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

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on January 8th, 2011

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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:


    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 (

    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



    UPDATE JANUARY 14, 2011:

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

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

    1. Johnny Says:

      Might flick this in the direction of the Minato-kuyakusho, as that’s where this place is located.

      Given that 10% of the population is NJ, and 20% of resident tax is paid by Non-J, they may be sensitive towards this kind of thing.

    2. unknown Says:

      While I agree with you in principle Debito, I think that the store is reasonable in this request.

      While QB may be an international chain, the fact is the people who cut hair work for minimum wage (a haircut is 1000 yen at QB) and are likely to have the skills to do only one thing, take orders and cut hair. If the bare minimum requirement of their job cannot be satisfied due to a customer lack of understanding of what the customer wants then they are not wrong in doing this.

      Where are you willing to settle on this type of issue? While it would be great to have services that also cater to tourists, places like QB operate in and Japan mostly to clientele who live here.

      Japanese is not a skill here. It is the absolute bear minimum requirement for living here. It is not a code, it is not mystical and it is not impossible to master. It is a logical form of communication with rules just like any other language. There are many Japanese people who refuse to accept this (as well as foreigners, who look upon those who can speak it with a bit of disdain, in my experience) , but that should not affect the amount of effort you put into language study in order to live here.

      If you live here long enough to need a haircut and don’t know enough Japanese to tell them you want your hair shorter (As that is pretty much the only haircut there is at the 10 minute haircut shop QB), then you should be rethinking your desire to live here.

      — Think about this carefully. I can see your logic justifying a lot of future exclusionary signs.

    3. sendaiben Says:

      You know, I am not sure where I stand on this one. In some ways it makes sense, especially for a hairdressers, where miscommunication could lead to mistakes, etc.

      Not being able to serve people in languages other than Japanese does not seem completely unreasonable, and language ability is a trait that people can improve if they choose to.

      On the other hand, I guess I am happy that I have never seen a sign like that in Sendai (most of our foreign residents are students or long-term, so the expectation is that people will be able to speak Japanese rather than the other way around, and that’s the way I like it).

      A tricky one, and I would rather hear about how they are implementing the policy (who is being refused and under what circumstances) before reacting…

    4. crustpunker Says:

      AWESOME!!!!!! The irony of this sign being written in perfect English is priceless. I would wager that whoever was in charge of setting the type/designing the sign did the translation with the help of a native or near native English speaker. Too funny.

      Happy New Year! and eat a bag of dicks QB House!

    5. Mark Says:

      Likewise, QB should not attempt to have web pages in English unless QB can write correct English:
      QB Group is the pioneer of “ Time Industry “
      Our mission is to provide the value of “ Time “
      We save the customers’ time so that they can enjoy their gracious& private time more.
      We will aim to offer our service with “a sense of Confidence and uniformity” to all our customers ,and wishing hear
      “Thank you” from all of them. Our goal is to achieve World number one ”Just Cut “salon !

    6. snowman Says:

      Jeez, how much language ability do you need to get a haircut?? Ridiculous.

    7. AJ Says:

      I know many a foreigner who’s taken a photo of how they want their hair to a QB house. That’s all that’s required. No Japanese, or conversely English ability needed by staff. They’ll refuse those people.

      What about native speakers of French, Spanish or Portuguese. This is very poor form , not to mention remarkably short sighted and ignorant assuming all foreigners can read the sign.

      Dear readers, boycott QB house nationwide. Get the word out on your twitter, facebook, blogs, whatever. I will be.

    8. Bob Says:

      I can’t understand why QB House would do this. You put 1000 yen in the vending machine for a ticket; there isn’t even any interaction necessary unless one has strong preferences about how one’s hair is cut.
      I understand they work for nothing and they do a great job for it, but communication doesn’t seem relevant to the business they are in, so I am not sure what their motivation is.

    9. Jeff Korpa Says:


      This is sign is worse then merely “Japanese Only” — along with select NJ clientele, J customers who happen to be young children, mute or mentally challenged can also potentially be refused service.


    10. Allen Says:

      I have mixed feelings on this. On one hand, you should really know the native language of the place you are going to live. If you went to England without a knowledge of English, it would tough to get service if you can’t communicate. On the other hand, a customer is still a customer and should not be refused service unless he/she was exposing themselves or something. Besides, as others have pointed out, since when was it so important that you are fluent in a language to get a haircut?

    11. Colin Says:

      If they are worried about not being able to communicate verbally then why don`t they try using body language. Find a way to communicate, don`t just give up. I`ve been in countless situations that were difficult to deal with, however, I didn`t turn around and walk away I found other ways to get my point across. In some cases, it often turns out to be a funny experience. Depends on ones personality. Putting up signs like this is being narrow minded.

