Fun and Games at Hokuyo Bank: Extra questions for the gaijin account holder


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Hi Blog. Every day, as I’ve said, is an adventure in Japan. Here’s today’s:


Last week, I got a call from Hokuyo Bank (Hokkaido’s largest, the successor to Takugin and recent swallower of Sapporo Bank) telling me that some money had arrived by wire transfer from overseas. It was sent to my corporate account, but had my name listed as individual beneficiary (not the corporation). So couldn’t I please come down to the branch and fill out a piece of paper and clarify the beneficiary?

Hokay, sure. Whatever. I had been waiting for that payment for an academic lecture in California for six months, and JPY/USD exchange rates since August were eating up dollar-denominated compensation (to the tune of about 20%!).

“Oh, and one more thing,” Hokuyo asked, “What’s this money for?”

“Sorry, but none of your business.”

“Won’t you please tell us, for our reference?” (sankou no tame)

“No. For the amount I have received [USD 500], you are under no obligation to ask me under money laundering laws. And I am under no obligation to tell. Kindly respect my privacy.”


I went down this morning and filled out the paperwork. When the question came up again about what this money is for, I directed her to something I had just downloaded and printed up from Wikipedia regarding money laundering and international money transfers in Japan:



▪ 金融機関と新規取引を開始する時(口座開設、信託取引締結、保険契約締結等)
▪ 200万円を超える金銭の送金・振込
▪ 10万円を超える現金の送金・振込(預金口座にある預金の送金・振込については前項のとおり)


(and yes, I’m fine with citing Wikipedia for noncontroversial issues)


So since 500 bucks (or now about 45000 yen, sob!) is less than a fortieth of the 2 million yen threshold for direct transfers, or less than half the 100,000 yen for cash transfers, there was no reason to ask me further questions.

The madoguchi (and her boss, Tokoro-san) maintained that it was policy at Hokuyo to check all monies coming in from overseas. “All, even if they’re only one yen?” Well, not that low. “So where’s the threshold for checking? I aver it’s these figures above.” They just wanted me to cooperate, but I wanted a reason why I had tripped some sort of tripwire.

“It’s not because the accountholder has a foreign-looking name, now, is it?”

Now, before you think I’m just flying off the handle as usual, consider that I have had other accounts (one particularly for contributions to the Otaru Onsens Lawsuit way back when) in places like Hokkaido Bank. And I have gotten calls like this for tiny amounts (even 5000 yen) asking what it’s for. Even when no money has come in, I’ve gotten at least one letter asking (since the beneficiary is “otarusoshouenjokai arudou debito daihyou”) what the very account is for. I’ve ignored all queries. So what seems to keep tripping the wire is a foreign-sounding name. And even for simple small-amount cash conversions of USD into JPY, people like Permanent Resident Olaf Karthaus have had their passport demanded by Hokkaido Bank for photocopying in the name of anti-money-laundering. He got a formal apology from them for acting outside the law.

Back to Hokuyo. The standard denial shower came.  “We’re not discriminating.”

“Okay, so what else is it? What standards are you using to decide to check my transfer if it’s not for money laundering? Your discretion?”

I wasn’t getting any clarification, so I dropped by Hokuyo HQ later on today and talked to a Ms Kobayashi, Kachou in the Houjinbu Gaikoku Kawase-ka, who brought out the letter of the law thusly:


第十七条  銀行等は、その顧客の支払等が、次の各号に掲げる支払等のいずれにも該当しないこと、又は次の各号に掲げる支払等に該当すると認められる場合には当該各号に定める要件を備えていることを確認した後でなければ、当該顧客と当該支払等に係る為替取引を行つてはならない。
一  第十六条第一項から第三項までの規定により許可を受ける義務が課された支払等 当該許可を受けていること。
二  第二十一条第一項又は第二項の規定により許可を受ける義務が課された第二十条に規定する資本取引に係る支払等 当該許可を受けていること。
三  その他この法律又はこの法律に基づく命令の規定により許可若しくは承認を受け、又は届出をする義務が課された取引又は行為のうち政令で定めるものに係る支払等 当該許可若しくは承認を受け、又は当該届出後の所要の手続を完了していること。


Later joining us was a Mr Ishiguro, Fukubuchou of the Houjinbu, Mr Takahashi, Kachou of the Kokusaika, and Mr Nakanishi, Chousayaku of the Kokusaika. After a lot of Q&A, their case was essentially this:

1) Zaimushou does not have a minimum transfer amount to be checked when it comes to foreign monies coming in, or Japanese monies going out. As you can see in the above law, there are no threshold amounts written either in the clauses as stated, or in the clauses being referred to within.

2) Since we cannot check every transfer, it is up to the bank’s discretion whether or not to check in certain circumstances.

3) If you were receiving money from or sending money to terroristic places in the world, we would of course check about its purpose.

4) However, receiving money from the University of California, Berkeley doesn’t apply here. By the transfer details it’s obvious you were receiving remuneration for a lecture, so it was unnecessary for your branch of Hokuyo to have asked you further questions about purpose.

5) We apologize for the inconvenience.

Er, thanks. My questions, which went basically unrequited, were these:

1) Why are foreign transfers in or out treated as potentially criminally suspicious? There are plenty of Yakuza transferring domestically too, no? Is this not discriminatory?

2) Individually, why did you ask me? Because I’m a gaijin account holder? I still haven’t gotten any other plausible reason for the tripwire. It’s not amount. It’s not origin. So why?

3) You admit that the questions about purpose were unnecessary. Thanks. Now please ask Zaimushou if there is a threshold transfer amount to activate these questions. If so, tell me in writing later what that amount is. If not, tell me in writing later what Hokuyo’s discretionary thresholds are.

4) Are these questions optional?  What happens if I decide not to answer?

5) Thanks for the apology. Now put it in writing with what sort of keihatsu you will carry out at Hokuyo zentai to make sure you don’t put your NJ account holders through any more rigmarole, and make them feel their accounts and transfers are suspicious. Putting things in writing tends to make people take requests and apologies more seriously. It’s more likely to result in policy change if there’s a paper trail.

To that, Mr Takahashi said he would offer a verbal apology, but nothing in writing.  Never mind what Hokkaido Bank did for Olaf.  And there was no particular promise from them either to make Zaimushou’s threshold information (which should be public info) or Hokuyo’s discretionary guidelines, if any, clear to me in future.

I said I was disappointed. “I’m a valued customer. I’ve had a long relationship with you. My house mortgage is with you. I opened a corporate account with you because I was fed up with Hokkaido Bank treating me and my accounts as suspicious. Now you are doing the same thing.”

They offered the same apologies, and that was where we let the discussion drop. They said that they would coach my branch to leave me alone next time I get an international transfer. Sure, that fixes the problem.

Seems like a small issue, but to me it’s a tip of the iceberg thing. What’s transpired here is that all foreign money transfers, at least in Hokkaido’s biggest banks, are officially to be treated with suspicion. Regardless of domestic, or even international, standards of money laundering (thresholds of 15,000 dollars in the US, 15,000 GBP or Euros in the UK, for example).  It’s a damned nuisance.

Why? Because Zaimushou leaves it vague enough for Hokuyo to abuse, and because Hokuyo is under no obligation to disclose their rules to their customers even upon request. Thanks a heap.  But that’s how power flows when you don’t have enough information or a workable FOIA to keep even your accountants accountable.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Japanese stewardesses sue Turkish Airlines for discrim employment conditions


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog. Here’s something that didn’t make the English-language news anywhere, as far as Google searches show. Japanese stewardesses are suing Turkish Airlines for unfair treatment and arbitrary termination of contract.  They were also, according to some news reports I saw on Google and TV, angry at other working conditions they felt were substandard, such as lack of changing rooms.  I even saw the headline “discrimination by nationality”.  So they formed a union to negotiate with the airline, and then found themselves fired. 

Fine.  But this is definite Shoe on the Other Foot stuff, especially given the conditions that NJ frequently face in the Japanese workplace.  Let’s hope this spirit of media understanding rubs off for NJ who might want to sue Japanese companies for the same sort of thing. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

(Text of article below follows, quickly translated by Arudou Debito)


Dispatch stewardesses sue Turkish Airlines, demand acknowledgment of their status within the company

Sankei Shinbun January 29, 2009


PHOTO CAPTION:  “We want to be directly employed.”  So charged Funada Akiko (R), member of the Turkish Airlines Union at a press conference at the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare.

On January 29, 13 Japanese women contract workers under dispatch company “TEI” (Tokyo), who were working as flight attendants for Turkish Airlines, filed suit at Tokyo District Court.  “We were effectively working under the same conditions as if we were directly employed by the airline,” they said, and demanded recognition of this status in their contracts from both companies.

The litigants were members of the “Turkish Airlines Union”, led by Funada Akiko (34).

According to the lawsuit filed, the women were dispatched from TEI. Nevertheless, they were treated as if they were workers under a contract with Turkish Airlines.  They were given essential training as flight attendants from Turkish Airlines, and had employment time slots as per Turkish Airlines flight plans.   Each fulfilled their duties as a Japanese flight attendant, supervised by the airline.

At the press conference after filing suit, Ms Funada claimed that TEI would issue a notice dated February 28 that Japanese flight attendant contracts would be terminated.  “The contract period would last until June.  We are furious at how one-sided this termination of contract was.  We want to be employed directly as Japanese flight attendants.”  

She continued, “There was an invisible division between us and the Turkish flight attendants, in terms of differential treatment and salary.  We want to highlight this as a social problem, so that there won’t be any more second- and third-class treatment of staff in the airline industry.”

In September 2008, the 13 Japanese flight attendants formed a union of supporters.  They filed for group negotiations with Turkish Airlines to demand direct employment.  However, the airlines still apparently refuses to meet.

A 33-year-old woman who attended the press conference spoke strongly, “If there are no Japanese flight attendants in the airplane, what happens if there’s an emergency?  How will Japanese passengers be attended to?”

The Japan branch of Turkish Airlines said in a statement, “We haven’t seen the legal brief yet, so we cannot comment at this time.”  TEI:  “We haven’t received the brief, so we will reserve official comments for now.” ENDS


派遣乗務員、地位確認求め提訴 トルコ航空など相手取り

2009.1.29 20:01









ENDS  More at:トルコ航空&btnG=検索

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Feb 3, 2009: “2channel the bullies’ forum”


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Hi Blog.  Here’s yesterday’s article in the Japan Times.   Enjoy.  Debito in Sapporo

2channel: the bullies’ forum

The Japan Times: Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2009

Bullying in Japan is a big problem. The victims have limited recourse. Too often they are told to suck it up and self-reflect. Or if they fight back, they get criticized for lashing out. It’s a destructive dynamic, causing much misery and many a suicide.

The bullies are empowered by an odd phenomenon: In Japan, the right to know your accuser is not a given. When kids get criticized by the anonymous rumor mill, authorities make insufficient efforts to disclose who said what. The blindfolded bullied become powerless: There are lots of them and one of you, and unless you put names to critics they escalate with impunity.

Internet bulletin board (BBS) 2channel, the world’s largest, is the ultimate example of this dynamic. Although the BBS is very useful for public discussions, its debate firestorms also target and hurt individuals. This flurry of bullies is guaranteed anonymity through undisclosed Internet Protocol addresses, meaning they avoid the scrutiny they mete out to others.

Why absolute anonymity? 2channel’s founder and coordinator, Hiroyuki Nishimura, believes it liberates debate and provides true freedom of speech. People speak without reservation because nobody knows who they are.

Quite. But freedom of speech is not absolute. It does not grant freedom to lie or deceive (as in fraud), nor to engage in malicious behavior designed to hinder calm and free discourse. The classic example is the lack of freedom to shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater. But libel and slander, where people willfully lie to assassinate characters and destroy lives, is also beyond the pale.

Japan does have checks against libel — lawsuits. Dozens of civil court cases have been brought against 2channel. When a problematic post appears, victims contact the BBS coordinator and request its removal. Alas, many get ignored. Then, when taken to court, Nishimura ignores summons to appear. Finally, even after losing dozens of times in court, Nishimura refuses to pay out. Years later, adjudged libelous posts (some about your correspondent) are still online and proliferating.

How is this possible? The Internet is a new media, and the judiciary hasn’t caught up. If a newspaper or TV station publicizes erroneous information, they too can be sued. But the old media are more accountable. They have to register their corporation and get a license, so their wherewithal’s whereabouts is public. If they lose and don’t pay, the court will file a lien on their assets and withdraw the award for the plaintiffs.

However, in cyberspace people can start a “media outlet” without incorporation or licensing, meaning their assets remain invisible. Nishimura owes millions of dollars in court penalties, but unless he divulges his personal bank accounts, his wages can’t be seized.

The dynamic becomes watertight thanks to a weakness in Japan’s judiciary: In this case, one cannot convert a civil suit into a criminal case through “contempt of court.” No cops will arrest him for being on the lam. Plaintiffs must hire their own private detectives to dig up Nishimura’s assets. No checks, no balances, and the bully society remains above the law.

The abuses continue. Last month, cops decided to arrest a 2channeler who issued a death threat against sumo wrestler Asashoryu. About time: Hate-posters have long vilified ethnic minorities, threatened individuals, and waged cyberwars to deny others the freedom of speech they apparently so cherish.

Meanwhile, Nishimura keeps on wriggling. Last month he announced 2channel’s sale to a Singaporean firm, making his assets even more unaccountable.

Some salute Nishimura as a “hero” and an “evangelist.” He’s also a willing abettor in the pollution of cyberspace, legitimizing an already powerful domestic bully culture with a worldwide audience. He had his day in court to explain himself. He didn’t show. He lost. Now he must pay up.

If not, there will be blow-back. Our government has already made reactionary overtures to limit “illegal or harmful content” (whatever that means) on the Internet. Be advised: Once you give the unsophisticated Japanese police a vague mandate over anything, you’ll have random enforcement and policy creep, as usual. Kaplooey goes cyberfreedom of speech.

Unless contempt of court procedures are tightened up to reflect the realities of new media, I believe Nishimura will be remembered historically as the irresponsible kid who spoiled the Internet for the rest of us.

Debito Arudou is coauthor of the “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants.” More on his 2006 libel lawsuit victory at Send comments to
The Japan Times: Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2009

The Australian Magazine 1993 on Gregory Clark’s modus operandi in Japan


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Hi Blog. At the start of this decade, I republished an article in the JALT PALE Journal (Spring 2001) regarding Gregory Clark, his business acumen regarding language teaching in Japan, and his motivations for being who he is in Japan.

Gregory Clark has recently called attention to himself with a bigoted Japan Times column, questioning our legitimacy to have or even demand equal rights in Japan.  As people debate his qualifications and motives all over again, I think it would be helpful to reproduce the following article in a more searchable and public venue. Like here.

I have heard claims that this article in The Australian was met with threat of lawsuit. Obviously that came to naught.  Since The Australian has given me direct permission to reproduce this article in full, let me do so once again here.  Still more on his disregard for facts of cases here.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Courtesy of The Australian Magazine
16th October 1993, Edition 1. pp 26-41

(used with permission of The Australian Magazine)

He isn’t our ambassador, but he’d like to be. Invariably, Gregory Clark is the Australian the Japanese turn to for advice about themselves and other issues.
What riles him is that Australians don’t.


FULL PAGE PHOTO shows Clark smiling and standing in a park, with a young Japanese girl in full Seijinshiki-style kimono in the background taking a photo of something off-camera.

Caption: “Embittered expatriate Gregory Clark: ‘Even allowing for the vast amounts of ego, it’s just absurd that an Australian who has made it in Japan, and who sits on government committees, gets ignored.'”

Gregory Clark beams: “Just pulled in a biggie!” he tells me as he puts down the phone. We are at Tokyo Airport about to jump on a plane for Osaka where Clark is giving a lecture to a group of Japanese executives. The “biggie” is an invitation to give another talk–to one of Japan’s big business bodies. It’s nice to see him smiling, because he can be fearsome when he’s not.

Once, in the middle of a cordial argument while having a drink, I suggested he stop complaining about one of the many decades-old issues that still obsess him. That evening, it was the way he was run out of the Australian Foreign Affairs department for opposing the Vietnam war. It was as though someone had just shot puce-colored dye into his veins. His neck bulged, and he slammed the table. But a few mintues later, he was his charming self. Clark can be like that–especially when you get him on the subject of Australia.

Ex-Canberra bureaucrat, ex-journalist and ex-diplomat, Clark, 57, has lived in Japan in a sort of self-imposed exile from Australia since the late seventies. He teaches advanced Japanese to foreigners at a university in Tokyo, which is nice because it allows him to put the title of Professor in front of his name. It helps that he speaks advanced Japanese, too. He writes for up-scale newspapers and magazines in Japan and around the world, including an occasional column for The Australian; is setting up a management centre on 12 hectares of land he owns on the edge of Tokyo; and, a few times a week, gives lectures telling the Japanese in their own language about their unique “tribal” or “village-like” culture, at anything from $2500 to $6500 a time.

Clark has still had time over the years to pen the odd short book on different topics, sit on a range of Japanese government committees, and collect the rent on a residential property he owns in the heart of Tokyo, where even in the middle of a calamitous collapse, prices are embarassingly high by world standards. Prices are relative, of course, depending on when you get into the market and when you get out, but Clark got in early–well before the boom.

Add that to the proceeds from the occasional tickle on the Tokyo stockmarket — “the best way is to watch it, and short it,” he confides, referring to the practice of selling stock in anticipation of a price fall before buying again. And you can see that Japan has been good to him.

So Gregory Clark is rich and successful, and by a long-shot the most famous Australian in Japan. But is he happy? Not really, which is where Australia comes in.

Greg Clark is the first of nine children sired by Sir Colin Clark, a famous economist and statistician who is credited with measuring and describing concepts in the thirties that are part of everyday economic jargon these days. While working with one of the centuries most influential economists, John Maynard Keynes, at Cambridge University, Colin Clark coined and refined such terms as gross national product, and primary, secondary, and tertiary industry.

He came to Australia in 1937 and worked in a variety of government jobs, most priminently as head of the Treasury in the Queensland Government. He had stints back at Oxford and at Chicago University before returning to Australia where he died in 1989. “He became a Santamaria fanatic–you know, 25 acres and a pig and that sort of thing,” says his son. “Except he had 10 acres and nine children.”

Colin Clark was also the subject of a thesis just after the war by a young Japanese economist called Kiichi Miyazawa, who then rose through the bureaucratic and political ranks to become prime minister, a connection that hasn’t hurt his son since he arrived in Tokyo. Japan’s leading conservative daily, The Yomiuri Shimbun, also listed Clark as an academic contact of the country’s new Prime Minister, Morihiro Hosokawa.

Greg Clark joined the department of Foreign Affairs in 1956, studied Mandarin Chinese as part of language training in Hong Kong, and was later posted to the then Soviet Union where he remembers Canberra “made me go to explain to them all the time what terrible atrocities the Vietcong were committing”. This period, plus later study in Japan, has given him three foreign languages–Russian, Mandarin, and Japanese–which he speaks and reads in varying degrees of skill. In Japanese, he is virtually fluent.

These days, Australia is a subject you ohnly have to prod Clark with very lightly to get him going. He has a list of grievances which goes on and on: starting with victimisation when he opposed the Vietnam war and China policy, to the mistreatment he says he recevied while working as a bureaucrat in the Whitlam government, and finally, worst of all in his eyes, the way he claims he has been ignored by the academics and sometimes blackballed by diplomats in charge of the Japan industry in Australia.

“I just think it’s a tragedy–it’s a tragedy for me, and a tragedy for Australia,” he says. “Even allowing for the vast amounts of [his own] ego, it’s just absurd that an Australian, who has made it in Japan, and who sits on Government committees, and who would be known by every second person, gets ignored. It’s just totally ratshit.”

Clark’s big falling out with those around him was over his opposition to the Vietnam war. “The establishment turned the big guns on me,” he says, including, he claims, the pioneer of post-war Australia-Japan trade, Sir John Crawford. That was followed by a stint at the Australian National University in Canberra, where he aborted his Ph.D with only a few months to go to take up a job as this newspaper’s correspondent in Tokyo in 1969. Clark’s patron at this time was John Menadue, then general manager of News Limited, who got him the job in Tokyo, and then brought him home to work with him when Menadue became head of the Prime Minister’s department in the Whitlam government.

The Canberra experience ended badly. Clark felt he was sidelined by Menadue and let down by Whitlam. After the government fell, he burnt his bridges by penning an article for the National Times savagely critical of the Whitlam government, and returned to Japan to join his long-time partner, Yasuko Tano, and their two chldren and to rebuild his career as a writer and teacher.

Two years later, Menadue was back in Tokyo as Australian Ambassador, and according to his friends, was shocked at Clark’s reaction. “When John became ambassador, that sent Greg into a real frenzy whenever you’d mention him, and he wrote several articles disparaging the embassy because nobody in the diplomatic part of it could speak Japanese,” says one man who knows both Clark and Menadue. Clark maintains he never attacked Menadue personally. Menadue declined to comment for this article.

Clark’s relationship with the Foreign Affairs establishment was soured even further by an episode that occurred when he launched his book about Japan’s “tribal” society in the late seventies. As an example of Japan’s “tribalism” and “groupism”, he recounted how Japanese journalists based in Australia had collectively ignored a report published in local newspapers in the mid-seventies about how our intelligence agencies were eavesdropping on Japanese diplomatic traffic out of Canberra.

“By the way,” Clark recalls telling a Newsweek reporter in Tokyo when he was promoting the book, “you might want to look at the bottom of page 138” –where the incident was briefly mentioned. The result was a large story in the international news magazine, with a headline about an “ex-diplomat” revealing that Australia spied on its largest trading partner. Canberra was not amused, and Clark was put on the Australian Embassy’s black list in Tokyo.

“It was humiliating and degrading to have these ASIO types sitting in the embassy–these are uneducated people who don’t speak Japanese–deciding that I was a threat to Australian security,” he says. A former intelligence officer who served in the embassy in Japan confirmed that Clark had been put on a loose sort of “black list” restricting formal contacts because, the officer says, “of the narrowmindedness and sheer bastardry of senior officers in Canberra.”

At the same time, Clark was steaming over getting what he says was the cold shoulder from an organisation he says he helped set up in the early seventies, the Australia-Japan Research Centre at the ANU. The centre, which is important and influential in Japan studies and policy in Australia, was just beginning to flourish under its founder, Professor Peter Drysdale, who still heads it today. “I have never had any disagreement with Drysdale,” says Clark, “but I was completely excluded, and at the time, it hurt. Universities are not set up to do this sort of thing. Drysdale is not known in Japan, but I have sat on all these committees. I mean, what the hell is going on!”

Drysdale and Clark are a study in contrasts. The former, a low-profile mainstream academic who speaks only a little Japanese but has good contacts in the country, has been crucial in formulating Australia’s regional trade and Japan policies. Clark, an outspoken maverick with few self-censoring mechanisms, has been eagerly, but not always easily, ignored by Canberra’s policymakers.

Professor Drysdale, contacted in Canberra, declined to respond to Clark’s comments, but the Emeritus Professor of Economics at the ANU, Heinz Arndt, who supervised Clark’s Ph.D at the ANU until his student quit “to my utter disgust” just before he finished, remembers the problem this way. “Drysdale and the whole group were not happy about bringing him into the project, partly because he was in Tokyo, and partly because of differences in approaches and temperament. In other words, he is an extremely difficult person who thinks that anybody who disagrees with him is a complete idiot.”

Professor Arndt is not the only one who puts Clark’s problems down to his temperament. “Greg is a peculiar bloke–he has a knack of rubbing people up the wrong way,” says one person who knows him well. “That’s not something that just blossomed when he went back to Japan, and it’s always made it difficult to make people feel loyal to him. Greg does not have many loyal friends because he does not earn them. His assessment of himself is not a universally accepted one either. It would be difficult to mention any job from prime minister of the world down that Greg does not feel he could admirably fill.”

“Anyone who competes on the same turf is a bit of a hate figure,” says another friend of Clark’s.

But just as a chill set in for Clark in Australia, a new day dawned in Japan. Clark’s theories about Japan’s “village-like” society proved to be a big hit when delivered in Japanese by a foreigner. The lucrative speaking circuit opened up, and for the past 15-odd years he has toured the country giving different and updated versions of a similar lecture to business, industry and community associations. In a society with the depth, organisation and thirst for information of Japan, there is a rich vein to be mined–he has been to the city of Nagasaki, for example, about 16 times to talk to different groups.

