BACKGROUND TO THE OTARU ONSENS CASE
(1993-Dec 31, 2000)
(for details after this timeframe, please click
(Much of this information was created through Plaintiffs working through Issho
Kikaku, which is NOT A PARTY to this lawsuit. Disclaimer
(Photo courtesy Hokkaido Shinbun, Sept 21, 1999)
The city of Otaru, Hokkaido, is a tourist town with a large number of visitors,
many of them foreign. It is also a northern seaport and major fish market, with over
30,000 sailors per annum from nearby Russia bringing their catch and cooling their
heels on shore. However, it is the case that some ill-mannered and drunken Russian
sailors have caused disturbances at places like bars, restaurants, in taxis, and,
particularly (given the high Japanese cultural sensitivity towards bathing) "onsen"
This is to some degree an unfortunate part of the cultural ferment of seaport town.
However, from 1994, some bathing institutions, i.e. onsens and "super-sento"
bathhouses, have put up signs (the first being Onsen Osupa) saying "Japanese
only", excluding all foreigners (regardless of Japan tenure) and even their
children (who often are Japanese citizens). Hearing about these events over the internet,
Olaf Karthaus (on the left in picture above) and Dave Aldwinckle (his name before
naturalization, on the right), then-networkers for NPO Issho Kikaku's BENCI Project,
visited four Otaru bathing facilties on September 19, 1999. They were able to verify
and record the existence of this exclusionary policy in the REPORT
below. (Photo taken in front of Onsen Osupa, near
Otaru MyCal, Address: Otaru Chikkou 7-12, Phone (0134) 25-5959. )
INFORMATION SOURCES AND EVENTS
(Some links below will take you directly to documents on the
Issho Kikaku website, which may or may not forward you to the appropriate link.
Apologies--that is beyond this website's control. If you get stuck, please hit your
"page back" button.)
- Summer 1993. Onsen Osupa begins refusing entry foreigners with a "Japanese
Only" sign. Onsen Panorama follows suit off and on over the years.
- July 1998. With the impending bankruptcy of its related "Green Sauna"
bathhouse, allegedly due to ill-mannered Russian sailors driving away regular Japanese
customers, Onsen Yunohana opens, refusing all foreigners from day one.
- July 1998. Onsen Yunohana refuses entry to an international family living
in Sapporo (husband Japanese, wife European, three children aged 13, 11, and 9 dual
nationals). When husband protests that their children are Japanese too, the person
in charge deems the latter foreigners by appearance and refuses the children entry
"due to company policy".
- Dec 25 1998, Otaru tourist from Kansai Jon Letman is refused entry to
Yunohana, because, according to the boy at the front, "foreigners allegedly
carry diseases" ("Gaijin kara byoki ga derurashii"). Manager refuses
to come out to explain this stance to Letman further.
- July 26, 1999 Onsen Yunohana refuses entry to another international couple
living in Sapporo (husband Japanese, wife South American, two children dual nationals),
denying the wife entry to bathe with her children. Shocked wife contemplates leaving
Japan due to this incident.
- Sept 19, 1999 Four international families (USA, Germany, China), with
Japanese spouses, children, and friends, visit Onsen Yunohana to confirm refusal
policy. Confirmed. Yunohana's manager (who refuses to give his name) refuses entry
to Caucasian fathers only (letting in a Chinese mother until her nationality is revealed,
then forcing her and her Japanese children to leave). Requests from international
party to reconsider this policy due to its racist applications are refused by the
manager. Two of the Caucasians refused (Karthaus and Arudou/Aldwinckle) would become
plaintiffs in the 2001 lawsuit.
- NOW READ: THE FIRST REPORT by Dave
Aldwinckle on the September 19, 1999 Otaru onsens visit, with details
on place, names, and the treatment received by the investigators, as well as the
nacent BENCI Project's methods and goals in general. UPDATES
written by former BENCI Member Dave Aldwinckle are HERE (Nov 22, 1999), HERE
(Jan 5, 2000), HERE (Jan 17, 2000), and
HERE (Feb 26, 2000).
- Hokkaido Shinbun reporting on the event, September 21, 1999 (original
Japanese article jpg here, Japanese and English
translation text here).
- A response from the Otaru Onsens Kumiai
(representative organizations which set prices and standardize industry rules) through
a Dave Aldwinckle telephone inquiry on September 22, 1999 telephone inquiry, on whether
or not the exclusionary practices are part of official kumiai rules. Answer: no.
But there is no offical kumiai rule against excluding, either, which puts
them in a do-nothing position. Official Kumiai names and phone numbers are included
in the report.
- Public Responses: letters to Hokkaido Shinbun expressing outrage on Sept
29, 1999 (original Japanese article jpg here,
Japanese and English translation text here).
