(Domestic news reports in Japanese here)

Click here to page down to reports from:

IHT/Asahi (JPN), Japan Times (JPN), The Daily Yomiuri (JPN), CNN (US), Mainichi Daily News (JPN), BBC (UK), South China Morning Post (HK), The Guardian (UK), The Los Angeles Times (US), The Age (Australia), The Independent (UK), The New York Times (US), The National Post (Canada)... a lovely little article on how Japanese and non-Japanese activists are combating discrimination together in their communities: IHT/Asahi (Nov 16, 2002), and a combination Japan Times Editorial (Nov 18, 2002) with complementary Letter to the Editor (Dec 1, 2002)

Courtesy http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/newse/20021112wo25.htm

Otaru bathhouse ordered to pay 3
Court: Ban on foreigners discriminatory

By Zal Sethna
Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer

The Sapporo District Court on Monday ordered bathhouse operator Earthcare KK to pay 3 million yen in damages to a naturalized Japanese and two foreigners who were refused entry into one of its facilities in Otaru, Hokkaido, but rejected the plaintiffs' claim for compensation from the Otaru city government.

Debito Arudo, 37, a university lecturer and former U.S. national, Olaf Karthaus, a German assistant professor, and Ken Sutherland, a U.S. computer programmer, had sought a total of 6 million yen from the two defendants and an apology from Yunohana, the bathhouse.

Presiding Judge Mitsuru Sakai said in his ruling, "Preventing the plaintiffs entry into a bathhouse is an irrational form of discrimination that is well beyond the bounds of what is socially acceptable."

There is no law in Japan that penalizes acts of discrimination, but the court recognized the company's action as a case of discrimination.

The plaintiffs had attempted to argue that the company's actions violate the Constitution and were also a breach of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which Japan ratified in 1995.

CERD states that all signatory nations have a duty to provide the right to allow people who claim to be victims of discrimination to seek reparation for damage caused by such acts.

However, while the court recognized that local governments are obligated to pay heed to CERD, it said the treaty did not legally bind local governments to carry out duties expressed in it.

"It's double-faced," Arudo said. "It's saying that following CERD is no more than a political duty and not an administrative duty."

The court also did not deem it necessary for the company to apologize to the plaintiffs, saying that its action did not amount to a personal attack on them.

Regarding the Otaru municipal government, Sakai said, "It's difficult to perceive that the local government has committed any wrongdoing that could be said to be illegal."

The plaintiffs had blamed the city for being negligent in its duty to put a stop to the bans against foreigners, which were instituted as long ago as 1994 by some bathhouses in the city.

Such inaction, they argued, was a breach of CERD, which states that signatory nations are obliged to "pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating racial discrimination."

However, the court maintained its stance that CERD is not legally binding.

According to the ruling, Arudo and the two others were refused entry into Yunohana in 1999 because they were foreigners. Arudo visited the bathhouse again in November 2000, after he had become a naturalized citizen, but was once again refused entry because, according to Yunohana, he "looked like a foreigner."

Earthcare KK had claimed its ban on foreigners was necessary to prevent friction between foreign and Japanese customers.

The company alleges that it had to shut down a sauna in 1998 because Russian sailors, who often visit Otaru Port, had driven away its Japanese clientele by misbehaving in the facility. It then opened Yunohana the same year, exclusively for Japanese customers.

Human rights groups and other activists, including Arudo, made efforts to make the facility change its stance, but initially to no avail.

Katsuyuki Kobayashi, manager of Yunohana, was disappointed with the ruling, saying: "We do admit that the measures we created previously were wrong, but we currently don't ban any foreigners from using the facility. We only require that they speak at least some Japanese, in case we need to caution them."

Arudo was satisfied for the most part and said the ruling was evidence that "excluding people because they look like foreigners is not acceptable in the eyes of the Japanese judiciary."

Copyright 2002 The Yomiuri Shimbun

Courtesy http://asia.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/asiapcf/east/11/11/japan.bath.reut/index.html

'Racist' bathhouse in hot water
Monday, November 11, 2002 Posted: 7:29 PM HKT (1129 GMT)

TOKYO, Japan (Reuters) -- A Japanese court has ordered a bathhouse to pay three million yen ($25,020) in damages to a U.S.-born Japanese and two other men who were refused entry because of their foreign appearance.