Give up to 150 to 200 lectures a year, as he does, and it becomes a rewarding occupation. The fee depends on whom he is addressing, he tells me as we get on the plane to take us to Osaka where he is going to speak to executives from the iron and steel industries. Today rates as a middle-ranking engagement–an afternoon’s work for Y400,000 plus expenses, or about $5,500. “The people you screw are the companies, who are putting it on for the benefit of their customers,” he says. “the whole thing is purely commerical, so there is no hesitation in insisting on the full fee.”

The speech I hear him deliver to the steel executives group in Osaka is witty, fluid and delivered with a practiced panache and a stream of punch lines. The audience loves it. His host, Shizuka Hayashi of Daido Steel, tells me later that Clark’s “tribal” theories make lots of sense. “Professor Clark said the Japanese tend to cooperate when they are working in small groups. This was particularly good to hear because this is exactly what we are trying to do in our companies and workplaces,” he says. And what did he think of the Y400,000 price tag? “Well, to tell the truth,” he sayss, “it was more than we expected, but it was worth it.”

As any foreigner who comes to Japan realises, there is a fortune to be made in telling the Japanese about themselves. “I should have got in on this racket before,” Clark remembers thinking when he first realised what he had tapped into. “I would get up in the morning and pinch myself about what was happening. Suddenly, I was in a situation where nobody can touch me. It was night turned into day.”

Clark says later: “For a nation not to have any fundamental guiding principle–that’s what a tribe is. I am telling them you have to get rid of the kabuki and ikebana shit. You have to get people involved in this society, and people will get to appreciate Japan for what it is.” He continues: “The gaijin [foreigner] who comes here, and can speak with authority, gets far more attention than he deserves–because in this society, people can’t get up and say all sorts of things.”


Clark can get violently indignant about how people in Australia don’t recognise his achievements in Japan, including sitting on numerous special government advisory committees–the so-called shinigikai [sic]. Last year, for example, he was nominated by then prime minister Miyazawa to sit on a shinigikai on the future of the Japanese economy, but complains that nobody in the embassy ever contacted him to tap into what he had learnt. But in the next breath, he can drip with cynicism about the same same system, and the opportunities it offers people like him. “They are not inviting you [onto these committees] for your wisdom, you know,” he tells me at one stage. “They are asking you because of your celebrity status, so you have to keep it up.”

Clark’s message is especially value-added for a Japanese audience because his message is that Japan is unique is what many Japanese love to hear. “Unique?” he says. “I happen to agree with them. It does not do any harm [to be invited to speak], but I happen to believe it.”

Other see Clark’s proselytising of his “tribal” theories in a much more insidious light. One sharp critic is Dutch journalist Karel van Wolferen, the author of the iconoclastic 1989 best-seller The Enigma of Japanese Power. Van Wolferen’s book says ordinary Japanese are rendered powerless by something he calls “The System”, which consists of a raft of unofficial social controls not regulated by law, or subject to genuine political discussion. When the book came out, Clark said it was full of errors, and denounced it in a magazine as being venomously anti-Japanese and Eurocentric to the point of almost being racist.

Clark, van Wolferen responded, is a “foreign servant of The System” and the committees he serves on are there just to give an “illusion of democracy”. “Whether intentionally or not,” he wrote in the Gekkan Asahi magazine, “Mr Clark reassures Japanese readers all the time that it is true what they have always been told; that they are unique in a special way because of having constructed an advanced civilisation on ‘primary group’ values. This is certainly the kind of thing that Japanese occupying high positions in the institutions that share power want everybody to hear. I write many Japnese do not like to hear because it is the opposite: that consensus is, in fact, rare and difficult to achieve, that there is much intimidation in Japanese society, that it is much less cosy than the village-type society imagined and idealised by Mr Clark. So he reassures Japanese people that a Westerner like me who says such things is Western-centric and hates Japan… Another reason why I say that Mr Clark serves The System is that what he writes is only for Japanese consumption.

“No-one among those many foreigners who are interested in Japan, but who cannot read Japanese, has been able to consider his ideas in detail, because the book that has made him famous in Japan has never come out in any other language.” Ouch! Being a Japanese specialist is a bruising business. But if Clark is a “foreign servant of The System”, then not all of the bureaucrats realize it. Clark has enraged the Japanese Foreign Ministry in Tokyo, for example, by pursuing a campaign critical of its claim against Russia for the return of the four small islands to the north of Japan seized by Stalin at the end of the war. Clark’s assertion in numerous articles in the Japanese and international media that Tokyo gave up its claim years ago has been highly effective, something that can be gauged from how apoplectic some Japanese diplomats go at the mention of his name.

These battles get Clark attention in Japan, but they are not the ones closest to his heart. They remain at home. The mismanagement of the Australian economy and industry policy is one recurring theme. Canaberra’s fatal attraction to free trade is another. Both, of course, allow him to target the hated Canberra bureaucrats who he says forced him out. But many of his pet issues are still the same bureaucratic battles he fought in the sixties and seventies.

Going home is the only way to exorcise these bitter demons. Clark says he tried to return to the Australian mainstream by taking up an offer to become scholar-in-residence at the Foreign Affairs department in the mid-eighties, but claims the then minister, Bill Hayden, vetoed it. A spokeswoman for the now Governor-Genneral confirms he rejected, in April 1986, a suggestion that Mr Clark should get the position.

He also applied for the job of trade commissioner to China in the mid-eighties. “That would have been quite a comedown for me,” he says. “My idea was to take a loss of income for three to four years, and ideally use the job to get back into the bureaucracy.” He didn’t get the job. John Menadue, then head of the deapartment, is understood to have made his opposition clear. One member of the selection committee was Stephen Fitzgerald, Australia’s first ambassador to Beijing in 1972, and an old colleague of Clark’s from university in Canberra in the sixties, when both were studying Mandarin. Fitzgerald said he didn’t oppose Clark, but when Fitzgerald’s name comes up, Clark splutters: “He owes his position to me–the little bastard.”

It turns out that his complaint is nothing to do with the trade job, but goes all the way back to the sixties. Clark claims credit for getting Fitzgerald started in Chinese studies, but feels the favour was never returned. It is another demon.

“Ah, Greg, he’s a funny guy,” says Fitzgerald when I relay this comment. “I have a great respect for Greg — it was only a couple of years ago when we were talking about doing something between Japan and Australia. But he’s a kind of captive almost to this day of reliving the fights of the sixties as though he can’t escape them. It’s weird. When I was strting the Journal of Australian Chinese Studies, I wrote to him suggesting he write an article about Japan-China relations. He wrote back that it would be much more interesting to write about what happened in Foreign Affairs in 1965-66.” Clark’s obsession with the past makes it difficult to contribute in the present, even when he knows as much as any Australian about Japan and China, and much of Asia, and their languages.

“To be an oracle,” says Fitzgerald, “you must have an element of the protean. It’s all very well to be messianistic, but even messianics have to be manipulative. You have to adapt to people’s personalities. It requires a lot of crafting. You must suppress ego, and also your sponteneous tendency to be contemptuous of other people.” Clark gramaces when I tell him what Fitzgerald has said. Fitzgerald is right in a way, he admits. He should leave these things behind, but he still wants to stress that these are important issues. We have a beer and I leave. Wating for me when I come into my office early next morning is a three-page, densely typed fax. It contains a detailed account of what Clark calls the “main event” straining his ties with the Labor Party–a debate in the bureaucracy about the need for a treaty between Australia and Japan. It was a debate Clark lost. “I was left swinging in the wind, again,” he says. It is a remarkable document–full of fascinating insight, personalities, bitchiness and self-pity. It could be part of a great book about Clark’s life and times. He should write it himself. Put it all on the record. Let it all hang out.

Then, perhaps, he can get on with the rest of his life.


I received a photocopy of this article from a person who has had professional contact with Clark. The sender enclosed a short memo saying the following:

“Dave, I have the dubious distinction of inviting him to lecture. A Y600,000 fee & airfares for a two-hour, not a second more, dated speech. I know, because we had a taped one from 8 years given previously. And he had the nerve to ask us to sell his books at the door. No question time, either.”



2-Channel’s Nishimura sells off his golden goose


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

Hi Blog.  After years of online threats against me (by people who can neither do research or demonstrate any reading comprehension) for apparently either bankrupting their beloved 2-Channel, or taking it over through lawsuit victory (both untrue, but anonymous Netizen bullies never held truth or fact in high regard), 2-Channel founder and coordinator Nishimura Hiroyuki sold off his golden goose.  One which he claimed made him a comfortable living — and a safe haven from libel lawsuits.

No longer.  If he ever sets foot in the real world, with a real salary and a real traceable bank account, he’ll never earn money again.  There are dozens of people who have an outstanding lien on his assets thanks to court rulings against him.  I am among them.  He knows that.  Let’s see how many steps this abetting polluter of cyberspace can keep ahead of the authorities.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

2channel founder ponders next step after forum’s sale

The Japan Times: Saturday, Jan. 24, 2009


By ALEX MARTIN, Staff writer, Courtesy of MS

A short message recently posted on Hiroyuki Nishimura’s personal blog sent shock waves across the online community. In a single sentence dated Jan. 2, he announced that he had sold 2channel, his wildly popular Internet forum.

News photo
Upstart: Hiroyuki Nishimura, 2channel founder, speaks with The Japan Times in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, Monday. ALEX MARTIN PHOTO

The news, and further revelations that rights to the Web site were handed over to a little-known Singapore-based company, immediately raised concerns and questions among Internet users and the media over the fate of what has been called the world’s largest and Japan’s most influential online forum.

“I thought it might be interesting if I sold it (2channel) off, to see if there would be any difference if it was owned by a company, rather than myself,” Nishimura told The Japan Times this week during the first long interview with the media after he made the surprising announcement.

Details of the company, Packet Monster Inc., and Nishimura’s intentions behind the action remain unclear. Speculation abounds, however, that the move may be a legal trick to deflect further lawsuits filed against Nishimura for the site’s frequently libelous content.

Nishimura also declined comment on the price tag attached to the Web site, which was owned and managed by Nishimura alone with the help of an army of volunteers, backed by a server in San Francisco.

Since he founded it 10 years ago, 2channel has revolutionized the role the Internet plays in public opinion by permitting Japanese to express anonymously their innermost sentiments, uncensored and unfiltered — a rarity in a nation known for decorum.

Nishimura himself compares 2channel with the sprawling, seedy pleasure zone in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo. The Web site is the Kabukicho of cyberspace, he says — a place where people tired of clean, well-regulated daily life can repair to be themselves and indulge their baser instincts.

The forum is notorious for libelous postings that target individuals or institutions. And although the site does have a rule calling for deletion of such postings, its sheer size makes that difficult.

Nishimura — known by his first name Hiroyuki in online communities and Japanese media — has lost most of the lawsuits but has so far adamantly ignored court rulings and refused to pay the hundreds of million of yen he owes in penalties.

And now he is making things even more difficult for litigants by selling the site to a new owner and planning a possible move abroad.

“When I was managing the site, I was the one getting sued. But I don’t go to trials, and I haven’t paid a single yen. In that sense, I guess nothing will change,” Nishimura, 32, replied when asked whether the incorporation of the forum would alter his stance toward the sea of litigation and rulings he faces.

A communications ministry official raised suspicions that the handover would further complicate any future judicial process involving the forum.

“If a lawsuit is filed against 2channel from now, in general I believe the company in Singapore would be the one handling it,” the official said, stressing that in either case, everything depended on Nishimura’s future involvement with the Web site, and that they lacked sufficient information to make any assertions.

Founded by Nishimura in 1999 during his year studying in Arkansas, 2channel has ballooned over the years in both the number of users — an estimated 10 million currently — and its social implication. The forum’s hundreds of boards and thousands of threads dealing with vast and far-ranging topics have had both companies and authorities monitoring the site for anything from recent trends to the latest anonymous tip on murder threats.

Most recently, this month an anonymous warning led police to arrest a Hokkaido man for posting messages on 2channel threatening to kill Mongolian sumo superstar Asashoryu.

Its scope and influence have on occasion propelled it into the realm of bullying, with angry users ganging up and hacking or crashing other Web sites.

Dentsu Buzz Research, a division of advertisement giant Dentsu Inc. that analyzes blogs and forum articles posted on the Net by consumers, told The Japan Times that out of the more than 2.8 billion articles they have monitored since November 2006, 75 percent were posted on 2channel.

The research division’s spokesman said, “2channel is extremely influential as an online information source, and cannot be ignored.”

When questioned whether there would be any change in 2channel operations that accommodated the shift in management, Nishimura gave the ambiguous response: “I won’t be the one making the decisions, I guess.”

He explained that he used to be the main moderator when an online discussion became heatedly divisive and needed direction, but that job would now be the company’s.

“But I don’t think 2channel will change much. I mean, there’s no need to alter anything about it,” he added with his signature nonchalance.

However, Nishimura also said that if the new management seeks his advice in 2channel’s operations, he would be willing to help. Asked if that meant he was taking on the task of an adviser, he said, “Yeah, I guess you can call it something like that.”

Nishimura’s ambivalence in clarifying his stance caused a stir in the online community when he appeared live on Jan. 12 on an online video hosted by Nico Nico Douga, a popular video-sharing Web site that Nishimura helped develop. There he commented on 2channel’s future policy regarding news threads, prompting many to question whether he was still managing the bulletin board system after his announcement of a handover.

Jiro Makino, a lawyer and expert on Internet law, said it was possible the company in Singapore was outsourcing 2channel’s operations to Japan, maybe even to Nishimura himself, while taking on legal responsibilities. “But whatever the case, I’d have to see the actual contract in order to figure out what really went on,” he said.

Makino added that his office has handled court cases against Nishimura in the past, and that many of the rulings could not be enforced since his people could not determine Nishimura’s true address, something necessary when mailing important documents and carrying forward the judicial process.

“He uses a false address. Last year I actually visited the address in Shinjuku that he was registered under, but the place was abandoned. He’s basically roaming around, itinerant,” Makino said. His office was also unaware where Nishimura kept his assets, he added, probably because the defendant shifted his accounts frequently to avoid seizure.

“The police cannot be called in since these are all civil cases,” he said.

Despite Nishimura’s legal scuffles, he remains a charismatic figure in online communities and the media, although he doesn’t consider himself a celebrity and expresses distaste at the possibility of being treated as one.

“It would be a pain in the ass if I had a lot of fans coming after me,” he said.

Nishimura said he preferred staying home, playing games (he said he gets more of a buzz playing video games than anything else), reading books and watching movies than being in the spotlight. “It’s like I’m retired already. I’m living the life that I imagined when I was a kid,” he said.

Seiji Sugimoto, president of Niwango, Inc., which operates Nico Nico Douga, said Nishimura — a board member of the company — was the innovative force behind the firm who came up with various new ideas to develop its Web content. “I guess you can call Hiroyuki sort of an evangelist,” Sugimoto said.

Evangelist or not, Nishimura acknowledged the somewhat unfavorable image attached to 2channel, but said it helped the BBS carve out a niche for itself.

“Some people like hanging out in Omote-sando, where it’s clean and nice, but some prefer the chaos of Kabukicho,” Nishimura said. “And I don’t think there are that many places (online) that provide that.”

Regarding the issue of online anonymity, Nishimura said that if the current recession continues, he believed an increasing number of people will begin revealing their true identities.

“For people who are on the verge of losing their jobs or who are not part of an organization in the first place, the downsides are equal, real name or not,” Nishimura said, adding that most of 2channel’s criminal threats were posted by those who were unemployed or students.

“I think people who have nothing to lose will begin shedding their anonymity,” he said.

Asked what he plans for the future, Nishimura said he may move overseas in the midterm, if not as early as this year. “Considering the upside and downside of me staying in Japan, I wonder what the point is” in remaining, he said.

Nishimura said he already spent a lot of time last year traveling, both privately and for business, saving up airline frequent flyer mileage so he can “go somewhere that’s cheap.”

“You can work anywhere as long as you can receive e-mails,” he said.

The Japan Times: Saturday, Jan. 24, 2009

Southland Times on how New Zealand deals with restaurant exclusions


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog. As another template about “what to do if…” (or rather, a model for what the GOJ should be more proactive about) when you get a restaurant refusing customers on the basis of race, ethnicity, national background, etc., here’s an article on what would happen in New Zealand.  Here’s a Human Rights Commission and a media that actually does some follow-up, unlike the Japanese example.  Then again, I guess Old Bigoted Gregory would rail against this as some sort of violation of locals’ “rights to discriminate”.  Or that it isn’t Japan, therefore not special enough to warrant exceptionalism.  But I beg to disagree, and point to this as an example of how to handle this sort of situation. Anyway, courtesy of JL. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Cafe owner ‘breached ‘human rights’ kicking out Israelis

By EVAN HARDING – The Southland Times (New Zealand) | Thursday, 15 January 2009

An Invercargill cafe owner’s refusal to serve Israelis on the basis of their nationality is a clear human rights breach, Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres says.

Sisters Natalie Bennie and Tamara Shefa were upset after being booted out of the Mevlana Cafe in Esk St yesterday by owner Mustafa Tekinkaya.

They chose to eat at Mevlana Cafe because it had a play area for Mrs Bennie’s two children, but they were told to leave before they had ordered any food, Mrs Bennie said.

“He heard us speaking Hebrew and he asked us where we were from. I said Israel and he said ‘get out, I am not serving you’. It was shocking.”

Mr Tekinkaya, who is Muslim and from Turkey, said he was making his own protest against Israel because it was killing innocent babies and women in the Gaza Strip.

“I have decided as a protest not to serve Israelis until the war stops.”

He said he had nothing against Israeli people but if any more came into his shop they would also be told to leave, and he was not concerned if he lost business.

Mr de Bres said the Human Rights Act prohibited discrimination in the provision of goods and services on the grounds of ethnic or national origin, or of political opinion.

“Whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation in Palestine, it is simply against the law for providers of goods and services in New Zealand to discriminate in this way,” he said.

Mr Tekinkaya’s stance was supported by neighbouring Turkish Kebabs shop owner Ali Uzun, who said he was also refusing to serve Israelis.

Mrs Bennie said she did not disagree that Israel was committing crimes against children.

“I just don’t think I should be declined service because I am from Israel.”

She had rung the Human Rights Commission and was told the cafe owner’s actions were against the law because he was discriminating on the basis of ethnicity.

“I wouldn’t mind having a chat to him. Someone has to put him in his place,” Mrs Bennie said.

Ms Shefa is visiting Mrs Bennie at her Makarewa home, on the outskirts of Invercargill, where she lives with her New Zealand husband and two children.

Both women said they had travelled widely, and to places much more hostile than New Zealand, but had never been treated in such a way.

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt was shocked when told of the incident.

“Oh my god, the Gaza Strip has come to Invercargill. Hell’s bells.”

He said he was bewildered.

“Generally speaking I am against all wars and I suppose people have got a right to protest. I couldn’t really deny that. It would have been upsetting for the women and I feel sympathy for them.”


JOHN HAWKINS/Southland Times

SHOCKED AND HURT: Israeli nationals Natalie Bennie, left, and Tamara Shefa, with Mrs Bennie’s two children Noah, 2, and Ella, 4, were told to leave Mevlana Cafe in Invercargill because they were from Israel.

JOHN HAWKINS/Southland Times

TAKING A STAND: Mevlana Cafe owner Mustafa Tekinkaya, left, with family and friends.


Gregory Clark argues in Japan Times that “Antiforeigner discrimination is a right for Japanese people”


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

Hi Blog. Y’know, life is never boring. Here’s yet another piece about the Otaru Onsens Case in yesterday’s Japan Times.  This time from that person with a demonstrably bad record of dealing with the facts, Gregory Clark.

Clark provides no surprises as he rides his “bathhouse fanatics” hobby horse once again, and gets (as he has since 1999) the same old facts wrong. Actually, he gets even more facts wrong this time:  despite calling himself “closely involved” in the case, he gets the very name of the exclusionary onsen wrong.  He even forgets once again (after repeated past public corrections that were even printed in the Japan Times) that there was more than one plaintiff in the successful lawsuit. And that one of those plaintiffs is a Japanese.

The rest is self-hating anti-gaijin invective with errors and illogic galore.  If the Japan Times isn’t bothering with fact checks anymore, they should just put this bigoted old fool out to pasture.  Clark is not worth the trouble to print or debate with anymore.

Still tracing his arc to irrelevancy, Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Excerpt follows.  Full article (new updated link 2015) at:

The Japan Times Printer Friendly Articles
Antiforeigner discrimination is a right for Japanese people (excerpt)


“Japan girai” — dislike of Japan — is an allergy that seems to afflict many Westerners here. If someone handing out Japanese-language flyers assumes they cannot read Japanese and ignores them, they cry racial discrimination. If they are left sitting alone in a train, they assume that is because the racist Japanese do not want to sit next to foreigners. If someone does sit next to them and tries to speak to them in English, they claim more discrimination, this time because it is assumed they cannot speak Japanese….

Recently they have revived the story of how they bravely abolished antiforeigner discrimination from bathhouses in the port town of Otaru in Hokkaido. Since I was closely involved, allow me to throw some extra light on that affair.

An onsen manager who allegedly had earlier been driven to near bankruptcy by badly behaved Russian sailors had decided this time to bar all foreigners from his new enterprise. The activist [sic] then filed a suit for mental distress and won ¥3 million in damages. In the Zeit Gist and letter pages of this newspaper, some have criticized these excessively zealous moves by the activists. These critics in turn have been labeled as favoring Nazi-style discrimination and mob rule. Maybe it is time to bring some reality to this debate.

Otaru had been playing host to well over 20,000 Russian sailors a year, most arriving in small rust-bucket ships to deliver timber and pick up secondhand cars. I visited the wharves there, and as proof I harbor no anti-Russian feeling let me add that I speak Russian and enjoyed talking to these earthy, rough-hewn people in their own language. Even so, the idea of them demanding freedom to walk into any onsen bathhouse of their choice, especially to a high-class onsen like Yunohara [sic], is absurd…

It is time we admitted that at times the Japanese have the right to discriminate against some foreigners. If they do not, and Japan ends up like our padlocked, mutually suspicious Western societies, we will all be the losers.

Gregory Clark is vice president of Akita International University. A Japanese translation of this article will appear
The Japan Times: Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009

Japan Times on future J housing markets, tax regimes, and why J houses are built so crappily


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog. Here’s another excellent article from Philip Brasor of the Japan Times, regarding future Japan housing markets and taxation laws (and why houses in Japan aren’t built to last, or be resaleable). Should cause a twinge or two in the homeowners out there, myself included. Arudou Debito in a lovely, durable, but largely unappraisable house in Monbetsu.




The Japanese art of useless homes

The Japan Times: Sunday, Dec. 21, 2008

Last spring, when the effects of the American sub-prime loan disaster were being felt but the world economy was still relatively OK, there was an article in the Asahi Shimbun written by one of the paper’s financial reporters who recalled several years earlier a visit from a friend living in the United States.

The friend worked for a real-estate company and he told the writer just before he returned to America that he and his colleagues appreciated the Japanese people, because they were investing in U.S. mortgages as securities, and therefore helping poorer Americans borrow money at low rates so that they could buy better houses.

The writer mentioned this episode to point out the irony of the situation, since it was the failure of those securitized mortgages that led to the burst of the U.S. real-estate bubble and the current worldwide recession. However, there’s a deeper irony to the story: The Japanese people, whose housing is, for the most part, inferior in quality to that of American housing, were making it possible for Americans to purchase nice homes. But who is helping the Japanese buy nice homes?

The Japanese government would like everybody to think that they are. Last week, they announced new tax deductions for people who take out housing loans. It’s the biggest-ever tax cut for homeowners and encourages the construction of “long-life” structures that will supposedly improve the housing market. This latter idea, which is being called the “200-year housing plan,” has been around since May 2007, when it was formulated by a research panel set up by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and headed by Yasuo Fukuda, who would become prime minister later that year.

At the time, Fukuda explained something everybody knew at least intuitively: Japanese homes were not made to last. After the war, the government promoted affordable housing so that everyone could own a home, with the result being “cheap, poor quality” structures that had to be replaced after 30 years. Since the houses themselves lost value quickly, people only invested in land, which invariably became over-valued. With the price of land so high, people couldn’t afford better quality homes, and cheap, poor quality structures became the norm.

What Fukuda didn’t mention is that the housing industry was addicted to this cycle, which is referred to as “scrap and build.” The average new house loses its value completely 15 years after it’s occupied. Consequently, Japanese people only want new houses and condominiums, because they believe that previously owned ones are junk. In order to change this mind-set, the Fukuda panel came up with the idea of promoting the construction of homes meant to last a long time, so that the structures themselves can be worthwhile investments.

