Japan Times: Japan’s “Omotenashi” (“selfless hospitality”) not in tune with what visitors want, NJ expert warns

JDG: Hello Dr. Debito, I wondered if you had chanced upon this article in the JT:
Now boastful Japan not really in tune with what visitors want, foreign expert warns | The Japan Times
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/12/25/national/now-boastful-japan-really-tune-visitors-want-foreign-expert-warns/

It’s really interesting, since it was written about a guy who has no connection (AFAIK) to the debate about NJ human rights, and is not a scholar of Japan. However, he has independently reached a conclusion that you yourself have expressed several times on Debito.org; Japanese deciding amongst themselves what NJ want/need/have difficulty with, is a sign of cultural arrogance aimed at controlling NJ. I think this is important external reinforcement of your point of view. It shows that you are not alone and paranoid (as the apologists always try to portray you), but rather shows that in a totally different field of expertise, another observer has witnessed the same phenomena as you.

There are many interesting points that he raises, and I agree with him, but the main takeaway from the article is that the concept of ‘omotenashi’ is being used as a system of control over NJ in Japan (and we know how much the Japanese establishment believes that NJ need to be controlled), whilst at the same time serving a very racist nihonjinrongiron function of reassuring the Japanese themselves that they are unique and superior to NJ.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER NOVEMBER 27, 2019

Table of Contents:
WHOLESALE ALIENATION BY OFFICIALDOM

1) Dejima Award #7: Nagoya City officially classifies “Foreigner City Denizens” to include “naturalized persons, children of international marriages, people with foreign cultures or roots in their backgrounds”. Viva Eugenics.
2) MH Fox translation: “Gangsters and foreigners have no rights”, by Hiroshi Ichikawa (former prosecutor) on jiadep.org.
3) Mainichi: “‘Prison camps for Brazilians’: Foreign kids in Japan being ushered into special education.” Perpetuates the Japan-“educated” NJ underclass.
4) “Educating the Non-Japanese Underclass”, my Shingetsu News Agency “Visible Minorities” Col 2, Sept 17, 2019.
5) Senaiho Update 3: Civil suit to be launched over school “Hair Police” forced-haircut bullying of student in Yamanashi JHS (UPDATED).

MORE ALIENATION JUST FOR KICKS

6) XY on being racially profiled–by a designated police task force looking for “bad foreigners”–for a traffic fender bender caused by someone else!
7) Reuters: Japanese police urged to take “light-touch” towards NJ during Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup. Yeah, sure.
8 ) ICI Hotel Kanda unlawfully requires ID from all “foreign guests”, including NJ residents of Japan, as a precondition for stay; claims it’s demanded by Tokyo Metropolitan Police (UPDATED).
9) Last word on NJ hotel passport checks (thanks to a lawyer): It’s as Debito.org has said for more than a decade: NJ Residents are exempt from showing any ID.
10) My Shingetsu News Agency Visible Minorities col 3: “Racial Profiling at Japanese Hotel Check-Ins”, October 23, 2019.
11) Fujisankei-owned Japan Today posts article on “What to do if stopped by J police” for Rugby World Cup visitors, after consulting with Debito.org. Then does not acknowledge Debito.org and leaves out valuable advice.
12) Kyoto JET Programme teacher TS on being made homeless due to xenophobic landlord, and Kyoto Board of Education (who found the apartment) refuses to help.
13) Dr. Oussouby Sacko, African-born President of Kyoto Seika U, speaks at JALT, shows more blind spots re racism and tokenism.

… and finally…
14) “The Xeno-Scapegoating of Japanese Halloween”, my SNA Visible Minorities Col 4, Nov 18, 2019.

Reuters: Japanese police urged to take “light-touch” towards NJ during Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup. Yeah, sure.