The judgment on Monday was an unusual and potentially important step in Japan,where although racial discrimination is banned by the constitution, no penalty is specified for offenders.

"The company's behavior amounts to racism. Refusing entry to the baths goes beyond socially acceptable limits," the Sapporo District Court said in its judgment.

University lecturer Debito Arudou, known as David Aldwinckle until he took Japanese citizenship, and two non-Japanese sued the Yu-no-hana bathhouse and the municipal government of Otaru on the northern island of Hokkaido after being refused entry two years ago.

"This has made clear that discrimination against foreigners is illegal," Olaf Kurthaus, a German citizen and one of the plaintiffs, said on Monday.

"It will discourage other businesses from doing the same, so discrimination should decrease."

Foreign visitors sometimes fall foul of the strict etiquette in Japan's public bathhouses, which are popular weekend leisure spots. Bathers are expected to wash thoroughly before stepping into a communal hot tub for a soak. Alcohol and unruly behavior are taboo.

But activists say the problem of Japanese racism stretches well beyond baths. Foreigners often have difficulty renting apartments and are frequently discriminated against when looking for jobs.

"The central government should seize the opportunity to bring in an anti-discrimination law with penalties...a lot of people are suffering from discrimination in Japan," said equal rights campaigner Hideki Morihara.

No one at Yu-no-hana was available to comment on the verdict but a spokesman has previously said the ban on foreigners was introduced after visiting Russian sailors angered local customers by stealing their belongings and failing to obey the rules.

Copyright 2002 Reuters. All rights reserved.

Courtesy http://mdn.mainichi.co.jp/news/20021111p2a00m0dm021001c.html

U.S.-born Japanese wins racial discrimination lawsuit

SAPPORO -- A United States-born Japanese national and his friends who sued a Hokkaido bathhouse for racially discriminating against them were awarded damages Monday at a Sapporo court.

Presiding Judge Mitsuru Sakai ordered the operator of the bathhouse in Otaru, Earthcure KK, to pay 3 million yen in damages to the three plaintiffs, Arudou Debito, a 37-year-old university lecturer from Nanporo in Hokkaido, an American and a German.

"Not allowing the plaintiffs entry was irrational discrimination and was unacceptable," Sakai said. However, he excused the Otaru Municipal Government, which the trio accused of failing in their duty to stop racial discrimination, saying that the city's lack of action was not illegal.

The ruling rejected the plaintiffs' argument that the city of Otaru breached the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination because "the convention does not make the city legally bound to ban racially discriminatory acts." Lawyer Hideko Ito representing the plaintiffs was disappointed. "The ruling deserves a lauding (for ordering Earthcure to pay damages) but we are deeply upset because it found Otaru not responsible," she said.

The trio filed the 6 million yen damages suit last year to the Sapporo District Court after the Otaru bathhouse refused their entry on racial grounds in 1999 and did the same again to Arudou, who returned to the facility after acquiring Japanese nationality in October 2000.

Representatives of Earthcure unsuccessfully claimed before the court that its discriminatory rules were "socially acceptable" because they were introduced to prevent troubles between Japanese and foreigners.

An Earthcure spokesman said the company is considering an appeal. "It was a disappointing ruling to say the least. We'll decide whether to appeal or not after studying the contents of the decision."

Arudou, formerly David Aldwinckle, has been working to eliminate discrimination against minorities in Japan. (Mainichi Shimbun, Nov. 11, 2002)

Courtesy http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/2442411.stm
Monday, 11 November, 2002, 14:46 GMT
Racist Japanese bathhouse fined
Splashing icy water shows virility but is taboo at baths
(sound file with radio interview of Arudou Debito also at the above link)

Operators of a bathhouse in northern Japan have been ordered to pay three million yen ($25,000) in damages to three men barred from entry because they looked foreign.

The Sapporo District Court said stopping the men from using the facilities was unacceptable and amounted to racism.

The case against the Yunohana bathhouse in Otaru, on the northern island of Hokkaido, had been brought by an American-born Japanese man and two foreigners - one German and one American.

Correspondents say the court ruling was unusual and potentially important in a country where there is the perception of widespread racism but no penalties are specified for those violating the constitutional ban on such discrimination.