But it wasn’t until these latest tax cuts were announced that the plan moved toward realization. According to current tax rules, a person who borrows money to buy a home can deduct up to ¥1.6 million of the loan from his or her taxes over a 10-year period after moving in. The new rules, which go into effect Jan. 1, increase the maximum tax deduction to ¥6 million over 10 years. And people who buy homes that qualify as long-life structures can deduct up to ¥1 million more from their taxes.

These figures are maximum amounts. The majority of home-buyers will receive lower tax cuts, because they are based on the balance of the loan, and every few years the ceiling for the maximum balance allowed for the deduction drops. Moreover, many homeowners pay relatively low taxes because of their income and other deductions, and regardless of the balance left on their loan, they can’t deduct more than they actually pay in income tax.

The cuts are being touted as a benefit to citizens, but just like the scrap-and-build strategy, they mainly benefit the housing industry, which is stuck with a huge inventory of unsold new homes that grows larger every day. And this new long-life housing rule also applies to condominiums, so don’t be surprised if, in the spring, the government announces the criteria for long-life housing and all those new, expensive and very vacant high-rise “mansions” looming over Tokyo’s waterfront qualify.

There’s less largess for people who already own homes, almost half of which were built before earthquake standards were introduced in the 1980s. The new tax cuts don’t apply to them. If they want to add energy-saving or “barrier-free” features, 10 percent of the construction costs can be deducted, but they don’t get deductions for home-improvement loans. In 1988, the government set “durable housing” standards to evaluate homes for resale, but almost no one takes advantage of them. According to the Asahi, right now only 543 houses and 1,063 condos on the market have been evaluated.

The long-life housing scheme will probably have a minimum effect, because only the rich will be able to afford such homes. The plan could hold promise over time if the yet-to-be-determined criteria optimize people’s desires. The reason homes in the West keep their value longer is that most were conceived as places to live, not consumer goods, which is what they represent in Japan. Designs for affordable housing in Japan are determined by the developer’s potential profit margins rather than the potential customer’s comfort: Just think of the boxy, impractical layouts of most condominiums, which allow developers to squeeze more units into a limited space.

In the long run, these policies will make little difference. According to the Population Research Center, if the current birthrate persists, 100 years from now there will be 45 million people in Japan, which is fewer persons than there are houses right now. It’s impossible to say whether the quality of those houses in 2108 will be good or bad, but they sure will be cheap.

The Japan Times: Sunday, Dec. 21, 2008

Mainichi: USA to require visitors to register online before boarding planes


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog. This is only tangentally related to (it’s about traffic going from Japan to the US), but as the Americans do policywise, so often does the Japanese Government. Here we have the last gasps of the Bush Administration trying to stick it to foreign visitors (fingerprinting and photography weren’t enough; the GOJ then copied it and went even farther), what with requiring people now to register online before they visit, or even get a boarding pass. As Japanese officials mildly protesteth (see Japan Times article below), the USG didn’t even bother with much of a publicity campaign for their program, leaving the burden on the airlines and the airports to deal with it. Let’s hope 1) this really puts off people travelling to the US, and 2) the GOJ doesn’t feel the itch to copy. Three articles follow — the Mainichi in English and Japanese, then the Japan Times with even better information. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Travelers to U.S. required to register online prior to boarding under new system

(Mainichi Japan) December 17, 2008, Courtesy of Jeff K

Visitors traveling to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program will be required to register online prior to boarding from next January under the new Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

Due to concerns that passengers unaware of the system will be unable to board their flights — largely due to a lack of proactive action by the Japanese government — the Scheduled Airlines Association of Japan (SAAJ) will be launching a new PR campaign to inform passengers about the system at Narita Airport on Thursday.

Currently, visitors are required to complete a visa exemption form while en route to declare any drugs possessed or criminal convictions. The ESTA — which will come into operation from Jan. 12 — will require prospective travelers to complete a survey of 20 or so similar questions online at least 72 hours prior to boarding. Carriers will then check each passport by its passport number to ensure the holder has permission to travel to the U.S. Those without authorization will be refused a boarding pass.

Once issued, the holder is allowed to travel to the U.S. for two years or until the passport expires, whichever comes first.

There are already computer terminals allowing Internet access at Narita Airport; however, there are no plans to have any more installed prior to the introduction of ESTA. And while Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA) have carried an explanation of the new system on their Web sites since July, fears over late applications or ignorance of the new system have prompted SAAJ to launch a campaign of leaflets and announcements at Narita Airport on Thursday.



米入国審査:ネットで事前申請 忘れると搭乗不可--来月12日から


毎日新聞 2008年12月16日 東京夕刊

米国にビザを持たず短期滞在(90日以内)で入国する場合、来年1月12日から、一部を事前にインターネットで申請して承認を受ける制度が導入さ れる。しかし、この事前手続きが旅行者らにあまり知られていないため、空港に来て旅客機に搭乗できないなどのトラブルが続出することが懸念されている。国 も積極的に広報しておらず、国内航空会社でつくる「定期航空協会」は18日、成田空港でPR活動を行う。【窪田弘由記】





米当局は搭乗の72時間(3日)前までに手続きするよう求めている。航空各社は搭乗手続きの際、承認されているかをパスポートからチェックし、出 発時間までに承認がない客は搭乗させない方針。成田空港にはインターネットに接続できる端末が一部には用意されてはいるが、航空各社は現時点では事前申請 のために新たな端末は置かない方針。

出発直前の申請では認められないケースも出るといい、「空港で客とトラブルになる可能性もある」と懸念する。日本航空と全日空は7月から順次、自 社のホームページでシステムの説明をしている。しかし、旅行客らの反応は鈍く、制度の浸透に不安があることから、定期航空協会は18日午前9時、成田空港 第1ターミナルで客室乗務員らがリーフレットを配って呼びかける。


米国電子渡航認証システムの導入は、01年9月の米同時多発テロを受けて制定された「9・11委員会勧告実施法」に基づき義務づけられた。米国土 安全保障省は概要を今年6月に発表。チャートフ長官は「渡航者が脅威をもたらすかどうかを、航空機に搭乗する前あるいは船舶が入港する前に審査すること で、我が国と旅行者の安全を強化する」と説明。義務化を前に、8月からは自主的な申請も受け付けている。米国の駐日大使館も、大使館のサイトで概要説明し ている。【花岡洋二】



New U.S. travel authorization plan has airlines on edge before launch
By ALEX MARTIN, Staff writer

The Japan Times Thursday, Dec. 18, 2008 new border control system the United States will start using to screen short-term foreign travelers in January remains relatively unknown less than a month before launch, and people in the airline and tourism industries are worried the lack of awareness will wreak havoc at airports nationwide.

The new Electronic System for Travel Authorization requires travelers from Visa Waiver Countries who wish to stay in the U.S. for 90 days or less to use the Internet to apply for permission to enter the country three days before departure. Travelers with visas are not affected.

Those who come to the airport without ESTA authorization are likely to be forced to reschedule their flights or cancel, which is causing growing concern among airlines and travel agencies.

The system takes effect Jan. 12 and will replace the written application process used by those seeking visa-free stays. It will be valid for two years or until the applicant’s passport expires.

Although the U.S. Department of Homeland Security initially announced plans for the ESTA system in June, public awareness still appears low, airlines and travel agencies said Wednesday.

“Airlines have been conducting PR activities through their Web sites and in-flight magazines, but it still seems little known to most people,” said Toshiya Shimada of the Scheduled Airlines Association of Japan.

The application is about 20 questions long and asks applicants if they have a criminal record or a history of drug abuse, and requests other basic biographical information. It must be submitted no later than 72 hours prior to departure

Shimada said the airline group, which includes Japan Airlines Corp. and All Nippon Airways Co., will distribute leaflets Thursday at Narita airport to boost awareness of the new system because the U.S. government doesn’t appear to be doing much to get the word out.

“We’d have appreciated it if the American Embassy had conducted a large-scale publicity campaign, but that doesn’t seem to be happening,” Shimada said, emphasizing that airlines stand to be the hardest hit by any confusion arising from ESTA.

The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo said it has held briefings, two press conferences and several TV interviews in Japan to explain ESTA to the Japanese media and the travel agencies. It also said it has seen a noticeable bounce in advance applications and is encouraging travelers to prepare in advance.

Naoko Shimura of travel agency H.I.S. Co. agreed with Shimada and said the ESTA Web site itself threatens to pose difficulties for travelers with little computer skills.

“Since the online authorization involves personal information, we generally have our customers fill it out by themselves,” she said, noting the elderly and those unaccustomed to the Internet may find the process difficult.

According to the U.S. Embassy’s Web site, ESTA approval will be almost instantaneous in most cases. But in cases where applications are left pending, travelers will have to check the ESTA Web site for updates on their applications for the next 72 hours.

If an application is denied, it will prohibit the passenger from traveling under the VWP but will not affect one’s visa eligibility.

In the case of last-minute applications, Narita International Airport employee Eiichiro Takasu said Internet access is available through the airport’s wireless LAN network, provided that travelers have computers and a valid Internet service provider.

“JAL and ANA said they would provide their own PCs, although I’m unaware of the situation with other airlines,” he said.

Mainichi: NJ cause Tsukiji to ban all tourists for a month


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

Hi Blog. Tsukiji is enforcing an outright ban for a month on all visitors to Tsukiji fish market, the world’s largest. The Mainichi says the Tokyo Govt claims it’s due to NJ tourists and their bad manners (or so the Japanese headline says below — the English headline just says they’re too numerous; thanks, Mainichi, for sweetening your translations, again). And the fish market itself claims they cannot communicate the rules with Johnny Foreigner in their foreign tongues (nobody there has ever heard of handing out multilingual pamphlets upon entry or putting up signs?). Anyway, I wonder if this issue is so simply a matter of NJ manners?

Anyway, this isn’t the first time Tsukiji Market has threatened to do this, but this is the first I’ve heard of an outright ban. Moreover, using a purported language barrier as a real barrier to entry and service is becoming the catch-all excuse, as we are increasingly seeing in Japanese businesses, such as banks and insurance agencies. Beats actually making more efforts to cater to the customer, in this case the tourists eating the fish around the marketplace after the marketing, I guess.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo, where the fish is also good.


Too many foreigners forces ban on tourists to Tsukiji fish market
(Mainichi Japan) December 3, 2008

Courtesy of several submitters

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has announced a month-long ban on visitors to the famous fish auctions in Tsukiji from mid-December, blaming large numbers of foreign tourists for obstructing business.

The metropolitan government has sent out a notice of the ban to embassies, hotels, travel companies and other businesses across the capital.

The Tuna Markets, as they are known, are one of the three most popular tourist spots in Tokyo, alongside Akihabara and Asakusa. During early morning hours there were nearly 500 visitors on some days; but many working at the markets have complained of visitors’ showing a lack of courtesy to staff.

According to a tuna wholesalers’ association, the rush in foreign visitors started with the “sushi boom” 10 or so years ago, and has grown especially severe over the past five to six years, following news of the market’s planned closure.

While the auctions are technically off-limits to spectators, auctioneers have informally allowed people to watch from a designated area of the auction hall. With many taking flash photography or touching the produce, however, auctioneers and market workers alike have often been disturbed by visitors: “They can’t understand the language, so we can’t even warn them,” complained one.

As a result, the metropolitan government has informed various tourism-related organizations of their decision to ban spectators at the morning auctions from Dec. 15 to Jan. 17.

“It’s not a bad thing for Tsukiji to gain attention, but with the risk of injury to visitors, and the potential to affect business during the busy Year End and New Year season, it’s unavoidable,” said a metropolitan official. But it’s likely to take time for the news to filter round through signboards and leaflets, as there are many foreigners who visit the auctions individually after learning about the place by word of mouth.

One Tokyo hotel said: “We’ve explained you can’t enter the auction area before, but if you are asked for directions to Tsukiji, you have no choice but to tell them. All we can do is leave it to the judgment of our guests.”


Original Japanese story
築地市場:競り見学中止 外国人観光客マナー悪い
毎日新聞 2008年12月3日 15時00分(最終更新 12月3日 16時55分)






JALT TLT: James McCrostie on NJ job insecurity at Japan’s universities


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

Hi Blog.  Here’s a nice short 500-word summary of one issue I’ve been covering for more than ten years now:  Academic Apartheid in Japan’s Universities.  Reprinted with permission of the author.  Arudou Debito in transit


Behind the Music: An explanation of the university shuffle
James McCrostie
Published in the April 2007 issue of JALT’s The Language Teacher
in the Job Info Center column (p. 45 – 46).

Working at Japanese universities resembles musical chairs. Every year the music starts and instructors with expiring contracts run around looking for a new job. Most universities hiring foreigners full-time offer one-year contracts, renewable three or four times. Contrary to popular belief, universities don’t cap renewals at three or four because if a teacher works long enough they can’t be fired. Schools remain safe as long as they state the number of renewals and a few have contracts renewable up to ten years.

To most thinking people, forcing instructors to leave every few years appears short sighted. Yet, university and government officials have their own reasons for preferring term-limits.

Keeping costs down is one reason. The penny pinching began in December 1992 when Ministry of Education officials phoned all the national universities and warned them against keeping foreign teachers in the higher pay brackets. Schools soon sacked foreigners over the age of 50 (most had been promised a job until retirement), replaced them with teachers on capped contracts, and refused to hire anyone over the age of 35 or 40 (Hall, 1994). Yet, despite a 1997 law allowing universities to employ Japanese faculty on term-limited contracts, the use of capped contracts to economize, while increasing, remains largely limited to foreign staff (Arudou & McLaughlin, 2001).

Attitudes towards foreign teachers reveal the more important reason for the caps. University and Ministry of Education bureaucrats regard foreigners as models of foreign culture with expiry dates stamped on their foreheads rather than real teachers who have a long-term role to play. For example, Niigata University’s president admitted wanting foreigners “churning over constantly” (JPRI Staff, 1996). In an Asahi Shimbun editorial, Shinichiro Noriguchi, a University of Kitakyushu English professor, contends “native speakers who have lived in Japan for more than ten years tend to have adapted to the system and have become ineffective as teachers” (Noriguchi, 2006).

Ministry of Education officials justified firing older foreigners from national universities by arguing younger instructors would be better examples of American culture (Hall, 1998). Nearly a decade later, Ministry bureaucrats justified term-limits by contending they “encouraged the movement of teachers to other universities which was of benefit to both teachers and the universities” (Cleary, 2001). Exactly how they benefited anyone was left unsaid.

If nothing else such attitudes are at least consistent, changing little since the Meiji Era. Viewing foreigners as disposable goes back to the 1903 sacking of Lafcadio Hearn from what is now Tokyo University.

Are the caps discriminatory? While nearly every Japanese instructor receives tenure from the day they are hired and nearly every foreigner is shown the door after a few years the Supreme Court, with a little legal legerdemain, ruled that such hiring practices don’t violate the Labor Standards Law which applies only after someone has been hired (van Dresser, 2001).

Luckily, some universities do appreciate that employing foreigners permanently can benefit a school. So what’s a foreigner in search of job stability to do? Getting a doctorate couldn’t hurt but the key is Japanese fluency. According to activist Arudou Debito “you’ve simply got to understand what’s going on around you” (Arudou, personal communication). Then again, neither provided much protection during the purge of the 1990’s.


Arudou, D. and McLaughlin, J. (2001). Employment conditions in the university: Update autumn 2001. JALT Kitakyushu Presentation. Retrieved January 20, 2007 from

Cleary, F. (2001). Taking it to the Ministry of Education: Round three. Pale Journal. 7(1). Retrieved January 20, 2007 from

Hall, I. (1994). Academic Apartheid at Japan’s National Universities. JPRI Working Paper No. 3. Retrieved January 21, 2007 from

Hall, I. (1998) Cartels of the Mind: Japan’s Intellectual Closed Shop. New York: W. W. Norton.

JPRI Staff. (1996). Foreign teachers in Japanese universities: An update.
JPRI Working Paper, 24. Retrieved January 20, 1997 from

Noriguchi, S. (2006). English education leaves much to be desired. Asahi Shimbun, Sep. 15, 2006. Retrieved January 20, 2007 from

van Dresser, S. (2001). On the employment rights of repeatedly renewed contract workers. PALE Journal, 7(1). Retrieved January 20, 2007 from

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


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

Hi Blog.  I heard from Tyler Lynch that Japan Tourism Agency Commissioner Mr Honpo gave a speech in Nagano recently, on how to more than double tourism to Japan to 20 million visitors per annum by 2020 (see article immediately following).  One question during the Q&A was the recent poll indicating that 27% of hotels polled don’t want NJ tourists, for whatever reason (something not mentioned in the article below).  What was the GOJ going to do about these coy lodgings, refusing people in violation of Japanese hotel laws?  Well, according to Tyler, nothing.  First the article, then Tyler’s report:  


In tough economic times, tourism boss finds visitor boost a tall order

The Japan Times, Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2008

Courtesy of Tyler Lynch

Japan’s ailing regional economies can be revitalized by tapping the sightseeing potential of growing Asian countries, according to Japan Tourism Agency Commissioner Yoshiaki Hompo.

News photo
Tall order: Japan Tourism Agency Commissioner Yoshiaki Hompo is interviewed recently in Tokyo. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

China will be a vital market, and Hompo’s agency is now in talks with other government bodies to gradually ease rules for issuing visas to Chinese tourists, he said during a recent interview in Tokyo.

Hompo also said the Japanese are not exclusionist and boasted the country has a unique natural and cultural diversity.

The agency was launched last month as part of efforts to draw 20 million foreign tourists by 2020, far beyond the 8.4 million who visited last year.

“Because the nation’s population is declining, Japan as a whole is increasingly aware that it must vitalize its regions by expanding exchanges, and some municipalities are desperate,” the new agency chief said.

Hompo hopes that despite the yen’s recent appreciation, Chinese, South Koreans, Taiwanese and Singaporeans will boost travel to Japan in the future.

Those parts of Asia with high growth potential must be included in Japan’s economic growth strategy, he said. Sightseeing can be a crucial and effective way to serve these goals, he stressed.

Hompo said he is proud of Japan’s unique tourism resources.

“Japan has been taking in both Western and Oriental cultures in its own way, so we now have an extremely diverse culture,” Hompo boasted.

“We have diversity that even Europe and Asia do not possess. It is a distinguishable feature of Japanese tourism resources,” Hompo said.

To draw 20 million tourists, the agency said Japan will need to attract around 6 million from China, which is far more than the 900,000 who visited last year.

“We will not be able to achieve that if we do not ease visa” restrictions for travelers from China, Hompo said, adding, however, the government will ease them gradually.

Experts are recommending streamlining the visa process or offering exemptions in certain cases to attract more visitors.

While boasting attractive tourism resources, and ambitious goals, the surging yen and recent world economic turmoil have cast a dark shadow on the market, Hompo conceded.

In September, the number of foreign tourists to Japan fell almost 7 percent from a year earlier to 611,500. South Korean travelers plunged more than 20 percent to 159,500.

“We have to be ready for this situation possibly continuing,” Hompo said.

But he remains optimistic as he said many foreign tourists have been choosing Japan in recent years.

Hompo said the agency will accelerate coordination with other ministries on easing visa restrictions for Chinese tourists.

“Easing visa (restrictions) has apparently quick effects” in bringing in more foreign tourists, he said.

While some may argue that many Japanese are xenophobic, Hompo said Japan will welcome foreign tourists with hearty hospitality.

“I do not necessarily think (Japanese) are exclusive in general,” Hompo said. “I wonder if anywhere else has people with this abundant hospitable mentality.”

The agency is in charge of implementing measures to turn Japan into a more tourism-oriented nation. It promotes the Visit Japan campaign, which publicizes appeals overseas for people to visit Japan and take in its natural scenery, modern metropolises and traditional enclaves.




COMMENT:  Here’s how Tyler reported (from a comment on about a speech Mr Honpo gave:

Tyler (平) Lynch Says: 

Yesterday I attended a tourism symposium in Matsumoto (Nagano Pref.) Yoshiaki Hompo, the 長官 of the newly created Japan Tourism Agency, was the guest speaker, and he commented on this issue of 27% of ryokans not wanted foreign guests.

Hompo-san presented some impressive stats on Japan’s tourism and (declining) population trends. One important figure was how much tourist expenditure it would take to cover the economic loss of one resident: 24 Japanese tourists (76 if just day trippers) or just 5 tourists from overseas. The point is Japan’s economy needs “Inbound” tourists to keep the economy stable during its population loss. In 2003, ex-PM Koizumi declared the goal of 10 million foreign tourists per year by 2010. Seemed pretty ambitious with there only being 5,100,000 at the time, but ‘08 is on target for 9,150,000. (That target is now in danger due to the recent climb of the Japenese Yen.) As Koizumi’s goal will likely be achieved earlier than expected, the JTA is now considering a new goal of 20 million by 2010. That would mean 1 in every 6 宿泊者 (lodgers) would be a foreigner (compared with 1 in 14 in 2007).

Hompo-san then said he is often asked: “With that type of stat, are you just going to ignore the 27% of the ryokans that don’t want to accept foreigners?” You know what his reply was?  “Yes, we are going to ignore them.” The reasoning was that the 1 in 6 won’t be spread evenly across all inns and hotels. The percentages will obviously be higher in Tokyo than the countryside. The inns in the 27% group tend to be in the countryside and tend to not want foreigner guests because they are not confident they can provide satisfactory service to them (c.f. Iegumo-san’s in-laws). Hompo-san indicated he would prefer to let such inns persist in their ignorance rather than forcing Inbounders on them, which would only create unpleasant experiences for both parties. As Japan’s population (and therefore their customer base) shrinks, then maybe the inns will wake up to the reality of needing to direct their omotenashi towards foreigners. Or maybe they’ll just keep on sleeping… (My editorializing, not his, but Hompo-san did say he would ほっとく the 27% in the hopes of avoiding them providing 忠太半端 service to foreign guests.)


DEBITO COMMENTS:  So there you have it.  The economic incentives are clear:  5 NJ tourists equals 24 J tourists (or 76 J day trippers) — meaning NJ tourists spend five to fifteen times more money than Japanese tourists.  But Mr Honpo doesn’t seem to think that enforcing the Ryokan Gyouhou matters — the invisible hand of economic pressure will take care of everything, including discrimination against foreigners.

Maybe.  But it’s still odd for a member of the administrative branch to argue that laws need not be enforced — that exclusionary hotels can just be ignored.  As if “JAPANESE ONLY” rules at hotels will not encourage copycats in other business sectors to put up similar signs and rules.  Moreover, economic incentives have not resolved other cases of exclusion, even when there are similar buyers’ markets in the apartment rental economy, where refusals of NJ are still commonplace.  Harrumph.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo, another major tourist destination.

Negative survey of NJ employers by J headhunting company “Careercross” to make “employers see their own bias”


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

Turning the keyboard over to member of The Community, about an issue recently uncovered:


Date: November 6, 2008 12:35:18 AM JST
From BCD at The Community


Below is a survey I just saw on, which, if you don’t know it, is a job placement site.

CareerCross provides information on bilingual employment in Japan for bilingual Japanese and English speakers, plus an invaluable resource for non-Japanese Living and Working in Japan.

Maybe I’m just being overly sensitive or something, but something about these questions, targeted at foreign employers of Japanese seems wrong.

I can only imagine that if a similar survey were asked in any other country, where any racial group as asked to rate and compare another racial group, it would cause a hell of a fuss. Pick any two racial groups… the kinds of questions asked here seem to be in really poor judgment.

What do you guys think? Is there an unsavoury form of cultural insensitivity being displayed here or am I seeing something that isn’t there?

The questions are as follows:

1. How comfortable are you working with Japanese subordinates?
Somewhat comfortable
Neither comfortable, nor uncomfortable
Somewhat uncomfortable

* This question requires an answer.

* 2. Can you rely on Japanese subordinates?
I can rely on them
I can rely on them somewhat
I can not rely on them so much
I can not rely on them

* This question requires an answer.

* 3. Do you have occasions where you are not able to understand what
Japanese subordinates really think?

* This question requires an answer.

* 4. Please compare Japanese subordinates with those of your
nationality. Please choose 1 answer from each of the following questions.
* 4a. Work Speed
Somewhat faster
Neither faster, nor slower
Somewhat slower

* This question requires an answer.

* 4b. Quality of work
More careful
Somewhat more careful
Neither more careful, nor more careless
Somewhat more careless
More careless

* This question requires an answer.

* 4c. Creativity
More creative
Somewhat more creative
Neither more, nor less creative
Somewhat less creative
Less creative

* This question requires an answer.