    12. unknown Says:


      I am not sure you are correct with your statement there. I pretty much consider myself in agreement with most of what you are working for. However, I highly doubt that this store is refusing even people with a very rudimentary level of Japanese. As long as you can say what you want, or have a picture, I am assuming they will cut your hair. Granted in my opinion if you are here long enough to need a haircut and have to resort to take a picture, it is my personal opinion that you should be hitting the books harder. People (including this store, though, I might add, with their English sign)should stop assigning some sort of status to English as a global language. It may be the language of international commerce, but no person should be going to any country, let alone Japan, and expect service in a language that is not by law a national one. Discrimination based on something you cannot change, race, is wrong. However, in this case, language ability, is not something that cannot be changed. If someone says “Oh your level is not high enough” and you think it is, just tell them exactly that, and work from there. Sure this situation may be unfair, but if you think so, talk together with the instigator, work around it and/or solve the situation through dialogue. You cannot convince someone who is ignorant of their very ignorance by just saying “you are wrong”. In this case, the store may be in the wrong. However, if they do not believe they are, anything other than dialogue will not convince them otherwise. A boycott will not convince them that they are wrong, only that their belief has pissed people off. There is a difference.


      I agree with your point about language but I ask you to refer to my point on ignorance in the above.


      You will find that kind of English on Japanese the websites of many foreign owned companies as well. It is a known fact that Japanese who operate in any company in Japan prefer to have their English pages portray a word-for-word direct translation of everything on their Japanese page.

    13. Outlier Says:

      Common sense tells us that the chain should put hairdressers who want to learn and communicate in English in those chains. If many of the customers speak English, then the staff should also. Simple thing to screen out hairdressers who can/want to speak English, instead of exclusionary one size fits all “Eigo Dekinai” method that is the norm here. TOEIC score of 500- above would do the trick.

    14. Hoofin Says:

      In my 5 1/2 years in Japan, I got great haircuts at a place called WhoGa! in Akasaka. The price was about 4200 yen, but I only went every couple months and I booked in advance.

      They are part of the English OK marketing campaign in the five central wards.

      You can give your money to QB, or you can give it to people who are happy to cater to the NJ community. IMHO.

    15. John Says:

      This seems unacceptable to me, not least because very little language would be required to obtain service there.

      @Allen: I can assure you that it is very possible to get around and obtain service in England while knowing very little or no English. Not just tourists, but workers from the EU and elsewhere come to the UK all the time, often with little English, and, as we say, “no-one bats an eyelid”. But more to the point, it is very rare to encounter the idea of refusing service based on language. Xenophobia in Britain is more of the they’re-coming-over-here-taking-our-jobs variety (i.e. it’s about money), rather than a fear of the language barrier or dilution of the culture, which seems prevalent in Japan. There are white supremacists, of course, but they are very much a fringe voice and most of the votes they gain tend to be cast as a protest.

      Exception that tests the rule: there was a story last year about some taxi drivers in one UK city putting ‘English Speaking Driver’ signs in the cars, which ignited a race row that was covered in the national press. However, the signs were a protest against other cab drivers who allegedly had a poor command of English, and were not designed to turn away potential customers. Having said that, I’m not sure a foreign national would have been comfortable getting into such a vehicle. But it shows that the kind of discrimination that is unremarked on in Japan is taken more seriously in the UK.

    16. crustpunker Says:

      “Likewise, QB should not attempt to have web pages in English unless QB can write correct English:
      QB Group is the pioneer of “ Time Industry “
      Our mission is to provide the value of “ Time “
      We save the customers’ time so that they can enjoy their gracious& private time more.
      We will aim to offer our service with “a sense of Confidence and uniformity” to all our customers ,and wishing hear
      “Thank you” from all of them. Our goal is to achieve World number one ”Just Cut “salon !”

      Also, kind of hard to achieve “World number one Just Cut salon” If you are refusing customers on their language. Jaysus!!! What a joke. Still, it would be worth finding out if this is a storewide policy or just the one shop. Can anyone perhaps find more signs at other QB’s?

    17. Tony D Says:

      You know, it occurs to me… if they’re so worried about a lack of communication (ie in the style of haircut), the same amount of effort put into that sign could’ve been spent on a simple list of haircuts in English (or even just pictures) and then in Japanese so you could simply point to “short back and sides” and the hairdresser would know what you want, like they have at fast food places etc…

    18. Hawken King Says:

      I recently got my hair cut and explained perfectly what I wanted in Japanese, backed up by my usual hair dresser who was busy, and the lady cutting my hair basically ignored us both anyway and just cut it how she wanted.

      Sign or not, it doesn’t assure you a good hair cut 😉

    19. PKU Says:

      Strikes me that they don’t mean any harm. A charitable, benefit of the doubt feeling is they just feel that they want to give good service and they are worried about communication problems.

      Or they don’t want the hassle. Perhaps they are just lazy. I really don’t read any harm into it on their behalf. A part of me says, well they should have the right to exclude customers they don’t want.

      Another part of me says well they are actually being considerate- they don’t feel they can service customers who can’t speak Japanese.

      I would say, as far as tall that goes, fair enough.