'Setting example'

The court judgement said: "The company's behaviour amounts to racism. Refusing entry to the baths goes beyond socially acceptable limits."

The case was brought by 37-year-old Debito Arudo, who changed his name from David Aldwinckle when he took on Japanese citizenship, Olaf Karthaus, 39, and Kenneth Lee Sutherland, 39, after they were refused entry to the baths two years ago.

Mr Karthaus said: "This has made clear that discrimination against foreigners is illegal.

"It will discourage other businesses from doing the same, so discrimination should decrease."

The men had also tried to sue the city of Otaru, 800 kilometres (500 miles) north of Tokyo, but the court ruled it could not be held responsible for failing to prevent racial discrimination in its jurisdiction.


Japan's public bathhouses have a strict etiquette which expects bathers to wash thoroughly before stepping into a communal hot tub for a soak.

Alcohol is taboo as well as unruly behaviour such as splashing.

No-one at Yunohana was available to comment on the verdict but a spokesman has previously said the ban on foreigners was introduced after visiting Russian sailors angered local customers by stealing their belongings and failing to obey the rules.

Japan's Jiji news agency said Yunohana began admitting foreigners in January 2001.

Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2002 09:43:14 +0000
Below is the account that appeared in the South China Morning Post today, Tuesday.

Three win damages for denial of entry to bath house
(Courtesy of the author)


A Japanese court yesterday ordered a bath house to pay three million yen (HK$195,000) in damages to foreigners to whom it refused entry. But it also ruled the local authority in Otaru, northern Japan, was under no obligation to follow a UN convention, ratified by Japan, which bans discrimination against foreigners.

The ruling nevertheless offers the possibility that institutions and businesses in Japan may come under closer scrutiny for discriminatory practices.

The plaintiffs, Olaf Karthaus, 39, of Germany, Ken Sutherland, 38, a US citizen, and Debito Arudo - a naturalised Japanese citizen who was formerly an American called David Aldwinckle - had filed a lawsuit in February last year seeking damages against the bath house and city officials in Otaru, in Hokkaido, northern Japan.

In September 1999, Mr Aldwinckle and Mr Karthaus visited the Yunohana onsen (bath house) but were refused entry. Mr Aldwinckle, by this time a naturalised Japanese, visited the bath house again in October 2000. He produced proof that he was a Japanese citizen but was still refused admission. Mr Sutherland was denied access to the premises in December 2000.

The bath house had a sign outside in English, saying "Japanese Only". The plaintiffs argued that the bath house had discriminated against them on the basis of their ethnicity.

The court in Sapporo rejected their claim for compensation from the city government, which the plaintiffs argued had a duty to implement the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination which Japan signed in 1995. The judge ruled the city was bound to obey the convention but not legally bound to follow it.

"We are disappointed in the ruling, but glad that the bathhouse has been shown to be discriminatory," Mr Karthaus said yesterday in Sapporo. "I think firms will think twice about discriminating against foreigners. Three million yen is not a small amount."

Discrimination against foreigners is rife in Japan. So, too, are rulings that split legal hairs - often issued by judges concerned a controversial decision may be overturnedand affect their chances of promotion.

Courtesy http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,838093,00.html

Japanese-only public baths to pay damages

Jonathan Watts in Tokyo
Tuesday November 12, 2002
The Guardian

Japanese authorities were reprimanded for ingrained racism yesterday when three foreign-born men won a rare legal challenge against a "Japanese only" public bathhouse.

The Sapporo district court ordered the Yunohana bathhouse to pay 3m yen (about GBP15,000) in damages for a discriminatory policy that local police and municipal officials claimed they were powerless to prevent.

"The company's behaviour amounts to racism. Refusing entry to the baths goes beyond socially acceptable limits," the judge said in a ruling that could set an important precedent in a country that has shown little enthusiasm for reforming its lax laws against racial prejudice.

Although discrimination is prohibited by the constitution and by United Nations conventions to which Japan is a signatory, there is no penalty for offenders. Some estate agents, pubs and video arcades openly display signs saying "No foreigners".

The Yunohana bathhouse has become a focus for racial equality groups since 1994 when it erected a "Japanese only" sign aimed at the many Russian sailors who land at the nearby port of Otaru, on the northern island of Hokkaido.