* 4d. Logicality
Somewhat logical
Neither more, nor less logical
Somewhat less logical
Less logical

* This question requires an answer.

* 4e. Risk taking
Accepts challenges
Somewhat accepts challenges
Neither accepts, nor avoids challenges
Somewhat avoids challenges
Avoids challenges

* This question requires an answer.

* 4f. Attitude in discussions
Unafraid of conflict
Somewhat unafraid of conflict
Neither unafraid, nor afraid of conflict
Somewhat afraid of conflict
Afraid of conflict

* This question requires an answer.

* 4g. Negotiation skills
Better at negotiating
Somewhat better at negotiating
Neither better, nor worse at negotiating
Somewhat worse at negotiating
Worse at negotiating

* This question requires an answer.

* 4h. Problem solving skills
Better at problem solving
Somewhat better at problem solving
Neither better, nor worse at problem solving
Somewhat worse at problem solving
Worse at problem solving

* This question requires an answer.

* 4i. Leadership skills
More willing to take leadership
Somewhat more willing to take leadership
Neither more, nor less willing to take leadership
Somewhat less willing to take leadership
Less willing to take leadership

* This question requires an answer.

* 4j. Effectiveness
More effective
Somewhat more effective
Neither more, nor less effective
Somewhat less effective
Less effective

* This question requires an answer.

* 4k. Cooperativeness
More cooperative
Somewhat more cooperative
Neither more, nor less cooperative
Somewhat less cooperative
Less cooperative

* This question requires an answer.

* 4l. Adapts to change
More flexible
Somewhat more flexible
Neither more, nor less flexible
Somewhat less flexible
Less flexible

* This question requires an answer.

* 4m. Assertiveness
More assertive
Somewhat more assertive
Neither more, nor less assertive
Somewhat less assertive
Less assertive

* This question requires an answer.

* 4n. Communication skills
Better communication skills
Somewhat better communication skills
Neither better, nor worse communication skills
Somewhat worse communication skills
Worse communication skills

* This question requires an answer.

* 5. What do you find difficult in working with Japanese subordinates?
Please choose as many as you like. If you have other examples please
write them below.
Slow work
Careless work
Lack of creativity
Lack of logic
Avoids challenges
Afraid of conflict in discussions
Poor at negotiating
Poor at problem solving
Lack of leadership
Lack of flexibility (Poor at adapting to change)
Lack of assertiveness
Poor communication skills


* This question requires an answer.

* 6. If you were to hire Japanese subordinates what qualities would you
look for? Please choose as many as you like. If you have other examples
please write them below.
Fast work
Careful work
Accepts challenges
Unafraid of conflicts in discussion
Better at problem solving
Flexibility (Adapts to change)
Good communication skills


* This question requires an answer.

* 7. If you had to hire one candidate from 2 who had the same
competency, which would you hire: a Japanese candidate with fluent
English ability or a non-Japanese candidate with fluent Japanese ability?
Definitely the Japanese candidate with fluent English ability
Preferably the Japanese candidate with fluent English ability
No preference
Preferably the non-Japanese candidate with fluent Japanese ability
Definitely the non-Japanese candidate with fluent Japanese ability

* This question requires an answer.

8. Please tell us the reason for your answer of the previous question.
* 9. Do you think Japanese business people would do well globally?
Yes, they would.
They probably would.
Cannot say either way.
They probably would not.
No, they would not.

* This question requires an answer.

10. What do you think is necessary for Japanese business people to do
well globally in the future?
* 11. Finally, do you feel threatened by Japanese business people taking
your position?
Yes, I feel threatened.
Yes, I feel somewhat threatened.
No, I don’t feel very threatened.
No, I don’t feel threatened.



Totally agree this survey is very biased, especially question 5 as BCD pointed out. I have two Japanese subordinates – Kondo-kun tends to be a little slow in reporting changes and Adachi-kun tends not to express any opinions at meetings, but I couldn’t say anything about Japanese subordinates in general from that.  Kaoru



After having slept on it, and seeing your comments, I’m a little more convinced that the questions are inappropriate and Careercoss should probably be called on it.

Two main reasons: If such a survey were conducted in Japanese by employers of foreigners, we’d be up in arms about it. And the fact that the tone is overwhelmingly negative. Question 5 does not offer any way of opting out of a negative impression of Japanese employees, and is chock full of stereotypes.

I don’t know how to find the survey online if you are not a member. It was offered to me via email because I’ve had a resume on Careercross for a while.

The link they sent me was:

I’m considering getting in touch with them to make known that their survey is poorly executed and has the impression of bias against Japanese. If anyone has suggestions on what might be said, or what parts pointed out, please let me know.



Thank you for the link, because that helped me look for something that seems to me to be very important when sending out any survey — what is the purpose of the survey. I don’t see any reason given for the survey on either page.

As for Q5, what really concerns me is there is no place to check a block which is a positive response. 

“What troubles do/did you have …?” — How about allowing us the opportunity to check a box that indicates, “None.” 

All the answers are negative, unless one were to put a positive answer in “other”. I would think a “positive box” should go at the very top as a first choice. Otherwise, we get the impression that it’s a foregone conclusion that us non-Japanese folks always have negative views of our Japanese subordinates.

Okay, that’s my take on Q5, but I have other concerns about this survey, so I just called their offices about ten minutes ago. The lady I eventually spoke with indicated that the person responsible for the survey was not there to answer my question about what the purpose of the survey is and why there is no positive answer available for Q5, so I gave her an email address to let the person send me an answer. I declined the offer of a phone call. The lady seemed to understand my questions just fine, but we may yet have some problem with my questions being communicated through her to the person having to answer. *If* that person will answer.

Is that a practical good first step — some kind of initial contact with two basic questions, and then we can decide if and how to go further? I suppose it’s a bit late to ask, as I’ve already done it.

By the way, I think going much “further” is going to be necessary. For one thing, if one is to send out a survey that is essentially only going to cover negative aspects of an issue the introduction to the survey must explain why.

Let’s say I send out a survey titled, “What Don’t You Like About GM.” I think I should preface that survey with some reason why I assume all of you don’t like GM.



date: Tue, Nov 11, 2008 at 1023 AM

subject: CareerCross survey

To: GM

Thank you very much for contacting us on Friday and for taking part in our survey.
This survey is an important part in understanding the attitudes and perceptions of foreign employers as it applies to their Japanese hires. Actually the survey is, as you had pointed out, slightly on the negative side which we feel is important in getting straight answers about negative perceptions that a foreign boss may have. We do not think that a “fell good” survey would not bring out information of value.

Please not that it was myself and our Japanese staff, with the help of our foreign staff, that came up with these questions. We hope this survey will be useful for both employers to see their own bias as well as Japanese working at companies for a foreigner.
Thank you again for participating in our survey.  Best regards,

Masayuki Saito
Director COO
C.C.Consulting K.K.
Tel: 03-5728-1861 Fax: 03-5728-1862




Points that I think need to be addressed in a response to the CareerCross CEO:

1. A “feel good” survey is not the only alternative to a negative one. It is entirely possible to create a merely objective survey.

2. Any market researcher knows that asking leading questions gets the answers that the respondents were led to. If they want genuine and meaningful result, then they necessarily should allow clear options for both positive and neutral responses, not only negative.

3. The old “Japanese think so too” argument is as tired as ever. Just because the boss had some Japanese people work on the survey doesn’t justify anything about it. Not only is it unclear whether or not the Japanese or non-Japanese involved honestly felt the freedom to construct the survey differently than what their higher ups wanted, in any country and culture one will find attitudes of criticism of local norms that can be exploited. Just because I can find a Canadian that says Canadians suck doesn’t make it a more accurate description of Canada.

I could rip apart this guy’s justification of this survey even more, but I’m a little tired right now.

GM, this time, before firing off any more responses to CareerCross, maybe wait a bit until we’ve had time to flesh out some consistent points. The whole advantage of a group like this is the collective wisdom.


Okay, readers, time for some collective wisdom… Comments please.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Aso’s new wheeze: Teigaku Kyuufukin. Bribe voters as “economic stimulus”. Might not include NJ, though.


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog. Here’s a post from another friend (anonymized as XYZ) regarding PM Aso’s new wheeze: the “teigaku kyuufukin”.  Get people more positively predisposed towards the LDP by putting money in their pockets (as in, not to get too technical about it, a bribe). According to NHK, that means anyone over the age of fifteen and under 65 gets 12,000 yen in their pockets, and anyone under 15 and over 65 gets 8000 yen.  Wonderful stimulus package, like the LDP’s wheeze some years ago which IIRC gave something like 10,000 yen per household as coupons (which did nothing to boost GDP in the end, and just increased the national debt).  Except that back then, foreigners could not qualify as coupon receivers (as NJ are not, again, officially-registered residents — they’re just taxed like residents).

This time around, NHK and others have been debating whether NJ deserve to be bribed (after all, they can’t vote; but neither can people under 20 and they qualify).  I guess the fact that any discussion of it is happening is an improvement over the last round of bribes.  But the assumption that NJ don’t really count is once again disconcerting.  Read on for XYZ’s read.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Hello Debito,

I assume you have been following the news about the LDP’s proposals to shower money on Japan, ostensibly as an economic stimulus measure, and doubtless to buy voter sentiment in advance of the Lower House election that must be held by September 2009.

Until recently, the discussion was a typical “bread and circuses” policy of the LDP. However, unlike the 2003 plan that distributed shopping vouchers to all registered residents who met certain conditions, the LDP has started to talk of limiting distributions to permanent resident foreigners. If the handout is an economic policy, this makes no sense, since foreigners as well as Japanese patronize Japanese shops, and a foreigner with Y100 yen in her pocket is as valuable to the shopkeeper as a Japanese with Y100 in his pocket.

Of course, one cannot expect Japan to give every tourist money as they deplane, and Aso’s policies may never pass money even to Japanese citizens, but until recently the talk was of distribution to all taxpayers, or households, without a nationality element.

There is one school of thought that suggests that the LDP may actually be trying to court permanent residents in preparation for their being given some kind of vote, but predictably suggesting that foreigners receive even 1 yen brings out the “Japan for the Japanese only” voices that would have been clueless if the Aso administration had just rammed through the legislation and quietly distributed the money to taxpayers.

Presumably, foreign taxpayers who fall short of permanent residence will still be entitled to deductions for housing loans or tax rate reductions.

Here is the only report I could find in print; I heard the report on the television originally. Regards, XYZ, November 6, 2008



毎日新聞 2008年11月8日 東京朝刊


Japan Times Zeit Gist on PM Aso’s connection to WWII forced labor


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

Hi Blog.  If people want to become world leaders, it’s only natural that they will have their past investigated.  But according to the article below which came out yesterday in the Japan Times, PM Aso hasn’t exactly come clean about his family’s wartime past using forced labor.  Fascinating article follows from, where else, the Japan Times Zeit Gist Column.  Arudou Debito in Tokyo


The Japan Times, Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2008




WWII forced labor issue dogs Aso, Japanese firms

Special to The Japan Times

After evading the issue for more than two years, Taro Aso conceded to foreign reporters on the eve of becoming prime minister that Allied POWs worked at his family’s coal mine in Kyushu during World War II.


News photo
Labor pains: Prime Minister Taro Aso was president of Aso Cement Co., the successor firm to Aso Mining, in the 1970s. Hundreds of Allied POWs and thousands of Koreans conscripts were forced to work for the firm during the war. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO


But Aso’s terse admission fell far short of the apology overseas veterans’ groups have demanded, while refocusing attention on Japan’s unhealed legacy of wartime forced labor by Asians and Westerners.

Calls for forced labor reparations are growing louder due to Prime Minister Aso’s personal ties to the brutal practice, as well as his combative reputation as a historical revisionist. The New York Times recently referred to “nostalgic fantasies about Japan’s ugly past for which Mr. Aso has become well known.” Reuters ran an article headlined “Japan’s PM haunted by family’s wartime past.”

Three hundred Allied prisoners of war (197 Australians, 101 British and two Dutch) were forced to dig coal without pay for Aso Mining Co. in 1945. Some 10,000 Korean labor conscripts worked under severe conditions in the company’s mines between 1939 and 1945; many died and most were never properly paid.

Taro Aso was president of Aso Cement Co., the successor firm to Aso Mining, during the 1970s and oversaw publication of a 1,000-page corporate history that omitted all mention of Allied POWs. Aso’s father headed Aso Mining during the war. The family’s business empire is known as Aso Group today and is run by Aso’s younger brother, with the prime minister’s wife serving on the board of directors. The company has never commented on the POW issue, nor provided information about Aso Mining’s Korean workforce despite requests from the South Korean government.

Newspapers in Australia and the United Kingdom vigorously reported Aso Mining’s use of POWs in 2006. But with Aso then at its helm, Japan’s Foreign Ministry cast doubt on the overseas media accounts and challenged journalists to provide evidence.

Last year The Japan Times described how, in early 1946, the Japanese government presented Allied war crimes investigators with the Aso Company Report, detailing living and working conditions for the 300 prisoners. Yet Foreign Minister Aso continued to sidestep the POW controversy even after his office was provided with a copy of the report, which is written on Aso Mining stationery and bears company seals.

Courts in Japan and former Allied nations have rejected legal claims by ex-POWs, so the U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Norway have all compensated their own surviving POWs. Hundreds of British and Dutch POWs and family members have made reconciliation-style visits to Japan in recent years as part of the Tokyo-sponsored Peace, Friendship and Exchange Initiative. Stiffed by the U.S. government, American POWs have also been excluded from Japan’s reconciliation schemes — a situation they say Prime Minister Aso has a special responsibility to correct.

Some 700,000 Korean civilians — including teenage girls — were brought to Japan to work for private firms through various means of coercion. Hundreds of thousands of other Koreans were forced to perform harsh labor elsewhere in Japan’s empire or conscripted into the Japanese military.

South Korea’s 85-member Truth Commission on Forced Mobilization Under Japanese Imperialism began work in 2005. Legislation passed last year will provide national payments of up to $20,000 to former military and civilian conscripts and family members. The measure also calls for individually tailored compensation based on unpaid wages, pension contributions and related benefits owed to Korean workers but now held by the Bank of Japan.

Seoul needs Japanese cooperation in the form of name rosters and details about the BOJ financial deposits in order to fully implement its compensation plan. Repatriating the hundreds of sets of Korean remains currently stored in Japan, many of them belonging to military and civilian conscripts killed during the war, is another key aim of ongoing reparations work. Company records would greatly aid the process of identifying remains that have been located in temples and municipal charnel houses around the country.

The Japanese government has been cooperating fitfully on “humanitarian grounds” in the case of military conscription, supplying Korean officials with some wartime records and returning the remains of 101 Korean soldiers to Seoul last January. But the Japanese side is mostly stonewalling on civilian conscripts like those at Aso Mining.

Japanese officials contend, rather implausibly, that they do not know how many Korean civilians were conscripted or how many died in the custody of private companies because the state was never directly involved. South Korea’s truth commission criticized Aso Group and Foreign Minister Aso in 2005 for failing to supply information.

“I have no intention to explain,” Japan’s chief diplomat told a Japanese reporter at the time. Earlier this month, Diet member Shokichi Kina asked Prime Minister Aso whether any data about Aso Mining was ever given to South Korea. Aso replied that his administration will not disclose how individual corporations have responded to Korean inquiries.

Noriaki Fukudome of the Truth-Seeking Network for Forced Mobilization, a citizens group based in Fukuoka, has been centrally involved in advancing the South Korean truth commission’s work within Japan.

Aso Group, says Fukudome, “has an obligation to actively cooperate with returning remains and providing records because it was one of the companies that employed the most forced laborers. But Japanese companies are keeping a lid on the whole forced labor issue. In the unlikely event that Prime Minister Aso was to direct Aso Cement (now Aso Lafarge Cement since its merger with a French conglomerate) to actively face the forced labor problem, it would have a huge effect on all Japanese companies.”

Fukudome pointed to Japan’s conformist corporate culture as one reason why very few of the hundreds of companies that used Asians and Allied POWs for forced labor have taken steps toward reconciliation. “Even if one company has a relatively positive attitude regarding reparations, it will not take action out of deference for other companies,” he said.

Chinese were the victims of the third class of forced labor in Japan. While Aso Mining was not involved in Chinese forced labor, lack of progress for the especially compelling redress claim highlights Japan’s weak commitment to settling wartime accounts.

Postwar records secretly compiled — and then purposely destroyed — by the Japanese government and 35 companies state that 38,935 Chinese males between the ages of 11 and 78 were brought to Japan between 1943 and 1945. More than one out of six died.

Japan’s Supreme Court ruled last year that the 1972 treaty that restored ties between Japan and China bars Chinese forced labor survivors from filing legal claims. Yet the court found that plaintiffs had been forcibly transported to Japan and forced to toil in wretched conditions, and suggested they be redressed through non-judicial means. Having previously declared that the “slave-like forced labor was an outrage against humanity,” the Fukuoka High Court earlier this month similarly urged “voluntary measures” to remedy the injustice.

Kajima Corp., one of the world’s largest construction companies, set up a “relief fund” in 2000 to compensate survivors of its Hanaoka work site, where 418 out of 986 Chinese perished and an uprising took place. The move prompted expectations that Japan’s industrial sector and central government might establish a redress fund for all its victims of forced labor, similar to the “Remembrance, Responsibility and the Future” Foundation enacted in Germany that same year. The $6 billion German fund eventually compensated 1.6 million forced labor victims or their heirs.

Such hopes for corporate social responsibility in Japan were dashed. On the contrary, Mitsubishi Materials Corp. defended itself in a Fukuoka courtroom in 2005 by rejecting facts about Chinese forced labor routinely recognized by Japan’s judiciary and insisting only voluntary workers were used — despite death rates of up to 31 percent at its Kyushu mines. Mitsubishi openly questioned whether Japan ever “invaded” China at all and warned judges that compensating the elderly Chinese plaintiffs would saddle Japan with a “mistaken burden of the soul” for hundreds of years.

Taro Aso, in fact, is not the Japanese prime minister most closely connected to forced labor. Wartime Cabinet minister Nobusuke Kishi was in charge of the empire’s labor programs and was later imprisoned for three years as a Class A war crimes suspect. Kishi went on to become a founder of the Liberal Democratic Party in 1955 and Japan’s premier from 1957-60. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is Kishi’s grandson.

Foreign Ministry files declassified in 2002 revealed that Kishi’s administration conspired to deceive the Diet and citizens’ groups about the state’s possession of Chinese forced labor records. Kishi’s intent was to block Japanese activists from returning remains to China and publicizing the program’s true nature, as well as to head off state reparations demands from Beijing. In 2003, the Foreign Ministry searched a basement storeroom and found 20,000 pages of Chinese forced labor records submitted by companies in 1946, despite decades of denials that such records existed.

Millions of Asians performed forced labor outside of Japan during the Asia Pacific War, very often for the benefit of Japanese companies still operating today. The so-called comfort women represent a uniquely abused group of war victims forced to provide sex for Japan’s military. Last year governments in North America and Europe urged Japan to do more to right the egregious comfort-women wrong.

The Dutch foreign minister renewed that call last week, prior to a visit to Japan set to include a stop at the Commonwealth War Cemetery where hundreds of Allied POWs are buried, including two Australians who died at Aso Mining.

Days after assuming Japan’s top post, Aso apologized “for my past careless remarks” in a speech before Parliament. “From now on,” he pledged, “I will make statements while bearing in mind the gravity of the words of a prime minister.” Many are waiting for the words “I’m sorry” for forced labor.


William Underwood completed his doctoral dissertation at Kyushu University on forced labor in wartime Japan. His past research is available at and he can be reached Send comments on this issue and story ideas to

SR: Shounan Shinkin Bank in Chigasaki refuses bank accounts to NJ who can’t read and speak Japanese


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog. Language ability is being increasingly used by more types of businesses nationwide as a means to refuse NJ service. As we saw last week, insurance agencies (such as AXA Direct Insurance) are rejecting NJ for not enough language (however determined). Now consider Shounan Shinkin Bank in Chigasaki, near Tokyo. Forwarding with permission and anonymized.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

On Oct 28, 2008, SR wrote:
Dear Dave, I am writing this to let you know of an incident we had with one of our new teachers living in Chigasaki and Shounan Shinkin bank, a local bank in Shounan area.

It is an important issue for all foreigners here who are small business owners and in general foreigners living in Japan, especially in Chigasaki.

I am an owner of a small English school in Chigasaki and have nearly 50 students. I also have quite a few teachers, mostly foreigners from here and there who live in Chigasaki. They are all here for a pretty long time, married and have their Japanese families here.

We have recently employed a new teacher for one of our classes, a foreigner, who is originally from Hong Kong but brought up and educated in the US.

We had asked her to open a bank account in Shounan Shinkin Bank where we all have our accounts; the school account as well as the employees’ accounts.

She had been there 2 times with her parents in law (both Japanese) but Shounan Bank and their dep. manager had rejected her request and DID NOT open her bank account! The reason is “she doesn’t speak Japanese and she can’t read it” (日本語が読めない、理解できない) Is that a good enough reason not to have a bank account??? If yes, please stop reading here…

But, most of our teachers and I have a limited knowledge of kanji; when it comes to official documents, we do need help from our Japanese families and friends but we still managed to open accounts there!!!

We contacted the Financial Service Agency (金融庁)to see what they think, and they have told us it is totally absurd but there is nothing they can do! Then, we contacted the Shounan Shinkin honten and they confirmed their 日本語が読めない、理解できない rule.  After a short exchange of opinions and requests between the main office and my Japanese staff, they promised to apologise and open our teacher’s account. She won’t though!

When I went to the bank to close down my accounts, I had a long chat with the department manager. I asked him to show me the written form of their rule but they didn’t have it, or wouldn’t show it. But, he did promise to apologise to our teacher and her family… I’m not really sure he thought it was a right thing to do… it seemed as if he was under big pressure…

All in all, the situation had made me very angry… I have never had this kind of experience in my 13 years in Japan

We all know a lot about Japan and the Japanese people, their customs, culture that we all have to accept if we want to have a life here, but we also know about their attitudes and insecurities when it come to dealing with foreigners. I wish we could do something to change this… Best regards, SR


Chand B on AXA Direct Insurance requiring J language proficiency to qualify for coverage


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog. Turning the keyboard over to Chand B for a report on AXA DIRECT INSURANCE’s policies towards NJ customers. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Axa Direct Insurance Require Japanese Language Proficiency To Purchase Insurance
By Chand B., October 12, 2008

Non-Japanese who spend any amount of time in Japan tend to get used to the occasional discrimination, ryokans that don’t want foreign guests, small restaurants who’d rather have local customers and more frustratingly landlords who refuse to rent to them.

Despite this foreigners can always rest assured that the big international companies will always be happy to accept their hard earned yen.

Which is why is saddening that Axa Direct Japan, a subsidiary of the global Axa Insurance Group, which even boasts about their multicultural management team (, has begun discriminating against Non Japanese.

Axa is presently running television commercials on Japanese cable television, specifically CNN Japan, offering value car insurance, the catch? Small print subtitling the advert stating

‘Being resident in Japan and understanding spoken and written Japanese are the basic requirements for any transaction of this insurance service.’

Now some people might say insurance is a complex financial product and Axa probably hopes to avoid any misunderstanding with Non Japanese customers that might arise in a dispute.

Others might say customers should be able to find another insurer who would be willing to sell policies to them, as the market will always provide. But this will probably come at a premium and if other companies followed suit it could lead to a de facto ban on foreigners being able to drive cars and rent apartments, the basic necessities needed to lead a normal life.

This, couple with the recent reports of banks refusing accounts to foreigners are part of a worrying trend that could force those trying to lead a decent life to skirt the law, perhaps driving uninsured, or taking a job that pays under the table. It risks pushing the already disadvantaged Non Japanese further into a ‘social underclass.’

Many Non Japanese living here often try hard to learn the language, but their ability to adequately read and understand a Japanese contract and their need to insure their cars don’t always coincide.

How exactly is Axa going to enforce their policies? There are people who are pretty fluent in spoken Japanese but unable to read Kanji, not to mention some illiterate or mute Japanese citizens.

I hope Axa will change their policy to something more reasonable, perhaps just requiring the Non Japanese have someone fluent to translate on their behalf during the sales and contracting time rather than a blanket ban on those not yet fluent in Japanese.

I have emailed Axa and will update once I’ve heard from them.




From:   Chand B

Subject: RE: Axa Direct Update.

Date: October 18, 2008 12:53:27 AM JST

Dear Debito, 

I contacted Axa but my Japanese is far from great so I had to mail Axa in English, I asked them if they would accept Non Japanese speaking customers if they had someone to translate for them at the contract time.