      But Unfortunately it isn’t. Argue how you like, it’s discriminatory and exclusionary. Bottom line. If you were in Birmingham in the UK and you put a sign up, non-English speakers not welcome- you’d rightly be in trouble. Not quite equivalent? Apples and pairs? Not so, in my book.

      No matter how well meaning or innocent it was, it doesn’t make it right. Or am I really getting my knickers in a twist over nothing here?

    20. Dunn Says:

      Signs everywhere. Stop, go, one way street etc. If you don’t know what they mean driving in Japan could be very dangerous. A sign that says you may be refused service is a blessing because I wouldn’t let anyone near my hair unless I could tell them what I wanted and know they understood. I made that mistake when I first came to Japan and have the shaved turnip head photos to remind me. If the shop would also convey their inability to help people without Japanese communication skills in another 30 or so well used languages I would rest easier. The truth is that even the great Marcel Marceau would have struggled to get a decent haircut in a place like that QB House with the attitude they obviously possess.

    21. Allen Says:

      @John, thank you for the insightful correction. I will be more careful in my statements hereon.

    22. Eido Inoue Says:

      Have you ever seen anybody flip out after receiving a bad haircut? Ever seen anybody flip out in the MIDDLE of a haircut when they realize the hair cutter is “not understanding” what you’re trying to ask for? I have. IN ENGLISH and IN AMERICA, MULTIPLE times. It’s not a pretty sight.

      I can only imagine the verbal English beating some poor QB employee got when the non-Japanese figured out that ミジカクシテクダサイ {mijikaku shite kudasai} doesn’t mean “take just a little off the bottom” that instigated the creation of this sign.

      Having the occasional subject burst into tears or scream at the hairdresser seems to be par for the course for barbers and hairdressers. However, this is usually for people wanting to look good and spending the time and money to get it, not for people looking to save a few yen at a zero frills no-shampoo ¥1000 barber.

      These signs are not usually created until an “incident” occurs.

      Still, a better sign would be:

      “QB House will absolutely not be held responsible for bad results due to miscommunication in Japanese or any other language.”

      — Please refrain from using stereotypical katakanaization to depict foreign-accented speech.

    23. unknown Says:


      Just tell them you can speak Japanese. You should by now be used to the fact that there are some people who are easy to deal with and some that aren’t so far as reactions to ones outer appearance. If a store-clerk says something like that to you, just tell them you are speaking Japanese. If that does not work and the service bothers you that much, leave and take your business elsewhere. Sure it does not feel good for your ego but that is just how it is. The world is not going to change overnight.

      While I agree that the sign is exclusionary in principle, I am amazed at the number of people who think it’s the duty of the store to look for English speaking staff. If they want to capitalize on it that is their decision. Just because it would be nice to have staff that can cater to all kinds of tourists (And I use this term loosely, meaning people who cannot yet speak Japanese included. You are arguably not a member of the society if you cannot speak the national language)does not mean it is the standard.

      This is Japan. Speak Japanese. Take your business to one of the many salons in Roppongi if you want to be served in English. If you want to save a few bucks and go to QB, you better go equipped with the language tools that will allow you to do so, just like everyone else.

      While I agree the sign itself is a problem, the concept of “When in Rome…” should be something that is universally shared by all people who come to Japan to live.

    24. AJ Says:

      If just one of your staff knows someone who is foreign, you can find a way to cater to the linguistically challenged. In this case all you need is pictures.

      If you’re the sports bar owner friend of mine in Ichinomiya Aichi, you get advice on recipes and producing new multilingual menus from foreign clients as well as locals while you’re shooting the s$&@ watching the soccer or whatever.

      If you’re the proprietor of the restaurant in Kanazawa I just walked by you post signs in English in bold print “We have English menus, please come in!” I can tell you, if I hadn’t just eaten, I would have.

      It’s not all bad people. Spend your yen where it’s wanted.

    25. ken44 Says:

      —-While QB may be an international chain, the fact is the people who cut hair work for minimum wage (a haircut is 1000 yen at QB) and are likely to have the skills to do only one thing, take orders and cut hair. If the bare minimum requirement of their job cannot be satisfied due to a customer lack of understanding of what the customer wants then they are not wrong in doing this.—-

      I agree. I go to QB about every 6 weeks and you need to explain what you want done. (Which in my case is pretty easy since I don`t have much hair left anyway…)

      Those working at QB make their money getting the customers in and out as fast as possible. This means they don`t want to spend time trying to guess what a non-Japanese speaking customer wants. Bring a photo? That might work. But to come in and start babbling in English esp. if you`re fussy about hair forget it. If I were working at QB I wouldn`t want to deal with it either.

    26. jonholmes Says:

      Debito, sorry this is the corrected proofread version, please ignore previous post:

      They are such fools. If its a chain, and insist on following the seemingly growing monolingual trend here (so much for the government aim of having everyone speak English as a second language a few years back!) why the heck
      1. have a branch in an area with lots of ex-pats?
      2. don’t they hire someone with a smattering of English ability, are they just too cheap or what?
      3. hire a NJ barber (OK, I know I m dreaming here, but convenience stores do hire NJs, why not a major barber chain?).

