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  • Yamanashi English school want ad: “blonde hair blue or green eyes and brightly character” (with updates)

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on November 28th, 2006

    Hi Blog. Just got this information from Alberto and David in Yamanashi. It’s a want ad for “E.R. English School” (motto: “Be All That You Can be” [sic]) in Kofu, Yamanashi-ken, saying, quote:

    ===================================
    WANTED IMMEDIETLY [sic] NATIVE SPEAKER

    E R English School needs a native speaker. Blonde hair
    blue or green eyes and brightly character. [sic]
    Please contact E R English School immedietly. [sic]

    Ph: 055-241-4070
    Yuji and Jocelyn Iwashita
    ===================================
    E.R. English School Sign

    Photo courtesy David Markle. Thanks. Click on thumbnail for larger image.

    It’s pretty clear that Jocelyn hadn’t proofread the ad, and I was intrigued as to why the Yamanashi International Assocation (Yamanashi Ken Kokusai Kouryuu Kyoukai, website http://www.yia.or.jp/, phone 055-228-5419) had approved of such a thing.

    So I gave the ER English School a call this afternoon and talked to a Mr Sata, the person in charge of all of this.

    We had a nice conversation and a frank exchange of views. His points were:

    1) The person wanted for this ad would be hired to teach kids at a local kindergarten (youchien). The principal (enchou) specifically wanted to acclimatize their kids to people who speak English, and to the principal’s mind, that meant somebody that had blond hair and blue or green eyes.

    2) Yes, Mr Sata was aware that not all squash is zucchini, and that not all English speakers have blond hair and blue and green eyes. His school, after all, even employs Thais and Indians as English-speaking staff. But this is what the school principal wanted, so as this is their school’s job, they have to oblige. He did not feel as though this was a matter of discrimination.

    3) Yes, Mr Sata was aware that this is a similar argument that a realtor might make–that “no pets, no gaijin” rules are merely at the behest of landlords, and that shifting the blame to the customer and his needs doesn’t let either party off the hook vis-a-vis discrimination. But this is business, and this is what the customer needs.

    4) Yes, Mr Sata was aware that educational institutions in particular have an obligation not to promote prejudices and stererotypes. However, This is Japan and Japanese culture, he said. This is the image that Japan has of foreigners, so shikata ga nai.

    5) Yes, Mr Sata was aware that there are plenty of children out there with gaijinesque pigmentation, Japanese and non-Japanese, in Japanese schools. Yes, they might be adversely affected by this “eigojin” syndrome and get socially othered. He, after all, has “half” children (as he put it) of his own. But anyway.

    6) No, Mr Sata didn’t feel as though my calling the Kindergarten principal and directly explaining the problems with promoting these stereotypes would do any good. No need to confront the principal. Better to give the customer what they want and work with them later to change their mind.

    7) No, Mr Sata didn’t feel as though the job advertisement was discriminatory. Yes, people with other phenotypes would not be refused the job, regardless of what the ad might say. Yes, they would consider rewording the ad. But still, those are the job specifications as per what the customer wants, and we have to stay in business. Even if it means selling asbestos or other toxic, damaging elements into society (okay, so we didn’t really get into this argument…)

    And that was that. I enjoyed the talk. We stayed friendly throughout. Dunno if I changed any minds, however, particularly his. As the Corelone family would say, this is just business.

    Feel free express your opinion to E R English House yourself. It doesn’t seem to have a website or an email address, but it’s regular address according to the phone book is Yamanashi Ken Koufu Shi Ushiroya-chou 323-4

    055-241-4070 山梨県甲府市後屋町323-4
    http://phonebook.yahoo.co.jp/bin/search?p=055-241-4070

    If I have time, let’s see what the Yamanashi International Association has to say about this. They approved this ad, after all. Debito in Sapporo

    ================================
    UPDATE NOV 29

    Just sent out a letter to the appropriate authorities and human rights lists in Japanese. See the text at
    http://www.debito.org/?p=93

    ================================
    UPDATE DEC 5

    According to local human-rights sources, the Yamanashi International Association will be taking this issue up. More when I know more.

    ================================
    UPDATE DEC 17

    Got the following letter from the Yamanashi International Association, saying that they were sorry and would be more careful in future. No word from the local Bureau of Human Rights, of course. I guess this is the best we can hope for. Case closed?

    yamanashiintlctr121206sm.jpg

    ================================

    UPDATE FEB 3, 2007
    from debito.org newsletter of the same date

    I reported to you last November about that Eikaiwa “E R English School” in Kofu, Yamanashi Prefecture
    http://www.debito.org/?p=92

    which had a Want Ad posted on bulletin boards in the Yamanashi International Association (http://www.yia.or.jp) saying:
    ===================================
    WANTED IMMEDIETLY [sic] NATIVE SPEAKER
    E R English School needs a native speaker. Blonde hair
    blue or green eyes and brightly character. [sic]
    Please contact E R English School immedietly. [sic]
    Ph: 055-241-4070
    Yuji and Jocelyn Iwashita

    ===================================
    http://www.debito.org/wp-content/uploads/2006/11/EREnglishsign.jpg

    I reported then that I called the school, where a manager (a Mr. Sata) there tried to justify the policy as just giving the customer the service he wants (i.e. some Kindergarten boss wanted to “acclimatize” his young ‘uns to real bonafide “gaijin”–see Sata’s arguments at http://www.debito.org/?p=92). Thus their hands were tied.