The establishment justified its policy by saying drunken and rowdy sailors had often stolen belongings and ignored instructions to wash their bodies before entering the tub, as required by Japanese bathing etiquette.

Despite toothless protests from the local government and the German and Russian embassies, the owner continued to refuse entry to foreigners, saying they drove away regular customers.

One of the plaintiffs, Debito Arudou - an American-born civil rights activist - was denied entry even though he has taken Japanese citizenship, prompting him and two others to sue the bathhouse and the local government.

"This has made clear that discrimination against foreigners is illegal," Olaf Kurthaus, a German plaintiff, told reporters. "It will discourage other businesses from doing the same, so discrimination should decrease."

Though the court turned down a claim for damages against the Otaru municipal authorities, racial equality campaigners urged the central government to enact tougher laws to penalise discrimination.

With foreigners accounting for less than 1% of its 127m population, however, the government has shown little urgency to act on a problem that has its greatest effect on the Koreans, Chinese and Brazilians living in Japan - the vast majority of whom do not have a vote.

Courtesy http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-bubbles12nov12.story?null

Japanese Court Ruling Favors Foreigners
Bathhouse must pay three men who were denied entry.
Decision is called 'significant' in a nation that tolerates discrimination.

By Mark Magnier
Times Staff Writer
November 12 2002

TOKYO -- A district court Monday ordered a private bathhouse on Japan's northern island of
Hokkaido to pay a total of $25,000 to three foreign-born men who were refused entry on the basis
of race.

The decision by the Sapporo District Court received widespread notice in a homogeneous nation where less than 1.5% of the population is non-Japanese.

"This is a significant ruling for Japanese society," said Akira Fujimoto, associate professor of law at
Kwassui Women's College. "That said, it didn't go far enough."

The court found against the owner of the Yunohana Onsen in Otaru, a small port town, but rejected the contention that the government shared responsibility.

"The company's behavior amounts to racism," the court said. "Refusing entry to the baths goes beyond socially acceptable limits."

The court was not convinced by the plaintiffs' argument that the government, as a regulator of businesses, had an obligation to work against discrimination.

"We were very happy they said this is racial discrimination and that it's punishable," said university lecturer David Aldwinckle, 37, the lead plaintiff. "But they left a big legal loophole."

The Yunohana Onsen manager, who gave only his last name, Kobayashi, said the decision against his bathhouse was regrettable. He labeled the case a publicity stunt.

"They knew our policy but nevertheless came with their children and newspaper reporters, showed they couldn't bathe and suggested they were 'humiliated,' " he said. "I don't think that's very sensible."

Discrimination against outsiders is more openly tolerated in Japan than in many other parts of the developed world. "No Foreigners Allowed" signs at restaurants and bars can occasionally be seen, and foreigners tend to face more stringent requirements than Japanese when, for example, renting real estate or signing up for mobile phone service.

But Japanese also face restrictions in seemingly arbitrary ways. Some restaurants bar any new customers who haven't been invited by longtime clients. And Japanese from another prefectures sometimes are required to obtain additional guarantors and promise other safeguards when renting apartments.

The bathhouse case dates to the late 1990s, when Russian sailors started patronizing Yunohana Onsen.

Local variations on the story abound, but the gist is that several groups of drunken sailors reportedly brought glass bottles of vodka inside the bathhouse, made a lot of noise, wore shoes indoors and washed themselves in the communal pool rather than before entering the water, all major faux pas.

"I hear Russian saunas are all a big party, but we don't do that here," Kobayashi said. "We tried to teach some Russians public bath manners, but it never improved."

The behavior reportedly shocked the regular customers, who demanded refunds and threatened to go elsewhere. The bathhouse responded by barring foreigners with a "Japanese Only" sign in English on the door.

U.S.-born Aldwinckle, a naturalized citizen of Japan who has taken the name Debito Arudo, filed suit in February 2001, along with co-plaintiffs Olaf Karthaus, 39, of Mainz, Germany, and Ken Sutherland, 38, of Seattle.

The three based their suit on Japan's 1995 accession to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

The case has touched a nerve across Japan. Globalization and an aging population have increased the number of foreigners living and working in the world's second-largest economy to about 1.6 million out of a population of 126 million.

On the other hand, many Japanese feel threatened by rapid social change, the protracted economic downturn and rising crime. This has spurred a backlash in some quarters against outsiders and the loss of traditional values.

