Hi Blog. Report from Ms Amira Rahman, the wife of a foreign diplomat, Mr Rahman Hamid, Commerce Section, Embassy of Pakistan in Tokyo, who received a terrible shock when trying to enroll their 3-year-old daughter in a Tokyo ballet school.
Report follows. Contact courtesy of the Tokyo With Kids.com website forum. Text authored by Ms. Amira Rahman, adapted by Arudou Debito from the original. Copious debate and comments follow.
I am a wife of a foreign diplomat representing the Government of Pakistan, and we wanted our little girl to start ballet (she is almost 4)–we thought she would look soooo cute in a tutu.
The place we went to enroll her MG International Arts of Ballet located in Photo house MG Hall, 5-5-9 Azabu Minato Ku Tokyo, December 13th 2007, around 4pm.
東京都港区麻布5丁目5-9 後藤ハウスB1F MGホール
地下鉄日比谷線 広尾駅下車 徒歩 5分
firstname.lastname@example.org, Person in charge Gotou Mariko.
No phone number listed at 104.
MG International Arts of Ballet, MG Hall, B1F GOTO House 5-5-9
Minami-Azabu Minato-ku, Tokyo.
My husband took his official translator along for this exchange also. At the reception we were greeted coldly from the start, and when we requested information about ballet for our daughter we were told that this school does not accept international students.
Thinking she meant they needed students to understand ballet instruction in Japanese we argued that our daughter goes to a local Hoikuen and can understand Japanese. But to our surprise the lady told us that we would need a reference to enter this school.
Still misunderstanding her attitude my husband informed her that his blood relative, an aunt who is Japanese, referred us to this particular school. The lady flat out refused to entertain anything, and after being insulted in such a fashion we left the place with our daughter crying.
We will not under any circumstance be sending our child to such a racist establishment and have already enrolled her in another school.
My husband will be raising this issue with the Japanese Foreign Ministry and the Minato ]-Ku ward. He says that it is not a petty issue. Such people and establishments should be exposed for their racist behavior, and the general public should be made aware of their attitude.
Your dissemination on your blog of what happened to us to other people will serve as a means to identifying such people, and save a lot of them the heartache and disgust we felt when we left that place. Turning such a beautiful art form into something this ugly is a crime in our books.
I have no need to be anonymous because I want people to know what happened, and want to find ways to make sure this does not happen to other expatriate families.
COMMENT: I have tried to contact Ms Gotoh to confirm for myself what happened (I will send her this blog entry at the email address listed above), but cannot find her phone number by any public means. I also called the Japan Ballet Association (Nihon Barei Kyoukai) at 03-5437-0371 and talked to two people there, but they neither could tell me much about what might have gone on (as MG is not a member of their association), nor could believe that she could be turning away a student on the basis of her nationality.
Nor can I. Ms Gotoh clearly has benefited a great deal from her contacts and opportunities in foreign countries. According to her school’s site, she has trained at Academic de Dense Classique Princesse Grace in Monte-Carlo, The Royal Ballet School in London, Deutsche Oper am Rhein, Staats Theater Hannover, and Buhnen der Landeshauptstadt Kiel in Germany. She was also in the New National Theatre Tokyo in Japan.
The site says she also “speaks English well” (she even advertises her classes on a website in English), so what’s with the language barrier?
The author is willing to be identified by name, is willing to take responsibility for her claims, and has given sufficient detail in her report, so I’m blogging it. I hope that after I email Ms Gotoh this blog entry at email@example.com that she will contact me and clear this issue up.
Arudou Debito in Sapporo, Japan
UPDATE DEC 15:
I received a very prompt response in English and Japanese from the ballet school:
Subject: Re: To Ms Gotoh: “Japanese Only” Ballet school in Azabu, Tokyo?
Date: December 14, 2007 11:45:46 PM JST
有道 出人 様、
今回の件は”Japanese Only”には該当しませんが、クレームをいただいた夫婦の 方に嫌な思いを
== DRAFT ====================================
Mr. Arudou Debito
Thank you for your inquiry to us.