- Asahi Evening News article related to the subject on Oct 3, 1999 (original
English article jpg here)
- Mainichi Daily News Peter Hadfield column on Oct 3, 1999 (English
text here, article jpg here)
- Hokkaido Shinbun on the trip, Oct 6, 1999 (Japanese
article jpg, Japanese and English translation
- BENCI member Julian Chapple's Letter
to the Mayor of Dunedin, Otaru's Sister City, Oct 7, 1999 (English text)
- Hokkaido Shinbun letter to the editor
demanding an explanation for this policy on Oct 12, 1999 (Japanese jpg)
- Japan Traveler Magazine Oct 1999, p.22,
advising against travel to Otaru due to those discriminatory onsens.
- Answer from Otaru City from a
private Issho Kikaku member request for clarification, dated Sept 27, 1999. (Japanese
- Noncommital reply from Otaru Mayor Yamada Katsumaro to Olaf's wife, Yuki
Karthaus, dated Oct 12, 1999 (Japanese jpg of Letter
received here, English translation here).
- Foreigners' rights group Welcome House (which would coordinate efforts
with BENCI until the end of 2000) also visits onsens and writes letter
of protest in Japanese (jpg) to excluders.
- UHB TV reports on the issues Oct 27, 1999 (English
transcript of the broadcast)
- Otaru Doshin (i.e.Otaru city version of Hokkaido
Shinbun) does a three-part series on the issues:
- Hokkaido Shinbun's Takujou Shiki
(a front-cover mini-essay, like Asahi Shinbun's Tensei Jingou), on the
issue front page, Nov 20, 1999 (Japanese jpg)
- A city Protestant cooperative asks the Russian Consulate and the onsens
to work towards a solution. Otaru Doshin article
Dec 17, 1999 (Japanese jpg)
- Asahi Shinbun, Dec 4, 1999, page 18,
with a nationally-published roundup of the issue. (Japanese jpg)
- Asahi Evening News, Dec 6, 1999, a rather
glib translation of the above Dec 4 Asahi Shinbun article (English jpg).
written by BENCI member Ken Isozaki, appraising agencies of the situation, sent
to Nichibenren, Hokkaido Bengoshikai, Otaru City Mayor, and the Ministry of Justice
Sapporo, Division of Human Rights. (Japanese text), Oct 14, 1999.
FROM THE CITY OF OTARU AND THE MINISTRY OF JUSTICE to the abovementioned
letter, Nov 1 and Oct 26, 1999, respectively (English and Japanese URL)
ISSUE ESCAPES DOMESTIC PRESS, ENTERS
INTERNATIONAL ARENA (Nov 1999-March 2000)
- NEW YORK TIMES, Nov 15, 1999, Front
page, brief aside within article on Discrimination
in Japan (text), and jpg of second page.
Reprinted in the International Herald Tribune shortly thereafter.
- After being contacted by Olaf Karthaus, the GERMAN
EMBASSY writes a strongly-worded letter of protest to Mayor of
Otaru, dated Nov 29, 1999, indicating this as "a serious problem", that
exclusionary practices "are not the solution", and asking for a follow-up
report on what attempts the City is making to resolve this problem. (Japanese jpg
page one and page
two, German jpg with consular letterhead page
one and page two, English translation
- THE MAYOR OF DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND, OTARU'S SISTER CITY, WASHES HER HANDS OF
THE PROBLEM. After contacting Mayor Sukhi Turner on Oct
4, 1999, BENCI receives a very terse reply saying that she believes that Otaru
is doing "all that they can". After an article appears in the local newspaper,
the Otago Daily Times, BENCI then writes a letter to the editor explaining our position
(which unfortunately did not get published)
- GERMANY'S FRANKFURTER ALLEGMEINE ZEITUNG Feb 1, 2000
(German jpg here, English
- JAPAN TIMES Column by Tama University President Gregory Clark, Dec 25,
1999, re Otaru Onsens--decrying the hypocrisy of griping gaijin about this issue.
Reprinted in TAIPEI TIMES, TAIWAN, Jan 22, 2000. Riposte letter to the
editor from BENCI's Dave Aldwinckle is then published in Taipei Times Feb 2,
2000 (English text of both here)
- THE TIMES LONDON Feb 2, 2000 criticizes
the Japanese government over this issue, stating it "routinely turns a blind
eye to discrimination". (English text)
- Russian newspaper KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA
Feb 2, 2000, parodies the policies of the onsens, rereported in translation Hokkaido
Shinbun, Feb 5, 2000, page 31 (Japanese jpg with headline only in Russian)
- Brief to CANADIAN AMBASSADOR Leonard
J. Edwards Feb 8, 2000, Sapporo Renaissance Hotel, on the issue, by BENCI's Dave
Aldwinckle. (English jpg). CANADIAN AMBASSADOR'S
ANSWER, March 21, 2000, states that he is "disturbed to hear about the
difficulties", and has had "officials in my Embassy contact the Japanese
Foreign Ministry to inform them that I am observing this issue closely", and
also had "my Embassy contact other foreign missions in Tokyo with regard to
this matter." (English jpg)
- Brief to AMERICAN CONSUL GENERAL SAPPORO
Michael Meserve, Feb 14, 2000, by Dave Aldwinckle, requesting a statement of concern
on the issue (English jpg). Consulate officials refuse, stating that USG guidelines
on subjects such as these are clear in their annual reports, referring us to the
US State Department's "Japan Country Report on Human Rights Practices"
of contents here). (English jpg)
- BENCI proposal to SAPPORO RUSSIAN
FEDERATION CONSUL Nail M. Latypov by Dave Aldwinckle, asking for recognition
and action on the issue, Feb 24, 2000 (English jpg)
- Second BENCI proposal to SAPPORO
RUSSIAN FEDERATION CONSUL Nail M. Latypov, dated Apr 17, 2000, by Dave Aldwinckle.