It turns out Japan has earned a reputation from past experiences hosting international events.  The racism-riddled debacles that were the soccer World Cup 2002 and the G8 Summits made me question whether Japan as a society (let alone its politicians and police) was mature enough to handle any temporary influx of NJ, let alone as visa-legal NJ workers and residents of Japan.

But it seems it wasn’t just me noticing. Some months ago, the Rugby World Cup and staff from two embassies actually cautioned the Japanese police to ease up on their overzealousness towards NJ.  As previous blog entries have shown, it’s questionable whether they are actually doing that (as they are bending the law to encourage racial profiling at hotels etc.). The following article deserves to be recorded on Debito.org because it shows at least somebody out there is taking notice, despite all the official “omotenashi” wallpapering over Japan’s latent exclusionism that goes ignored, if not encouraged, by Japanese authorities.  I look forward to seeing what the International Olympic Committee has to say in Tokyo in a year.

Reuters: Japanese police have been encouraged to take a “light-touch approach” during the Rugby World Cup, with organisers telling Reuters they had visited host cities to emphasise that while fans will be boisterous they are unlikely to cause trouble. More than 400,000 foreign fans are expected to descend on Japan for the Sept. 20 to Nov. 2 tournament and concerns have been raised that police might not have enough experience to deal with the influx. Staff from two embassies have expressed concern to Reuters that police may overreact to perceived intimidation from fans.

“Japanese Only” tourist information booth in JR Beppu Station

DB: Are you aware there is a “Japanese only” information booth at Beppu station? My partner and I walked in to get some information about a local onsen travel route. The woman sitting at the available desk basically refused to deal with us, and told us to go to the desk for foreigners. She initially pretended that the desk was for Japanese language help only. When we pointed out that we could speak Japanese (we had been the whole time) she shifted her excuse. The whole time she leant way back in her chair, and spoke in an extremely dismissively rude tone. In six years living in Japan I have never been treated as poorly.

After we gave up and walking out half in shock I noticed the signage. The ambiguity of “Japanese” here covers the apparent reality that they actually will refuse to serve anybody not visibly Japanese regardless of language ability. I’ll be sending a formal complaint later, but I thought I’d send you the story. Here’s some photos attached, taken April 6, 2016.

Problematic Fukuoka Pref. Police sign warning against “Foreign Travelers in Rental Cars”

Following the “foreign driver” stickers put on cars to stigmatize the NJ tourists (and NJ residents renting cars) in Okinawa and Hokkaido, now we have the Fukuoka Prefectural Police taking it upon themselves to associate bad driving with foreigners. Based upon one cited accident (Japanese drivers, after all, never have accidents, right?), the police put up a multilingual sign to caution everyone (and teach NJ how to drive all over again). How presumptuous. Let’s see what submitter XY has to say:

XY: my initial thoughts are:
– There are assumptions galore. The linked article about this issue mentions police making a poster to warn people of the “prohibited” act of dozing off behind the wheel, imploring them to take rests, etc. Incredibly, it implies that these practices are not common sense for people who are not experienced driving in Japan. This argument might hold a sliver of credibility if there was testimony from the driver proving that one of these factors was a cause of his accident. But the article gives no such proof.

– The article offers many statistics to show that the number of foreigners renting cars has indeed increased. Unfortunately, it does not bother to provide statistics proving that this has resulted in an increase in accidents (above and beyond the normal expected increase with more drivers on the road). Even if they did provide evidence showing an increase in accidents, they would still need to go a step further to show how this is directly related to foreign drivers and not something else (the rapid aging of licensed Japanese drivers, perhaps??).

When you take away the need to consider your foreign audience — this article being designed for domestic consumption only — it seems to me that this is another classic case of the Japanese authorities using foreigners as a punching bag for societal angst.

