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Embedded Racism: Japan's Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination

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  • Fukushima Japanese refused service at hotels etc., plus famous excluder/embezzler Toyoko Inn up to old tricks; requires guests unlawfully sign waivers just to stay

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on April 19th, 2011

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    Hi Blog.  Two articles of note for today.  One is from the Yomiuri about the Toyoko Inn, that hotel with a history of not only embezzling monies earmarked for Barrier-Free facilities for handicapped clients, but also wantonly racially profiling and unlawfully refusing entry to NJ clients.  Less than a week after the Tohoku Disasters, the Yomiuri reports, Toyoko Inns in Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, and Ibaraki Prefectures were requiring customers to sign waiver contracts, absolving Toyoko of any responsibility should disaster strike.  No signature means you couldn’t get accommodation, which is under the Hotel Management Law (and the Consumer Contract Law, mentioned below), unlawful.  What a piece of work Toyoko Inn is.  Again, hotels doing things like this deserve to be boycotted for bad business practices.

    (One more article after this one.)



    読売新聞2011年3月18日 Courtesy MS







    Then there are the knee-jerk hotels in Japan who go into spasm to deny service whenever possible.  If it’s the case of NJ guests (27% of Japanese hotels surveyed, according to a 2008 GOJ survey, indicated they want no NJ guests at all), things get even more spastic:  Either a) they Japanese hotels get deputized by the NPA to racially profile their clients, refusing foreign-looking people entry if they don’t show legally-unnecessary ID, or b) they put signs up to refuse NJ clients entry because they feel they “can’t offer sufficient service” (seriously), or c) they refuse NJ because of whatever “safety issue” they can dredge up, including the threat of theft and terrorism, or even d) they get promoted by government tourist agencies despite unlawfully having exclusionary policies.  What a mess Japan’s hotel industry is.

    As for Japanese guests?  Not always better.  Here’s the latest mutation:  The Yomiuri reports places are refusing Japanese people too from irradiated Fukushima Prefecture because they think they might be glowing:



    読売新聞2011年4月9日 Courtesy ADW





    (2011年4月9日09時14分 読売新聞)


    As the article lays out, it’s not just a hotel (although hotels have a particular responsibility, even under the law, to offer refuge and rest to the paying public).  A gas station reportedly had a sign up refusing Fukushima Kenmin (they must think Fukushimans spark!), while complaints came in to official soudan madoguchi that a restaurant refused Fukushimans entry and someone had his car defaced.  In all, 162 complaints reportedly came in regarding fuhyou higai, or roughly “damages due to disreputation” of being tarred by the disasters.  Now that’s an interesting word for a nasty phenomenon.

    Good news is that these problems are at least being reported in the media as a social problem, and Fukushima Prefecture is asking the national government to address them.  Let’s hope the GOJ takes measures to protect Fukushima from further exposure to “fuhyou” and discrimination.  Might be a template for getting the same for NJ.

    (Okay, probably not, but it’s still the right thing to do.)  Arudou Debito

    12 Responses to “Fukushima Japanese refused service at hotels etc., plus famous excluder/embezzler Toyoko Inn up to old tricks; requires guests unlawfully sign waivers just to stay”

    1. Matt at Anarchy Japan Says:

      Not allowing a person to stay at your hotel because you fear they might be contaminated strikes me as not only unreasonable but rather inhumane. Can you imagine what some people in Fukushima have been through, and then they go to a hotel and they can’t even check in? They should get a bow of reverence and an “otsukaresama” at minimum.

      Here’s another issue that is cropping up a little similar to the stuff you are blogging about these days:
      “Japanese automakers have begun to measure the radiation levels of their vehicles for export in a bid to quell rumors overseas about possible contamination due to the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, an industry body said Monday.”

      Apparently they did, in fact, find some radiation. But not at a level that could cause health concerns. But this hints at the stigmatization of certain Japanese goods — something we’ve already seen as far as farm produce.

    2. john k Says:

      Perhaps the growing problem this shall create, that of being stigmatised, may help NJs in the long run.

      Since all those arguements which were ignored or laughed at by GoJ (and a very long list of others) of NJs and their treatment by GoJ et al, is occuring to their own blood.

      How shall they repsond??….will they laugh at them or tell them to go home, as we are..oh wait, they are at home!

      This shall be interesting….

    3. James Annan Says:

      I can’t help but feel a bit of schadenfreude about the shutters coming down on Japanese exports, particularly food. You know that Japan would be the first to do the same if there was a hint of contamination elsewhere – just look at US beef, for example. Not that it makes it right, but that’s the politics of international trade.