Aldwinckle presented the consulate with standardized multilingual posters from the
Japanese national sento kumiai (bathhouse association) explaining Japanese
bathhouse etiquette to non-Japanese. We say: "As Japan
has a high cultural sensitivity towards bathing etiquette, we hope that these rules...
would be issued to Russian shipping companies etc., with an additional message about
the difficulties created for foreign residents of Japan by a small number of foreign
visitors to Japan." (English jpg)
- LOS ANGELES
TIMES Feb 19, 2000, quoting Otaru City International Relations Manager
Takeuchi Kazuho, "Foreigners, mainly Russians, may not have the same idea about
possessions as we do." Reprinted in Singapore's Straits Times
the next day. (English text).
- USA TODAY, Mar 8, 2000, in a highly-critical
article about Japan's treatment of foreigners, describes how they are fighting back.
- NEW YORK TIMES, March 14, 2000, on Japan's
treatment of immigrants, which passim mentions bathhouse exclusion.(English text)
- and even more under Fin-De-Siecle Developments.
OTARU CITY BEGINS TO TAKE NOTICE
The City of Otaru , suddenly under press scrutiny after over four years of officially-unchecked
discrimination within its municipality, begins to make some efforts to deal with
the situation. It convocates two public meetings on the problem, one on Oct 27, 1999
inviting city international groups (kokusai kouryuu kanren dantai renraku kaigi)
, and the other inviting input from Otaru exclusionary onsens Yunohana,
Osupa, and Panorama on Nov 5, 1999. Although BENCI coordinator Dave Aldwinckle
asks two days before both meetings if we, who had been in contact with the City over
this issue well in advance, could attend, the City's International Relations Bureau
representative, Mr Miura, refused us entry, stressing the need to keep "order"
and promising to let foreigners in during a future third meeting. In fact, in both
meetings not a single non-Japanese was present.
After an informal meeting with Dave Aldwinckle on Nov 9, Mr Miura indicates that
the future third meeting had been cancelled, and reiterates the City's lack of intention
to 1) incorporate non-Japanese in any of its policy decisions, 3) hold any public
fora on the issue, or 3) consider an anti-discrimination jourei (local ordinance).
The reasons he gave were time constraints, the fixed nature of the agenda due to
the international groups, and the need to maintain "order". This was later
NOT corroborated by other witnesses (reporters) at the meetings.
The conclusion to draw from all this: It's not only the onsens. Otaru City has also
shut the foreigners out.
Newspaper articles on these city-level policy meetings:
OF THE THREE EXCLUSIONARY ONSENS, PANORAMA, TAKES DOWN ITS EXCLUSIONARY SIGN; BENCI
AND WELCOME HOUSE LOBBY THE OTARU CITY ASSEMBLY (Report
dated Nov 22, 1999 by BENCI's Dave Aldwinckle)
As 1999 wound down to its millennial conclusion, Dave Aldwinckle heard from various
sources that the two remaining onsen holdouts, Yunohana and Osupa, were considering
taking down their exclusionary signs by Jan 1, 2000. Hokkaido Shinbun reports, Osupa
surveyed their customers on their attitudes towards having foreign customers patronize
their bathhouse. However, a cursory glance at the survey shows the bad science--that
it is statistically skewed and invites negative comments and predispositions. It
was ultimately used by Osupa several times in public to justify their continuing
NEW YEAR'S RESOLVE:
(Jan- Feb 2000)
Those abovementioned December 1999 sources were, alas, wrong. Yunohana and Osupa
did not take down their signs as a new year resolution. On Jan 3, 2000, Olaf
Karthaus and Dave Aldwinckle visit them to ask, record, and plead. Photos of Yunohana's
new Japanese Only (in Japanese only for less photogenicity) appear in SUBSTANTIATION.
Link to Report, Jan 5, 2000, by BENCI's Dave
Aldwinckle on meetings and negotiations with onsen owners.
One contentious item which arises here is the onsens repeated claim that they cannot
communicate effectively with foreigners to stop their errant ways from scaring off
their customers. Foreigners, you see, don't understand Japanese bathing rules. However,
we find out at Yunohana that day that Otaru City has given the onsens multilingual
bathing rule flyers (in Russian, Japanese, and English) for the onsens to display.