      And I agree with Crustpunker and Mark ,see their logo in crap ENGLISH? “10 Minutes Just Cut”….

      So the above comment “This is Japan, speak Japanese” from “Unknown” is a bit naive at best, an empty nationalist slogan from the 1940s at worst. Tell it to the person who wrote “10 Minutes Just Cut”, would you?
      The Dutch, the Swedes, even the neutral Swiss etc have a lot of second language speakers especially in the urban or touristy areas, even in McDonalds in Amsterdam, because they know it is good for business. And for the continued economic well-being of their small populations (hint hint, J-Xenophobes!).

      Which again brings us back to partly why Japan is going to become poorer and poorer in the future. In a business area of an international city where a significant part of the population is non Japanese, ignore this market segment at their peril.

      Next time I am in Tameike Sanno I am going to stand outside and take a picture of this ludicrous sign; if enough people do, they might just get the message that if they re going to act like Inaka rednecks, stay in Inaka.

    27. unknown Says:


      Explain how “This is Japan. Speak Japanese” is naive.

      1. An area with a lot of ex-pats does not change the fact that the area is within Japan.
      2. Of course they are too cheap. It is a discount haircut salon. Their goal is simple, to get you in and out in 10 minutes for 1000 yen.
      3. What NJ barber with multilingual abilities would both working for QB? Anyone with the talent to be a barber AND do it in 2 languages will not be someone that a discount barber shop will attract.

      Complaining about bad english in Japan is like complaining about bad Japanese just about anywhere. The Dutch, the Swedes and the Swiss all border with countries that have a similar language to their own.

      It is also not worth the effort to have english speaking staff for the odd person that might come into any business establishment. Businesses here would be better off having staff that know Chinese so that they can cater to the oodles and oodles of Chinese tourists and such who flock to Japan every year.

      Oh wait, they already are.

      If any of you have a problem with this sign, go talk to the owner and ask him about it. Just a suggestion, I bet you will get a lot farther though if you dialogue with him/her in Japanese.

    28. Outlier Says:

      “When in Rome…” should be something that is universally shared by all people who come to Japan to live.”

      The cliche used by the foreign community you hear most in Japan. Sorry, its much more to it than that. Thats part of the problem. Those of us in Rome as you put it have put in allot of effort to make it work, only to face another barrier. The problem is no matter how hard you try, it feels your not welcome. If I said to a Spanish speaking person in the U.S., when in Rome…..well all hell would break loose. Its a double standard and actually using that cliche on us NJ who have been here 10+ is an insult.

    29. Mini mac Says:

      Whereas the sign is in perfect English, I think it fails to accurately communicate the sentiments required to get the message across to gaijin.

      They should have asked a New Yorker to translate it and I’d like to suggest something along the lines of:

      “If you cant speak the fucking language, we’ll cut your hair how we fucking like and that is. Take it or leave it … and there is no point shouting at us and complaining afterwards because we won’t understand either!”

      As the master of regular 1,200 Yen haircuts (and that includes the upside down hairwash, cut throat shave, and nose and ear hair surgery), I have no idea what this complaint is about.

      I have never once in my life had the haircut I wanted even when communicating it perfectly in my native tongue to a native speaking hairdresser … and now I am too old to really care. However, I do enjoy being feted upon by 6 individuals carrying out a job that could perfectly be done by one, count them; cutter, towel and creme boy, shaver, post-cut trimmer, washer, nose, ear and minor stray hair finisher. I have never gone for the blow job after option, which would include a 7th person, or am I confusing them with the local healthy delivery service and an extra 2,000 ¥ charge? Ah, to live in such a wonderfully accommodating, service oriented nation as Japan.

      Come on guys, all they are thinking about is YOUR happiness and satisfaction (and avoid the hassle which might not involve being paid afterwards)…

      [lengthy tangent deleted; stay on topic]

    30. Norik Says:

      I simply love it how some Japanese tend to explain every intercultural miscommunication with language barrier, while it is a matter of semantics. J hairdressers are used to Japanese hairs and Japanese style haircuts, which match Japanese facial anatomical features.That’s why on many forums people ask each other about biyouin where they work (successfully!) with non-Asians too. I’ve received such info from other foreign students while in uni.Before that I’ve had several failures, none of them due to poor language skills.
      For example I say I want a short haircut, and they ask-how short?I show them and they say-so, you actually want medium haircut. Go figure..
      Another time, I was really mad then, was the day before my graduation party, and I go and say I want パーマ.She says OK. UNfortunately, when I say パーマI mean something like Taylor Swift, and they mean something like English Cocker Spaniel…I even drew them a picture!
      The bottom line is-somebody blames their lack of professional skills and knowledge on another’s language skills.Blame it on the gaijin, it is always the easiest way, isn’t it. ANd unfortunately it is not limited to some ignorant hairdresser only.
      I’ve met good hairdressers too, excellent professionals who even keep foreign magazines with non-Asian models for their NJ customers to chose a hairstyle.