      The hotel thing is disgusting and ignorant, though.

      — Yes, that is happening to disadvantaged individuals, not between governments.

    4. Wes Says:

      I stayed at the Toyoko INN in Ichinoseki for a week covering the disaster. I felt a little hesitant as I have read reports about their discrimination. The staff in Ichinoseki were nothing but absolutley helpful. I am often prickly about unecessary requests for IDs and passports and other demands. No such requests were made. Maybe I got lucky, but that particular Toyoko Inn has nothing but my appreciation.

      — Good.

    5. Rachel Says:

      I guess this proves that irrational fear would make people lash out against anyone, countrymen or not. It also says something about the lack of information available to the general public (have there been any campaigns explaining what ‘radioactive contamination’ actually is?)

    6. HO Says:

      Debito, you might be interested in this report titled “Rule of Law index” that compares justice systems and protection of civil rights by major countries in the world prepared by an international group called “World Justice Project”.

      The report ranks Japan higher than US in almost all factors including “Access to Civil Justice”, “Fundamental Rights” and “Effective Criminal Justice”. When you look at the sub-factors, you also find Japan ranks higher in “Equal treatment and Absence of Discrimination”.

      You may agree or disagree with the report, but it may be of interest to you.

      — Thanks for it. It’s not quite germane to this blog entry though. Please repost it within one. You must feel proud, and somehow even vindicated.

    7. Nogbad Says:

      Debito, just to note that other’s experiences with ID copying by Toyoko Inns do not match my own.
      Over the past few years, I have stayed 42 nights as part of 36 stays at 31 different Toyoko Inns and I have never once been asked for a passport or ID.
      I have been asked for my passport at 3 other hotels though, a high-end ryokan in Hakone and a supposed high-grade business hotel in Kyoto (imagine beautiful large public areas, but really cruddy bedrooms), both asked for my passport, but didn’t press the issue when I refused. Only, an APA hotel in Osaka wouldn’t let me stay without copying my ARC last year, other APA hotels have been fine though.

      Interestingly, I took advantage of the quiet ‘planes last week and returned to my home country for a few days, in one hotel all was fine until I added my loyalty card to the booking, which was registered to my Japanese address – they then required my passport and copied out information from it. So apparently the UK has similar ID laws for hotel stays for non-residents as Japan. Though I doubt it’s as easy to apply it there in a discriminatory fashion.

    8. Hello Says:

      The Super Hotel next to China Town in Yokohama requires me every time to show an ID proving that I am a Japanese resident (not a tourist), just based on the fact that I do not have a Japanese name/do not look Japanese.

    9. Rodney Says:

      Every time I have stayed at capsule hotels in Shibuya and another near Hamamastucho, I had to give them my ARC and it was copied. I dont get paid enough to stay in business hotels, so I cant comment on them. Also, Tokyo has a new policy for its internet cafes, you must show ID and I think it was copied if I remember. New law in Tokyo, check it out.

    10. Barry Says:

      “Tokyo has a new policy for its internet cafes, you must show ID and I think it was copied if I remember. New law in Tokyo, check it out.”

      Yeah, I found that out last week. Not only did they want to copy my gaijin card the cafe staff also wanted me to fill out a detailed sheet. I told them forget it.

    11. Bob Says:

      Barry – Doesn’t have to be your gaijin card. A driver’s license or other government issued photo ID works fine, among many other options. Check out page 8 of the following PDF from keisatsucho (Japanese) for details:
      Japanese passport, certificate of matters listed on your gaijin card, some koseki type things, pension contribution booklet, basically anything that allows the operator to confirm your name, address and birth date is OK.
      Be glad you aren’t trying to operate one of these places – the amount of information they collect about operators is even more intrusive (page 4).

    12. Nogbad Says:

      Old topic, I know. But an update on practices at the popular-with-foriegners budget hotel chain, Toyoko Inn. I used to be a big fan of Toyoko Inn and stayed at them far more than is good for me. However, I haven’t stayed at one for quite a while, but I was booking a room for someone yesterday and found that they were now requiring credit card details to reserve a room. Not sure when this changed, but was a bit surprised as I had never been asked for this before in Japan. So I changed to the Japanese version of the page and lo and behold the booking went through with no credit card needed (Chinese and Korean versions also didn’t need a deposit when I checked). I’ve seen other hotels set higher prices before for English language booking (but accept that usually it’s due to higher cost of doing business as they use a 3rd party to handle their English internet), but I wondered how widespread this practice was of needing deposits from those reserving hotels in English, but not in Japanese.

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