The original Japanese photocopy of the rules is here.(English
within above Jan 5, 2000 report). However, Osupa and Yunohana refuse to display them,
saying that it's too late and their customers will stay away if they let any foreigner
However, the record does not bear this out at the other onsen, Panorama, which opened
its doors on Nov 6, 1999. When Dave and Olaf visit Panorama (and are let in for a
bath) on Jan 3, they see that those Otaru City-provided rules are displayed in the
changing room. According to Panorama managers, they have had problems with neither
Russian sailor nor Japanese customers, and envision their future solvency.
ASKING FOR LEGISLATION:
THE PRESS CONFERENCE OF JAN 13, 2000
AND THE REPROCUSSIONS
As both the onsens and the Otaru City government have shut out non-Japanese
in having any say in their policymaking, BENCI and Welcome House convened a press
conference at the Otaru City Hall Press Club to make our standpoints and recommendations
clear. We also, historically, submitted the first chinjou (public petition)
in Japan requesting both the Otaru Mayor and City Assembly to pass a jourei (local
ordinance) to forbid discrimination by race or nationality. It was covered by four
major newspapers and three TV networks (NHK, UHB, and HBC).
- REPORT ON THE PROCEEDINGS IN ENGLISH
by Dave Aldwinckle.(text)
- TEXT OF THE SUBMITTED BENCI CHINJOU (Japanese jpg) page
one, page two
- NHK TV BROADCAST CH 3, Six O'Clock
News, Jan 13, 2000, 6:14-6:19 PM. Five minutes of Local Government-sponsored
TV on the Press Conference (Full teletext and translation by Dave Aldwinckle)
- HOKKAIDO SHINBUN JAN 14, 2000, PG 28
(Japanese jpg) with a photo of Press Conference, details of the petition and the
rigged Osupa survey results, and the abovementioned rejection
by Otaru City for a forum or a meeting including non-Japanese.
- MAINICHI SHINBUN JAN 14, PG 17 (Japanese
jpg) with a photo of Welcome House's J. Mylet and Dave Aldwinckle officially presenting
the chinjou to a rep of the Otaru Mayor. They point out that Otaru has responsibilities
under international treaty to pass it, for the onsens still refuse to take their
exclusionary signs down.
- ASAHI SHINBUN JAN 14, PG 23 (Japanese
jpg) which also mentions that Otaru is being reported to the United Nations by an
- YOMIURI SHINBUN JAN 14, PG 29 (Japanese
jpg)--a blurb includes proposed penalties for offenders.
- JAN 31, 2000 PUBLIC FORUM ADVERTISEMENT
(Japanese jpg) sponsored by the Otaru University of Commerce (Otaru Shouka Daigaku),
to be held there at 6:30 pm. Open to the public. This was also announced at the press
conference to foster greater communication between consumer, producer, and administrator.
- HOKKAIDO SHINBUN "REPORTER'S VIEW"
JAN 24, 2000, PG 6 (Japanese jpg) where Doshin's Otaru correspondent writes
a big article strongly critical of the onsens and the city government.
- (THE CHINJOU IS BURIED AND DIES IN COMMITTEE more than three years later.
See APRIL 30, 2003 NOTIFICATION FROM OTARU
CITY GOVERNMENT (Japanese jpg))
PUBLIC OPINION POLARIZES: THE JAN 31, 2000 SHOUKADAI FORUM AND THE SUBSEQUENT DEADLOCK
One would have thought the new quasi-millennium and the increased public exposure
would have provided some impetus for change. However, despite Herculean efforts by
various individuals and groups, progress is stymied by a foot-dragging Otaru city
government. As the City of Otaru perpetually refuses to sponsor a public forum on
the issue so that Otaruans (including non-Japanese residents, of course) can air
their views and work towards a solution, Otaru University of Commerce steps in, sponsoring
a forum on Jan 31, 2000 to bring issues out with clarity.
The Jan 31 Forum not only gave a voice to many hitherto disenfranchised feelings
at the popular level, it also expanded press coverage from a few intermittent newspaper
blurbs into extensive national and international TV and print media in a dozen countries
(refer to INTERNATIONAL ATTENTION section). However,
the Forum was still only attended by one exclusionary onsen, Osupa (who very bravely
made their case all alone), while Yunohana boycotted its invitation. In fact, Yunohana--which
for many months starting Jan 2000 refused to talk to any press, the city in public,
or to BENCI on a formal level--have reaped great financial benefit from the publicity,
according to newspaper sources and visible in newfound TV commercials.
But again, the Forum did not result in the expressed goal of Otaru's international
groups, the Otaru Mayor, the national government in the form of Ministry of Justice's
Jinken Yougobu, and arguably the Japanese court system itself after the Ana
Bortz Ruling. That is, the repeal of "Japanese Only" exclusionary policies.
