Hi Blog. Mark Mino-Thompson reports below on his discovery of new “amendments” to the Ryokan Gyouhou (Hotel Management Law), created in English and Japanese legalese and in generic format (meaning written by somebody else) for use in hotels nationwide. They are vague enough to make it seem as though a hotel could refuse a NJ lodging if the lodger poses an “unreasonable/unrational burden” (such as speaking a foreign language or offering beds instead of futons?). Copies of the laws linked below. Debito in Sapporo
From: Mark Mino-Thompson
Subject: [Community] Hotels asking for passports from residents in Japan
Date: January 8, 2008 11:22:07 AM JST
To: The Community Yahoogroup
My family and I went to an Onsen hotel over the holidays. While the reservation was in my name (My wife’s family name + my first name in katakana), my sister-in-law handled the front desk registration, as we were busy with our kids. They didn’t request to see my passport or other ID, although as I wasn’t checking in directly, I can’t say what would have happened if I had been. I did notice that they did have the standard multilingual “May we see your passport?” sign Debito has posted before, featured on the front desk.
Later that day, while reading through the hotel information, I came across the Terms and Conditions for accommodation, printed in Japanese and English. Firstly, I noticed that much like others I’ve seen in various hotels over the past two years erroneously states in Article 8 that:
“The guest shall register the following particulars at the front desk of the Ryokan/Hotel on the day of accommodation: (1) Name, age, sex, address, and occupation of the guest(s) (2) For non Japanese: nationality, passport number, port and date of entry in Japan
This is nothing new. There have been many accounts from others about this error in Japanese hotel documentation. However, the Japanese version also seems to be the same wording as in English.
I’ve attached a scan of the original documents in the files section of the Community yahoogroups site. (Too big to put here as image or thumbnail–see them at Debito.org here:)
Furthermore, as Debito has mentioned and documented before, the Hotel law article 5 states that accomodation can only be refused by the hotel in the case of:
1) a health issue involving contagious disease, 2) a clear and present endangerment of public morals, or 3) because all rooms are full.
However, this hotel terms and conditions Article 5 has additional (new?), disturbing provisions:
Article 5 (Refusal of Accommodation Contracts)
The Ryokan/Hotel may not accept the conclusion of an Accommodation Contract under any of the following cases:
(1) When the application for accommodation does not conform with these Terms and Conditions
(2) When the Ryokan/Hotel is fully booked and no room is available
(3) When the Guest seeking accommodation is deemed liable to conduct himself in a manner that will contravene the laws or act against the public order or good morals
(4) When the guest is clearly detected as carrying an infectious disease
(5) When the Ryokan/Hotel is requested to assume an unreasonable burden in regard to his accommodation [shukuhaku ni kanshi gouriteki na han’i o koeru futan o motomerareta toki–literally, “at times when the burden demanded in terms of staying has superseded the bounds of rationality/reasonability”–there we go with that easily-abusable “gouriteki sabetsu” “rational discrimination” concept again…]
(6) When the Ryokan/Hotel is unable to provide accommodation due to natural calamities, disfunction of the facilities and or other unavoidable causes, or
(7) When the provisions of Article 5 of Iwate Metropolitan/Prefecture Ordinance are applicable.
As you can see, clause number 1 seems to me to have a rather broad range of powers to refuse accommodation. Fail to give up your passport/ID to the front desk and we can deny you a room because you’re not conforming to Article 7 of our Accommodation Contract.
Clause number 5 also is troubling to me. What constitutes an “unreasonable burden” and who decides? Does having Japanese customers complaining about foreign bathers and demanding refunds allow the hotel to refuse non-Japanese out of fear of losing customers? Does not having English-speaking (or other language) staff cause “unreasonable burden” to rural hotels and allow them to turn away people as well?
Clause 7 I haven’t researched as of yet, but it seems that ordinances created at the prefectural level may have the power to refuse others as well.
In addition, these Terms and Conditions, similar to the multilingual front desk signs made by the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare (that Debito has mentioned) seem to be quite professionally made. They are professionally printed on glossy paper, refer to “the Ryokan/Hotel” instead of the actual hotel name and the fact that the English legalese is high and above the ability of most English-speaking hotel clerks would suggest that they were made at either the prefectural (or more likely national) level for all hotels to use.
Any thoughts or comments on my interpretation of this document? Any suggestions or a course of action to get these documents corrected to accurately reflect the new passport ordinance for non-resident visitors and the hotel law itself?
Regards, Mark Mino-Thompson