MARCH 11, 2002, 13:30-15:37, SAPPORO DISTRICT COURT

(click here to go to an index page for Hearing Seven in English and Japanese)
(click here to go to the Otaru Lawsuit Index Page)

By Plainfiff Ken Sutherland
(with additions from Plaintiffs Olaf Karthaus and Arudou Debito)

Overall I would say that the lawyer from Yunohana wanted us to admit that we didn't go there to take a bath, but to cause trouble. Under Japanese law, we can only sue for mental damage (seishinteki kutsuu), so his job was to show that we only went there to harass his client. We knew that we would be refused, therefore we suffered no mental duress. I don't believe that he succeeded in conveying this.

The lawyer from Otaru City did not ask any questions. We're not sure how to interpret that. Perhaps he is confident of victory.

About twenty people were in attendence in the gallery, including representatives from the City of Otaru. Yunohana's representatives were absent. Plaintiff Arudou took the stand first and was sworn in. He was then questioned by our lawyer, Hideko Itoh.


Q. How long have you lived in Japan?

A. I first came in 1986, but have lived here permanently from 1991. Married to a Japanese with two children.

Q. Have you experienced discrimination in other places in Japan?

A. Refusals at some restaurants, stores, apartments. Daily gaijin harassment at a trading company until I quit.

Q. When did you first try to enter Defendant Onsen Yunohana's bathhouse premises?

A. On September 19, 1999, I went with four international families (German, Chinese, two American, all married to Japanese) to take a bath, as well as to check e-mail reports of a "Japanese Only" sign. All Asians were allowed in, but three Caucasian men were refused entry--myself, Plaintiff Karthaus, and a third American man. We refused spoke with a sub-manager, who replied that Yunohana can not admit foreigners due to problems with drunken and misbehaving Russian sailors. We tried to explain that we are not drunk Russian sailors, rather residents of Japan with Japanese families who are being adversely affected by a overgeneralizing policy. Manager said sorry, but that can't be helped. I pointed out to the manager that they had actually admitted a Chinese woman. The manager then asked the Chinese woman to leave. We then indicated how dangerous this policy was, since refusals were based on looks, not nationality.

Q. What about your children?

A. My wife asked the manager about whether our daughters, who have the same parents but very different features. Manager replied that when they get bigger, the daughter who has the Japanese features can enter, but the one who appears foreign will be refused. This is where I became worried about the effect of policies like these on my daughters, who are both Japanese citizens. They feared aloud later that they can't go anywhere with their "Gaijin" father. They had an impression that "Gaijin" are somehow bad people. I was worried that my younger daughter would be angry at me in later years for having inherited "interfering DNA" (jama na idenshi) from me which would close doors for her in future.

Q. Did you go somewhere else?

A. Yes, afterwards we went to Otaru MyCal's Freizeit for a bath.

Q. You went back to Yunohana on Jan 3, 2000?

A. Yes, we heard rumors that they had taken down their sign for the new year. We spoke with head manager Mr. Kobayashi.

Q. What did you find?

A. Yunohana had put up a different sign from the Russian-Japanese-English original. This new sign was only in Japanese, still refusing all foreigners, moreover stating that they are "considering" the matter. When we asked them to take down this sign, they refused, saying the sign must stay up for the sake of their Japanese customers who would otherwise stay away from their business. They also blamed Otaru City for not trying hard enough to "enlighten" (keihatsu) the general public and get them used to the idea of bathing with foreigners.

Q. You went a third time on October 31, 2000?

A. Yes. I received Japanese citizenship on October 10, 2000. I went with two Japanese friends from Otaru. I showed Yunohana my drivers license as proof of Japanese citizenship, but Yunohana still refused me entry, saying nobody would know I was a Japanese by looking at my face.

Q. What about Otaru City?

A. They knew that signposted foreigner refusals were happening in their district since 1994, but they did little to stop them. When our Yunohana visit hit the press in September 1999, they convened two meetings of international groups in October and November. Not one foreigner was present. We had tried to attend those two meetings, but were refused entry by the City. We were told that we could attend a third meeting, but that meeting was eventually canceled.