"They took this measure against all foreigners because the chances of foreigners making trouble is higher than for Japanese," said Daisuke Arikado, a member of World Strategy Institute, a right-wing group in favor of banning all foreigners from Japan.

The plaintiffs said they accept that discrimination exists and that foreigners in Japan have a responsibility to learn local customs. That said, Japan is the only member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development without laws against discrimination.

Japanese cities and prefectures spend enormous sums touting their internationalization, said Hideko Ito, the Sapporo-based attorney who represented the plaintiffs.

"If they really want to be international," she said, "they should improve their understanding toward foreigners living in Japan."

Hisako Ueno in The Times' Tokyo Bureau contributed to this report.

Courtesy http://theage.com.au/am/2002/11/13/index.html

Race ban at baths turns heat on Japan prejudice

November 13 2002
By Shane Green
Japan Correspondent, Tokyo

The bathhouse displayed an unequivocal sign of unwelcome.

Racial discrimination in Japan is under renewed scrutiny after three men successfully sued a bathhouse for refusing them entry because they were not Japanese.

A court in Sapporo in northern Japan has awarded the men damages of almost $A45,000, ruling that the bathhouse, or onsen, had engaged in "irrational discrimination". The ruling is significant because, despite being signatory to international treaties against racial discrimination, Japan does not have anti-discrimination laws.

The case was brought by Debito Arudou, an American who has Japanese citizenship, and his friends Olaf Karthaus, of Germany, and Ken Sutherland, of the United States. The men and their families went to the Yunohana Onsen in the city of Otaru in Hokkaido on September 19, 1999, but were confronted with a "Japanese only" sign in English and Russian.

The onsen argued in court that it imposed the ban after trouble with drunken Russian sailors, who apparently took vodka into the bathhouse and ignored the strict etiquette of washing before entering the communal bath. But Judge Mitsuru Sakai said the onsen should have called in the police to deal with the sailors, chastising its owners for discrimination "well beyond the bounds of what is socially acceptable".

Mr Arudou, whose Western name was David Aldwinckle, had mixed feelings about the judgment. While pleased with the ruling against the onsen, he was perplexed by what constituted rational versus irrational discrimination. "We still don't really have a litmus test for deciding what is rational and what is not," he told The Age.

The university professor, who took Japanese citizenship after buying land in Hokkaido, denied there was deeply ingrained racism in Japan. "I don't want this to be an indictment of Japan as a racist society," he said.

"This is not what the case is about. The case is about our asking for equal access regardless of how we look. It's not foreigner discrimination, it's racial discrimination. I wanted people to understand that this problem exists in Japan and there should be a law against it."

The case has highlighted the issue of discrimination in an ethnically homogenous society where there are only 1.7 million foreign residents out of a population of more than 125 million.

The problem is often evident in entry bans on foreigners. In a submission to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Tokyo-based activist group Issho cited several examples: a hotel in Tokyo's Shinjuku district carried the sign "No ruffians, no foreign women", while a cafe in the same area had the sign: "No foreigners, no salesmen".

There is also growing alarm about an increase in crimes committed by foreigners, particularly Chinese. The liberal national daily Asahi Shimbun cautioned in an editorial last month against Japanese developing racial prejudice by overreacting to the crime statistics. "Unfortunately, Japanese tend to suspect foreigners with no valid reason whenever an oddball crime is reported. Such profiling and bias contributes to dangerous xenophobia," the paper said.

SAPPORO (KYODO) The Sapporo District Court on Monday ordered a private bathhouse in Otaru, Hokkaido, to pay a combined 3 million yen in compensation to three men for refusing them admission because it had a policy of rejecting foreign customers.

A lawsuit seeking 6 million yen in damages from the bathhouse operator and the municipal government was filed on Feb 1, 2001, by David Aldwinckle, a 37-year-old U.S.-born local resident who became a naturalized Japanese under the name of Debito Arudo, Olaf Karthause, 39, of Germany, and Ken Sutherland, 38, of the United States.

The court rejected the compensation claim against the Otaru city government, which the plaintiffs argued has a duty to meet the requirements of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which Japan signed in 1995.

According to the suit, Aldwinckle, as he then was as a U.S. citizen, and Karthaus visited the bathhouse, Yunohana Onsen, in the seaport city, in September 1999 and were refused entry. Sutherland was denied admission there in December 2000.

