up a stink because he/she didn’t get the haircut he/she wanted but was unable to describe, so QB decides to play it safe and preempt future such problems. A bit small-minded, perhaps, but not, in my opinion, malicious or racist.

    I remember an unfortunate experience I had in Saijo, a town half an hour’s journey on the train east of Hiroshima, in 1990, when I’d only been in Japan a few months and went for my first haircut at a mom ‘n’ pop joint. 「少しだけ」(“sukoshi dake,” or “just a little”) I said, putting my thumb a centimeter from my forefinger to indicate that I only wanted a trim. But the hairdresser misunderstood and thought I wanted a crewcut, which she proceeded to give me (it was too late to complain once the clippers had been quickly wielded). Did I kick up a stink? Of course not. It was funny–exasperating, but funny nevertheless.

    — You look good with a crewcut anyway, Mark.

    The point still remains about the assumptions (in the original sign):

    1) A complaint by a foreigner => have to take measures against all foreigners (who all speak English, of course, in the way the sign is rendered) by preparing to refusing them service with a signposted notice.

    2) A complaint by a Japanese => QB House Tameike Sannou probably calls an in-house meeting to understand the problem, in an attempt to improve their service for the customers. No sign goes up saying “it’s your fault for not communicating with us properly, so we’re going to refuse you service if there’s any chance of that”.

    It the same logic employed by hotels that say, “we can’t speak any foreign languages, so we’ll refuse foreigners service”. It’s one step improved by allowing for the possibility of NJ speaking Japanese (i.e., it’s not a blanket refusal). But again, the onus is on the customer to be a good customer if the customer is NJ, not the typical onus of the shop doing hansei to be a good shop if the customer is Japanese. It’s not equal treatment.

    (Again, for those arguing that the customer should speak Japanese, or at least try. Yes, that’s true. But as we’ve discussed, there are ways around language barriers (sample photos, miburi teburi, etc.), and still no allowance for a panicky barber that might just refuse people on appearance alone and use language level as an excuse. Signs like these encourage that behavior.)

  • Please please, leave those stuffers alone! You NJ are harassing our stuffers! They are taxidermists! We can only stuff your grandmother if you can speak Japanese! Jeez, the whole lot of you…. /manager

    All jokes aside, the sign really didn’t change a thing. Its still refusal of service, just more vague. But hey, at least now its in Korean and Chinese(simplified?) instead of just English. ‘Cause obviously all foreigners speak english.

  • Would it not be less combative, and hence more productive and successful, to just kindly offer to help them write acceptable signs?

    It is obvious what the reasonable aspect of this and most of the other allegedly discriminative signs are. Why not us just help them to get it right without offending anyone…

    I write not as a Japanese or a Foreigner but as an ex-shop keeper and small business person.

    Managing a successful shop or a small business, running a night club, it is all the same; you need some kind of door policy. Unless you have managed a door onto the street, you have no idea of the problems that can walk in.

    — March right down to QB House Tameike Sannou and offer to help.

  • Now I think the best is to send this photo to some major Chinese or/and Korean media…By the way, called the Customer Center 消費者センターand now they are checking the things. But if someone really has access and knows how to send the photo to some Chinese newspaper, lets do it.

  • “This new sign changes the wording very insignificantly and looks unwelcoming now to Chinese and Korean speakers as well”

    Well, I dunno…the Chinese version doesn’t say anything about refusal of service, just that if you can’t use Japanese they might not be able to communicate with you. Also, they used the really polite form of “you.” I don’t think it sounds as terse and rude as the English version does.

  • On a related note, Fukui City says you can’t live in their public housing unless you understand Japanese. This may be more important than the haircut issue.

    http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/e-japan/fukui/news/20110122-OYT8T00838.htm

    外国人の市住入居 「日常会話」で制限賛否
    福井市長撤廃に難色

     福井市が昨年春、日常会話が不十分な外国人の市営住宅入居を拒否する内規を設けたことを巡り、外国人の差別解消などに取り組む二つの市民グループから内規撤廃を求める声が上がる一方、「意思疎通ができない外国人に囲まれた住民は不安だ」などと内規を支持する声も市に数多く寄せられているという。市はどう対応すべきなのか、課題を探った。(久米浩之)

     市は昨年4月に「市営住宅入居事務取扱要綱」をつくり、外国人の入居条件をまとめた。永住者、特別永住者、3年以上日本に居住できると市長が認めた者を対象とし、「隣人とのコミュニケーションがとれる程度の日常会話ができる」ことを要求。いずれも、市の担当窓口がこれまで入居審査で適用してきた内容を明文化したという。