Q. What do you want the City to do?

A. We asked them several times to sponsor a public forum on the matter, one where the onsens, the City, foreigners, and the general public may attend and exchange views on problems and solutions.

Q. What was their response?

A. They said they would think about it. (kentou shimasu)

Q. To this day, has the City ever sponsored a forum?

A. No, they have not. Only Otaru Doshin and the Otaru University of Commerce have.

Q. Did the City ever publicly promise to sponsor a forum?

A. Yes, in early 2000. But by August 2000, as the newspapers reported, it was "on hold". (tana age no mama)

Q. So the City knew about the problem?

A. Yes. But they kept saying that because it is a private-sector business (minkan gaisha), they said they could do nothing to force them to stop it.

Q. In Spring 2000, you also submitted a proposal for a anti-discrimination ordinance (jourei) to the City government and all political parties. What happened to that?

A. It got buried in committee. (teireikai de keizoku shinsachuu)

Q. What about the 24-Hour Hotline the City claims it set up?

A. In case problems with foreigners came up, a cell-phone number was provided to other onsens, Osupa and Panorama, which formerly excluded foreigners. Yunohana refused to participate. The City refused to give us the number. It was not for the general public's use.

Q. The City also printed information flyers?

A. Yes, they printed 4,000 and apparently distributed them dockside and at Customs.

Q. How many Russian sailors visit Otaru?

A. About 30,000 per year.

Q. You have become friends with the manager at Osupa since this event. How does he feel about all this?

A. He thinks the City has no sincerity, no follow-through. They make a few motions when people are looking, then stop. He thinks the City has not done enough to help resolve this situation.

Q. Do you have anything else you would like to say to The Court?

A. Yes. Even though I do not appear Japanese, in manner, language, or demeanor, I am legally Japanese. What is decided in this case will not only affect me, but also our children and others who do not look Japanese that are making a living in this society. I pray for a good verdict.

Q. No further questions.




Q. Have you been refused entry to other Onsens?

A. Yes, Osupa and Panorama.

Q. When did you find about Yunohana?

A. In 1999, from an e-mail report from a South American woman.

Q. When did you find out about Osupa and Panorama?

A. Around the same time.

Q. What about Wakkanai?

A. There is a onsen there, Yuransen, that charges 2,500 for a separate bath only for foreigners. The fee for Japanese is 380 yen.

Q. How did you find out about that?

A. From Mr. Karthaus, who was refused entry there some years ago.

Q. How did you find out about exclusionary places in Nemuro or Otaki-mura?

A. Bathhouse "Akebono" in Nemuro apparently refuses foreigners, which I found out from a friend who investigated. Onsen "Kawasemi" in Otaki-mura I found out from an Australian friend who was denied entry.

Q. So you were not denied entry there yourself?

A. No.

Q. Why did you take a newspaper reporter with you to Yunohana?

A. He already knew about it via the Internet and asked if he could come along. We wanted to have an impartial third witness.

Q. You really went because you knew you would be refused? You were just investigating (chousa), weren't you?

A. We didn't go to "investigate", we went to "confirm" (kakunin).

Q. No further questions.


The lawyer representing Otaru City declined to cross-examine. Plaintiff Arudou was then excused.

Next, Plaintiff Karthaus took the stand, read the oath. A German interpreter was present, but rarely used.


Q. When did you come to Japan?

A. For the first time in 1986, for half a year as an exchange student to Kyoto University. I married in 1989, our oldest son was born in 1990. In 1992 we moved to Japan.

Q. So you have lived permanently in Japan since 1992?

A. Yes

Q. You were refused entry to Yunohana in October, 1999, but you knew in advance that they refused foreigners?

A. Yes, from the Internet reports.

Q. When did you hear for the first time that Yunohana refuses foreigners.

A. In 1998 I went to Wakkanai and I was refused entry at a place called Yuransen. They said that a similar policy is also practiced in Otaru, but the manager did not mention the name Yunohana.

