To start this year (which I am not at all optimistic about), let’s try to talk about two bright sides to 2016. First up, this piece of good news that shows that targeting of foreign passengers (on an airport train, no less) is officially not cool — either from the passengers’ point of view or from the train company’s:
Mainichi: A Nankai Electric Railway Co. conductor was dealt a verbal warning after apologizing to Japanese passengers for crowding on a train heading to Kansai International Airport with a large number of foreigners, it has been learned. […]
“Today there are many foreign passengers aboard and it is very crowded, so we are inconveniencing Japanese passengers,” the conductor was quoted as stating in the announcement. After the train arrived at Kansai-Airport Station, a Japanese woman questioned a station attendant about the announcement, asking whether it was within the bounds of company rules. When questioned by the company, the conductor was quoted as replying, “I heard a male Japanese passenger at Namba Station yelling, ‘All these foreigners are a nuisance,’ so I made the announcement to avert trouble. I had no intention of discriminating.”
Then the Grauniad coupled the above story with another one about “wasabi terrorism”:
Grauniad: The incident follows an accusation by South Korean tourists that a sushi restaurant in Osaka deliberately smeared their orders with eye-watering quantities of wasabi, a pungent condiment that should be used sparingly. The restaurant chain Ichibazushi apologised but denied accusations of racism, saying its chefs had decided to use excessive amounts of wasabi after other foreign diners had previously requested larger dollops for added piquancy.
“Because many of our overseas customers frequently order extra amounts of pickled ginger and wasabi, we gave them more without checking first,” the chain’s management said. “The result was unpleasant for some guests who aren’t fans of wasabi.” It was not clear how many such incidents – labelled “wasabi terrorism” on social media – had occurred, but some disgruntled diners posted photos of sushi containing twice as much wasabi as usual.
COMMENT: The fact that these incidents made news, and (Japanese) social media thought this was worth criticizing is a good thing. Corporations acknowledged and apologized. There is lots to bellyache about when it comes to how NJ are seen and treated in Japan, but when people (especially Japanese people, who are often not all that quick to leap to the defense of NJ, since what happens to NJ does not affect them) stand up against this, this is progress. Credit where credit is due.