Date: Tue, 19 Oct 1999 11:32:21
From: Dave Aldwinckle <email@example.com>
Subject: Otaru Onsens: Otaru Mayor's Reply by FAX
PERSONAL REPLY FROM OTARU MAYOR YAMADA KATSUMARO
DATED OCTOBER 12, 1999
(translated by Dave Aldwinckle)
jpeg of original FAX / FAXのテキストは以降のURLである
Brief comment at the bottom.
FAX TO YUKI KARTHAUS (Olaf's wife)
I read your letter. You had a terribly unpleasant experience with Otaru's bathing
establishments, and I would like to express my regrets.
It is a fact that some institutions in our city are doing business and hanging signs
saying "Japanese only".
As I'm sure you are aware of, given the troubles relating to Russian bathing practices,
the establishments themselves had taken the initiative, in an attempt to stop the
nuisances, of putting up flyers or making handouts on bathing manners, as well as
caution the noisy people directly. However, there have been cases where these checks
were ineffective and staff have been physically brushed aside.
The facilities would like to take everybody who would like to use the baths as they
are customers, but it is the few Russians who cause the trouble with their bathing
habits. However, it would be extreme racial discrimination to refuse only Russians,
so as a result I have heard that this is why all foreigners have been excluded from
As for the reception received at Otaru Onsen Osupa [which the ISSHO Confirmation
Contingent visited third on September 19, 1999, see http://www.debito.org/onsenreport.html],
it's incredible that they turned people away at the door without giving a reason.
For that reason, I
have undertaken a proposal to tell them to improve their manners when greeting customers.
I understand that when you were refused entry, your children were with you. To say
nothing of the parents' feelings, the children's feelings about this must be immeasurable.
I feel deep regret at this situation.
Otaru City has taken up this problem as a very serious one, and we have up to now
requested the establishments again and again to improve things. However, when it
comes to the city and the business practices of private enterprises, the law does
not enable us to take forcable measures like
revoking their operational licences for refusing entry. Still, we do not think, "Since
these are private-sector practices we must remain unconnected."
But please understand this: It is a fact that non-Japanese are being refused entry
to bathing institutions, so I will also want to discuss this in future with an aim
to eliminating this problem, and reaching an understanding with the related businesses.
Mayor of Otaru City, Hokkaido
As the translator and one of the organizers of this project, I am not
exactly elated by this response. It feels a bit fudged. However, let's not
be too cynical: We have an admission of the facts of the case and that
there is a problem from the Mayor himself, as well as sympathetic words and
a statement of nondisavowal (FWIW). Also hopeful is the fact that this
letter was dated and received at the same time as the Ana Bortz court ruling
which stated that private
businesses were not immune from international conventions forbidding the
refusal of service solely on the basis of being non-Japanese. Once that
sinks in up here, progress may take place.
To that end, we, the participants of the Otaru BENCI Project (Businesses
Excluding Non-Japanese Customers ISSHO Project) have recently sent letters asking
clarification and encouraging removal of this policy to the Otaru Mayor (see
Governor, the Ministry of Justice in Sapporo, The Japan Federation of Bar
Associations (Nichibenren) both National and Sapporo, and the Mayor of
Dunedin, NZ (Otaru's sister city). This should make positions clearer.
Next step: Talking with the onsen owners in a public roundtable sponsored
by the City government, in an attempt to air out all the problems and
possibly reach a policy solution that will satisfy all parties. We will be
suggesting this to the Otaru City government in a few days.
And a few minutes ago UHB TV called. They want to do an interview on this
issue. Stay tuned.
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