    31. amro Says:

      The problem here isn’t that they have trouble servicing non Japanese speakers, it’s that they actually put up a sign. If someone doesn’t speak sufficient Japanese, they wouldn’t be able to ask for service, and thus wouldn’t get it. The sign is superfluous and speaks of a desire to avoid NJ clientele.

      At most, I’d be okay with a sign stating that any misunderstandings from the staff due to language are solely the customer’s problem to avoid issues.

    32. manule Says:

      Then what’s the point in setting up a website in broken english anyway?
      If they do not intend to serve anybody who cannot communicate in japanese,
      then why do they use english and not japanese to describe their business?
      Isn’t that absurd or what?

    33. Jeff J. Says:

      I have thought about this issue for about a day. My final conclusion is that it’s just mean-spirited. Two people of goodwill can CERTAINLY reach a “negotiation of meaning” on something as simple as a cheap haircut.

      The context is clear. A guy walks into QB House, puts 1000 yen in the machine, and wants a shorter haircut. He can bring a photo of what he likes, or gesture a bit if he speaks no Japanese at all. If he is also a person of goodwill, he might try to learn a few simple phrases in Japanese.

      I don’t see how this really needs to be elevated to making a sign which has the underlying message: “We don’t want non-Japanese business.” Because that’s basically the way the sign looks to most people who see it.

      When I first came to Japan, I did not speak Japanese and was able to get haircuts in many different places (local barbers and chains) with no problems. It’s not like the average barber in Japan makes a lot of small talk unless you initiate a conversation.

      I also agree that QB House has few hairstyle options in the first place. As one person said, they basically cut it shorter. The only variations I know of that are: How short do you want the top, the sides, the back, and sideburns?
      They might ask if you want shampoo or a shave. Most of these things could be indicated by just touching your hair and gesturing.

      In fairness, the non Japanese speaking customer would have to understand that they are going to only get the best haircut the barber can give based on what they can communicate. Fair enough. Most QB House haircuts look pretty similar anyway. If you want something really specific, you usually have to find a salon with more personalized service.

      It would be nice if everyone could just use Japanese. But there are many valid reasons why people don’t speak Japanese, and I don’t think it should be a blanket requirement for getting a haircut. Especially in such an international area of town. Ridiculous.

      Shame on QB House for this mean-spirited sign. I certainly won’t be getting a haircut there any time soon.

      — With this post, I think we’re getting close to exhausting the discussion on this topic. Further comments on rights and linguistic obligations of NJ in Japanese society, presumptions on QB’s motivations or possible experiences, or other matters of ease or difficulty of communication of the particular product, without further developing past points, adding new information to the case (might somebody go to the store and ask what’s going on?), or attempting to draw conclusions, will not be approved.

    34. Romain Says:

      34 comments of pure speculation. Please, somebody who speak fluent Japanese, especially the ones that claim to be defending NJ rights in Japan, call the barber shop and ask about this sign, and publish their answer. Then we can all comment.

      PS – this following part of the comment may be deleted as it has no direct relation with this article but is more about speculation itself…
      I remember an article on this blog about a hotel in Susukino that would refuse all non-Chinese, including Japanese. I even posted a comment about how bad this business practice is. Well we were all speculating.. nobody really checked the truth out of it or contacted the manager to ask their positions. How do I know ?? well, a Swedish friend (caucasian, and non-Japanese-speaker tourist) stayed there a few months ago without any trouble…

      — Oh. Then that’s news. But if you read the blog entry on this, you would have seen that somebody DID call the hotel (me) and confirmed that only Chinese may stay there. As did several newspapers. You might want to confirm with your friend that it’s the same place (there are lots of hotels in the area).

      PS: I tried to find that QB House branch’s phone number, was unsuccessful. Somebody please stop by, as I suggested a comment ago.

    35. Romain Says:

      the hotel is “Toyoko Inn Sapporo Susukino Minami”, on South 6 very close to Toyohira river.
      I picked him up myself there, so I am positive about the location.
      I was in the lobby, and there seemed to be Japanese customers as well.

      The hotel is (very) vaguely mentionned in Josef’s (the person I was picking up) blog : , at DAY 156 (he even mentionned the receptionist was Chinese).

      however, he also says in other posts that many smaller hotels refused him (not directly for being a foreign looking, but that was his feeling) ; but this supposedly Chinese-only hotel accepted him, this is for sure.

      — Well, good. Seems they changed their policy.

    36. Norik Says:

      Just now talked with Ms Noma from the customer support center. She explained that QB House doesn’t have a policy of excluding/refusing service to people with little or nonr Japanese language skills. She told me also that, since the staff isn’t trained in English, it is quite possible that if a person with low language skills isn’t able to explain what exactly does he want, the barber/hairdresser may misunderstand him and give him a wrong haircut. If anyone is ready to have haircut under this condition, they are welcome. She promised to report the exclusive sign and Tameike-ten to the main office. Again, QB house doesn’t have policy of discriminating people on their language skills, she said. If you don’t speak the language well bringing a photo or drawing a picture is encouraged.As for the telephone, she explained that none of the QBHouse shops has a telephone-this is the company’s policy.