They replied, but I think they misunderstood my question. As far as I can work out they just say their service is only in Japanese, they don’t specifically say they wont accept customers with a translator.

If I could impose on you to translate my question, I can contact them again. I have Japanese friends
etc but they don’t quite understand the nuance of these situations and usually think I’m making a fuss over nothing.

“Will Axa Direct accept non Japanese speaking customers if they have friends or family members
 to translate for them at the time of application?”

Thanks in advance.

Heres the Axa reply:
B チャンド様

“Japanese Only” at Tokyo Takadanobaba private-sector job placement agency


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

Hi Blog.  Here’s something received from a friend:  A private-sector job placement agency which explicitly says that foreign applicants cannot register (and I have telephoned to confirm, means they will not allow foreigners to apply):

The sign reads “Workers KK”.

Below, “We accept applicants for day-paid jobs, walk-ins fine.  Construction, jobs within storage facilities, transport work etc.”

And in parenthesis:  “People with foreign nationalities cannot register for our services.”

Address (gleaned from the general website at for this, the Takadanobaba Branch, is:


From their site:

■ 高田馬場支店 ■

所在地: 〒169-0075
TEL: 03-3365-7701
FAX: 03-3365-7702


TEL:   03-3365-7703

登録予約可能時間 月~土 11:00~15:00

お支払い時間 16:00~19:00

Well, it goes without saying by now for readers of this site, but this exclusionary sign is unconstitutional and goes against international treaty.  It also goes against the Labor Standards Law (Articles 3 and 4), which does not permit discrimination of workers on the basis of nationality etc. (More on that from NUGW site here.)

I called the number on the sign today and talked to a Mr Yoshimura, who confirmed that they do in fact refuse service to foreign workers.  That includes all their branches, yes.  When I mentioned that this is in violation of the LSL, he said that they are, as of now, considering a revision (doryoku shimasu, was how he put it).  I gave him my phone number and email address should they decide to revise their rules and their sign.  Meanwhile, another entry for the Rogues’ Gallery within a few days, and I’ll let the labor unions know.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Getchan on how to circumvent Postal Money Orders and transfer money more easily


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog.  Got this from “Getchan” yesterday regarding circumventing the difficulties remitting money overseas through the Post Office.  Lots of good stuff here, too good to be relegated to a comment.  Let me devote a whole blog entry to it.  Thanks Getchan.  Debito in Sapporo


Here’s some idea how to circumvent the system:

I send money regularly to places all around the world, and to two overseas accounts I am holding (one in Germany, one in the US).

1) Get a postal savings account (formerly known as Pa-ru-ru).

2) Get your postal money orders debited from directly debited from that account instead of paying cash (there are special forms available for that kind of service). Present your account passbook when you make the payment.

3) For regular payments to recipients living overseas, wire a lump sum to an account of your choice. If in your name, note “savings” as your reason of payment.

4) If to the US, your stateside bank will charge you $12 to $22 to credit the wire, which usually takes 3 to 5 banking days, and the charge depends on whether a third bank is involved.

Inquire with your bank to get the correct routing number. Routing numbers for wire transfers MAY be different from those printed on your checks. The time frame depends on where you live (the P.O. sends a fax to the postal giro center in charge of int’l transactions – it used to be a straight wire before the fees were “adjusted”, as they put it). Tokyo and Osaka are usually the fastest, with countryside P.O.’s trailing far behind.

5) If to Germany, the Postbank will not charge any fees, and other banks will charge EUR 5 to credit incoming wires. For time frames, see previous comments.

6) From a US account, write checks against your balance & send them thru the mail. At $1 a pop it should be cheaper than spending 2000+ Yen per IPMO…

7) From a German account, make online IBAN / BIC transfers to any Euro zone bank (Postbank offers them for free).

Sending funds directly from a postal savings passbook SHOULD save you all those stupid questions P.O. employees are supposedly supposed to ask. At my P.O. some do, some don’t – the passbook plus my “hanko”, and eventually plus my DL are sufficient to confirm my identity, and “savings” (”貯金”) is a valid reason. It’s no one’s business what you do with your money once it hits an overseas account in your name. It is legally earned and has been taxed, and the trail can be followed to the point where it exits Japan. End of story for nosey counter clerks.

On a personal note – I do a lot of buying on eBay, and the safest way is to NOT use Paypal!!
Check this site:

Paypal has made it a habit to freeze accounts and seize funds at will, leaving little or no recourse to defrauded sellers and buyers alike, other than go thru law enforcement, the BBB or even the court system.

Many sellers refuse to deal with PayPal, and eBay will see their core business shrink further come the end of this month due to their third line forcing of their own subsidiary (checks and MOs will be banned from

I am both a seller and a buyer with 10,000s of transactions since 1999…


If you happen to encounter a postal clerk with little or no knowledge / training, assume (s)he is a newbie. It happens. If the same person messes up the second time, call the supervisor and ask him politely to re-train the counter clerk in question. If it happens again, call the supervisor again, and tell him, that time is a customer’s most valuable asset, and that nobody should be stealing it (this particular phrase got a lot of nods from customers waiting in line every time I have used it!), and that you would not want to see that person serving you again.

At my local P.O., six consecutive foul-ups by one particular clerk that cost almost four hours of my time excluding waiting in line earned him five a**-chewings, and a backroom desk job as a consequence.


Reuters: Keidanren business lobby calls for more immigrants


 Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

Hi Blog.  Here’s some good news.  Keidanren is no longer just calling for more NJ workers to man our factories (and effectively provide cheap, disposable contract labor to keep us internationally competitive).  They are also using the word “immigrants”, meaning they want them to stay.  That’s good news.  Perhaps our questioning of one of the policy designers last year has had an effect (see below).  More commentary on Keidanren’s historical record after the article:


Japan business group calls for more immigrants

    TOKYO, Oct 13 (Reuters) – Japan’s most powerful business lobby will change its long-held policy and call on the nation to accept more immigrants, Mainichi newspaper reported on Monday, as the world’s fastest ageing nation faces serious labour shortages.

    The Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), whose policy on immigration to date has been to limit foreign labourers to fixed contracts, will announce the change on Tuesday, the Mainichi newspaper said.

    Keidanren officials could not immediately be reached for comment as Monday is a national holiday in Japan.

    The idea of allowing in more foreigners is seen by some Japanese as a risk to the country’s relatively crime-free and homogeneous society, and few Japanese employers offer immigrant workers the same rights as their Japanese colleagues.

    Mainichi’s report comes as Japan, with its shrinking population, faces serious economic consequences including labour shortages that could weigh on its GDP.

    Japan expects more than a quarter of its citizens to be aged over 65 by 2015 and its population is set to shrink by a third in 50 years if current trends continue.

    In its recommendations, Keidanren will note the necessity of changing laws to promote immigration as well as call for enhancements in Japanese language education and social security for immigrants, Mainichi said.

    Foreigners made up less than 2 percent of Japan’s nearly 128 million population in late 2007, government statistics show.

    Earlier this year, a group of ruling party lawmakers called on Japan to allow immigrants to make up 10 percent of the population in 50 years’ time.


FURTHER COMMENT:  To demonstrate how this is a development from the past, here’s what I wrote in the Newsletter dated May 27, 2006:



Since a major overseas magazine will soon be doing a large article on foreign labor in Japan, I finally sat down and webbed something I keep referring to in my Japanese writings on immigration and foreign labor in Japan: Fifteen pages of a special report in Shuukan Diamondo (Weekly Diamond) economics magazine, concerning the importance of Immigration to Japan, which ran on June 5, 2004. All scanned and now available at:


Cover: “Even with the Toyota Production style, it won’t work without foreigners. By 2050, Japan will need more than 33,500,000 immigrants!! Toyota’s castle town overflowing with Nikkei Brazilians. An explosion of Chinese women, working 22 hour days–the dark side of foreign labor”

Page 32: “If SARS [pneumonia] spreads, factories ‘dependent on Chinese’ in Shikoku will close down”.

Page 40-41: Keidanren leader Okuda Hiroshi offers “five policies”: 1) Create a “Foreigners Agency” (gaikokujin-chou), 2) Create bilateral agreements to receive “simple laborers” (tanjun roudousha), 3) Strengthen Immigration and reform labor oversight, 4) Create policy for public safety, and environments for foreigner lifestyles (gaikokujin no seikatsu kankyou seibi), 5) Create a “Green Card” system for Japan to encourage brain drains from overseas.

Remember that powerful business league Keidanren was the one lobbying in the late 80’s and early 90’s for cheap foreign workers (particularly Nikkei Brazilians) to come in on Trainee Visas, working for less than half wages and no social benefits, to save Japanese industry from “hollowing out”.

Now that Keidanren boss Okuda has stepped down in favor of Mitarai Fujio (, it’s time to see what Keidanren’s new tack on foreign labor, if any, will be. At 7:50 AM yesterday morning, NHK interviewed Mitarai, and made much of his 23 years living overseas with foreigners (and his comments were, sigh, directed towards “understanding foreign culture and traditions”; when will we outgrow that hackneyed and sloppy analytical paradigm?). The interview made no mention of foreigners within Japan, however. Do I hear the sound of hands washing?


Here’s something else I wrote for the November 19, 2007 Newsletter when I realized how ugly Keidanren’s underlying policy attitudes actually were last year:




I spoke at the above gathering ( for about 40 minutes today. This is a little note to tell you what transpired:


This is essentially a misnomer, as these kids (college age already) are fluent in Japanese with some background in the native tongue of their immigrant parents. I met youth from China, Brazil, Peru, and most famously a young lady from Iran who came here at age seven, overstayed with her parents for a decade, and was granted a visa after many misgivings from the GOJ. Same with a young Chinese lady whose family had to go through the courts (lower court denied, high court granted) for a stay of deportation and one-year visas. Although all of these kids were just about perfectly culturally fluent in Japan (having grown up here as a product of the new visa regime, which started from 1990), they had a variety of faces and backgrounds that showed a lovely blend–a very hopeful one for Japan’s future. They made the best argument possible for visa amnesties for NJ with families–an extended life here that they have not only adapted to, but even thrived under.

The problem was they were grappling with things they really shouldn’t have to to this degree–identity. Being pulled one way by family ties overseas, and then another by the acculturation of being in a society they like but doesn’t necessarily know what to do with them. And refuses to let them be of both societies, either way their phenotypes swing. I suggested they escape this conundrum of wasted energy by ignoring the “identity police” (people who for reasons unknown either take it upon themselves to tell people they are not one of them, or who find the very existence of Japanized non-Japanese somehow threatening their own identity). They should decide for themselves who they are. After all, the only person you have to live with 24 hours a day is yourself (and believe me it’s tough)–so you had better do what you have to do to be happy. That means deciding for yourself who you are and who you want to be without regard for the wishes (or random desires) of millions of people who can’t appreciate who you are by any means considered a consensus. Trying to second-guess yourself into the impossibly satisfied expectations of others is a recipe for mental illness.


Rather than telling you what I said, download my Powerpoint presentation here (Japanese):


Coming late to the second talk sessions was a representative of Keidanren (Japan’s most powerful business lobby), who was actually in charge of the federation’s policy towards business and immigration. He gave us a sheet describing future policy initiatives they would undertake, focusing optimistically on creating synergy between the varied backgrounds and energies of NJ and the diligence of Japanese companies.
Yet Keidanren is still trying to create an ultracentrifuge of “quality imported foreigners” over quantity (or heavens forbid–an open-door policy!). Orderly systematic entry with proper control, was the theme. And Taiwan’s system (for what it was worth, unclear) was cited.

When question time came up, I asked him whether Keidanren had learned anything from the visa regime they helped create (something he acknowledged) in 1990. All this talk of orderly imports of labor and synergy are all very well, but business’s blind spot is the overwhelming concern with the bottom line: People are imported and treated like work units, without adequate concern for their well-being or welfare after they get here. After all, if their standard of living was ever a concern, then why were the hundreds of thousands of people brought in under Researcher, Intern, and Trainee Visas made exempt from Japan’s labor laws–where they have no safeguards whatsoever (including health insurance, minimum wage, unemployment insurance, education? (Or anything save the privilege of living here with the dubious honor of paying taxes into the system anyway.) Did they expect to create a system where there are no legal sanctions for abuse, and expect employers not to abuse it?

The Keidanren rep’s answer was enlightening. He said, in essence:
1) Japan’s labor laws are sloppy anyway, and don’t protect people adequately enough as they are. (So that justifies exempting people from them completely?)

2) Japanese society is not wired for immigration. (So why bring in so many foreigners then? The expectation was that they would not stay — meaning the system was only designed to exploit?)

3) There are plenty of elements of civil society out there filling the gaps. (So you’re trying to take credit for those who try to clean up your messes?)

To me, quite clear evidence that they powers that be just don’t care. And it’s very clear it’s not clear that they’ve learned anything from the 1990s and the emerging NJ underclass.


Let’s hope Keidanren actually encourages immigration as opposed to just plain migration.  For a change.   Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Rogues’ Gallery of “Japanese Only” Establishments updated: Tokyo Akihabara, Kabukicho, Minami-Azabu, Tsukiji, & Ishikawa added


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

The “Rogues’ Gallery”, an archive of “Japanese Only” exclusionary establishments spreading nationwide across Japan, has now been updated for the season.

Added have been Tokyo Akihabara (shop), Minami-Asabu (ballet school), Kabukichou (nightlife), Tsukiji (seafood restaurant), and Ishikawa (a newspaper subscription outlet for the Hokkoku Shinbun — yes, a Japanese newspaper outlet refusing NJ subscribers).  

This brings the tally to (places and types of establishment):

Onsens in Otaru (Hokkaido), Bars, baths, karaoke, and restaurant in Monbetsu City (Hokkaido), Public bath and sports store in Wakkanai (Hokkaido), Pachinko parlor, restaurant, and nightlife in Sapporo (Hokkaido), Bars in Misawa (Aomori Pref), Disco in Akita City (Akita Pref),  Hotels and Bar in Shinjuku and Kabukicho (Tokyo Shinjuku-ku), Ballet School in Minami-Azabu (Tokyo Minato-ku), Seafood restaurant in Tsukiji (Tokyo Minato-ku), Weapons etc. store in Akihabara (Tokyo Chiyoda-ku), Women’s (i.e for women customers) Relaxation Boutique in Aoyama Doori (Tokyo Minato-ku), Bar in Ogikubo (Tokyo Suginami-ku), Bars in Koshigaya (Saitama Pref), Bar in Toda-Shi(Saitama Pref), Stores and nightclubs in Hamamatsu (Shizuoka Pref), Onsen in Kofu City (Yamanashi Pref), Nightlife in Isesaki City (Gunma Pref), Nightlife in Ota City (Gunma Pref), Bars in Nagoya City (Aichi Pref), Internet Cafe in Okazaki City (Aichi Pref), Hokkoku Shinbun Newspaper in Nonochi, Ishikawa Pref. (yes, you read that right),  Onsen Hotel in KyotoEyeglass store in Daitou City (Osaka Pref), Apartments in Fukshima-ku (Osaka City), Bar in Kurashiki (Okayama Pref), Nightclub and Bar in Hiroshima(Hiroshima Pref),  Restaurant in Kokura, Kitakyushu City (Fukuoka Pref), Billiards hall in Uruma City Gushikawa (Okinawa Pref),  Miscellaneous exclusionary signs (Tokyo Ikebukuro, Kabukicho, Hiroshima).

Update details as follows:


Akihabara (Tokyo Chiyoda-ku)
Shop “Mad”
東京都 千代田区 外神田 3丁目16番15号
電話 東京03-3251-5241 FAX: 03 3255 0012

(their website says they will only take phone calls between two and three pm on weekdays)
After the famous stabbings in Akihabara in June 2008 (by a Japanese), a shop which sells weapons and knives in Akihabara had the temerity to maintain a sign up on their shop refusing foreigners entry.  Photos received May 24, 2008.

(Click on images to expand in browser)

UPDATE:  After calls (June 9 and 16, 2008) and meeting with the owner of the shop (June 17, he was very friendly and cooperative), the store agreed to take down their sign and replace it with a new one written by Rogues’ Gallery monitor Arudou Debito (photo by same taken June 17).

Now while I’m not a fan of making weapons obtainable by anyone, there are more things in the store than just knives etc.  The misleading sign has at least been made nondiscriminatory.
Nevertheless, as of October 10, 2008, “MAD”s website still explicitly says their knives are not for sale to foreigners.

Rogues’ Gallery entry at


Mass-produced neighborhood signs for excluding all foreigners.  Note how sophisticated the English language level of exclusionism has gotten.  

These cellphone staps taken March 16, 2008 by Rogues’ Gallery monitor Arudou Debito at the address above (look down the stairwell to see the sign just to the left of the black stand).  

But there are many other businesses now displaying the same sign in Kabukichou.  Ironic, given that Kabukichou has the highest concentration of businesses run and staffed by foreigners in Japan.  How do they go to work?  I guess they’re not “guests”.  See what I mean about the increasing sophistication of the exclusionary language?

Full report at


Minami-Azabu (Tokyo Minato-ku)
Ballet School 
東京都港区麻布5丁目5-9 後藤ハウスB1F MGホール
MG International Arts of Ballet, MG Hall, B1F GOTO House 5-5-9
Minami-Azabu Minato-ku, Tokyo

Full report here:


Address and phone number unknown (was not able to check for myself from Sapporo), photo taken February 2008, courtesy CG.  Sign describes complicated rules, and indicates that even Japanese who cannot follow them will be refused entry.  However, the assumption still remains that non-Japanese will be unable to understand the rules of the establishment, so it blanket refuses them.  
Full report here.

UPDATE:  Exclusionary pign is now down as of February 2008, thanks to others contacting the restaurant and encouraging the management to reconsider.


Nonoichi City (Ishikawa Prefecture)
Dealer for Hokkoku Shinbun

販売所名: 野々市三馬(石川県)
電話: 076−247-2120 (changed to 076-243-1810)
〒920-8588 石川県金沢市香林坊2丁目5番1号 TEL.076-263-2111

As was reported on the blog on January 8, 2008, in November 2007 a NJ resident of Ishikawa Prefecture was offered a subscription, by a sales manager of an independent company selling magazine subscriptions, to the Hokkoku Shinbun, a regional Ishikawa Japanese newspaper.  Receipts dated November 13, 2007 as follows:  (click here to see larger scans and a fuller report):

The subscription was abruptly cancelled the next day, with a postcard from the salesman, a Mr Matsuda, confirming that the company will not sell subscriptions to foreigners (click on images for larger scans and a fuller report).  The company’s standpoint as revealed in telephone interviews here.  (The Hokkoku Shinbun itself has disavowed any connection with this company.)

This outcome is confounding.  As can be seen in other entries on this Rogues’ Gallery, we have managers worried that letting NJ into their facilities might cause, they claim, problems with manners, sanitation, violence, or just plain discomfort to the owners for their own langauge insecurities or xenophobic tendencies.  It’s confusing why a newspaper outlet (in these days when print journalism is scrambling for paying customers) would unilaterally void a subscription contract.  Are they worried the foreigner might be able to read their paper?  UPDATE (February 2008):  After investigation by reporters from Kyodo News, the Mainichi Shinbun, and a shuukanshi weekly, reporters on the case told me that their editors said this was a non-story, and no article on this issue appeared in any publication.  The Rogues’ Gallery moderator’s interpretation of this outcome is that newspapers are not happy to investigate other newspapers when there are financial interests involved.  This is how uncritical our media gets.  

Anyway, as newspapers themselves advise, avoid subscription outlets that are not official newspaper sales offices.

See whole Rogues’ Gallery up at


Jerry Halvorsen on suspicious bank treatment for receiving money from overseas while NJ


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
From: Jerry Halvorsen, Sapporo
Subject: What happened this morning with thanks for the expert advice and useful links!
Date: October 8, 2008 5:19:47 PM JST

Yesterday, October 7, at about 4:30 p.m., I received a phone call from my bank requesting that I show up in person and present ID and a reason for receiving funds from overseas. I said that I was busy and that there should be no need to do anything as the amount was not enough to worry about. I was told that the bank would not release the funds unless I came in person. I said you’re mistaken, please check. The clerk replied that he couldn’t because the bank was closed and that I should come in the morning. Again I asked that they release my funds without my being there and again I was told this was not possible.

I was at the Hokuto Branch of Hokuyo Bank (1-1 Kawashimo 3 jo 4 chome, Shiroishi-ku, 003-0863 phone: 011-872-3151) today, October 8, before 9:00 a.m. and was the first to visit the foreign exchange area when it opened. I was again asked to show ID and state the reason for the transfer and I refused. Instead I asked if everyone who transfered money was asked to show ID or was it just foreigners? I was told that it is policy to ask everyone, but I have no way to confirm that.

I then asked to see the bank’s policy and a copy of any applicable laws in writing. I also said it was my understanding that for any bank transfers under 5 million yen that no other special ID or in person appearance was needed. I said that he should confirm that with someone higher up and then hurry up and transfer my funds so I could go to work.

The desk clerk, unfortunately I didn’t get his name, but I think it was Kato, then called the main office in Sapporo. I sat in my chair and read a novel. After a few minutes of conversation he said that I was indeed correct and that there would be a transfer of funds by 10:30 a.m.

I said that’s not good enough anymore. I was inconvenienced by having to come down here from work without just cause and that I wanted a formal apology in writing from the bank. I also wanted to make sure this doesn’t happen again, to me, or any other customer, foreign or Japanese, and that the bank endeavor to better train its employees in the law because apparently they haven’t had very good training until now. I said it should not be up to me to instruct them and I have better things to do with my time. The desk jockey said he couldn’t issue an apology other than his own personal regret at his ignorance of the law. I said find me someone who can because I’m not leaving without one. I then went back to reading my novel.

Frantic discussions and phone calls followed. A few minutes later, I was told the branch manager, Tomoyuki Nishimura, would see me. A few seconds after that a harried looking Nishimura-san escorted me into his office. I gave my spiel about wanting a formal written apology and assurances that the bank would better train its employees in the law and that it was unacceptable that they would not know better. Nishimura-san, expressed his regret and promised that he would personally conduct a training session this evening and inform me of the results. I asked that he put that in writing. He demurred and begged me to accept his verbal apology and promised to call me tomorrow, October 9, to verify that the training session had taken place. I said that I have been a customer of this bank for over 25 years and had never been subject to such treatment I was appalled at the lack of knowledge on the part of its employees. I again requested a written apology and again was asked to accept a verbal one.

As it was nearing 10:00 a.m. and time when I had to leave to get my second period class, I reluctantly said that this time it was acceptable and that I expect much better service in the future and also expected that no customer would be subject to such checks again. After much bowing and scraping from pretty much the entire staff, I made my exit. I got to my class on time and checked my bank balance as soon as I finished teaching. The money was indeed in my account and I had not needed to do anything (other than complain).

It was good to complain and I hope that some good will result. I am still considering sending a formal letter of complaint depending on what Nishimura-san says tomorrow. As of now, I am leaning toward sending the letter to Hokuto Branch and to the main office and also doing some more follow-up to see that this is not just Hokuto Branch policy, but any Hokuyo Bank. I’ll probably keep on nagging until I reach someone higher up than branch manager. I’ll let you know how it works out.

Feel free to edit and post this if you feel it would help someone else. Again, my thanks for the advice. Jerry


From: Jerry Halvorsen
Subject: Second talk with Hokuto Branch manager Nishimura
Date: October 9, 2008 11:15:37 AM JST

Hokuyo Bank Hokuto Branch manager Kazuyuki (my mistake, not Tomoyuki) Nishimura called me this morning around 9:00. He reported that he had a meeting with all employees present yesterday afternoon and that they discussed my complaint and that all employees were instructed in the proper procedures for customers who receive funds from overseas or who transfer or exchange funds in different currencies at their branch. He thanked me for taking the time to visit yesterday, as if I had a choice, and promised that there would no more trouble in the future. I thanked him and said that I was happy that the Hokuto Branch had undergone some necessary training, but that as far as I was concerned it didn’t end the issue.

I then asked that he contact the main office and inform them that since they had obviously failed in their training that I would like an apology from them also. He said the main office was aware of what took place yesterday and approved the training session and would that please be sufficient this time. I said sorry, but that is not good enough. I want proof that the home office is aware that they made a mistake and that it needs to be corrected by proper training for all its managers and employees. Hokuto Branch has done a good thing, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough. Nishimura-san said that he would get back to me with the response of the home office.