Until the end of March 2000, both Yunohana and Osupa kept their signs up undeterred.
Meanwhile, the problem visibly worsens as local bureaucrats remain clueless about
what to do. Reports (confirmed by Sapporo Russian Consul Mr Latypov) start filtering
in that other Hokkaido seaport towns (Nemuro, Monbetsu, Wakkanai, and Rumoi) have
been putting up their own exclusionary signs over the past three to five years. Otaru
City's Soumu Buchou Mr Satou makes a statement to Hokkaido
Shinbun on Feb 21, 2000, saying the City wishes to start policy meetings on the
issue all over again with in-house meetings (renraku kaigi), with yet again no plans
to allow foreign residents to attend.
Hence both Otaru and the onsens enforce differing versions of the same policy--drawing
lines between residents and taxpayers merely by nationality and shutting them out.
- OVERVIEW: UPDATE DATED FEB 26, 2000
by Dave Aldwinckle
- THE JAN 31 FORUM: WHAT HAPPENED?
A detailed firsthand account from Panelist Dave Aldwinckle (speaking as an individual)
on what went right and wrong (English text).
- HOKKAIDO SHINBUN Feb 1, 2000,
with lukewarm coverage of the Jan 31 Forum, but demonstrating how clearly the issue
has polarized (Japanese jpg).
- ASAHI SHINBUN Feb 1, 2000, pg 25, on
the Forum with an overview of each side's arguments (Japanese jpg).
- HOKKAIDO SHINBUN editorial (shasetsu)
Feb 2, 2000, page 2, demands that the signs come down, citing spatown Noboribetsu's
success by making bathing rules clear to foreign guests (Japanese jpg).
- Three KYODO TSUSHIN (Japan's
equivalent of the AP) articles on the Onsens Issue and the Jan 31 Otaru Shoudai
Forum, sent to all major newspapers in Japan and translated into English for JAPAN
TIMES and DAILY YOMIURI Feb 1, pg 2 and 3 respectively.
- Russian newspaper KOMSOMOLISKAYA PRAVDA
Feb 2, 2000, laughingly critical of the Otaru Onsens, as reported in Hokkaido
Shinbun, Feb 5, 2000, page 31 (Japanese jpg with Russian headline)
- NHK TV "HOKKAIDO CLOSE
UP" program (Hokkaido Broadcast) Feb 5, 2000. A thirty-minute special
on the onsens (complete translated English teletext from Dave Aldwinckle).
- Meeting with Ethnic Ainu activist
Kayano Shiro, Director of Ainu-go Penkurabu and son of Ainu
Nibutani Shiryoukan Chief and former Diet member Kayano Shigeru, Feb 23, 2000 (meeting
details amidst Feb 26 UPDATE
here, photo of Mr Kayano in front of Osupa's
JAPANESE ONLY sign here). Article on onsens issue on the cover of the AINU TIMES quarterly journal, No. 13, March
20, 2000 (Ainu and Japanese jpg). (NB: Ainu are allowed in to the onsens, said Osupa's
Mr Ohkoshi; they are Japanese citizens.)
INITIAL HOPES FOR RESOLUTION
- Announcement of Feb 21 Otaru Doshin Debate
between Onsens (Ohkoshi of Osupa), Otaru City (Satou, Otaru-Shi Soumu Buchou),
and the discriminated parties represented by Aldwinckle (Japanese jpg, partially
obscured), released Feb 10, 2000. Onsen Yunohana refuses to attend.
- Press Release
of Feb 26 BENCI "Kasemakase" party (informal public get-together) in
both English and Japanese, in Otaru, hosted by Olaf Karthaus and Dave Aldwinckle.
Made public Feb 17, reprinted in Otaru Doshin Feb 21, 2000.
- Otaru Doshin, Feb 23, 2000, page 25,
on Feb 21 Doshin Debate, first article of three outlining how a summit between the
three parties (business, administration, and the discriminated against ) is seeking
to bring resolution (Japanese jpg)
- OTARU DOSHIN TWO INTERVIEWS, Feb 24 2000, and Feb
25 2000, the frank dialog between Otaru, Osupa, and Dave Aldwinckle. RECOMMENDED READING (Japanese jpg)
- Hokkaido Shinbun
Feb 24, 2000 Yuukan, page 2, which shows how on an interpersonal level, Dave Aldwinckle
and Osupa's Ohkoshi can truly get along (Japanese jpg).
UNFORTUNATELY, AN ENSUING DIVERGENCE:
- NHK NATIONAL TV, Feb 9, 2000, News Eleven. Seven minutes condensed for
national broadcast from the abovementioned NHK Feb 5 Hokkaido Close
Up report, which winds up distorting the issue very badly--practially justifying
the onsens exclusionary policies. The anchorman even incorrectly insinuates that
the root of the problem is a difference in customs (i.e.washing off of soap before
bathing) which is apparently unique to Japan. (Aldwinckle's
sentiments in English text and Japanese text here).