Regrettably I suggest that you should examine the “FACT” before blogged in public.
You made a couple of critical mistakes on this claim.
We have international students now and for these past 8years after establishment of our school.
And Ms. Goto did not meet this lady yesterday because of class teaching, it was our school staff woman that I confirmed having interview..
I’m afraid that you, Mr. Arudou Debito, already have a kind of preoccupation based on a one-sides e-mail from a lady.
If our school is “Japanese Only” and refuse foreigners having racial discrimination, Why do we have international students now and in the past?
Why do we have website in English as you know?
Before confirming these facts and truth, you’ve already blogged one-sides story and Ms.Goto’s privacy in public.
How do you take your responsibility against the fact?
If you would like to injure reputation of our school or Ms.Goto , we should consider taking official steps to deal with the situation
like you do with several cases.
I also would like to ask you on the “RIGHTS” standing point, what’s your idea of keeping Ms.Goto’s privacy and rights?
You may say you tried to contact us but could not find phone number…but you should send a e-mail like many people do before blogged.
The reason why we could not accept her application yesterday was simply “pre-ballet class” is full capasity now.
A little pretty girl had no blame, including her nationality, for the reason why we couldn’t accept.
We are trying to treat fairly all people if they are Forigner, Japanese or any nationality even a diplomat or any occupation.
And our staff confuzed hearing this lady’s reaction…..We dazed our communication gap.
I know we both side have each story to tell and it’s not appropriate to claim each other’s story in public,,because we don’t
have international human rights issue here..
We sometime don’t accept application even Japanese if someone, or parents of small child, is not appropriate to our
school with some reason….. manner, attitude, decency, cooperation, security etc.
Our ballet school is small private school for membership.
Your claim is coming from human rights standing point and we have foreign student now and in the past as I mentioned.
If you would like to confirm this fact/truth, I’ll accept your coming to observe students with no making trouble condition.
I know we have no obligation to accept you but I do .
After your confirming this evidence by yourself, I strongly request your apology in public for giving irrationality impression in public,
I think that’s the fair manners for RIGHTS of our ballet scool and Ms.Goto.
I took a look at your website and your book “Japanese only”, and I can understand your claim on this.
Personally I have 20years experience of working for foreign company, so I understand we have multiculturalism
issue to solve in Japan.
I understand your point and I’m sorry that our case does not fit to your campaign.
I don’t response to your further question on this except your coming request to confirm the FACT/Truth.
I know Sapporo got into very cold winter season with lots of snow.
I hope you take good care of yourself.
Thank you for living Japan and your social activities.
Love People, Love Arts, Love Ballet!
Secretary < < MG International Arts of Ballet >>
MG Hall B1F GOTO House 5-5-9 Minami-Azabu Minato-ku, Tokyo.
HERE’S HOW I RESPONDED:
To M. Uchino,
Thank you very much for your speedy response. I reply in English for the sake of saving time.
I have forwarded your response to Ms. Rahman, and will await her response before taking any further action on my blog. I will of course put your answer in both English and Japanese on my blog, and Ms Rahman’s answer (if there is one) also on my blog later. If there is a discussion to be had, I will gladly facilitate it. Please feel free also to respond directly on the blog if you would prefer.
And yes, I would be happy to stop by your school in January (when I will be in Tokyo for speeches) to meet you and hear your side of the story.
You do admit in your explanation that your school does refuse students. Of course, the reasons for refusing any student are very important (and I have a hard time believing that “security” could ever be a concern). If, as Ms. Rahman claims, your representative refused her daughter because MS School does not take international students, there clearly is a communication problem, especially in the face of how your school portrays itself on its website.
In any case, Ms Rahman is very upset at this situation. Having this much upset happen in customer relations is something that should be avoided. Let’s hear her side of the story next.