Q. What about Wakkanai?

A. I went there on a bicycle trip in 1998. I was refused entry at Yuransen.

Q. Why did you go to Yunohana?

A. To check on the internet reports.

Q. You went with your family?

A. Yes, with wife, two daughters and son.

Q. How old was your son?

A. Nine years old.

Q. What happened?

A. Japan is a country where many problems can be solved by speaking with one another. So I thought that explaining to the onsen staff that I am not a Russian sailor, that I am not drunk, that I have lived in Japan for many years and know the bathing rules, I could enter with my family.

Q. All together three people were refused entry?

A. Three adults were refused entry. In addition, my son was refused entry, too.

Q. Please explain in detail.

A. He was nine years old. At that age a boy cannot be expected to enter the womens section of an onsen. He would be ashamed. In addition, he could not enter by himself, because due to his heart condition, he was physically weak. I was afraid that he would slip and fall into the water.

Q. What did you do after being refused.

A. I took my family to another onsen, MyCal Otaru's Freizeit.

Q. How did you feel?

A. Well, I was shocked, and I had a lot of anxiety that I would be refused entry to other businesses.

Q. What effect did it have on your children?

A. They witnessed the entire thing. Whenever I went to Otaru, they told me that I should be careful."Poor daddy, you will be refused again" they used to say.

Q. You went to Yunohana a second time?

A. Yes, we heard that they had changed their sign. We wanted to check this. We spoke with Mr. Kobayashi [manager]. He said that their previous business, Green Sauna, went out of business due to unruly Russians. It is a very difficult problem, and they can not remove the sign, they said.

Q. What was written on the new sign?

A. The old sign with big red letters "Japanese Only" (the plaintiff shows the size of the sign by holding his hands 50 cm apart), was gone. The new sign said that foreigners were still refused entry and that this policy was under review.

Q. Do you know the contents of the present sign?

A. Yes. You have to live in Japan for more than one year, you have to speak japanese and not pose any inconvenience to other customers, like body smell.

Q. What do you think of those rules?

A. I do not see why I have to live in Japan for more than one year in order to know how to use a bath. What about deaf people who do not understand Japanese?

Q. So you think that the rules are unreasonable?

A. Yes.

Q. What other activities did you undertake?

A. Soon after being refused for the first time at Yunohana, my wife wrote a letter to Mr. Yamada, the Mayor of Otaru. I also contacted the German Embassy, and they wrote a letter, too. Furthermore, I shared many of David's activities. I tried to attend meetings of the International affairs office of the city, I attended the forum sponsored by Otaru University of Commerce, and so on.

Q. Was was the answer of the mayor?

A. It was a very vaguely written letter, in which the mayor admitted knowing of the signs and that this was a difficult problem and it would take time to resolve it.

Q. Did the mayor give any details how the problem could be resolved?

A. No. Not at all.

Q. Why did you decide to sue?

A. After my son died in August 2000, I had no energy for anything other than my family. I gave up all other activity. But the situation at Yunohana did not improve. Then it became clear to me that the situation will not improve without a lawsuit. I already had wasted too much time in negotiations. My son had died in the meantime, without hearing an apology from the onsen. I decided that I had taken all possible steps and that a lawsuit was the only alternative.

Q. What about the City of Otaru?

A. They are responsible too. We hoped they would they would pass a local ordinance, but they did nothing.

Q. Do you like Onsens?

A. Yes. I often take colleagues when they visit from overseas.

Q. Do you have anything else to say to the court?

A. We cannot resolve this problem by ourselves. I want to continue living here, but it will be impossible of such discrimination continues. My children are Japanese.

Q: No further questions.