- TEREBI ASAHI, Feb 15, 2000, 6:00 PM "SUPER J CHANNEL" national
news TV broadcast, five minutes on the issue, including Aldwinckle pleading on air
for the onsens "to take down their signs and give us a chance."
- FUJI TEREBI, Feb 25, 2000, 2:00 PM, Wide Show "Niji no Honto"
TV broadcast, over ten minutes plus discussion given t the issue--the first during
prime time for housewives.
- DOSHIN TODAY monthly, March 2000,
pg 68-9, with the reporter trying too hard to find fault with all parties, thus contributing
to public polarization. (Japanese jpg)
- SHUUKAN SHINCHOU Mar 3, 2000,
pg 47-8, which goes even farther, with an unbalanced article (they didn't contact
anybody but exclusionary places) falls under their "Strange Rumors, Bad Rumors"
section. A lovely piece of Russian-bashing, it describes in great detail of the uncleanliness
of "Russians" (not sailors), a screed on why Russians (read All Foreigners)
are persona non grata, and even word from another sentou (sadly forced into
taking down its exclusionary signs by the City) on why they wish they could put their
signs back up again. (Japanese jpg)
SHOUTING TO THE TOP:
AIMING FOR AN ANTI-DISCRIMINATION LAW IN JAPAN AT THE REGIONAL AND NATIONAL LEVELS
- BENCI SUBMITS PROPOSAL TO HOKKAIDO GOVERNOR HORI, Feb 15, 2000. This is
a three page proposal where BENCI offers to act as, among other things, an intermediary
in the onsen problem, and suggests several other possible solutions (Japanese
html). Written by BENCI Member Bern Mulvey. Despite promises of a prompt
reply by phone from Mr Imada of the Hokkaido Prefectural Government's International
Division, an answer arrives on May 1, 2000. Not only did it take over two months,
the answer was from from a division of the Governor's office, not the Governor himself,
and addressed to an individual (Tony Laszlo), not to Issho Kikaku as an organization.
Contentwise, the letter is equally problematic: In addition to trying to justify
exclusion legally by quoting Japanese sanitation laws, it states that an anti-discrimination
jourei ordinance at the prefectural level would be "hasty", and that time
is required for the agreement and cooperation of "local cities, towns, and villages,
and each concerned party". The Japanese original is here as a jpg (page
two), and here in English translation
as part of a report in html format.
- OTARU CITY TUCKS BENCI/WELCOME HOUSE CHINJOU INTO COMMITTEE. Letter from
Otaru City Assembly Leader Matsuda Hideo, Mar 24, 2000, which designates our petition
as Otaru Chinjou #30. It is however, relegated to "keizoku shinsa"
("continuous judgment") status, meaning that unless it is passed by the
next city election, according to political sources, it will die in committee).(Japanese jpg) And die it did, more
than three years later--see APRIL 30, 2003
NOTIFICATION FROM OTARU CITY GOVERNMENT (Japanese jpg)
- BENCI visits the Japanese Diet (Parliament)
in Tokyo on March 24, 2000, to talk to 15 Upper- and Lower-House Representatives
and their secretaries, to find out their positions on establishing a formal anti-discrimination
law as per international treaty ratified by Japan. See Asahi Evening
News front page article below, but here is a picture, (photo credit Jeff Horwich
of Asahi Evening News, cover story, April 11, 2000) showing three BENCI members,
including Tony Laszlo, Ana Bortz, and one other unidentified member meeting with
Hokkaido Upper-House Representative Takemura Yasuko.