      — Thank you very much for the fine detective work and reportage, Norik. Let’s hope the sign comes down.

    37. MWB Says:

      Dear Eido Inoue, no, actually in my 32 years, and hundreds of haircuts in America, I have NEVER seen anyone flip-out over a bad hair-cut. Not to say it never ever happens, but I think it is rare, and I have never ever seen it. I doubt you have either.

    38. crustpunker Says:

      I just passed by a QB located in an AEON shopping center here in Kagawa and the entire “menu” of cuts and prices is written in multiple places in English and Japanese. I took a photo if interested…. Seems like it must be just the one branch then?

    39. Joe Says:

      My town in Fukuoka has the same. There’s one in Saga too. I actually went into the Saga branch a while back and asked if they could trim my beard. They couldn’t; they only do haircuts but the guy I spoke to was very apologetic, gave me his meishi and inisted that I come back next time I needed a haircut. Very friendly.

    40. crustpunker Says:


      Yes, It seemed like the one I passed in Kagawa on Sunday fully welcomed clients who were not native Japanese speakers. (based on the signs anyway) I may have been a bit premature in suggesting that QB go and eat a bag of dicks…

      Still, though the shop in Tokyo may have had good intentions for whatever reason, the simple act of putting up an official notification in a barbershop that essentially says customers may be refused service based on language ability is NOT something that would fly in most developed countries. An individual with poor or NO English ability still might be refused service in the states in certain situations but at least they have the good sense not to put up a friggin SIGN…

    41. OG Steve Says:

      Let’s remember that ironically, American businesses DO often have signs which say “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone”. D’oh!“We+reserve+the+right+to+refuse+service+to+anyone”

      So when business owners write a sign which gives a reason they are going to refuse service to you (whether it be race, language, whatever) we of course, rightly, get upset about the fact the company is openly announcing their discriminatory practice, but… when business owners write a VAGUE sign which doesn’t give an exact reason they are going to refuse service to you (like “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone”) we strangely DON’T complain about these vague signs.

      Why don’t we complain about those vague signs? Are we so naive to believe that business owners who put up those vague signs are only going to use their self-proclaimed “right to refuse” strictly in “the appropriate, right, correct” situations?

      Of course not, business owners who put up those vague “right to refuse” signs can and do successfully play the ugly game of discrimination like this:

      “Yeah, Mr. Lawyer, I hear what you said, you’ve come here to ask me why I kicked your client out of my shop. Well as you can plainly read the sign on the wall says ‘We have the right to refuse service to ANYONE’, it doesn’t specifically say ‘Anyone who does something dangerous’ or ‘Anyone who does something bad’ (which is what you perhaps are naively assuming it to mean) nope, it simply says ‘ANYONE’.

      “Now, it seems to me that you are trying to claim that I kicked out your client based on his race, now that’s a serious claim there partner, and furthermore you want me to admit this crime right now to you verbally, so that you can take me to court and easily win a discrimination lawsuit against me.

      “Well, my answer is simple: our business never, ever, ever, would do anything illegal, we never have, never do, and never will. Whenever we utilize our god-given supreme-court-upheld Right to Refuse ANYONE from standing on our property and doing business with us, we always refuse for one of the LEGAL reasons, of course, whatever they may happen to be, and finally Mr. Lawyer: we don’t have to answer your questions about the DETAILS of what we we’re thinking during any particular refusal, neither to you nor to a police officer. And even if the police officer, without any admitting testimony from us, were somehow legally able to arrest us on the charge of suspected racial discrimination based on someone’s sob-story, when court time comes around we’ll simply answer “Not guilty”. We don’t have to prove our innocence. This isn’t some country with Napoleonic justice like Japan. This is America. (And worst case, if the judge really wanted to hear a denial, I can claim that the customer’s eyes were darting back and forth suspiciously like someone about to commit a crime or something, and that’s why we kicked him out.) Good luck PROVING that I was thinking racist thoughts, you don’t know what goes on in my mind. That’s why I chose this vague sign. That’s why clubs in America use bouncers who are given secret orders to discriminate about who gets in and who doesn’t get in. See, we have learned how to continue discrimination while simply pretending the discrimination doesn’t exist. You just need a vague sign, or a bouncer who will hide the owners orders about which races are allowed, and which races aren’t.

      “Now Mr. Lawyer, you too, it’s your turn to see my utilize my Right to Refusal. Get off my property immediately. And have a nice day!” :-)

      — Please relate this rant back to the blog post in question or I will have to remove it.