Japan Times JBC Column 104: The Top Ten Human Rights Events of 2016

Japan’s human rights issues fared better in 2016
BY DEBITO ARUDOU
The Japan Times, Jan 8, 2017, Column 104 for the Community Page

Welcome back to JBC’s annual countdown of the top issues as they affected Non-Japanese (NJ) residents of Japan. We had some brighter spots this year than in previous years, because Japan’s government has been so embarrassed by hate speech toward Japan’s minorities that they did something about it. Read on:

No. 10) Government “snitch sites” close down after nearly 12 years…

Rest of the article at
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2017/01/08/issues/japans-human-rights-issues-fared-better-2016/
Version with links to sources now up on Debito.org

Other progress in 2016: Actions against wasabi bombs in sushi for NJ customers, conductor officially chided for apologizing re “many foreign passengers” crowding trains

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.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 1, 2016

Table of Contents:
GOOD NEWS
1) Out in Paperback: Textbook “Embedded Racism” (Lexington Books) July 2016 in time for Fall Semester classes: $49.99
2) April 15, 1996: Twenty years of Debito.org. And counting.
3) Debito’s latest publication in the Washington University Global Studies Law Review (Vol.14, No.4)

QUESTIONABLE ECONOMICS
4) Terrie Lloyd on why Abenomics is a “failure”: lack of essential structural reforms
5) Kyodo: Kyoto taxis specializing in foreign tourists begin one-year trial. Separate taxi stands? What’s next: separate hotels?
6) Stigmatization thru “foreign driver stickers”: First Okinawa, now Hokkaido (Mainichi Shinbun)
7) JT Interview: Tokyo 2020 Olympics CEO Mutou picks on Rio 2016, arrogantly cites “safe Japan” mantra vs international terrorism
8 ) Nate Nossal essay on how free enterprise and small-business establishment in Japan is stifled

DIRTY ROTTEN POLITICS
9) Reuters: Japan eyes more foreign workers, stealthily challenging immigration taboo
10) MOJ: Japan sees record registered foreign residents, 2.23 million in 2015; but watch J media once again underscore their criminality
11) Onur on continued racial profiling at Japanese hotel check-ins: Discrimination is even coin-operated!
12) Onur update: Ibaraki Pref. Police lying on posters requiring hotels to inspect and photocopy all foreign passports; gets police to change their posters!
13) NHK: NJ arrested by Saitama Police for “not having passport”, despite being underage and, uh, not actually legally required to carry a passport
14) JT: Abe Cabinet says JCP promoting ‘violent revolution,’ subject to Anti-Subversive Activities Law; now, how about violent Rightists?
15) Economist: United Nations fails to stick up for the rights of Imperial female succession, drops issue as a “distraction” from report
16) Reuters: Death toll mounts in Japanese Detention Centers (aka “Gaijin Tanks”) as NJ seek asylum and are indefinitely detained and drugged
17) Roger Schreffler: Fukushima Official Disaster Report E/J translation differences: Blaming “Japanese culture” an “invention” of PR manager Kurokawa Kiyoshi, not in Japanese version (which references TEPCO’s corporate culture) (UPDATED)

… and finally…
18) Japan Times JBC 97 May 2, 2016 excerpt: “Enjoy your life in Japan, for the moments”

Kyodo: Kyoto taxis specializing in foreign tourists begin one-year trial. Separate taxi stands? What’s next: separate hotels?

Here’s something that feels more problematic the more I think about it: “Foreigner-friendly” taxicabs being introduced in Kyoto. As noted below, they are government-sponsored vehicles with multilingual drivers and more space for tourist luggage. Sounds good so far. Until you get to the fact that they have a separate alighting point at one station in Kyoto. Already, we are getting into shades of “separate but equal” (as opposed to equal and undifferentiated), which we are seeing in a number of venues dealing with foreign tourism (for example, here).