Finally, I said that I did not wish to see this problem escalate but at the same time the responsibility of the headquarters is at least as great, if not more so, as that of the Hokuto Branch. If the main office did not contact me then I would have to go to them. I also said that the substance of the conversation yesterday and the one today would be posted on the Internet and if I did go to the main office I would not go alone but I would bring the media with me. I am now waiting for the bank’s response. Jerry



From:   Jerry Halvorsen
Subject: Apology received from Hokuyo main office 
Date: October 9, 2008 5:19:21 PM JST

I just received an apology by phone from Mr. Kaoru Yanagihara, the person in charge of the Hokuyo customer service section (okyuyakusan sodan chitsu). He said that on behalf of everyone in the Hokuyo organization he was very sorry for the trouble I experienced yesterday at the Hokuto Branch. He also said that with the merger next week between Sapporo Bank and Hokuyo Bank that there will be even more employees coming into the Hokuyo system in the near future. He asked that I accept his promise that shortly after the merger takes place, he will send a memo to all the branch managers informing them of the respective laws regarding currency transactions and that they are not to unduly bother customers when not legally required to do so. He promised to tell me when this occurred and stated that he would most likely be able to do so near the end of next month when the merger business has had time to settle down. I said that would be sufficient and that I was looking forward to receiving this news. In the meantime, he said he informed the Hokuyo officers of the action taken yesterday with the training session at the Hokuto Branch. I thanked him and asked that I be informed of any further developments. That’s where we stand for now. If by December 1 I do not hear anything, I will again contact Mr. Yanagihara and Mr. Nishimura and see what has been done in regards to training.  However,  if any readers have any similar complaints about treatment from Hokuyo or Sapporo Bank, don’t hesitate to contact Kaoru Yanagihara at the Hokuyo Main Branch, telephone 011-261-1311.   All of my conversations took place entirely in Japanese, but there are English speaking staff available. Jerry


COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  This is not the first time this sort of thing has happened.  It’s happened to me too, and to others just for exchanging money while looking NJ/having a connection with a NJ-looking name at Japanese banks.  Even when the amount is far below amounts that would legally trigger alarms for potential money laundering.  Don’t tolerate customer service that treats NJ customers as suspicious just because they’re bringing money to a bank, I say.  Ask for the bank rules governing the situation in writing and see if you’re an exception or not.  For starters.  Debito

REFERENTIAL LINKS: (see Olaf’s entry)


Fukushima Prefectural Tourist Information Association lists “No Foreigner” hotels on their official website, 2007


 Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

Hi Blog.  As a matter of record, here is a notification I received from a reader last year regarding the Tourist Information Fukushima website, an official prefectural government site, which offered information about sights and stays in the area.  They allowed — even publicized — hotels that expressly refused accommodation to NJ guests (I called a few of them to confirm, and yes, they don’t want NJ guests due to the owner’s own classic fears — language barriers, no Western beds, a fear that NJ might steal, or noncommunication in case of emergency or trouble).  As the emails I received from TIF later on indicate (it took them some time to get back to me), they have since instructed the hotels that what they are doing is in violation of hotel laws, and have corrected the TIF website to remove the option of refusing foreigners.  

Thanks, I guess.  Now why a government agency felt like offering hotels an exclusionary option in the first place is a bit stupefying.  

Given October 2008’s GOJ hotel survey indicating that 27% of respondents didn’t want NJ staying on their premises, this may be but the tip of the iceberg.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

From: TH
Subject: Fukushima – discriminatory hotels
Date: September 12, 2007 7:36:54 PM JST

Hi Debito,

A friend told me about Fukushima Prefecture’s English tourism website, which bizarrely lists 142 hotels and categories for them including “Acceptance of foreigners” and “Admittance of foreigners.” I don’t understand the difference between the two categories, but many hotels have one or both of these categories checked. The accommodation website is

I looked at all 142 accommodations listed on the website. The 35 listed below bar foreigners in one or both of the above categories.

I think this kind of categorization is completely unacceptable, even for a rural area like Fukushima. 

I was also wondering whether you might be willing to look into this. I think you would be the best person given your tact and expertise. 

Please let me know what you think. 


Hotel & Ristorante Irregarro

Hotel Tawaraya

Nihon Kanko Hotel

Hotel Iseya

Hotel Higenoie


Hotel Tamagoyu, Inc.

Anahara Hot Spring Izumiya

Hotel Kajikaso

Oku-tsuchiyu Hot Spring, Hotel Kotaki

Guesthouse Tanno

Hotel Fukushima

Matsukawa Masuya Hotel

Hotel Shinobuso

Hotel Fukushima Green Palece

The Garden Hotel Shokeien

Koshi Highland Fujiya Hotel

Wafutei Morinoyu

Resort Hotel Yuzuru

Guesthouse Yamari

Hotel Minatoya

Hotel Fujiya

Business Hotel Denen

Business Hotel Orient

Hotel Nakanoyu

Hotel Oshima

Mizuho Hotel


Hotel Horai


Kagamiishi Daiichi Hotel Kagamiishikan

Toraya Shinkan

Hotel Kashiwa

Spa Hotel Sumirekan

Tamayama Hot Spring Fujiya Hotel



From: Arudou Debito

Sent: Friday, September 14, 2007 10:17 AM
Subject: 有道 出人より転送します。Fukushima – discriminatory hotels
(社)福島県観光連盟の加藤さま、有道 出人(あるどう でびと)です。きょうのお電話のこと、誠にありがとうございました。



 お多忙のところで申し訳ございませんが、宜しくお願い致します。有道 出人



Subject: Re: 有道 出人より転送します。Fukushima – discriminatory hotels

Date: September 14, 2007 10:32:07 AM JST



あるどう でびと様 


Subject: 調査状況について(中間報告)

Date: October 1, 2007 2:49:25 PM JST







(福島県観光連盟 総務情報担当 齊藤)



Subject: 当ホームページにおける外国人宿泊可否表示について

Date: September 14, 2007 5:26:58 PM JST


ほんものの旅 オーダーメード うつくしま。
社団法人 福島県観光連盟
【総務・情報課長】 齊藤登
Ph 024-521-3812 fax024-521-3811


From: (福島県観光連盟 総務・情報課長 齊藤登)
Subject: 当ホームページにおける外国人宿泊可否表示に関する件(ご回答)
Date: October 22, 2007 7:35:30 PM JST




● 外国人を拒否するようなことはまったくしていない。24軒

● 外国人を拒否してはいないが、英語ができる人がいないので、外国人を積極的には受け入れていない。8軒

● 廃業や連絡とれず 3軒





(福島県観光連盟 総務・情報課長 齊藤登)


Asahi/CNN: GOJ survey report: 38% of J hotels had no NJ guests in 2007, and 72% of those (as in 27%) don’t want NJ guests


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

Hi Blog.  Here’s a breathtaking statistic.  Courtesy of several people this morning:


Japan: No room at inn for foreigners

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs says over 70 percent of Japanese inns and hotels that didn’t have foreign guests last year don’t want any in the future either.

The ministry says that a survey of such businesses showed they feel unable to support foreign languages and that their facilities are not suited to foreigners.

The survey released Thursday shows that over 60 percent of Japan’s inns and hotels had foreign guests last year, but the majority of the rest don’t want any.

It was released as Japan continues its efforts to attract more foreign visitors. The country’s “Visit Japan Campaign” aims to draw 10 million foreigners to the country for trips and business in the year 2010, up from 8.35 million last year. 


「外国人泊めたくない」ホテル・旅館3割 07年国調査

朝日新聞 2008年10月9日








COMMENT:  This is not news to me (although I am grateful to the GOJ for conducting this survey and making this information available to the public).  I’ve called a number of hotels (in places like Shinjuku, Wakkanai and Nagano) with “Japanese Only” rules and signs up and their most common excuse was, “we don’t speak any foreign languages” (they’ve also said “we don’t have Western beds” and “we can’t handle NJ problems if they come up”, precisely those listed in the Asahi article above).  I’ve even pointed out to these hotels and to the local police box (with a keitai snap of the sign and a copy of the laws they have to enforce) that this is in fact an illegal activity under the Ryokan Gyouhou (which is very specific under what conditions hotels can refuse clientele; being a foreigner is not one of them); in all cases I was told to get lost.  Even the police (in Ohkubo) couldn’t be bothered.

I even found a website last year put up by the Fukushima Prefectural Government Tourist Information Association which had several places stating (again, with government knowledge and sponsorship) that they explicitly did not want NJ to stay there.  That was taken down after I pointed out the laws to the tourist agency and they spent several weeks researching, but gee whiz, doesn’t the government even know their own laws?

As the CNN article points out, how can Japan get more tourists when (mathematically) a estimable 27% or all hotels surveyed in Japan (72% of 38%, according to the Asahi above) don’t want their money because they can’t be bothered to offer their services properly?  They are part of the sa-bisu gyoukai, aren’t they?

What to do?  It’s pretty simple, really.  Suspend their operating licenses until they shape up.  And sic the press on them.  Like the Kumamoto Pref Govt did the hotel that refused Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) ex-patients in 2004.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo


UPDATE:  The Manchester Guardian quoted me soon afterwards.  I’m not too comfortable with how my quotes came out, but here’s the article FYI.  Debito

Japanese hoteliers turn backs on foreign tourists
Justin McCurry in Tokyo, The Guardian ( 
Friday October 10 2008 14.57 BST
WITH ADDENDA TO MY QUOTES (I’m not all that comfortable with how they came out)

Japan’s mission to boost the number of overseas visitors suffered a setback this week after hundreds of hoteliers and inn owners said they would turn away foreign guests.

Of the 7,068 hotels and inns that responded to a survey by the communications ministry, 62% had received at least one foreign guest last year, while 38%, or 2,655 establishments, had received none. Of that number, 72% said they would prefer their doors to remain closed to non-Japanese.

The results were published only days after Japan’s newly formed tourist agency said it planned to increase the number of foreign visitors to 10 million by the end of the decade, compared with 8.35 million last year. It then hopes to double the number to 20 million by 2020.

Many cited language problems, while others said they did not have the facilities for foreign guests, although what that actually meant wasn’t specified. Some said they would be unable to respond properly if any problems involving foreigners arose on their premises.

Smaller hotels and traditional inns, called ryokan, are most reluctant to court the international tourist yen.

In theory at least, the country’s thousands of ryokan, often located deep in the mountains or near the coast, are supposed to offer old-fashioned hospitality: faultless service, rooms with sliding paper screens and tatami-mat floors, communal hot spring baths and exquisitely presented local delicacies.

“The survey sheds light on a pretty dark part of Japan,” said Debito Arudou, an American-born naturalised Japanese citizen. [I’m grateful to the Japanese government for dealing with this kind of problem, usually kept quiet.]

Arudou, the author of a book on racial discrimination in his adopted country, called on local government to enforce anti-discrimination laws and revoke the business licenses of offending hotels and inns.

“They are supposed to be part of the service industry, but they’re not providing that service to foreigners.

[It’s a paradox.] “They claim they can’t provide foreign guests with a proper standard of service, so instead they deny it to them altogether. That’s arrogance on a grand scale.” [How can the hotel decide what the customer likes like this, and based upon their presupposition just say they’re not even going to try? In any case, it’s the law. They legally cannot refuse people just because they’re foreign.]

Officials from Visit Japan, a government-sponsored tourist drive launched in 2003, conceded there was little they could do to encourage reluctant hoteliers to change their ways.

“It is up to the individual hotels and inns to decide who they have as guests, but we would like them to realise that the influx of foreign visitors represents a huge business opportunity,” Daisuke Tonai, a spokesman for the Japan National Tourism Organisation, told the Guardian.

“Although we can’t force them to act, we certainly want hotels and inns to do more to make overseas visitors feel more welcome.”

Renewed efforts to woo overseas visitors got off to an inglorious start last month when Nariaki Nakayama, the transport minister, was forced to resign after saying that Japan was “ethnically homogeneous” and that the Japanese, in general, “do not like foreigners”.

His replacement, Kazuyoshi Kaneko, whose brief includes tourism, admitted that foreigners were unwelcome in some places.

“Some people might not like the idea of having foreign tourists very much,” he told the Japan Times. “Although it’s not our intention to change the people’s mindset, [the tourism agency’s] major task will be to attract a large number of foreign tourists.”

Though tourist numbers have risen significantly from 5.21 million five years ago, Japan has strict visa and immigration rules and has been criticised for its sometimes frosty attitude towards outsiders.


Reader AS voices concerns re Softbank regulations and Japanese Language Proficiency Test


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog. Finally got done with my marvelous class (a joy from start to finish, we went several hours overtime just discussing the issues), and been too busy to revise my blog every night revising my powerpoints to reflect the threads of our conversation. So let me forward this germane email and open a discussion about issues regarding Softbank and the JPLT.

Arudou Debito in Nagoya, tomorrow Saitama, then Nagano, Sendai, and Iwate on successive days…


Dear Mr. Debito Arudou,

Hello. My name is AS. Currently, I am living in Gifu Prefecture. I am long time reader of your blog and a great admirer of you and your work for the foreign community in Japan. I have two concerns that I would like to dicuss with you. If you want, you have my consent to publish these comments on your blog for an open discussion.

1) Questioning the request of the Japanese Proficiency Test to show a passport or a gaikokujin card as an ID. When a person applies for the JLPT, they recieve a manual regarding the way of applying for the test, how to take the test, and other various guidelines and rules that may apply to taking the test. One of these guidelines is that you must show either a passport or an alien registration card as a form of I.D. To quote the manual, under the topic of what to bring to the test.

  • 1. Test voucher
  • 2. Writing Instruments
  • 3. Lunch.
  • 4. Identification (passport or alien registration card)

I have no problems with numbers 1 to 3, but with number 4, I have a major problem. Why do they ask only for either a passport or an alien registration card? Why do I have to show either one of these to prove my identification? Isn’t either a Japanese driver’s license or a Japanese insurance card a form of valid I.D.? Also under Japanese law, isn’t illegal for someone to ask you for a alien registration card or a passport that isn’t a police officer or an immigration officer? I am just wondering about these questions because the JPLT is targeted to towards foreigners who want to measure their Japanese comprehension in form of a test. In my mind, it looks the NPA deputized another group of people (first one being hotels and their front desk) to gather information about foreigners. I am wondering what is your take on this and any advice to an individual that is more willing to show their insurance card instead of their passport or their alien registration card to the proctors of the test.

2) Questioning the policy at Softbank requiring long term foreign residents to pay a lump-sum payment for a cell phone if their period of stay in Japan is less then 27 months. Here is my story: Yesterday I want to a Softbank shop in order to get a new plan and cell phone. I wanted a new plan and cell phone for a while and current 2 year contract was about to expire. I want to shop and was looking at various cell phones. A sales associate came over to help with decide in choosing a new model. I choose a cell phone that I wanted to get and the sales assoicate with very helpful with decribing the current price structure for the phones. If I wanted a new phone, I would have a pay a x amount for over 24 months, the lenght of the contract. I said that was fine with me. She continued to laid out the cost of the phone over the 24 month period and the cost of the monthly phone bill in relation to my new plan with cost of the mobile phone. Up to this point, I was happy and pleased with the service of Softbank. When processing my order, the sales associate asked my lenght of my visa. I was surprised by this because I have been a customer with Softbank for over the lenght of stay in Japan ( a little over 4 years now) and I have never been asked once the length of my visa. So, I told here that my visa is going to expire next July. I have a currently a three year instructor visa that is going to expire next year in July. I am planning on renewing my visa next year and continue to live in Japan. At this point, I was surprised and little bit frustrated and angry at the sales associate. However, this is where things become surprising and frustrating for me. Before when discussing my the cost of my phone and the plan that I was going get, the sales associate informed that my cost cell phone is zero. It will cost me nothing. Howver now with the information of the current lenght of my visa, she informs that I will have to buy my cell phone for 40,000 yen. I was completely shocked and gobsmacked by this. She informed that since my visa is less then the lenght of my contract I will have to provide a lump sum payment of 40,000 payment in order to recieve my phone. I have never paid for my cell phones (currently 2 different models within 4 years and the last change happening about 2 years ago). I was not happy to put down 40,000 yen for a cell phone. It is a lot of money. At the end of the experience, I did not get a new cell phone but I got my plan.

My question to you: What can be done to make Softbank realize that their policies are downright racist and bias against foreigners that do not have a visa of 3 years or more? Of course I am assuming that marriage visas of any length are fine. Many of my friends and acquaintances have a visa of one year. My one friend who has been living in Japan for 3 years but is always getting a one year visa from immigration. What can my friend and I do in a situation in that we have to pay a lump sum payment for a cell phone now but in the past we could get a cell phone with no questions asked or paying for a cell phone? And also, when did Softbank (a company that has large long term foreign residents as customers) entacted a policy of asking the term of one’s visa lenght and requesting a lump sum payment for a cell phone if the customer a lenght of Japan under 27 months. Why 27 months and not 24 months (the lenght of the contract)? Why they have contract lenght of 24 months and not 12 months (the lenght of lot of visas issued by immigration)? What can be done about this?

Thank you for reading this lengthy e-mail.

Sincerely, AS, a 4 year long term foreign resident of Japan


Mainichi: Female NJ Trainee Visa workers underpaid by Yamanashi company, beaten, attempted deportation


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog. Pretty nasty situation here. But it’s not the first time I’ve heard of something like this going on.  Examples here and here.  Kudos to Zentoitsu again for offering a shelter and a means to get this reported. Debito in Hamamatsu

Foreign trainees injured in row with dry-cleaning firm over measly pay

(Mainichi Japan) August 27, 2008, courtesy lots of people.

KOFU — Six Chinese female trainees at a dry-cleaning company in Yamanashi Prefecture got into a row with the company when they complained that they were being paid under the minimum wage, and three of them suffered injuries including a broken bone, it has been learned.

Trouble reportedly erupted when the company, located in Showa, Yamanashi Prefecture, tried to force the six to return to China after they complained about their wages. The three injured workers are considering filing a criminal complaint over their injuries.

The workers also plan to register a complaint against the company with a labor standards inspection office, accusing it of violating the Labor Standard Law by failing to pay them the difference between their wages and the minimum wage.

The trainees said that they came to Japan in December 2005 under a program for foreign trainees and apprentices. After a period of training they started working as trainees. Their working hours were between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. and their monthly wage was reportedly 50,000 yen a month. On weekdays, they often worked overtime until midnight, and frequently worked weekends. However, their overtime pay was only 350 yen per hour. This spring, the overtime wage was raised to 450 yen per hour.

A company representative speaking to the Mainichi admitted the amount of overtime pay, but said, “We paid a monthly wage of 118,000 yen.” The amount of overtime pay was much lower than the prefecture’s minimum overtime pay, which works out at about 831 yen per hour.

The six workers submitted a written request for their wages to be revised on Aug. 20. The company’s president, Masafumi Uchida, promised that he would reply two days later. However, at about 7:30 a.m. on Aug. 22, the president joined about 10 people including company employees and tried to force the six workers, who were sleeping in a company dormitory, to get into a minibus he had prepared to take them to Narita Airport.

The trainees resisted, and plans to take them to the airport were abandoned, but one of the trainees was left with a broken leg after jumping out of a window on the second floor of the dormitory. Two others suffered bruises and scratches during the row.

The three injured workers were later taken into the custody of the Zentoitsu Workers Union, which supports foreign trainees and apprentices. The remaining three were taken to Narita Airport by company officials and returned home.

Uchida visited the union on Monday and offered an apology.

“If they were Japanese I wouldn’t have done it (tried to force them to leave). I was asked for a high amount of unpaid cash and thought I couldn’t negotiate. I’m sorry for their injuries.”

A Justice Ministry official said there was a possibility the company could be punished.

“The failure to pay wages, the human rights violations and other actions constitute illicit behavior, and there is a possibility that this warrants banning the firm from accepting trainees for three years,” the official said.

(Mainichi Japan) August 27, 2008




Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan


毎日新聞 2008年8月27日









2-Channel’s Nishimura again ducks responsibility for BBS’s excesses


 Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

Hello Blog.  Yet another interview with BBS 2-Channel’s Nishimura, where he claims that what goes on at 2-Channel is not his responsibility.

Love the section below where he says, “Unless there is a court order, we will not delete any messages.”  That’s a lie.  He’s had a court order since January 2006 to delete the posts on me judged by a court to be libelous.  More than two and a half years later, they’re still there…!  And with copy-pastes the number just keeps rising.

I don’t think this guy realizes that sooner or later, there’s going to be legislation passed that will ultimately deprive the Internet of the privacy he allows his BBS to so wantonly abuse.  More on 2ch on my blog here.  Debito in San Francisco

2channel founder says don't blame him for criminals' posts    

Hiroyuki Nishimura

2channel founder says don’t blame him for criminals’ posts

Courtesy Japan Today, undated, but downloaded August 27, 2008

Over the past few years 2 Channel (2ch) has become the largest online forum in Japan, registering up to 200 million hits a day. Launched by college student Hiroyuki Nishimura in 1999, the site is often at the center of controversy and was criticized in June after it was used by the suspect in the Akihabara stabbing rampage to announce his plans.

Freelance journalist Tetsuya Shibui interviews Nishimura for Shukan Post.

The suspect in the Akihabara rampage has told police he killed people because his messages were ignored on 2ch. 

That case has nothing to do with us. I don’t believe he killed people just because he was ignored online. He says he doesn’t have friends. But it’s not surprising people like him don’t have friends. But that alone cannot be a reason for murder. It’s too simple to think the Internet causes such crimes.

Many crime announcements have been made on 2ch since the Akihabara case. Do you have any plans to change the site?

Not at all. 2Ch has clear rules of use that allow people to request deletion of messages and a system to report inappropriate messages.

Don’t you think it’s irresponsible for you to make your users take all the responsibility?

I don’t think so. I always cooperate with police when I think some messages clearly indicate a crime may be involved and when police request disclosure of posters’ information such as IP addresses, we oblige.

2ch also carries information on how to commit crimes, does it not?

No, no, no. Many people misunderstand 2ch. It has links to other websites which might contain information like how to make a bomb, but that’s a matter for other websites to address, not 2ch.

However, 2ch recently carried detailed information on the spate of hydrogen sulfide gas suicides. 

Yes, 2ch did carry that kind of information. But that’s copy and paste information copied from other websites. It’s the mainstream media which is spreading information that 2ch has that kind of information. Those who were not interested in such information have suddenly become interested in 2ch through newspaper coverage. Why don’t those media criticize themselves?

Are you saying you have no responsibility because other websites have the same information.

Well, let me ask you a question. Is there any evidence that the Internet has led to an increase in crimes? I’ve never seen any such evidence. The Internet is just a tool and all tools have side effects. Look at cars. Do you blame car makers when accidents are caused by speeding? I have my own logic to justify what I’m doing. People can submit information freely on the Internet. Anti-Internet people are just afraid of the unknown potential of the Internet which has a short history.

Perhaps, one reason for the fear is not the “unknown,” as you cal it, but the anonymity of the information. Why don’t make your users post messages using their real names?

I disagree. Even Social Network Services which have greater transparency have trouble and contain inappropriate information. It totally depends on users when dealing with inappropriate information. Those who cannot make judgments by themselves or don’t like 2ch should not use it.

What do you think about the information filter for minors

I support information filtering measures for kids because they are not capable of making proper judgments on information they get from the Internet. If I had a kid, I would give him/her a mobile phone without an Internet connection function. I think the issue has to be debated nationwide.

You’ve been ignoring lawsuits against you for defamation for years, and you don’t pay compensation that courts have ordered you to make.

Yes, that’s correct. I’ve received more than 100 lawsuits so far. It’s time consuming, but recently, I’ve been working on about 30 legal cases. I’m seeing how it goes. The reason why I don’t pay compensation is that I think I am not responsible for what others post. If I were posting death threats or whatever, then I must pay. But I’m just a manager of 2ch. I don’t feel guilty at all.

Why don’t you make a system to check inappropriate messages?

It’s difficult even for legal professionals to distinguish between legal and illegal content. If we were to delete messages, 2ch would cease to be a forum where people can freely post. Unless there is a court order, we will not delete any messages.

Have you ever thought of closing 2ch?

Never. That’s because we currently monopolize this sort of business in Japan.

Your income is reported to be around 100 million yen acquired from online ads and book sales.

Yes, that’s about right.

What do your parents think of your business and all the flak?

My father is an ex-tax officer. But we have never talked about our businesses to each other. When I go home sometimes, he just says to me: “Go ahead with what you’re doing.” (Translated by Taro Fujimoto)

Third Degree given NJ who wanted Post Office money order


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog. Here’s something I got through email the other day. Anonymized, reproduced with permission. Debito in San Francisco

Debito, this a statement / comment …

Am I the only personl who absolutely HATES changing cash from yen to cash in the Post Office.