    42. gilesdesign Says:

      I work with a japanese person who is deaf (from a young age) so his speech is also impaired. To people that dont know him it can be difficult to understand his speaking but in our office we are all used to it and communicate via various means. he is very good at inventing sign language so that is surprisingly easy to understand him even for people with no signing ability. So hardly anyone has a problem communicating with him. We are all designers so we often communicate with sketches too, the notepad and pen is a common tool in conversations between all of us.
      I hope he would not be excluded from QB cuts. Maybe they could just provide a notepad and pen and we would all be fine. I am sure a lot of pointing at magazines is the norm in Japanese hair salons anyway. Even for the most eloquent Japanese speakers theres nothing better than a picture to explain what you mean.

    43. OG Steve Says:

      OK, I’ll relate that rant back to the blog post in question by concluding as follows:

      At least that branch manager is ADMITTING that he or she discriminates, and that the discrimination is specifically against non-speakers of Japanese.

      That’s much more honest than the places in America with those vague refusal signs that DON’T admit the real reason they are going to kick you out, and that’s much more honest than the places who DON’T post the discrimination reality at all: by using Bouncers who refuse entry to certain races using phrases like “club capacity”, “guest list”, and “dress code”.

      If the truth of the matter happens to be that that manager of that branch has decided to ban foreigners simply because he doesn’t like them, and the “language” reason on his sign is simply tatemae instead of honne, then forcing him to take down the sign isn’t going to solve the real problem, he’s simply going to throw up the “batsu” sign whenever a “whitey” or “darkey” tries to walk in.

      Problem solved for him, he can simply take down the legally dangerous sign while covertly continuing the discriminatory practice. Great. We won, we stopped discrimination! Or will se simply take down the signs and make the discriminators become more covert as in America? :-)

      — It’s not clear what you are advocating here.

      Are you extolling the virtues of having clearly exclusionary signs up because the exclusionary attitudes are clearly more “honest”… therefore more honorable? And a therefore a good thing?


      Are you decrying the fundamental “dishonesty” of people who really have to work much harder in other societies (“we reserve the right… to refuse service … to anyone”) in order to discriminate — wording their signs or rules more carefully, so as to avoid the mechanisms of societies where anti-discrimination legislation and enforcement authorities are in place?

      It’s not as easy as you make out in the second case (i.e. just put up a vague sign and presto, covert and unfettered discrimination). There are plenty of means to make sure the exclusionism is not for reasons related to race (“no shoes, no shirt, no service” — put those on and there’s no excuse; “not on the guest list” — if you can gather enough evidence to make the case that guests are being selected by race, then you’ve got a case for court or for local anti-discrimination authorities to investigate), not to mention entire societies sensitized to the issue to the degree where other extralegal means of applying pressure (boycotts, pickets, bad press, and anti-defamation leagues) are also present. There are plenty of means to investigate and tamp down on discrimination once alleged, and it’s not as much an uphill battle when society clearly frowns upon exclusionary activity — keeping a beady eye on potential transgressors.

      But if you prefer the first case just because it’s somehow more “honest” (and you seem to be advocating that the exclusionary sign should stay up — for forcing it to come down merely drives discrimination underground and makes the rules covert), then all those knock-on anti-discrimination means go out the window, since inaction (or action by a tiny vocal minority) makes any protest seem ineffectual, and clear and present exclusionary signs become “the acceptable thing to do”. As history shows, discrimination left untouched merely grows, mutates, and ultimately assumes a self-justifying dynamic of “everyone else is doing it; hey, it’s so widespread that it’s a cultural thing now; it’s just how we do things, and what keeps our society running smoothly and orderly…”

      So let’s be clear. You want exclusionary signs to stay up?

    44. OG Steve Says:

      I want the victims to be able to make the discriminators PAY, via successful lawsuits.

      When a discriminator puts up a sign announcing that he is discriminating against “all foreigners”, a photo of this sign becomes easily admissible evidence of his discriminatory POLICY.

      Of course, unfortunately, one needs to be a naturalized Japanese citizen to successfully sue (because the Japanese constitution translators changed “people” to “citizens”) but the main point is this: AT LEAST, with the signs up, a naturalized Japanese citizen can successfully make the discriminators pay, as you did.

      If the bathhouse HADN’T stupidly post that sign stating their company policy, if they simply had quietly refused service one-by-one to “gaikoku-DNA-people” that tried to enter, by throwing up the “batsu” sign with their hands WITHOUT explaining why, it would have been MUCH harder for you to have received that 111 man yen.