Q. You went to Wakkanai and were refused at Yuransen?

A. That's right.

Q. The Onsen is divided into a Japanese and Foreigners' bath?

A. Yes, the Foreigners' bath costs 2,500 yen. Eight times the price of the Japanese bath.

Q. But if you really wanted to take a bath, you would have paid the price?

A. No. It is a matter of principle.

Q. So you don't want to take a bath at any cost?

A. I want to take a bath with my friends and family.

Q. In October, 1999, you brought newspaper reporters with you to Yunohana?

A. The reporter asked to come. A Japanese member of an activist group called the newspaper and then the journalist called me at my house.

Q. You belong to a group of activists?

A. We were involved with a group called ISSHO Kikaku.

Q. So Issho Kikaku is mainly involved in fighting discrimination at onsens?

A. No. This issue was one out of many activities for Issho Kikaku.

Q. You said that you carried your son, while being in Yunohana, because he has a heart condition. Was he well enough to take a hot bath?

A. He was well enough to take a bath. After being refused we went to another onsen and I took a bath with him.

Q. Have you heard of others being refused by Yunohana?

A. I've heard about a South American woman and a person from France, among others. The former was so shocked, she even wanted to go back to her home country. She didn't want to live in Japan anymore.

Q. Do you have cases like this in Germany?

A. I've never seen a "Germans Only" sign.

Q. No further questions.


The lawyer for Otaru City didn't have any questions. Plaintiff Karthaus was then excused.

Plaintiff Sutherland took the stand and was sworn in. An English interpreter was present. Questions from our lawyer Hideko Itoh:


Q. How long have you lived in Japan?

A. I came to Japan in 1989. I married in 1993.

Q. When were you first refused entry?

A. In May 1999, I tried to enter Osupa with my wife. We were told that she could enter, but I could not.

Q. When did you find out about Yunohana?

A. I was driving back from hiking around Otaru some weeks later and saw the "Japanese Only" sign.

Q. Did you try to enter?

A. No, I gave up.

Q. Then you went again?

A. Yes, I went back on December 23, 2000.

Q. Why did you go back?

A. We were discussing legal action, and I needed some evidence that I was actually refused.

Q. Were you alone?

A. Yes.

Q. What kind of "evidence"?

A. I took a video camera and held it.

Q. What happened?

A. I entered and bought a ticket. When I tried to hand the ticket to the clerk, he said that they refuse foreigners.

Q. Did you ask to speak to the manager?

A. No, I asked the clerk why I couldn't enter. He said that it was their policy.

Q. What happened next?

A. I asked for my money back, and left.

Q. Did you participate with Mr. Arudou and Mr. Karthaus in their activity?

A. No, but I was kept informed via the Internet.

Q. Do you have anything else you want to say to the court?

A. We have exhausted all other methods. This court is our last chance. I have been living here for 12 years, studying Japanese and customs. But all that effort will have been in vain if they refuse me because I am a foreigner.

Q. No further questions.




Q. Have you been denied entry to other onsens?

A. Yes, Osupa.

Q. Can you read Japanese?

A. A little.

Q. Can you read what you wrote in your testimony?

A. Uhhh...

Q. You wrote that your went to Yunohana to gather "evidence" (shouko).

A. Well yes, we needed some proof for our court case. I also wanted to investigate their sign change (from "Japanese Only" to "We are considering the matter").

Q. What do you need "evidence" for?

A. For a court case. I can't sue if I don't have proof.

Q. So you went back to get evidence so you could sue?

A. Yes.

Q. So you wouldn't have sued if you did not have evidence?

A. Yes.

HEAD JUDGE SAKAI. Let me just confirm. So if you were let into Yunohana, you would not have sued them?

A. That's right.


That concluded the court testimony. Plaintiff Sutherland was then excused.

Court was adjourned at 3:40. Hearing Eight, with the Defendants' testimony, will take place on Monday, April 15, 2002, at 1:30 PM.


(NB: In a proceedings postmortem, our lawyer said it was good that Sutherland indicated he would not have sued if he had been let into Yunohana in December 2000, when he returned to collect evidence. It weakens the Defense's claim that he is just a troublemaker. It still stands as a fact of the case that he was refused entry.)

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