    I then sent a letter on November 30 to the Yamanashi International Association, and to the local Bureau of Human Rights (jinken yougobu–Japanese text of that letter at http://www.debito.org/?p=93), asking for some assistance in this matter.

    I did get an answer from the YIA on December 12. Letter (Japanese) scanned at:
    http://www.debito.org/wp-content/uploads/2006/12/yamanashiintlctr121206sm.jpg
    They said sorry, and would be more careful to not let this happen again on their bulletin boards.

    Okay, so I called it a day there. But the story doesn’t end yet.

    Yesterday, I got a call from Kyodo Tsuushin (Japan’s powerful wire service) who wanted some quotes from me for an article about this issue. They also wanted to know if I had heard from the Bureau of Human Rights on this. I hadn’t, so the reporter said he would start making a few inquiries.

    Hours later, I received a call from E R English School’s Mr Iwashita, who asked who I was, what I was after, and if I now understood the company’s true intention behind their advertisement. He hoped there would be no further misunderstandings.

    I replied that I felt it interesting that more than two months had gone by before he felt the need to explain his company policies further, and that it seems very conveniently timed with him getting a call from a Kyodo reporter. He agreed that it was indeed so.

    But it wasn’t just Kyodo. It turned out (I saw a draft of the article last night, should have gone out today–anyone find it?) that E R English School had also been contacted by the Bureau of Human Rights that very day too, after the latter had been phoned for some quotes by Kyodo.

    Nothing like a little press attention to finally set some wheels in motion….

    Mr Iwashita said that he understood my feelings about this. I then mentioned that as educators we have a responsibility not to perpetuate stereotypes and prejudices, particularly in this internationalizing society. He agreed and we left it at that.

    This afternoon I got another call from E R’s Jocelyn this time, who left a message on my cellphone and didn’t call back… Wonder what’s cooking. Anyway, if anything more comes of this, I’ll let you know.

    ENDS

    3 Responses to “Yamanashi English school want ad: “blonde hair blue or green eyes and brightly character” (with updates)”

    1. Blonde haired blue-eyed news » Japan Probe Says:

      [...] This story may have blipped on your radar.  Basically, a school was looking for an English teacher, and only a steriotypical foreinger would do.  Today, it was actually on the news, much to my suprise.  I was with my girlfriend’s family.  They all laughed an said how stupid the request was.  The news, and the reaction by native Japanese, made me hopeful for the future. [...]

    2. kawai Says:

      This piece of news was featured today in TBS.
      http://news.tbs.co.jp/headline/tbs_headline3491780.html (The link will change tomorrow when it’s pruned to 7 days archive)

      Video link for windows media: http://news.tbs.co.jp/asx/news3491780_12.asx

      ================

      Thanks very much for sending this on, Kawai. I was giving a speech in Okayama today and was completely unaware that this had hit the TV networks. Not until I started getting phone calls for quotes from various print and broadcast media on my keitai. Not mention the owner of the English school as well (who wanted me to take down this post. Nothing doing). Glad I had a chance to see it. Debito in Kurashiki

    3. Kofu Local Says:

      Hello,

      I live in Kofu and know these guys. They are kind of infamous. Here in Kofu they are known for extremely dodgy business practices. This resulted in Jocelyn being fired from the board of education over here. She would use her position as a part time teacher to recruit students to their school, under the (false) pretense that it had the blessing of the board of ed.

      They also used to attempt the same sort of thing at rival businesses around Kofu. i.e. get part time work, then try to siphon off a few students. Jocelyn and Yuji have also been taken to court for racking up debt at (get this) other English schools. As other avenues dried up, they attempted to gain students by signing up to other schools, getting to know some of the students, and attempting to recruit them – and not paying the bill at the same time.

      Regarding the “blue eyed teacher required” case… according to local knowledge (… and this is from people that actually worked at the kindergarten in question…) they (Yuji and Jocelyn) proactively sold them on this idea, not the other way around. I have personally spoken to them and confronted them about this, and it seems that (when I did this a year ago at least) they had clearly not understood what the problem was… oh well…

      They are currently out of business, because a lot of these things ended up biting them. They ran out of avenues to siphon off students, and then the word got out about their business practices.

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