The bathhouse had a posted sign saying "Japanese Only" in English. It gave as a reason that it had observed that trouble with drunken Russian sailors at similar facilities in the region caused Japanese customers to stay away.

Arudo visited the bathhouse again in October 2000 after becoming a naturalized Japanese but was denied entry, despite presenting his driver's license to show he was a Japanese citizen. The posted sign was later withdrawn.

In the court, the plaintiffs argued that Otaru, which claims to be an international city, has not taken any effective action and failed to meet its obligations under the international convention.

The city argued that it has attempted to issue instructions to the bathhouse, to educate citizens about such discrimination, and taken other steps but said the convention does not require local governments to resolve every single case of discrimination.

Hideko Ito, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said, "The illegal nature of action by the bathhouse was acknowledged. But it is extremely regrettable that the claim against Otaru was rejected."

Tadaaki Suzuki, an official of the Otaru municipality, said he is not yet aware in detail of the ruling but believes the city's argument has basically been accepted.

A spokesperson for the bathhouse commented that they are not happy with the ruling and will consider what action to take after going through the ruling once again.

Courtesy http://www.independent.co.uk/story.jsp?story=351349
Japanese baths guilty of race bias
By Matthew Beard
12 November 2002

A public bathhouse in northern Japan has been ordered to pay 3 million yen (GBP15,000) in damages to three men who were turned away because they were foreigners.

Sapporo District Court ordered the Yunohana bathhouse to pay 1 million yen in compensation to each of the three plaintiffs for its discriminatory policy, but dismissed charges against the Otaru city government.

Debito Arudo, 37, who was born in the United States and changed his name from David Aldwinckle when he took on Japanese citizenship, Olaf Karthaus, 39, from Germany, and Kenneth Lee Sutherland, 39, from the United States, had accused the city government of failing to ensure that businesses uphold Japanese law prohibiting racial discrimination.

Mr Arudo and Mr Karthaus, activists in the Tokyo-based human rights group Issho Kikaku, repeatedly visited Otaru bathhouses posting "Japanese Only" signs between 1999 and 2000, hoping to raise awareness of the practice.

They found many bathhouses were refusing entry to foreigners, and that the facilities did so because they believed foreigners weren't familiar with Japanese bathhouse etiquette and were driving away Japanese customers.

Japanese bathhouses require visitors to wash themselves before taking a dip in a large tub of hot water. Splashing is generally frowned upon.

Courtesy http://www.nytimes.com/2002/11/13/international/asia/13BRIE3.html


A court ordered a public bathhouse in northern Hokkaido to pay $25,000 to three bathers it barred because of their foreign appearance. One, Debito Arudo, a 37-year-old nationalized Japanese citizen born in the United States as David Aldwinckle, was turned away twice by the bathhouse in Otaru, which posted a "Japanese Only" sign in English. The bathhouse said other public baths in the port city had problems with drunken Russian sailors. A Sapporo District Court judge, Mitsuru Sakai, said, "Their refusal to allow admission to the bathhouse was a case of irrational discrimination and exceeded the bounds of what is permissible in this society."
James Brooke (NYT)

Courtesy http://www.nationalpost.com/world/story.html?id=%7bD6B08A55-0695-438B-A2EA-4B9AB1530BB7
Court to rule on 'Japanese Only' bathhouse Discrimination lawsuit
Peter Goodspeed
National Post

Saturday, November 09, 2002

One of Japan's worst-kept secrets will be dragged into the spotlight on Monday when a Sapporo district court rules on a lawsuit in which three "foreigners" claim to be victims of persistent racial discrimination.

The court has been asked to decide if a Hokkaido bathhouse acted illegally by barring people simply because they were not Japanese.

But the case is far more significant because the plaintiffs, an American, a German, and a naturalized Japanese who was formerly an American, have also sued the municipal government in the city of Otaru for failing to do anything to prevent racial discrimination and the subsequent proliferation of "Japanese Only" signs on bathhouses, restaurants and bars.

The case could trigger a landslide of similar lawsuits in Japan -- which has signed several international anti-discrimination and anti-racism conventions, but has no law outlawing discrimination on the grounds of race or appearance.