      WITHOUT the sign, if you took them to court, the company could reply, “No no, it’s not our company policy to discriminate against foreigners, not at all. There are a million and one legal reasons why one of our staff might have refused entry to you. And we don’t have to prove which one it was. Just for conversation, here are 2 examples: It’s company policy to follow fire safety rules, and on that day perhaps we simply might have been at capacity. Who knows. And no, we don’t have to prove that we were. Did you happen to collect any proof that we WEREN’T at capacity on that day? No? Then you don’t have proof of a discriminatory policy, you simply have a sob-story and speculation about our inner thoughts. Case closed. It’s also company policy to protect our staff from anyone who “appears” or “seems” to be possibly dangerous, regardless of race, gender, age, etc., and on that day perhaps one of our staff simply might have made a case-by-case judgment call, which is both his right as an employee, and our right as a company. (As they say in America, “We have the right to reserve service to ANYONE, we don’t have to prove the reason each time, we simply can no longer post those explicit ‘No Coloreds’ signs like we used to.) So, did you collect any proof that the staff member who refused you DIDN’T feel you looked dangerous? Of course not. To re-iterate, our company does NOT discriminate against foreigners, and we don’t have to prove our innocence, the onus is on YOU the PLAINTIFF to prove that we have a racially discriminatory policy, and without any sign on the wall… it’s going to be very hard for you to prove. And worst case, even if you prove that the staff member was racist, even if you recorded a verbal conversation with that staff member telling you to get out because you don’t look Japanese, you STILL can’t prove that it was company policy unless you have a photo of a sign or a company manual, so we’ll just quietly “fire” the isolated racist staff member for his “disobeying” our official company policy of “non-discrimination” (and perhaps we’ll rehire him a few months later, after he has been “counseled” and “reformed”, but the main point is, you lose the lawsuit, because you have no proof of a racially discriminatory COMPANY POLICY.”

      Debito brother,

      I want the naturalized Japanese citizens to take photos of signs which stupidly admit the policy of discrimination, so that the judges will be more likely to rule that the business with the policy of discrimination has to pay the plaintiff.

      After we naturalized Japanese citizens get properly paid for the stress of these businesses with openly posted policies of discrimination (say, 7 successful lawsuits per naturalized Japanese citizen = 777 man yen, ka-ching), THEN those racist loser company owners will take down their stupidly-honest signs and start using the clever-hidden legally-unprovable discrimination-techniques: by putting up signs that say “ANYONE” without ever admitting the reason, or by foregoing the signs all together and simply refusing folks one-by-one, case-by-case, without ever admitting the reason.

      PS – As I recall, the Japanese constitution doesn’t even forbid PRIVATE COMPANIES from discriminating against Japanese citizens, it simply forbids GOVERNMENTS from discriminating against Japanese citizens. Oops, thanks a lot for that limiting qualification, American writer of Japanese Constitution.

      And as I recall, even the American constitution itself doesn’t forbid PRIVATE COMPANIES from discriminating against customers, there simply are STATUTES that forbid discriminatory HIRING practices, which is why companies throughout America openly post signs that say, “Right to refuse ANYONE.”

      Final Re-cap:

      If the sign says “We refuse Foreigners”, the racist policy is thus posted, it is easy for naturalized citizen victims to get compensation for feelings hurt due to being refused.

      If there is no sign, if the racist policy is thus hidden, it becomes almost impossible for victims to get compensation for feelings hurt due to being refused.

      And if the sign cleverly says “Right to refuse Anyone”, the racist policy is thus hidden, it becomes almost impossible for victims to get compensation for feelings hurt due to being refused.

      I hope you feel me, I’m not trying to be argumentative at all, I’m simply pointing out some facts are ironic, embarrassing, surprising, unjust, often unnoticed, and painful to admit. :-)

      — I think this debate is worthy of a blog entry of its own. I’ll make it so.

    45. Arudou Debito Says:


      I have heard that the sign has come down at QB House Tameike Sannou. Anyone care to drop by and visually confirm that?

    46. tt Says:

      Also, signs that say “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone” have no legal validity in the US. I learned this from the lawyer who was teaching my Business Law class. Even though those words sound very “truthy”, Those are just words on a sign. The establishment has no such “right” to be “reserving”. Just like the sign “enter at your own risk” also never saved anyone from being sued. If it were that easy to disclaim your legal obligations, then everyone would simply put a sign up, and proceed to be as negligent as they want to be.

    47. In English, Please! | Japan Probe Says:

      […] it seems that a couple sites have been discussing a sign that was found at a QB House barber shop in […]

    48. Maurizio Says:

      Hi, I lived in Tokyo for about 5 years and used to work near that QB House shop. I actually had my hair cut there a couple of times. I speak very little Japanese (and that’s a compliment) and read the sign with some preoccupation, but then I just said “short-oh kudasai” and showed a picture of me when I had short hair.

      There is always a way around problems, usually with a smile and the right attitude.

      — Tell that to the signmakers.

    49. debito Says:

      UPDATE JANUARY 14, 2011:

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

    50. OG Steve Says:

      So “may be refused” is now “might be refused”. Big improvement. Thanks alot 空! :-(

      What we want is “might receive the wrong haircut.” Period. No refusals.

    51. Getchan Says:

      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…

    52. Jeff J. Says:

      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.

    53. 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.)

    54. Allen Says:

      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.

    55. Mini mac Says:

      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.

    56. Norik Says:

      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.

    57. carl Says:

      “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.

    58. Kirk Masden Says:

      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.

      外国人の市住入居 「日常会話」で制限賛否











      (2011年1月23日 読売新聞)

    59. Traviss Says:

      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.”

      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.

    60. Keefos Says:

      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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