- DAILY YOMIURI, March 25, 2000,
covers the BENCI Diet visit and talks about the "legal loophole" being
utilized by exclusionary facilities. (English jpg)
- YOMIURI SHINBUN, April 7, 2000, first
breaks the news of Otaru Osupa's change in admittance policy--see next the Doshin
article immediately following. (Japanese jpg)
- HOKKAIDO SHINBUN, April 11, 2000, two
important articles 1) acknowledging the results of BENCI's investigation of cities
Wakkanai and Rumoi (and finding out that other cities and business sectors, not just
Otaru and bathhouses, reserve entry for Japanese only) and 2) Otaru
Onsen Osupa's removal of its JAPANESE ONLY sign in favor of one saying "MEMBERS
ONLY". However, it imposes on Japanese only strict conditions for
acceptance and membership cards. (See photo evidence for both topics at SUBSTANTIATION
PAGE) (Japanese jpg)
EVENING NEWS, April 11, 2000, with a very thorough cover story on discrimination
in Japan and the prospects for legislation (English web page link)
- BENCI SUBMITS ANTI-DISCRIMINATION PETITION
TO HOKKAIDO ASSEMBLY AND HOKKAIDO GOVERNOR, April 17, 2000. Written by
BENCI Member Ken Isozaki. In much the same format as the petition
submitted to the Otaru City Assembly on January 13, 2000, this chinjou
also calls on the regional government to establish a jourei (ordinance) forbidding
discrimination by race or nationality. (Japanese
- BENCI SUBMITS MULTILINGUAL POSTERS TO THE SAPPORO RUSSIAN CONSULATE, April
17, 2000, with Dave Aldwinckle explaining bathhouse etiquette rules, along with a
letter of appeal to help police unmannerly visitors to seaport towns. (English
jpg of appeal here)
- BENCI HOLDS SHUUKAI (gathering) AT JAPAN'S
DIET, FOLLOWED BY A PRESS CONFERENCE AT THE FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS CLUB OF JAPAN, April 20, 2000. Most of the major Japanese press, two Diet
members (who spoke in support), and about sixty people attended the Shuukai, while
several prominent speakers about human rights in Japan for non-Japanese (In Ha Lee,
Tanaka Hiroshi, Suzuki Ritsuko, Tony Laszlo, Ana Bortz, among others) made statements
at the FCCJ conference. Report on the event in
English and in
- BENCI Representative Dave Aldwinckle et al. holds talks with several Otaru
City Assembly representatives (giin) from the LDP, Minshutou, Komeitou, and the
JCP-- all but the JCP expressing reservations about the need for a jourei. April
24 and 26, 2000. Otaru Doshin April 25, 2000, report on the LDP meeting here
(Japanese jpg). More detail on the proceedings within report
by Dave Aldwinckle here.
- OTARU MAYOR YAMADA Katsumaro holds press conference, mentions Onsens issue.
Although he states that he wants to study the issue and perhaps pass a resolution
without punitive measures, he then backpedals to day, "This is not a problem
which can be resolved by passing a jourei ordincance." (Otaru Doshin,
April 29, 2000 Japanese jpg)
THIS IS GOING TO TAKE LONGER THAN WE THOUGHT: (May 2000)
- HOKKAIDO SHINBUN DEBATE, MAY 7, 2000 between BENCI's Dave Aldwinckle and
Otaru City's Takeuchi Kazuho. Takeuchi admits that Japan's domestic laws are not
sufficiently developed to protect foreigners against discrimination, but then stresses
that passing legislation against it is not something that Otaru should take the lead
in doing. Color Japanese jpg here (page one),
(page two), English translation within
- BENCI REPORT
APRIL 13, 2000 by Dave Aldwinckle, on a trip made by Olaf Karthaus and Dave
Aldwinckle, to investigate other cities around Hokkaido and substantiate rumors that
they too are discriminating against foreigners. Our findings: Yes, in Wakkanai
they are, and how. In Rumoi, they have sporadically in the past. This fits in with
recent developments at higher levels of government, where public outcry in the press
over allegations of the rise in "foreign crime" has led to scapegoating
of non-Japanese residents.
- BENCI REPORT MAY 23, 2000 by
Dave Aldwinckle, on recent developments over the past two months, containing comments
and stances on the issue from three levels of government. Conclusion--Japan's
local and regional governments are not yet prepared to protect all of their residents
against discrimination, and the national bureaucracy (in the form of the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs) is taking contradictory stances.
JAPAN'S JUNE 25, 2000 GENERAL ELECTION:
BENCI SURVEYS ALL THE MAJOR POLITICAL
PARTIES IN HOKKAIDO ON ANTI-DISCRIMINATION POLICIES
Click here to see The Survey in English and
Japanese, links to scans of all the responses from the major political parties (all
of them say that what is going on in places like Otaru is "discrimination",
but differ in their willingness to establish policies against it), and articles from
Asahi, Hokkaido Shinbun, and Kyodo on the subject. In sum, there were no surprises--the
parties least likely to get in sounded the most progressive. In Otaru's electorial
district, the LDP candidate, Satou Shizuo, gave us a fat "no comment" and
still got elected.
A FIN-DE-SIECLE SPREADING OF THE PROBLEM;
A PREMONITION OF 21ST CENTURY JAPAN?: JULY-DEC 2000
This is when we saw the depth of the problem, as Ministry of Justice and BENCI sponsored
campaigns to raise awareness across Japan by visiting problematic seaport towns around
Hokkaido brought nothing but intransigence.