     これに対して、先月27日と今月19日に、市民グループが「外国人も同じ住民として対応して」などとする要望書を提出。東村新一市長は先月28日の会見で「外国で生活しようと考えるなら、ある程度の日常会話ができるのが本来だ」と撤廃に難色を示した。市には先月中旬以降、52件の電子メールが寄せられ、「『言葉すら通じない』では(住民との)軋轢(あつれき)が生じざるを得ない」など約9割が内規を認める内容だという。

         ◇

     市によると、市営住宅は計1957戸で、外国人世帯の入居は75戸(昨年4月1日現在)。今月20日、県内最多となる外国人世帯32戸が入居する東安居団地(333戸)を訪ねた。

     ある無職男性(71)は「ゴミ捨ての分別をやってくれない」と話し、ある主婦(29)は「夜中に騒ぐ人がいるが、あまり言葉が通じず注意できなくて困っている」と漏らす。外国人入居者の多くは中国人。コミュニケーション不足や文化の違いなどでしばしばトラブルになるようだ。

     こうした住民からの苦情も、市が内規を策定した要因といい、市によれば、昨年6月、市営住宅入居を希望して中国籍とみられる男女1組が訪れたが、通訳を通じて内規の説明を聞いて断念したという。

     内規の条件にある「3年以上日本に居住できる」に該当する外国人は、外交官や大学教授、調理人など就労ビザのある人か、中国残留孤児の家族や日系ブラジル人ら。これまで門前払いとなったケースについて、市は「どんな経緯で訪れた外国人だったのかは詳しく把握していない」という。

     外国人問題に詳しい田中宏・一橋大名誉教授(日本アジア関係史)は「言語能力を問題にするのではなく、サポート体制の充実に力を注ぐべきだ」とし、市営住宅などでは「全国的に(ゴミ出しなど住宅での)多言語表示が進められており、外国語の表示などは簡単にできるはず」と指摘する。

     福井市の市営住宅には外国語表示もなく、トラブルがあっても基本的に住民同士の解決に委ねているのが現状だ。市には、内規撤廃論議を契機として、すぐに取り組める問題と中長期的な課題を整理し、〈外国人との共生〉に向けた対応が望まれる。

    (2011年1月23日 読売新聞)

  • I thought his might be relevant to this discussion…

    “A restaurant has attracted the attention of the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission with a notice that it will add a 15 percent gratuity to the checks of patrons who don’t speak English.”

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/02/03/hawaii-rights-commission-review-mandatory-tips-foreign-language-diners/#ixzz1Cwg9lTub

    Hawaii Rights Commission to Review Mandatory Tips for Foreign-Language Diners
    Published February 03, 2011 Associated Press

    HONOLULU — A restaurant has attracted the attention of the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission with a notice that it will add a 15 percent gratuity to the checks of patrons who don’t speak English.

    The warning is in fine print on the menu at Keoni by Keo’s. The menu also says parties of six or more will be charged the same amount.

    The Waikiki restaurant told KITV that its customer base includes many international travelers who, by custom, do not tip. The restaurant says it’s merely trying to help its customers and wait staff.

    About 17 percent of the nearly 7 million tourists who visited Hawaii last year were from Japan, where people do not leave tips in restaurants.

    IRS administrative rules require the restaurant to consider 8 percent of its total sales as tips, so waiters must pay taxes accordingly, even on tips they often do not receive, a representative of Keoni by Keo’s told KITV.

    Bill Hoshijo, executive director of the Civil Rights Commission, didn’t speak specifically about the restaurant, but said language referring to non-English speaking customers could be a problem.

    “Discrimination based on language is ancestry discrimination,” Hoshijo said.

    The commission hasn’t received complaints about the charge, but Hoshijo said the commission will likely send a letter to the restaurant inquiring about the practice and will likely investigate the practice at other restaurants.

    “Places of public accommodation can come up with different ways to address those concerns that are non-discriminatory,” Hoshijo said.

    Keoni by Keo’s said the gratuity charge is printed in red on the customer’s check and is explained when the customer pays at the register. The restaurant said if the customer does not want to pay the gratuity, then they simply don’t.

    Bryce Richards, a visitor from Mile City, Mont., disagreed with the charge.

    “I don’t think it’s fair. I think with a mixed culture we’ve got today, they should accommodate everybody,” Richards said.

    Angela Militello had some sympathy for the restaurant.

    “I don’t approve of it, but I see where they’re coming from. When you live off tips, when people don’t tip, it really hurts your own income,” said Militello, who was visiting Waikiki from Orlando, Fla.
    ENDS

  • I’m very late to this discussion, but I have to say I’ve been getting my hair cut at that Tameike shop for years, and the staff there has never been anything but professional and courteous. There are frequently other gaijin in there when I go. Nobody seems to be suffering any indignity, and the place serves up a reasonably sharp haircut in 10 minutes for ¥1,000. I saw that sign, gave it an amused chuckle, and forgot about it. I plan to keep going.

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