In a country where the word for foreigner is gaijin or "outside person," distrust frequently borders on dislike and discrimination. The Hokkaido case has unearthed a long and bitter legacy of discrimination.

Trouble began in Otaru in 1994, when several bathhouses decided to ban drunken Russian sailors who were using the public baths and driving away Japanese customers.

The owners justified the ban by saying their baths are communal and Japanese customers dislike sharing them with foreigners.

They argued some non-Japanese were not familiar with bathing rituals, such as washing or rinsing before getting into the bath, and that made Japanese customers uncomfortable.

But when "Japanese Only" signs started going up on Hokkaido's bathhouses -- in Russian, English, Chinese and Korean, as well as Japanese -- it was not long before similar signs appeared on local bars, restaurants and hotels.

In some instances, the policy had to be enforced by foreign bar hostesses who were employed to entertain Japanese businessmen in nightclubs.

The signs have also cropped up in the rest of Japan -- for example, in the popular Club International in the Tokyo nightclub district of Shinjuku.

The distrust of foreigners is evident elsewhere. Japanese news media regularly blame foreigners for increases in crime or sudden health epidemics.

In public schools, students have been provided with government pamphlets warning that foreigners loitering around train stations are probably trying to sell drugs and should be avoided at all costs.

Security companies sell "foreigner-proof locks," and Japanese police are empowered under any circumstances to demand that foreigners -- and only foreigners -- produce identification documents.

Recently, one Japanese police department circulated a crime-fighting pamphlet to local businesses advising store owners that if two or more foreigners park and enter their premises, they should copy down the licence plate numbers and call police.

In another recent case, Ishihara Shintaro, Tokyo's Governor, caused a stir internationally when he was quoted telling local police to begin arresting foreigners en masse if there was a massive earthquake in the city because they could be expected to start rioting and looting.

"For years, all levels of administrative and legislative branches turned blind eyes to the problem," said David Aldwinckle, one of the plaintiffs in the Otaru lawsuit. The university professor in Hokkaido is now a naturalized Japanese citizen and goes by the name Arudou Debito.

"These practices have spread to other cities and business sectors, and they are increasing perceptions that people of different ethnicities and cultures cause social instability."

Mr. Debito argues his court case will be crucial in clarifying just how much Japan's foreign population is legally protected against racial discrimination.

Right now, Japan's constitution, written in English with the help of U.S. occupying forces at the end of the Second World War, is a study in contradictions.

The English version says "all of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin."

But the Japanese version renders the word for "people" as kokumin, or citizens, a concept that implicitly excludes non-Japanese.

Japan's perception of itself as a proud, monoethnic nation frequently makes it difficult for foreigners to integrate into society.

Copyright 2002National Post

(Link to NTT Docomo issue here)
(Link to Otaru Onsen Lawsuit here)
(Link to Gwen Gallagher Lawsuit here)
(Link to Kumamoto Kenritsu University Lawsuit here)
(Link to "Gaijin" as a discriminatory word here)

Monday, November 18, 2002
Good neighbors to diversity
(Courtesy http://www.japantimes.com/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?ed20021118a1.htm)

Japanese are increasingly waking up to find that their new neighbors are foreigners who have settled in this country. What should be done to build an affluent multicultural society in Japan? The Sapporo District Court recently handed down a ruling that makes us think about this question. Three foreigners had claimed that the refusal of a public bathhouse in Otaru to grant them admission amounted to a violation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which Japan has ratified. They filed a suit seeking 6 million yen in compensation from the operator of the bathhouse and from the Otaru city government.

The court ruled that the bathhouse's refusal to grant them admission was an act of racial discrimination and ordered the operator to pay a total of 3 million yen, saying that the defendants had suffered a violation of their human rights as well as psychological injury. The court also ruled that the city government had taken measures to end the ban against foreigners and that it should not be held responsible for the actions of the bathhouse, since a local government is not obliged to perform duties under international law.

This trial is notable for three reasons. First, how should we strike a balance between business rights and human rights? Second, how should we distinguish between foreigners and Japanese? And, third, is Japan making sufficient efforts to eliminate racial discrimination?