July 4, 2000. NHK reports that the Ministry of Justice
Division of Human Rights, Asahikawa Branch, has that day issued a letter of warning
(Japanese here) to a restaurateur's
union (inshokuten kumiai) in Hamanasu Doori, a nightlife district in Monbetsu City,
Hokkaido. This union, it is revealed, has since 1995 actively solicited, made, and
sold signs which said, in Cyrillic, "Japanese-Only Store"--ostensibly to
shut out all Russian sailors visiting this seaport town. However, when it turns out
that 1) proprietors shut out all foreign-looking peoples, even those who do speak
Japanese and do not read Cyrillic, and 2) about half of the total 200 union members
have put the signs up, the MoJ demands that the signs come down. The union retorts
that they do not have the power to force their members to do so, and then the MoJ
retreats to the position that they have no power to force the union's hand. Issho
Kikaku's Tony Laszlo visits the area on Aug 21, 2000, holds a press conference, and
submits a petition (chinjou) to the Monbetsu City Assembly for the passage an anti-discrimination
ordinance (jourei) to forbid this exclusionary practice. He does the same in Wakkanai
City two days later. Both cities, however, by Dec 2000, refuse even to submit the
petitions for consideration in their city assemblies. By year-end, according to Laszlo
and TBS TV Program "Koko ga Hen da yo, Nihonjin" (which visited Monbetsu
in November, 2000), about 50 establishments still have the exclusionary signs up.
So does "Monbetsu Onsen", a major bathing facility right behind the posh
Monbetsu Prince Hotel. Materials follow:
UPDATE SEPT 2003: Monbetsu is still at it. Not only are the signs still
up more than three years later at Hamanasu drinking establishments and Monbetsu Onsen,
another new Monbetsu bathhouse has started refusing "people associated with
foreign vessels". Click here for
October 2000--Otaru City loses its plausible deniability
As the Japanese press begins to reflect on the City of Otaru's year of
half-measured and incomplete campaigning against discrimination, the responsibility
of the City becomes clearer--that they are not doing everything they can to stop
exclusions within their jurisdiction. Although the City is bound by international
covention to stop it effectively, ineffectualness becomes clear after nearly six
years of clear and present "JAPANESE ONLY" signs on places refusing service
to people who look foreign and their children--many in fact Japanese citizens. A
Oct 27, 2000 Doshin article charges the City of Otaru with irresponsibility and half-assedness
(kinou sezu). First, the City went back on its promise, made in July 2000, to hold
an August 2000 "Forum on Racial Discrimination" to "enlighten"
(keihatsu) the general public. Its Dec 1999 leaflet-distributing campaign explaining
bathing rules to dockside Russians ends after only one distribution of 4000 leaflets--hardly
enough for Otaru's annual 30,000 Russian visitors. Even the City's purported "24-Hour
Hotline" turns out to be Potemkin, as it is not a public number that anyone
with a communication problem (such as other bathhouses, taxi drivers, and foreign
customers) can use. It is in fact only issued to two bathhouses with a history of
exclusion (Osupa and Panorama--Yunohana refuses to participate), and it is not even
a single number (during working hours, people are to contact City Hall same as usual,
but during off-hours the cellphone numbers of the City's International Relations
Bureau are to be used). When asked by Arudou Debito, on Jan 29, 2001, why this system
was not made more public as promised, International Relations Bureau Chief Takeuchi
Kazuho responded, "If everyone calls, we will not have enough staff to take
care of the problem". This means that the very anticipation of the program's
lack of effectiveness has made it less effective. This is in direct violation of
the UN Convention Against Racial Discrimination's
Article 6: "States Parties
shall assure to everyone within their jurisdiction EFFECTIVE
protection and remedies, through the competent national tribunals and other
state institutions", making the city culpable for the half-decade
of discrimination which they basically left unattended. Then came the case of a Caucasian
who just happens to be a Japanese citizen getting refused "for looking foreign".
See next section.
- Abovementioned Doshin article of Oct 27, 2000 (Japanese page
one, page two, English translation)
- Otaru City tries to do some damage control with a paid advertisement (cleverly
disguised as a survey-style article) in Hokkaido bilingual events magazine "XENE",
May 2000. Entitled "WE LOVE OTARU",
its first excerpt from a Bulgarian went right to the point, saying, "..[T]he
baths in the ferry terminal are great. Even if there is a sign refusing entry to
foreigners, just tell them you understand the customs of Japanese bathing and it's
OK!" It is not OK. Arudou Debito's letter in
English and Japanese protesting this City tax purchase of propaganda was
kindly printed in September and November 2000's XENE.
- Check out some more damage control on the issue at Otaru
City's website (sorry, it's in Japanese Only, of course.)
PROOF OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION COMES CLEAR OCT
31, 2000, WITH YUNOHANA REFUSING A NATIONALIZED JAPANESE: Plaintiff Arudou Debito/Dave Aldwinckle
receives his Japanese citizenship on October 10, 2000, and goes to Yunohana Onsen
in Otaru with proof on Oct 31, 2000. Despite its express policy of "Japanese
Only", Yunohana still turns Arudou away due to his appearance, saying, "We
at the counter know you are a Japanese, but our customers won't to look at you, so
we have to refuse you admission." This exclusion of a Caucasian Japanese incontrovertably
demonstrates that the discriminatory policy is based on race, not nationality. For
more information on this incident, please return to the Otaru Lawsuit Index page
by clicking here. If you would like to listen to the taped conversation yourself in Japanese (on
free downloadable Real Player), click here.
(click here to see more
recent developments, starting from Jan 1, 2001)