While I applaud the effort to improve service, it doesn’t resolve the root problem (mentioned within the Kyodo article below) — that taxi cabs are refusing NJ passengers. So instead of going after miscreant taxis, they’re creating a separate taxi system to equalize things. Except that it won’t. Think about it. Now we’ll have busybody train station ojisan waving “foreign-looking” people over to the foreign taxi stand even when they’re not tourists. Or we’ll have people being told that they have to go to that solitary Kyoto Station stand, regardless of where they are, if they want to get a “foreigner-friendly” cab. And, with the law of unintended consequences, we’ll have even more taxi drivers refusing to pick up foreign-looking people — after all, their logic will go, “There’s already a taxi designated for them, so I don’t have to bother picking them up — they can wait for one.” As if foreign-friendly taxis could ever have the same coverage as regular taxis. See, “separate but equal” essentially never works because, as history demonstrates, it’s too hard to achieve.

If they really want to improve service, have the city assign somebody “foreign-looking” to hail taxis in Kyoto, and have him or her officially report misbehaving taxis to the Kyoto Tourist Agency (there is one, and I’ve done this very thing for at least one exclusionary Kyoto hotel; there were repercussions). And tell those taxis (like restaurants hear that they’re being reviewed by reviewers posing as regular customers) that there will be person(s) posing as an evaluator so you better not avoid picking up customers. Monitoring for consumer quality is quite normal, and if Japan is serious about omotenashi, it had better avoid making historical mistakes.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER FEBRUARY 4, 2015

Table of Contents:
ON BIRTHDAYS AND BIRTHDAY PRESENTS
1) I turned 50 years old on January 13, 2015. Photo on the day.
2) A debate I’ve been having on whether birthdays are to be celebrated or not. Discuss.
3) Lawyer threatens Debito.org in 2009 re a 1993 article in The Australian Magazine on Japan pundit Gregory Clark. Had received reprint permission, so nothing came of it.
NOW BACK TO BUSINESS AS USUAL
EXCLUSIONISM
4) IPC Digital et al.: Shizuoka Iwata City General Hospital doctor refuses care to Brazilian child, curses out parents and tells them to “die” (kuso, shine)
5) Khaosod (Thailand): Taxi Association Condemns ‘No Japanese Passengers’ Sign
MIXED MESSAGES
6) Nobel Prize winner Dr. Shuji “Slave” Nakamura urges Japan’s youth to “get out of Japan”
7) Fukuoka Subway Poster Contest winner: Rude Statue of Liberty “overdoes freedom”, takes space from J passengers
MISPLACED HOPE
8 ) Yomiuri: GOJ sky-pie policy proposes to deal with rural population decrease with resettlement info websites, and robots!
9) Japan Times: Japan’s “Omotenashi” (“selfless hospitality”) not in tune with what visitors want, NJ expert warns
…and finally…
10) My Japan Times JBC 83 Jan 1, 2015: “Hate, Muzzle and Poll”: Debito’s Annual Top Ten List of Human Rights News Events for 2014

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JULY 3, 2014

Table of Contents:

FOREVER UNDER THE RADAR:
1) Japan’s population tally in media still excludes NJ residents; plus J political misogyny and appeals to gaiatsu
2) Reuters Special Report on Japan’s “Trainee System” as “Sweatshops in Disguise”: Foreign interns pay the price for Japan’s labor shortage

ON THE RADAR AND INFLUENCING PUBLIC OPINION:
3) World Cup 2014: Held in Brazil, but causes tightened police security in Tokyo due to alleged possibility of “vandalism”
4) J-Govt. “We are Tomodachi” Newsletter Vol. 4 , June 2014 offers fascinating insights into PM Abe Admin mindsets
5) MLB J-baseball player Kawasaki Munenori doing his best to speak English to North American media. Debito.org approves.
6) Fodor’s Travel Guide on Japan 2014 features two chapters on Hokkaido and Tohoku written by Debito

… and finally…
7) My Japan Times JBC column 76: “Humanize the dry debate about immigration”, June 5, 2014

J-Govt. “We are Tomodachi” Newsletter Vol. 4 , June 2014 offers fascinating insights into PM Abe Admin mindsets