Regarding the first point, bathhouse facilities in Otaru began putting up "no entry for foreigners" signs in the early 1990s, when the number of visits by Russian sailors suddenly increased following the end of the Cold War. Some of those Russians displayed extremely bad manners in the bathhouses, such as drinking and reveling noisily on the premises. Such behavior threatened to turn Japanese customers away; as a result, the bathhouses started to refuse entry to all foreigners.

According to one nongovernmental organization that is involved in the problem of discrimination against foreigners in Japan, as of 2000, the move by facilities to ban the entry of foreigners had spread from Hokkaido to Okinawa. The court decision in Sapporo sounds a warning to such business practices.

As for the second point, one of the defendants, a university lecturer named Debito Arudo, hails from the United States but actually has Japanese nationality. He is married to a Japanese woman and has two daughters. Arudo, though, was treated as a foreigner because of his appearance. This makes us wonder about the definition of a Japanese. Indeed, many Japanese seem to have a fixed idea of what a Japanese should look like. They have no trouble digesting the reality of a Japanese-Peruvian or Japanese-American, but reverse the words and they have a strong resistance to the notion of Peruvian-Japanese or American-Japanese.

However, we now live in an age in which more than 30,000 "international marriages" are reported in Japan each year. Eventually, terms like Chinese-Japanese and American-Japanese will probably become commonplace. It is time for the Japanese to recognize that the age of diversity has hit home.

The third point is related to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Following the spread of neo-Nazism in Europe, the convention was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1965. Japan eventually ratified the convention 30 years later in 1995 --the 146th country, and the last of the advanced countries, to do so. Even then, Japan was slow to establish related domestic legislation. In March 2001, in a final opinion paper on Japan, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination strongly urged Japan to enact legislation on the elimination of racial discrimination that carries penalties.

A U.N. study report issued in March 2000 notes that Japan's low birthrate and the increasing average age of its population will force it in 50 years to accept about 310,000 immigrants a year to maintain its labor force. That's the equivalent of the population of a medium-size city. When a relatively uniform society takes in large numbers of people with different cultural backgrounds, there will be some anxiety and friction.

According to the recently issued white paper on the police, as the number of foreigners entering Japan has increased over the past decade, the number of crimes involving foreigners has risen 2.3 times and the number of arrests has jumped 1.6 times. Such problems will not be solved by harboring a dislike of new neighbors and shutting them out. We must build a society that gently and kindly embraces different peoples and minorities. It is important for each of us to be prepared. That should be the lesson of the Sapporo District Court case.

The Japan Times: Nov. 18, 2002 (C) All rights reserved

(response to the above editorial)

A Japanese without modifiers
Sunday, December 1, 2002
(Courtesy http://www.japantimes.com/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?rc20021201a1.htm)

There was much to applaud in the Nov. 18 editorial, "Good neighbors to diversity." Japan improves as a civil society only as more people embrace the legal truth that "Japanese" is a nationality with no implications of national origin or racial appearance. Yet like most other similarly pitched and well-intended commentary, the editorial confused the language of nationality (a legal status) with national origin (an aspect of personal history) and race (a figment of imagination, a lie).

The editorial says Debito Arudo "hails from the United States but actually has Japanese nationality." Then it refers to his wife as "a Japanese woman" and wonders why some people accept hyphenations like "Japanese-American" but not "American-Japanese." It never simply calls Arudo "Japanese." Instead, it encourages people to think that there are two kinds of Japanese -- "Japanese" and "Hyphenated-Japanese."

By law, however, there is only one kind of Japanese: a person who possesses Japanese nationality. And in its 103-year history, Japan's Nationality Law has never made national origin or race a qualification in the acquisition of Japanese nationality. Its right-of-blood principle for those born to a parent in a family register affiliated with Japan is a kinship and territorial criterion -- not a racial one.

There are simply no formal grounds for qualifying Japanese nationality beyond observing that someone is, or is not, Japanese. The fashionable practice of racializing nationality with hyphenated terms, or with modifiers like "ethnic" or "half" or "full" or "pure," reflect discriminatory impulses. Arudo, like Emperor Akihito, is just Japanese. And he was right to insist that a civil society must never allow a private business (in this case, a bathhouse) with a public door to bar anyone for the reasons that he and his family and friends have sometimes been barred.

Abiko, Chiba

The Japan Times: Dec. 1, 2002
(The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor
are the writer's own and do not necessarily reflect
the policies of The Japan Times.)


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