Thank you for engaging in a dialog on this issue, and, as you note in the Japanese version of your email, for reading my website so carefully. I hope we can reach an understanding on this issue between you and Ms. Rahman.
Sincerely, Arudou Debito in Sapporo
December 15, 2007
UPDATE: 8PM SATURDAY DEC 15, 2007:
I JUST RECEIVED A PHONE CALL FROM THE HONORABLE RAHMAN HAMID, HEAD OF THE COMMERCE SECTION IN THE EMBASSY OF PAKISTAN. I HAVE RECEIVED HIS CONTACT DETAILS FOR CONFIRMATION AT THE EMBASSY OF PAKISTAN, AND CAN REPORT TO DEBITO.ORG THE FOLLOWING DETAILS:
1) MR HAMID CAME TO JAPAN FOUR MONTHS AGO, CHOOSING JAPAN OVER SEVERAL OTHER POSSIBLE COUNTRIES BECAUSE HE WANTED HIS CHILDREN TO LEARN JAPANESE AND THE DISCIPLINE AND MANNERS OF JAPAN. HE SAW THE DISCIPLINE PROBLEMS IN THE YOUTH OF OTHER COUNTRIES, AND THOUGHT JAPAN WOULD BE A BETTER PLACE FOR HIS CHILDREN.
2) HE HAS SENT PROTEST LETTERS ABOUT THIS INCIDENT TO VARIOUS OTHER JAPANESE AGENCIES, AND WILL SEND ME A COPY OF THE LETTER (IT’S A PUBLIC DOCUMENT) FOR INCLUSION ON DEBITO.ORG IN DUE TIME.
3) HE HAS SINCE BEEN CONTACTED BY OTHER BALLET SCHOOLS THANKS TO THIS INCIDENT COMING OUT ON DEBITO.ORG, AND HAVE BEEN ASKED TO ENROLL THEIR DAUGHTER THERE INSTEAD.
NOW THAT THIS IS A MATTER OF THE EMBASSY OF PAKISTAN TAKING OVER RESPONSIBILITY FOR THIS ISSUE, THE THREAT OF LAWSUIT FROM THE SCHOOL (MADE CLEAR IN THE ENGLISH BUT NOT THE MUCH MILDER JAPANESE VERSION OF THE LETTER FROM THE SCHOOL) IS A NON-ISSUE.
THANKS FOR EVERYONE’S CONCERNS. ARUDOU DEBITO IN SAPPORO
RESPONSE FROM MS RAHMAN AGAIN:
From: Amira Rahman
Subject: Response to MG International
Date: December 15, 2007 8:11:55 PM JST
I can believe their claim that they have had foreign students in the past but I would like to contradict one small important point which is we were told that this school does not accept foreigners and no mention whatsoever was made of pre ballet classes being full. If they had said this in the first place we would understand immediatly and have had no hard feelings at all because we had a list of 6 other schools in the area we were going to visit.
My only question is have they ever had a student from Pakistan in their school. Please accept their invitation to see their school for yourself and verify the information I have asked. If there has been even one of us there I will gladly chalk it up to misunderstanding on my behalf and apologize otherwise my husband and I will continue in trying to get an apology for their behaviour towards us.
I can also believe that the owners of the establishment or the teachers may have no clue as to what happened at the reception and were not a part of this incident at all but they must acknowledge that somehow, somewhere a misunderstanding took place that led to us feeling insulted. I know the owner is a ballerina of repute and has international credentials to her name and her business is in Hiroo which incidentally is a center of Embassies from around the world, therefore it is my observation that she should lay great emphasis on training staff to deal with “Foreigners”. If I have not stated this earlier the lady at the reception was most cordial but her changing requirements for enrollment and attitude left no room for error that we were not wanted in this place.
My husband says it was nice talking to you and he will be emailing his letter to the school to you on Monday first thing in the morning.
Please do not apologize to anyone on our behalf because you are the voice with which people like us can speak and because of you 2 schools contacted us for our daughter already.
Please keep up the good work and our prayers and blessings are with you.