Just bought an item on E-Bay. Cost was $65.00. Watch. Person does not accept PayPal. Fine. Went to convert cash at the Post Office. Should be easy … right. Well, it was, yet again, a living hell.

Cost to convert from yen to dollars: 2000 yen.

Wasted well over 90 minutes there, and once it took over 3 hours to convert about $50 (they ran out of paper, machine needed to be cleaned, etc … total nightmare !).

I think they are either incompetent as hell, or they really hate me. I get there to change the cash. They want my Alien card. Fine. Once they got it, they contacted the City Hall to make certain I’m legal. I showed them my meishi which said I am full time at a university and explained I am a permanent resident of Japan. Nope. They could care less. Person spent forever on the telephone too. I went to the guy saying … can I head out to eat … will be back in 2 hours and perhaps you will be finished by then. Nope. Did not want me to leave.

I had to rewrite their damn paperwork numerous times — directions were confusing. They wanted my FULL name in the box, JOSEPH, and would not accept the name JOE. They wanted my middle name too, as it was on the Alien card. Why ??? They demanded my home address on the form and not my work address on the application form. They it was my home address in one area and my work address in another area of the form. I was really treated as a criminal there, far far worse than immigration at Narita ever treated me (never a problem w/ Japanese immigration). I think they ran the equivalent of a US FBI check on me, and to remind you this was only to convert a lousy $65.00.

And, then when all finished, and I spent just under 10,000 yen for the $65 money order (recall that extra 2000 yen charge) and wasted over 90 minutes. Then came the question. That QUESTION . They asked me what the cash was for. I said it was for a watch.

They then said to me: “Is it a North Korean watch?” (while making the cross sign meaning this would be illegal if it were). “WHAT !!” I screamed. I was FURIOUS! First, the person getting the MO was located in Texas, USA, as they checked the name and location on their money order perhaps over a thousand times. Second, the person’s name was “Johnson”, hardly a Korean name. And finally, even if the watch belonged to Kim Jong Ill himself, WHO DA F–K CARES !!!!!!

This is only for a damn $65 to purchase a friggin watch !!!!!

Anyway, point. Have you a better way to convert $65.00?

Thought about this, and here is my solution, and feel free to post this on your web site. I will head to the bank and purchase Traveler’s Checks. The lowest demonimation I can get is for $150 — three $50 Traveler’s Checks. Then I will get $100 in cash, all 1s, 5s, 10s, and 20s. All at the proper exchange rates. When I get an item on E-bay (and many sellers do not take personal checks or Pay pal), I will send them Traveler’s Checks worth $50 and the rest in cash. I will then send it via EMS, which is expensive but pretty safe, and moreover it allows me to avoid the ripoff charge of 2000 yen just to be harassed by those bigoted loser bureaucrats!!

Oh, just a note to you, and to anyone who chooses to read this should you post this on your website.

Oh, last note: If there is a problem with the Postal Money Order, it takes over 10 months, and perhaps longer to get a replacement. And yes, it happened to me. I sent to my credit card company about three years ago (before I set up direct transfer via the Internet) a letter along with the Postal Money Order. The Credit Card Co opened and read the letter and accidentally tossed the MO.


I eventually worked it out w/ the credit card company. Went to the Post Office and wanted a replacement. They needed to do a “investigation” and this investigation would last about 10 months.

Nothing I could do to expedite the process at all. Of course, if I left Japan never to return, I’d never see the money again, that a guarantee.

OK, all to report for now. L8r. Joe



Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan




The Sankei Shinbun (the Japanese equivalent of a Fox News-paper) did a story on international marriage on April 17, 2006 (which was the lead discussion on TV Wide Show “Tokudane”, which is where I first got wind of it).

It’s a puff piece in Japanese, speculating about what could possibly induce people to tie the knot with a foreigner (gasp!), of course mentioning the obligatory stories of where problems in international relationships arise. Still, the important points to squeeze out of it are these:

1) One out every fifteen marriages (used to be 1 in 16), or 6.6% of the total marriages in Japan, are international. This was in 2004, mind.

2) 9.5% of all Tokyo marriages are international.

3) 80% of all international marriages are Japanese men to foreign women (up, IIRC, from 70% previously). 39% are Chinese brides, 27% Filipina.

And that’s about it. Can’t find a comparable article on it in the English press, nor easily the original Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare report cited in this article, so there you go.

Does Japan still hope to get along without a law against racial discrimination as the international children with Japanese citizenship continue to increase?



The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, M. Doudou Diene, is scheduled to visit Japan again in a followup to his July 2005 visit.

The outcome of M. Diene’s late 2005 report on unfettered racism in Japan sent shocks to policymakers dealing with issues of human rights, and was a huge shot of substantiation and recognition for the activist community. His preliminary report called Japanese society “still closed, spiritually and intellectually centered.” His formal report, issued January 2006, went even farther, saying “Racial Discrimination is practiced undisturbed in Japan.” “It can hardly be argued that Japan is respecting its international obligations.”

Full links to what went on last year and what he said this year are at

Although M. Diene’s schedule and itinerary is not yet set and made in public, he will be in Japan between May 15 and 19. What he will be here to accomplish is yet unpublicized, but FYI. He’ll be giving a press conference at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club in Tokyo on May 17. I hope to meet the man again myself.



Just heard this from friend Kevin. He and his wife, both foreign part-time educators at the International University of Health and Welfare (Kokusai Iryou Fukushi Daigaku) in Odawara, Tochigi, have undergone years of negotiations for illegal acts (including egregious contract nonrenewal and pay cuts) and harassment at their workplace.

The Labor Board hearing their case took their side, and yesterday, they received a settlement (amount undisclosed as yet) which was Japan’s highest for part time teachers in history.

This made some newspapers, none in English so far. Here’s hoping. Meanwhile, here’s today’s Tokyo Shinbun’s writeup of it in Japanese at

Well and good. Given that contract labor has been Japan’s way of keeping foreign (and increasingly Japanese) disposable and with no labor rights, this is a definite upturn. Pity it takes so much effort just to enforce the labor laws.

More on how contract labor has been destroying Japan’s once strong labor rights at

Contact me if you want to do a story on Kevin.



Next Tuesday, May 2, my 30th column (hooray!) for the Japan Times Community Page will be coming out. This time on Tottori Prefecture passing Japan’s first human rights local ordinance last autumn, then UNPASSING it in March. Bad form. Bad precedent. What went wrong? What are the lessons of this case?

Pick up a copy of the Japan Times next Tuesday if you’re still in the country. It was one of the hardest ones I’ve had to write, as there was a lot of information to process and distill down to 1350 words…

The previous 29 columns available at



Every now and again, we hear stories of long-lost soldiers from the Imperial Japanese Army resurfacing after years overseas, unable to believe that the war ever ended, or finally revealing themselves as alive for their own reasons.

The case of Uwano Ishinosuke was one of the latter. A native of Iwate Prefecture in northern Honshu, Uwano was stationed in Karafuto (present-day Sakhalin) and taken prisoner after the postwar Soviet Union reassimilated the Japanese half of the island back into its borders. Japanese families were often forced to share houses with Russians, and military veterans were put into concentration camps for years until they were repatriated under the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1952.

Uwano, for reasons best known to himself, wound up in the Ukraine, and has lived abroad for the past 63 years. He came back on April 19 to meet family, and left yesterday, April 27.

Two things I find interesting about this case:

1) He lost all ability to speak Japanese, it seems. All of his press conferences were in Russian, and all communication with Japanese family were conducted with a Russian interpreter present. Although he said that his disappeared ability was due to a self-imposed moratorium of speaking Japanese, the reasons for this linguistic exile remain unclear. What is interesting is that apparently someone can rewire their native language given enough time and pressure.

2) The Japanese government, since they declared him as war dead, stated that Uwano no longer has Japanese citizenship. According to Reuters, the government has said, in their remarkable ability to plumb the depths of callousness, that he may have to give up Ukranian citizenship in order to get Japanese.

“He is visiting Japan as a foreigner this time. We are trying to restore his family register so that he can be confirmed legally as Japanese citizen,” a Health Ministry official said.,,, “He might have to give up his Ukrainian nationality, but it is up to him whether he picks either Japanese or Ukrainian nationality,” the official said.

(Link is now dead, but here it was: type=worldNews&storyID=2006-04-19T042934Z_01_T3950_RTRUKOC_0_US-LIFE-

That’s stunning. Guy serves his country like this and then they treat him like that. I wonder how re-exiled despot Alberto Fujimori got his citizenship then? Prewar births like Fujimori’s got grandfathered in, according to the government (which is also remarkable in its ability to come up with lame excuses, to justify arbitrary political decisions benefiting the elites). So why not Uwano? Guess he’s not elite enough.

I watched as much press on Uwano as I could. He seems in remarkable physical and mental health, but never seemed all that comfortable during his stay in Japan. He’s made a life for himself in the Ukraine, and I bet that’s where he’ll stay.



I have followed up on two recent points of contention–travel agents HIS and No. 1 Travel charging foreigners substantially higher fares than Japanese (try 57000 yen for Japanese, 70000 yen for foreigners for NRT to LAX). Friend Kirk even found an HIS website requiring Japanese citizenship for eligibility to purchase some tickets.
(do a word search for “kokuseki” in Japanese)

I contacted the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport ( about this. They made it clear that this is not legal.

I then contacted customer service at HIS and told them I told MLIT all about it.

I got something from HIS in writing in Japanese saying that they would cease this practice off (I haven’t had time to translate it yet) more than a week ago. Yet the abovementioned link still contains the Japanese-citizens-only fares. More to come.

Finally, I got contacted from a non-Japanese resident about trying to redeem JAL miles. He tried to book hotels overseas (in Ireland, through JAL-system hotels) only to be told that foreigners must pay double miles than Japanese. He said he would give me more information on them if they didn’t knock this practice off (he even told them he would sic me on them–this is quite an odd feeling…), but so far no word back. Maybe it worked.

Anyway, more on these two items in a future update if it gels into something conclusive.

All for today. As always, thanks for reading!
Best wishes,
Arudou Debito
Sapporo, Japan

Archive: 2006 Course on how to “slavedrive” your “gaijin” workers


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

Oh yes, I remember this… How an email and online campaign got some school (Rock Bay Inc, an apparent transliteration of the boss’s name) advertising English for Shachous (“slavedrive your gaijin, don’t let them diss you–diss them back!” etc.), including a lesson on how to deny a raise to “John” despite his doubling your sales and nearly tripling your profits!  Yow. Talk about widening the divide between J and NJ!  Archiving the series now. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

APRIL 8, 2006

Here’s a lovely little site, courtesy of a friend, of some company named Rock Bay in Tokyo.

It advertises English language courses with an interesting edge:

Salespoint: Learning English to exploit your gaijin underlings.

As it says on the site:


“Amerikajin ni akogareru na! Kokitsukae!
“Gaijin ni nameareru na! Name kaese!”


Or not-very-loosely translated:

“Don’t feel beneath Americans! Use them up!
“Don’t get dissed by the gaijin! Diss them back!”


That’s just the titles. It just goes on from there….

Have a look for yourself:

It’s next seminar is Saturday, March 22, in Shibuya, BTW. Anyone want to attend?

Well, this is one way to approach kokusaika, I guess. Bests, Debito in Sapporo


 皆様こんにちは。有道 出人です。今朝友人からいただいたウェブサイトですが、いまでもびっくり仰天しています!





11.来月、外国で英語でのプレゼンがある! どうしよう! のあなた。
13.いきなり海外出張、駐在言い渡された! どうする!?なあなた。


有道よりクイック コメント:

 宜しくお願い致します。有道 出人

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?  Rest of the issue at

Bankruptcy of a monopoly: Good riddance to Yohan foreign book distributor


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

Hi Blog.  This hasn’t been all that noticed in the English-language vernacular media, but it’s big news in the publishing industry.  And for authors who sell books in Japan.

Yohan (Nihon Yousho Hanbai), the monopolist distributors of foreign-language books, just went bankrupt. Its websites are even offline (Japanese, English)  

Well, good.  To quote Nelson Muntz: “Haa haa”.  

Yohan is essentially the Darth Vader of Japanese book distributors.  I know from personal experience (trying to sell my books published by Akashi Shoten Inc., which refused to pay Yohan’s extortionate subscription rates or meet its restrictive conditions) that if you want to sell even Japan-published books written in English, you either go through Yohan, or your books don’t sell.  They don’t get shelf space.  

We already see book stores (check out Maruzen or Kinokuniya) selling imported English-language books (i.e. best sellers, novels, and classic literature) at exchange rates not seen in Japan for more than two decades (think between 150-200 yen to the dollar).  But the banditry doesn’t stop there.  Whenever I went to bookstores and asked them nicely to stock my books (be they JAPANESE ONLY or HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS), almost everyone agreed to, thanks.  Of course, I’d go back a couple of weeks later to see if they stocked it and how it’s selling, and in many cases I’d find no copies in the “books on Japan” section.  Then I’d check with the cashier and on more than one occasion be told they had stocked it.  But Yohan didn’t want any books that “weren’t theirs” on those shelves, so Yohan had actually SENT MY BOOKS BACK TO THE PUBLISHER.  When the store agreed to restock them, they said the only place they were *allowed* was in the “foreign language learning section” (i.e. Eikaiwa), a market with more publishers and distributors.  But that’s definitely not my genre, so many a browsing sale was indubitably lost.  Yes, Yohan had that much control.

So to repeat:  Here we have a cartel masquerading as a company, with exclusive rights to sell cash cows like Harry Potter in English, way overcharging us for books, controlling stores’ contents and shelf space, and keeping out rivals.  And they STILL couldn’t stay in business!

Good riddance to bad rubbish.  Here’s hoping we can get my and other people’s non-Yohan books (particularly minority-press views on Japan) on the shelves now.   Germane articles about the Yohan bankruptcy follow.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Japanese Import Book Seller Yohan Goes Bust

Tokyo, July 31, 2008 (Jiji Press) – Major Japanese import book retailer Yohan Inc. on Thursday filed for bankruptcy with Tokyo District Court with debts of some 6.5 billion yen, Teikoku Databank Ltd. said.

Yohan Book Service Inc., which is receiving business turnaround support from Yohan Inc., also went bust, filing for protection from creditors with the same court under the Civil Rehabilitation Law, according to the credit research agency.

Yohan Book Service, which operates Aoyama Book Center, left debts of about 5.4 billion yen.

Established in 1953, Tokyo-based Yohan Inc. imports such books as U.S. magazine Newsweek and runs bookstores.

The company has run into financial difficulties since its interest-bearing debts mounted following its aggressive investments.

In the year that ended in November 2007, the firm incurred a net loss of 1,065 million yen.


Online competition drives foreign book seller bankrupt

A leading importer and seller of foreign books in Japan has filed for bankruptcy amid the prevalence of online sales of foreign books.

Nihon Yosho Hanbai, known familiarly as Yohan, filed for bankruptcy at the Tokyo District Court on Thursday. The company has incurred 6.5 billion yen in debts.

Also on Thursday, Yohan Book Service filed for court protection from creditors under the Civil Rehabilitation Law. The affiliate company, which runs Aoyama Book Center and Ryushui Shobo, has incurred 5.4 billion yen in debts.

Established in 1953, Yohan sold a wide variety of books, from the general to the technical. The company had business relationships with about 150 publishers in about 20 countries — most of them English-speaking nations.

In September 1992, the company boasted annual sales of 9.638 billion yen. However, as online sales of books became more prevalent, Yohan’s annual sales dropped to 5.563 billion yen as of August 2005. By November 2007, sales had plummeted to 3.125 billion yen.

Bookoff Corp., a leading used book dealer, has shown interest in supporting the affiliate company Yohan Book Service.


Yohan In Bankruptcy  Posted at 10:24AM Thursday 31 Jul 2008

Yohan, the long standing distributor of foreign books and magazines in Japan, went into bankruptcy today and all their employees were dismissed at once, the office was closed down immediately and the website appears to be closed.It is understood that it has gone down the bankruptcy route, rather than a supervised corporate reorganization. Yohan did not have any significant property and assets and reports suggest that there will be no payment of debts.

The affiliated bookshop chains, Aoyama Book Center and Ryusui Shobo are applying to the Corporate Reorganization Law to try and keep going. The bookstores are still operating and it is believed that the name of the company that will take on the business will be announced shortly.

It really is getting tough out there…everywhere.


Cody’s Owner, Yohan, Files for Bankruptcy  

Publishers’ Weekly, July 31, 2008

With today’s news that Japanese book distributor, bookseller and publisher Yohan Inc. filed for bankruptcy with Tokyo District Court, it becomes clearer why the company closed Berkeley, Calif., icon Cody’s Books earlier this summer. Ironically, at the time of the purchase in September 2006, Cody’s owner Andy Ross stated that Yohan’s financial resources would strengthen existing the store’s operations. Yohan also owns Stone Bridge Press in the U.S.

As reported in JiJi Press, 55-year-old Yohan was 6.5 billion yen in debt. Yohan Book Service Inc., which operates the bookshop chain Aoyama Book Center, has also filed for protection from creditors and has debts of 5.4 billion yen.

According to Book2Book, all Yohan employees were laid off and the office was closed. The bookstores are still operating.

Submitted by: Peter Goodman (
7/31/2008 10:57:03 AM PT
Location: Berkeley, CA
Occupation: President, Stone Bridge Press

This is a much more complicated story, but one thing I need to make clear: Stone Bridge Press is NOT owned by Yohan. Our owner company did NOT go bankrupt. Stone Bridge is NOT a part of any bankruptcy filing. That said, the Yohan people are long-time friends, and we feel terrible about all the very good and experienced book people who have lost their jobs. Peter Goodman, Publisher Stone Bridge Press


洋販:自己破産を申請 洋書販売の最大手、ネットで打撃

毎日新聞 2008年7月31日 20時10分






「洋販」自己破産 ブックオフが青山ブックセンター支援

朝日新聞 2008年7月31日22時34分







The Sydney Morning Herald on death of Mainichi Waiwai column


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

Hi Blog. One more article on how the Internet has turned nasty:

The campaign by anonymous posters to get rid of the English translation service of Japan’s weekly magazines, the Mainichi Shinbun Waiwai column, has been effective. Instead of standing up to anonymous hotheads making death threats, and ironically suppressing the free speech they hold so sacrosanct, they talk about Japan’s image being besmirched internationally (when the information comes from Japanese sources in the first place). By suppressing this media outlet, all they are achieving is keeping the debate domestic and covering up the issues the Weeklies are bringing to the fore. However disgusting the topics the Weeklies can bring up are, the contents are the Weeklies’ responsibility, not the Mainichi’s and not editor Ryann Connell’s. Attack the Weeklies for their contents, not the people who merely translate them.

I find this form of bullying disgusting, and the Mainichi’s caving in appallingly irresponsible. When are people going to learn that Internet bullying is not a fair fight, and ignore people who won’t make themselves public in the media and open themselves up to the same scrutiny they demand other media? You have the right to know your accuser. Those who won’t reveal their identity should be justly ignored themselves.

Here’s an article from The Sydney Morning Herald. Further links and a letter to the Mainichi follows it. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Japan rails at Australian’s tabloid trash
Justin Norrie, The Sydney Morning Herald, July 5, 2008

NOT SO long ago Ryann Connell, an Australian journalist, happily declared he was doing his “dream job” in Japan.

Since accepting police protection against incensed Japanese patriots last week, the chief editor of the English website of The Mainichi Daily News has been more circumspect.

In the past month the 39-year-old has become one of the most reviled figures in Japan, where thousands of posters have flooded chat sites to decry the “sleazy Australian journalist” whom they feel has deliberately besmirched Japan’s image around the world.

Connell’s troubles began in May with one of his now infamous WaiWai columns, which cited a Japanese magazine article about a restaurant in the Tokyo district of Roppongi where patrons allegedly have sex with animals before eating them. The piece caught the attention of a blogger called Mozu, whose angry post was soon picked up by 2channel, a massive, fractious web forum popular with Japan’s hot-headed conservative element.

There it triggered an explosion of bile and culminated in a co-ordinated attack on Connell, his family, The Mainichi and its sponsors, some of which have pulled advertising estimated to be worth more than 20 million yen ($195,000).

The Mainichi, whose Japanese-language newspaper has the fourth-highest circulation in the world, has issued a remarkable 1277-word explanation and apology. It has also terminated the column, reprimanded several staff and put Connell on three months’ “disciplinary leave”.

When contacted this week, Connell said he was unable to comment on “any aspect of the case”. But the Herald understands he has received several death threats and is under strict police instructions to stay inside his suburban Tokyo home until the matter dies down.

Since he began contributing to the newspaper in 1998, Connell has trawled Japan’s smut-filled weekly magazines to bring mostly unsourced tales of the utterly shocking and often improbable to the English-speaking world.

Many previous WaiWai instalments – such as the story about mothers who pleasure their sons to stop them from chasing girls at the expense of schoolwork, the article about chikan (men who grope women on trains) holding monthly meetings to trade tips about the best ways to surreptitiously manhandle fellow passengers, and the account of emotionally stunted salarymen who use lifelike mannequins as surrogate wives – have entered world folklore.

“Campus Confidential: Co-eds Collect Currency Conducting Extra-curricular Coitus” began one of Connell’s recent columns, all of which are transcribed from Japanese before being rendered – with creative licence and brain-melting alliteration – in the style of the raciest British tabloid stories.

It is their popularity with some Western readers that has especially incensed Japanese bloggers. Many feel their country’s reputation has been “debauched” around the world. “Foreigners who don’t know the truth will believe these stories are true,” wrote one. Another railed: “Ryann Connell is a degenerate scatologist – a typical Australian.” And a third wondered: “Why doesn’t someone drop a hydrogen atom bomb on Australia?”

In an interview with the Herald late last year Connell admitted his transcriptions might have contributed in part to a lazy notion that if Japanese are not totally inhibited by their strict social codes, they are hopelessly debased by their bizarre fetishes.

“It does concern me that we resort to these stereotypes all the time,” he said. “Downtrodden salarymen, slutty schoolgirls, crazy housewives, corrupt old bosses and so on. And there have been times when I picked stories of questionable accuracy to write up. But by and large I’m presenting to the English-speaking world things that the Japanese are writing about themselves.”


Defending the weeklies, as well as Connell and his collaborators, is the unflagging media critic and campaigner for human rights Debito Arudou, who wrote that WaiWai was an essential guide to Japanese attitudes and editorial directives. “Too many Japanese believe that they can say whatever they like in Japanese (‘that statement was for a domestic audience’ is very often an excuse for public gaffes), as though Japanese is some secret code,” he wrote.


To the editors of the Mainichi Shinbun:
Please don’t end the Waiwai column.

The claim on your website ( that this corner “attracted criticism for such things as being too vulgar and debauching Japan by sending around the world information that could be misunderstood” is sophistry, merely an attempt by people who would rather Japan’s Weekly Magazines not reach reach a wider audience.

As you know from your experience as a translator of these articles, they offer a very important window into the lowbrow and the undercurrents of Japanese society. Closing it is worse than simple prudery–it is an aggressive act of censorship by people who want the outside world to think of Japan as a place of cherry blossoms and chrysanthemums. It’s a dishonest view of any society to only focus on the “nice”.

Please reconsider. Edit for content if you must. But remain accurate and faithful to the original (as you no doubt usually have), and don’t give in to these reactionaries. The tabloid press is every bit as important as any other press in Japan.


Thanks for your consideration.
Arudou Debito in Sapporo
June 24, 2008


Further discussion of this issue on Japan Probe:

Announcement of end of Waiwai column.

Mainichi “posed to severely punish” employees.

Mainichi Shinbun announces “lack of a woman’s point of view”, appoints woman editor, switches to “news-oriented site”.

Discussion: Softbank’s policy towards NJ customers re new iPhone


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

Hi Blog.  This issue has been brought up on other blogs (most notably Japan Probe), so I thought I need not duplicate it on (I try to limit myself to one blog entry per day).  But recently I received through the FRANCA Japan list a series of thoughtful discussions on the iPhone that are good enough to reprint here.  Anonymized.  And note that Softbank already seems to have reacted to the situation.  Arudou Debito

From: Writer A
Subject: [FRANCA] Yodabashi Akiba Restricts iPhone 3G Sales To Foreigners
Date: July 17, 2008 8:14:32 PM JST

Where else but Japan would one find a huge electronics retailer, located in a tourist center, that refuses to sell to certain foreigners a phone marketed simultaneously around the world, designed by an American company and distributed by a firm headed by a [naturalized] Zainichi Korean?