Any good organization wanting public approval (or in this case, approval from its geopolitical “friends”) does outreach. And this very professional online magazine issued yesterday from the Abe Administration, called “We are Tomodachi”, is worth an introduction to Debito.org Readers. It offers fascinating insights into what the PM Abe Administration is thinking (or trying to convince you it is thinking — something few branches of Japan’s governmental organs do in any convincing detail even for its citizens). As The Economist (London) recently noted, Abe is “Japan’s most purposeful prime minister for many years”, and herein many of Abe’s purposes are clearly argued in well-proofed English, albeit in all their stiff transparency. Here’s the Table of Contents: […]

Part travel guide, part geopolitical gaijin handling, part cultural screed (cue those shakuhachis!), “We Are Tomodachi” magazine is a great read to deconstruct how the Abe Administration is trying to march the Post-Bubble discourse on Japan back into the first-generation Postwar discourse. Ah, those were the days, when Japan’s elites had near-total control over Japan’s image in the world, and so few outsiders had any understanding (or or had experienced Japan in great depth) that they would ever be taken seriously by anyone who wasn’t a “real Japanese” (moreover, the handful of NJ who did know something could be co-opted as anointed cultural emissaries; they’re still trying to do it within this very magazine). No, since then millions of people have since experienced Japan beyond the GOJ boilerplate, have lived and invested their lives in Japan, and have learned the Japanese language. So the dialogue is not so easily controlled by the elites anymore. (PM Abe’s Gaijin Handlers: If you’re dropping in on Debito.org again, Yokoso and enjoy our Omotenashi!)

So, Gaijin Handlers, here’s a lesson on what to avoid next time: What irritates people like us who know better is your cultivated mysticism in elite conversations about anything cultural in Japan. Consider this example of bogus social science (depicted as a “secret”) from page 72:

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“The Japanese have a reputation for being taciturn and hard to communicate with. Probably the most difficult part of Japanese communication for people from other countries is the way people here converse wordlessly. When people are standing silently at some natural attraction, they’re using their five senses to feel nature and commune with it. So if you notice some quiet Japanese in such a spot, you might try joining them in their silence, taking in everything around you with all your senses: light, wind, sky, clouds, sounds, smells. Because even when nobody is talking, there is plenty of communication going on in Japan.”
=============================

This is a juicy claim for deconstruction under a number of genres of social science. The biggest confusion you’re going to cause in NJ tourists and newbies will come when they confront the amount of noise at many a tourist trap (especially from those trying to “nigiyaka” the place up with their megaphoned music), and wonder how they’re supposed to use all their five senses like the mystical Japanese apparently do. Logically, this also means the purported J-silence around awkward conversations could be due to the inscrutably “shy” Japanese trying to take NJ in with all their five senses too (I wonder what happens when they get to “Smell”, “Touch”, or “Taste”?). What rubbishy analytical tools. And it’s one reason why so many people (Japanese and NJ) go nuts in Japan, because they’re constantly told one thing yet experience another.

Japan Times on GOJ’s new efforts to boost tourism to 20 million per annum

The Japan Times runs an interview with Japan Tourism Agency Commissioner Yoshiaki Honpo, who says that Japan’s ailing regional economies can be revitalized by tapping the sightseeing potential of growing Asian countries. He recommends easing visa restrictions, since NJ tourists spend 5 to 15 times more than Japanese tourists.

However, how about easing restrictions at the hotels themselves? According to an attendee of one of his speeches in Nagano, he will “leave alone” those 27% of hotels surveyed who do not want NJ tourists. Odd that a member of the administrative branch would recommend the nonenforcement of laws governing hotels in Japan. Honpo seems to think economic pressure will resolve all. Even though it hasn’t in other similar situations, such as apartment rentals, and leaving exclusionary (and, in this case, illegal) rules in place have caused spillover into other business sectors, copycatting because they can. Humph.