Yodabashi Akiba (YA), the largest store of the Yodobashi Camera electronics retailer chain, is located in Akihabara, the tourist center that is Ground Zero for anime nerds (otaku). On any given day, one is likely to find Western and Chinese customers shopping at YA, in addition to Japanese customers. Like any cell phone retailer that wants to remain in business. YA has a huge display for Apple’s 3G iPhone, which went on sale in Japan on July 11 and promptly sold out at YA.

But if a foreigner wished to buy an Apple 3G iPhone at YA, that foreigner would find that YAs policy is to refuse to sell a phone to a person with an authorized stay of less than 90 days, and refuses to allow a sale on the installment plan to foreigners with less than 16 months of authorized stay.

Check the Files section of this Group for a scan of the offending policy document (original Japanese).

Softbank itself does not mention any such restrictions in its iPhone 3G contract terms

and Softbank was the first cell phone provider to take the attitude that if a foreigner is using a credit card, Softbank does not care about the length of stay (because the credit card issuer guarantees payment to Softbank). So, this appears to be a YA policy.

Now, some apologists will offer the following defenses:

1. YA is worried about not being paid by short-stay foreigners: wrong, YA is paid by the credit card company. Softbank already accepts credit cards, and can cut off service if a customer fails to pay. Why is a foreigner with 15 months 29 days of stay a poor credit risk while one with 16 months is not a credit risk?

2. YA is going out of its way help misguided foreigners who might buy a cell phone in Japan only to find it does not work outside of Japan: wrong, the iPhone 3G is designed to work with most 3G systems around the world, and in fact can work as a wireless terminal without any 3G system at all. The phone is multilingual (Japanese-English-Chinese- whatever) out of the box.

3. Apple/Softbank are trying to prevent iPhone 3G units from being taken out of Japan and unlocked (made useable with carriers other than Softbank): Wrong, only YA has this policy, and if anyone is going to buy up hundreds of iPhone 3G units and sell them abroad, it is going to be a yakuza or a snakehead with access to someone who has the proper credentials.

4. The police made them do it: well, the bigotry of Japanese cops is unlimited, but why can a foreigner show a Japanese health insurance card (no photo, certainly no visa info) or a Japanese driver’s license (no visa info) and be exempt from the restrictions on purchase/ installment payment?

One has to wonder about Japan’s future when flagship stores in major tourist areas go out of their way to discriminate against foreign customers, without any business or logical reason.

In the meantime, one can always boycott YA. Bic Camera has much better service, Yamada Denki is cheaper, and Best Denki has better parking !

From: Writer B

Check the Files section of this Group for a scan of the offending policy document (original Japanese).




The document says nothing about restrictions on foreigners. It talks about restrictions on people using a foreigners registration card as their means of identification. Being a foreigner does not mean that your foreigner registration card is your only means of identification. Just show your driver’s license or your health insurance card instead.

BTW, it isn’t Yodobashi specifically; this is very much a Softbank policy. Always has been. The blogosphere has been talking about this for the past week, because of the iPhone, but I remember this from when I first switched to Softbank a couple years ago. I showed my alien registration, it was going to be a problem, so I showed my drivers license instead.


From: Writer C

I would wait a little on this one. They just announced this morning that all the major cellphone companies are going to implement new, tougher rules on registering phones. The police will be involved, and people will have to provide ID (driving licences were mentioned) and possibly have it copied by the companies. People refusing would be denied contracts, and ‘suspicious’ people refusing would be reported to the police.

And this will affect everyone. How they deal with non-Japanese, and non-residents, within this, remains to be seen.


From: Writer A

To the posters on the subject:

True, the YA document I discussed and posted does not say foreigners cannot buy an iPhone 3G. It does say that NJ with a stay of less than 91 days cannot buy an iPhone 3G. These very short-term NJ most likely won’t have a Japanese driver’s license or health insurance card. NJs who do have a Japanese driver’s license or health card, as I pointed out, can show either and get around the permitted stay restriction (one hopes), but many NJs with a 91 day to 15-month stay will not have either alternate document.

No, it is not a Softbank policy. It is not a stated policy and it is not an actual policy. I posted the stated policy (the hyperlink to the contract), and it mentions nothing about period of stay. Neither does any official Softbank literature on the iPhone 3G. It is not an unofficial Softbank policy either: I have used Softbank for many years and have never once been asked for a “gaijin card”. I have been asked for other ID and was able to satisfy the ID requirement by producing an official Japanese document that does not include my visa status. My understanding is that official iPhone 3G registration in every country requires some kind of proof of identity, but Japan is the only instance I have heard of in which proof of visa status is required. Indeed, in most countries phone companies love foreigners with adequate credit because they make long international telephone calls to their foreign homes.

Why do you think the policy appears in tiny letters at the bottom of a photocopied handout at YA? Perhaps because YA knows the policy is offensive and arbitrary. You won’t find a similar document at your local Softbank shop: the white Softbank iPhone 3G brochure has nothing restricting contracts to persons of a certain permitted stay.

Did [Writer B] switch from DoCoMo to Softbank, and is perhaps melding Softbank into the trauma of dealing with DoCoMo? DoCoMo is infamously NJ-unfriendly. It is the spawn of NTT, the phone company that would not hook up NJ to black rotary line telephones in the days when that is what a telephone meant.

Another poster mentioned that the police want to have tougher proof of identity requirements for registering cell phones. Actually, the Japanese police have a multi-year history of trying to tie cell phones more conclusively to individuals. The police are the reason one can no longer anonymously purchase a prepaid cell phone in Japan. The police are trying to make it a crime to sell a SIM (telephone number ID chip) from another phone in Japan. The reason is simple: yakuza use untraceable or stolen cell phones for defrauding people. A recent factoid states that Japan is victim to $1 million per day in telephone fraud (the frauds are quite varied, and change frequently, but many of the frauds are perpetrated against the elderly). The yakuza use the phones for a blitz of fraudulent calls, then throw away the phones– and the police can’t find out who is behind the frauds. By itself, requesting positive ID when one registers a cell phone is, I think, NJ-neutral. However, the police in Japan always end up requesting ID from NJ well beyond what is adequate to establish identity, and always end up backing down on the rigor of ID from Japanese citizens. Many of the forms of ID a Japanese can present to satisfy the policy have no photograph, no counterfeiting security, no standard format and are easy to turn out flawlessly with a good computer printer.

If YA has some legitimate business concern, there are ways to satisfy the concern without discriminating against NJ.

“Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

Go blog it, Debito!


 From: Writer B

No, it is not a Softbank policy. It is not a stated policy and it is not an actual policy.




Well, here is Softbank’s actual policy from Softbank’s official web page:

This is what lists the documents required to sign up for 3G service. There are many choices, one choice of which is “foreign registration card plus foreign passport”. If you choose that option, you may sign up for Softbank provided that you are not on a 90-day visa.

Now, there are actually two things at play here: The ability to sign up for 3G service and the ability to buy an iPhone on installments. If you pass the first thing, and you are willing to fork over the unsubsidized cash price for an iPhone 3G (70,000-80,000 yen depending on which model), then you have no problems.

But this is where the 3-15-month period of stay thing comes in:

Oh, hmm, Softbank has deleted the document since I saw it a few days ago:

The link that Japanprobe linked to before gave limitations as to who would purchase a phone on installments rather than upfront. It’s gone now. It was a page on Softbank’s official site, however.

To be perfectly honest, I think that their requirements are fair: To have service, all you have to do is prove that you live in Japan. If you want to buy a phone on installments (ie, take out credit), you should prove that you intend to pay back that loan, either by proving that you’re integrated enough in society that you have a driving license or health insurance, or at least have a visa that is long enough to cover the period of the loan. If you don’t, you don’t have to buy the phone on installments — you can buy it up front if you like.

But whether or not you think that’s fair, the point is you are barking up the wrong tree. It is very definitely Softbank that you are angry at, not Yodobashi. the fact that I (and many others) saw those requirements on Softbank’s website means that, at least as of a week ago, those were Softbank’s policies. I assume that they still are and that Softbank took away the link because people were complaining. But even if not, depending on the timing of when Yodobashi printed up their flyers, it is almost certain that it was because of Softbank’s directions.

Did [Writer B] switch from DoCoMo to Softbank, and is perhaps melding Softbank into the trauma of dealing with DoCoMo?




I did switch from DoCoMo, but your insinuation that I don’t know the difference between phone companies is, quite frankly, insulting.

DoCoMo is infamously NJ-unfriendly.




Maybe.. I never had a problem with them, though I understand that a lot of people have, so I am probably in the minority.



Terrie’s Take: Oji Homes and asbestos–and treating NJ customers badly


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

Hi Blog.  Yet another fantastic article from Terrie Lloyd.  I doff my hat in respect with the depth, breadth, and context provided every week in his “Terrie’s Take”s.

This one talks about the rot within Oji Seishi (Oji Paper), which is, incidentally, one of Hokkaido’s biggest employers (with factories in Tomakomai and Kushiro, not to mention seven other cities, and offices in Beijing, Melbourne, Vancouver, and Shanghai).  Its nine other “specialty paper plants” include my city of employment, Ebetsu, Hokkaido, and their works and subsidiary investments are the backbone of many a community.  Which is why the rot is supremely bad news.

Why is this a issue?  Because their expat housing is treating NJ badly–toxically, in fact.  Terrie doesn’t make too big of a deal of that in his writing (you have to read almost to the end and blink when you realize the clientele include expats).  But I will.  (What did you expect?).  

In whatever fairness is warranted these people, Terrie asserts that the lies and poisons the NJ clients are enduring would not happen to the same degree to Japanese.  I’m not so sure of that, but it’s nevertheless a landlord that anyone would want to avoid.  Especially when they are lying about the degree of toxins they are releasing into the land and air, and asbestos in their housing.  Be advised.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E ‘S T A K E * * * * * * *

A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.


General Edition Sunday, July 13, 2008 Issue No. 477 (excerpt)

When one thinks of Oji Paper, Japan’s largest paper manufacturing company (in terms of consolidated sales), the image is of vast green forests in Hokkaido, excellent paper-making technology, and the guiding hand of Eichi Shibusawa. Shibusawa was the father of Japan’s capitalist economy, initially helping to modernize the Ministry of Finance, then going out on his own to found the nation’s first modern bank, one of its first joint stock companies, and helping around 500 other now major companies (such as Tokyo Gas, Mizuho, the Imperial Hotel, Sapporo Breweries, and Taiheiyo Cement) to get started.

One of Shibusawa’s key philosophies was the promotion of business ethics and that helping others was an intrinsic part of making a business successful. Perhaps this is where the Japanese view that the purpose of companies is to provide for society first and shareholders second, came from. On the philanthropic and education side of his life, Shibusawa engaged in a purported 600+ projects to improve the living standards of those around him.

What a shame, then, that Oji Paper has lost the positive spirit and moral fiber of this great pioneer of modern Japan.

The reason we make this statement is that despite its pedigree, Oji and its group companies have shown that corporate pride and covering one’s back is more important than ethics. The “ethics” we’re talking about here concern Oji’s record on environmental pollution and resulting business decision-making.

As an example, on July 8th of this last week, the Tokyo District Court ordered Oji Paper to pay JPY590m in damages to Seiko Epson for selling Seiko Epson a 30,000 sq. m. plot of land in Nagano which turned out to be highly polluted with PCBs and Dioxin. Seiko Epson had to have 8,300 tons of soil removed to remediate the problem. Of course there was no mention by Oji prior to the sale of the fact that the plot was damaged.

For some reason almost no foreign media picked up on this law suit, but it shows that Oji has a pattern of lying and covering up pollution and general business problems. You may recall that in January this year, Oji among other paper producers was found to have been a leading culprit in lying about the level of recycled fiber/paper content in their “green” paper products. In many cases the recycled content was only 10% – 20% of that claimed, and in some cases there was NO recycled material present at all. While the CEO of competitor Nippon Paper stepped down over the industry-wide scandal, the CEO of Oji Paper, true to form, decided to say “sorry” but to otherwise chose to dodge the bullet.

Going back a bit further, to July, 2007, Oji Paper was forced to admit that its Fuji paper plant in Shizuoka had emitted more nitrogen oxide (NOx) than allowed under a local agreement with Shizuoka prefectural authorities. What’s worse, they falsified their emissions data to cover up the problem and were only found out after the Hokkaido Prefectural government challenged the company up north and did its own inspection of the company’s Kushiro plant. They found that the Kushiro emissions were in some cases twice Japan’s allowable limit. Ironically, NOx is a leading cause of acid rain, which destroys forests…!

Go further back still, and there are other instances of similar cover-ups and subsequent court cases. However, the point of today’s Take is that a related Oji company, Oji Real Estate, has now been found to have been engaging in its own form of cover-up that is much closer to home.

It is common knowledge in the expat community that the three Oji Real Estate condominium complexes in Minami-Aoyama: Oji Palace, Oji Homes, and Oji Green Hills are extremely popular with out-of-town CEOs and their young families. Oji Homes in particular draws a long waiting list of young families thanks to its 20m outdoor swimming pool and it’s convenient location right in the middle of fashionable Omote Sando. There are approximately 20 apartments in that complex, and over the last 25 years, we imagine that more than 200 families have lived there.

That’s 500+ tenants who rented their luxury apartments in the knowledge that they had a rock-solid landlord and the building was safe — or so they thought.

About two years ago. Oji started refusing to renew leases with tenants at Oji Homes, on the basis that they wanted to do renovations to improve earthquake standards for the building. This sounded credible, and most of the families have subsequently moved out despite being offered inadequate compensation to find a similar replacement apartment (standard practice in Japan for high-class apartments being renovated or torn down is to offer tenants 1-2 years supplementary rent to move to digs of a comparable level).

However, two families who’ve been long-term residents decided to dig their heels in and demand from Oji fair and reasonable compensation to move out. Oji decided to ignore them by starting renovation work around the families, arranging for their utilities to stay connected until a resolution was reached, or until the living conditions became so difficult that the families would eventually move out.

By “difficult” we mean that the building is being jacked up, so as to strengthen the building foundations, and the passage ways are soon to be full of dust, wheel barrows, and workers lugging in and out building materials.

As work has progressed, the families became suspicious that Oji may have had another reason for doing the construction work and decided to hire a professional architect to come in and assess the work. To their shock, he pointed out a number of areas fitted with asbestos and worse still, PCBs — perhaps from the same source as those found in the Nagano soil by Seiko Espon.

When confronted by the families, Oji initially denied any presence of either substance and continued their work as if everything was OK. However, the two families persisted and in June (last month), in front of lawyers and staff representing the families AND the Minato-ku Ward Office, Oji Real Estate and Takenaka Construction company representatives admitted that the building does in fact have both substances, with the asbestos being present in significant amounts, and that they’d known for some time about the presence of these substances.

Now, let’s think about this. A luxury apartment full of young kids, top-level international executives, and their guests, and yet Oji had known for possibly up to two years about the presence of asbestos and PCBs! What does this tell you about the company and its ethics?

As far as we know, we’re the first to break this story to the public, but the families are obviously hoping that the media will pick up on the situation and give Oji the coverage that the company obviously still needs in order to get the message: “a quick admission of the problem and proper settlement of tenant claims is the only reasonable outcome”.

In the meantime, if you are living in or have lived in any of the Oji apartment complexes, you may be wondering what the presence of asbestos means. Providing it is inert, probably the buildings have been/are reasonably safe, but the problem with asbestos is that one never knows when it or the binders it is applied with will age and start to flake off. Oji Palace is even older than the Oji Homes facility and there has been no indication at this stage that Oji plans any investigation or remediation of substances possibly present there. We think this is extremely irresponsible.

We also think it is very irresponsible that there is a public school right next to the building site, with kids running around in the playground every week day. Perhaps the parents of those children are not aware that even a wisp of the stuff inhaled into your lungs can cause mesothelioma and asbestosis later in life. Oji can and should be taking a lot more precautions and needs to come clean to the public about the work being done. Elsewhere in Japan, when asbestos is removed from schools, the entire school is closed (so it’s normally done during the summer holidays), to prevent danger to the kids.

The following link gives you some idea of what level of work precautions are necessary to safely remove asbestos from a work site. From what we’ve heard from the residents, so far the Takenaka workers are taking only the very most basic of precautions, and sophisticated respirators don’t appear to be part of them.

Then of course, there is the matter of the two families and their kids left in the building… We find it incredible that Oji Real Estate is able to engage in such dangerous construction work with tenants still present. This represents a level of bloody mindedness on the part of Oji managers that wouldn’t be tolerated if those families were Japanese. The proper venue for a showdown of this nature is the courts, and if Oji wants the resisting tenants to move, it should take them to court, reveal the levels of compensation being offered, and wait for the courts to decide before continuing their work.


Human Rights Violations at a J Gym Chain: “Young, Healthy Japanese Only” By Jim Dunlop


Human Rights Violations at a Well-Known Japanese Gym Chain
“Young, Healthy Japanese people only, please!”

By Jim Dunlop
August 30, 2007
drinkacupofcoffee AT

Writing this report made my think of a line from an old song, “Signs” by 5 Man Electrical Band:

And the sign said long haired freaky people need not apply,
So I tucked my hair up under my hat and I went in to ask him why.
He said you look like a fine upstanding young man, I think you’ll do,
So I took off my hat I said imagine that, huh, me working for you…

Holiday Sports Club is a chain of gyms/exercise centers all across Japan.

There are about 33 locations spanning Honshu and one in Hokkaido… This also happens to be the club where my wife and I are currently members). Since we joined this gym, a number of issues have arisen that I think need to be made public and brought to the attention of anyone who may be considering supporting this business. Be aware, that if you are either a foreigner, or have any sort of physical disability, you may be discriminated against, or even prevented from joining. Here’s the scoop:

Race and Age Discrimination at Holiday Sports Club:

1. Racial discrimination. First and foremost, foreigners are routinely barred from joining the gym on the grounds that they “cannot read/write their name and address in Japanese.” This is always given as a requirement to prospective members. I suppose that the “standard” argument given here is that everyone must know some Japanese in case of an emergency, or perhaps in order to understand the rules and regulations and the club. That, however is a bit of a farce, and a HUGE contradiction, considering the club actually has an English rulebook that they give to new members to read through. But yet, the double standard arises when it comes to Japanese literacy. When the club first opened, my wife and I were the first foreign members and we were able to do this so we were given almost no problems in joining, however a friend of mine was told “no, he couldn’t join” because his Japanese was insufficient. When he brought in his Japanese wife, they were all apologetic and then, of course he could join without a hitch. Most recently, in past couple weeks three young women from Iowa who are here on a teacher exchange program were barred membership because their Japanese knowledge was deemed insufficient. Also worth noting (but nothing that can be done) is that a common secondary reason for disallowing people (foreigners and Japanese alike) is having a tattoo, even though many members have them (but cover them up with bandages when in the gym).

2. Discrimination against the elderly / people with limited mobility.

This was brought to my attention today by good friends of mine. They are a mixed couple (husband is Japanese and wife is American). They are both seniors and the American wife has lived in Japan for over 30 years. Her husband was born here and is a lifelong resident of the city. He still remembers the war and American bombing raids over the city during WWII when he was a child in elementary school. (But yet, he married an American when he got older. Interesting stuff! That just goes to show you how love can overcome even war, hatred and racism). As my friends are older, Takao (the Japanese husband) has troubles walking so he walks with a cane. He has been prohibited from entering Holiday Sports Club with his cane. The official reason given: the cane could be used as a weapon! Another elderly woman who needs a cane to walk (following an operation) has similarly been disallowed, and therefore been unable to join the gym for this reason. Furthermore, because Takao is forced to leave his cane in the car when he attends the gym, (thus leaning on his wife for support) both Takao and his wife have requested that several parking spaces near the entrance be marked as “handicapped” with those with limited mobility. This request has been effectively turned down.

The facility, incidentally also is NOT wheelchair accessible or open to those with impaired mobility. It should go without saying that it’s not only young, healthy people who go to gyms. Many people, regardless of age and physical ability attend for health reasons. First and foremost, gyms should be open and welcoming to such individuals, many of whom use gyms as part of physiotherapy or rehabilitation programs. This form of discrimination is both shocking and contemptible.

I question, whether it is even legal for them to prohibit someone from using a cane for SECURITY reasons! I asked my friends several times if there could have been some misunderstanding with what the gym staff told them… But they assured me, “Oh no. They were very clear as to the reason why canes are not allowed in.” Remember, we are talking about a Japanese man here, not a foreigner. There was no language barrier involved.

It really upsets me that our local gym (which is so close to my house) have chosen to be so difficult and unwelcoming to certain groups of people. The staff are often very friendly! In fact, my wife and I have gone out with some of them on a few occasions. But they are forced to enforce this company’s strange “rules” that really put many people off, now including myself.

Please give this report some consideration when you are shopping around for a gym to work out in. Please also let your friends know, whether they be Japanese or not, that Holiday Sports Club seems to only be interested in people who fall into a narrow view of what is acceptable. You must be young, Japanese, free from any body modifications, (which includes you ladies too, by the way. All jewelry, including earrings MUST be removed (without exception) prior to entering the pool area), and anyone who does not “fit in” will be denied entry or declined membership.

As the saying goes, “caveat emptor” — buyer beware.

Jim Dunlop
August 30, 2007

PS: If someone wants to call my local gym and check the information out for themselves, please contact me directly (drinkacupofcoffee AT and I can pass along the details (like a local phone number). If they wish to contact the company (in general) then all they need to do is go to the website link I provided above in the article. JD

McGowan Case: Steve wins case on appeal at Osaka High Court


Good news at last. Comment follows at bottom:


African-American wins Y350,000 in damages for being denied entry into Osaka shop
Japan Today, Wednesday, October 18, 2006 at 19:41 EDT
Courtesy Kyodo News

OSAKA — The Osaka High Court ordered an Osaka optical shop owner to pay 350,000 yen in damages to an African-American living in Kyoto Prefecture for denying him entry to the shop in 2004, altering a lower court ruling in January which rejected the plaintiff’s damages claim.

Presiding Judge Sota Tanaka recognized the owner told Steve McGowan, 42, a designer living in the town of Seika, to go away when he was in front of the shop, and acknowledged damages for McGowan’s emotional pain, saying the entry denial “is a one-sided and outrageous act beyond common sense.”

However, the remark “is not enough to be recognized as racially discriminatory,” he said. McGowan had demanded 5.5 million yen.

According to the ruling, the owner told McGowan to go away to the other side of the road in a strong language several times when he was about to enter the shop with an acquaintance in September 2004.

The plaintiff had claimed the owner said, “Go away. I hate black people,” but the ruling dismissed the claim, as the possibility that he misheard the owner cannot be eliminated.
A plaintiff attorney said, “It’s unreasonable that discrimination was not recognized, but the court ordered a relatively large amount of damages payment for just demanding the plaintiff leave the shop. It seems that the court shows some understanding.”

I am very happy Steve McGowan appealed his case, as it shows just how ludicrous the previous District Court ruling was last January.

Full information on the case at

The previous decision disqualified McGowan and his wife as credible witnesses to any discrimination, by ruling:

1) McGowan’s testimony inadmissible, as he apparently does not understand enough Japanese to reliably prove that the store-owner used discriminatory language toward him.

2) McGowan’s wife’s testimony as negatively admissable. In her follow up investigation, McGowan’s wife didn’t confirm whether the store-owner had excluded McGowan because he is black (“kokujin”); she apparently asked him if it was because her husband is *foreign*.

Put another way: A guy gets struck by a motor vehicle. The pedestrian takes him to court, claiming that getting hit by a car hurt him. The judge says, “You weren’t in fact hit by a car. It was a truck. Compensation denied.”

This was a huge step backward. As I argued in a Japan Times column (Feb 7, 2006, see, the McGowan decision thus established the following litmus tests for successfully claiming racial discrimination. You must:

* Avoid being a foreigner.

* Avoid being a non-native speaker of Japanese.

* Have a native-speaker witness with you at all times.

* Record on tape or video every public interaction you have 24 hours a day.

* Hope your defendant admits he dislikes people for their race.

Actually, scratch the last one. The eyeglass shop owner did admit a distaste for black people, yet the judge still let him off.

Now this High Court reversal sets things back on kilter, although it pays McGowan a pittance (35 man yen will not even cover his legal fees!) and will not acknowledge the existence of racial discrimination.

That’s a shame. But it’s better than before, and far better than if he did not appeal. Gotta pray for the small favors.

Thanks to Steve for keeping up the fight! Arudou Debito in Seattle, USA