Not only China, Japan eyes India for tourist influx, eases visas


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Hi Blog.  As another move by the GOJ to stimulate our economy through tourism (first big move was the Chinese back in July), we have the easing of visa restrictions for subcontinental Indians too.  Good idea.  Arudou Debito


Visa to Japan will come easy after PM visit
By Amitav Ranjan

Indian Sat Oct 23 2010, courtesy of JM

Visiting Japan for business or holiday will be easier after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s official tour to the country starting Sunday. After negotiating for four years, the two countries are set to sign a memorandum that will provide longer duration visas to Indians.

The new visa deal will benefit businesspersons the most who —on receipt of a request letter from “a duly recognized company” or from chambers of commerce or industry or trade groups —will be eligible for a five-year multiple-entry visa instead of the current “short-term” 90-day visa. Their dependents will automatically be eligible for three-year multiple entry visas. These applicants will also be exempt from submitting a host of supporting documents.

Tourists employed with listed firms, government or public sector undertakings and eminent persons will also be exempt from furnishing proof of funding their stay or presenting confirmed air tickets to apply for the 90-day visa. Additionally, those traveling in package tours run by operators (designated by Japan and registered in India) will get single entry 90-day visa with the tour operator merely submitting the package booking documents.


NHK 7AM this morning: Offer coupons at Narita Airport to NJ with “preferential exchange rates”. The catch is…


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Hi Blog.  Related to my post last Saturday talking about how things were becoming cheaper in a deflationary Japanese economy:

Something came on NHK News this morning at 7AM that nearly induced reverse peristalsis on my corn flakes due to excessive laughter.  Deep breath:

The exchange rate this morning was 81 yen and change to the dollar.  The (well-grounded) complaint is that this is discouraging tourism to Japan and purchases from NJ tourists, due to things being make more expensive upon exchange.

So NHK was breathlessly reporting (live) from Narita Airport this morning how authorities had come up with a great wheeze to stimulate spending!

Ready for it?


Meaning that if you hold one of these coupons (they provided a graphic with a big-nosed (of course) gaijin clutching this precious slip of paper), you would get a discount on your exchange from dollars (or whatever) into yen.

And that preferential rate would be?

Ready for it?

(Rips the Post-It off the graphic…)

30 SEN!!

Yes, 0.3 OF A YEN discount off your yen exchange rate!!

They even conveniently calculated with a couple more graphic Post-Its how much you would save.  Tourists, if they could see beyond their proboscis to spending some 2300 USD or so, the amount saved would be…

Ready for it?

(Rips the Post-It off the graphic…)


My god, I’m surprised people aren’t lining up!  The main NHK announcers also found this decidedly uncooworthy.

They also gave a rupo afterwards (with some token NJ tourists praising Japanese food) at a Narita cafeteria that was also taking drastic (and I mean DRASTIC!) measures to encourage consumption of their meals, by dropping some prices a few hundred yen.  Some fried chicken had been reduced from 700 to 500 yen!  (Albeit this price was arguably overpriced in the first place; a captive-market airport economy tends to do that.)  We had some grateful NJ tourists praising the move, and closeups of one slurping noodles with a big grin.

For all the money they saved from the preferential coupons (provided they carry a few thousand dollars in cash on them during their stay), they could get one free entree from this cafeteria AND a can of Coke from a vending machine — and still have a few yen change!!  Roll up!  Roll up!

File under cluelessness.

Seacrest Out!

Weekend Tangent: Discovering how cheap, yes cheap, parts of Japan are becoming


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Hi Blog.  I just finished a first draft of an update of the Hokkaido chapter in a famous travel guidebook (tell you more later after it hits the press), and thought I’d tell you what I noticed:

Japan is becoming surprisingly attractive for tourism.  One thing I’ve seen when traveling overseas is just how surprisingly expensive things are — like, say, dining out.  Inflation, Euro-currency-inflation, tips and service charges of ten to twenty percent, etc. have made eating in a sit-down restaurant a rather unattractive option (when traveling I usually self-cater, visiting overseas supermarkets where things are far cheaper).

In contrast, Japan’s currency sans inflation, a stable tax regime, and deflationary prices in many sectors have ultimately kept prices the same while they gradually rise overseas. After all these years of hearing about Japan as “the place where you goggle at hundred-dollar department store melons”, it’s finally reached a point where generally speaking, it’s now become cheaper in Japan.  While travel costs seem about the same (if not slightly higher in some cases due to fuel-cost-appreciation), once you get here, you’re able to predict costs, stick to budgets, and pay comparatively less without hidden fees creeping in.

Then look at Hokkaido, which is becoming a bargain destination.  It’s possible to get a relatively cheap flight up here (20,000-30,000 yen RT) if you plan accordingly and time it right.  Then once here (especially if you get a package tour subsidized by the Hokkaido government to include a few nights in a hotel), tourists make out.  As far as this guidebook went, just about every hotel I checked had reduced their rates (compared to the previous edition) substantially — some by half! Making them substantially cheaper than comparable hotels I saw overseas.  Further, dining out is very cheap (in Sapporo Susukino, for example, you can get a 2-hour tabe-nomi-houdai all you can eat and drink for about 3500 yen).  I can see why tourism is booming up here.  Good.  We’re no longer the poorest prefecture, IIRC.

That said, any economy increasingly being powered by tourism suffers from two major flaws:  1) a fickle market, and 2) residents may be enjoying an income, but in general the reason why things are getting cheaper here are because people are making less money themselves.  As they say:  Nice place to visit.  Wouldn’t want to live here.  Because the resident economy and the higher-income tourist economy is by nature fundamentally different in its buying and spending power.

I’m not speaking as an expert in any of these fields.  I just thought I’d comment on something I’ve observed over the past couple of days and open up the blog to discussion.  Anyone else noticing these trends?  Arudou Debito

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column July 6, 2010: “Japan’s hostile hosteling industry”: how government agencies want NJ tourists yet are accessories to excluding them


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The Japan Times, Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Japan’s hostile hosteling industry
Draft eleven with links to sources and alternate conclusion

Online version at

As you may know, Japan has no national civil or criminal legislation outlawing and punishing racial discrimination, meaning businesses with “Japanese only” signs aren’t doing anything illegal.

Problem is, I’m not sure it would matter if such a law existed.

To illustrate, consider one business sector that — technically — cannot exclude customers by race or nationality: hotels. Article 5 of Japan’s Hotel Management Law (ryokan gyoho, or HML) says that licensed accommodations cannot refuse service unless 1) rooms are full, 2) there is a threat of contagious disease, or 3) there is a issue of “public morals” (as in shooting porno movies there, etc.).


However, as discussed here last week (“No need to know the law, but you must obey it,” Zeit Gist, June 29), the law in Japan can be a mere technicality.

The HML is frequently ignored. Quick online searches (try Rakuten or Jalan) soon uncover hotels either outright refusing non-Japanese (NJ) lodgers, or, more circumspectly, those that say, “We don’t take reservations from NJ without addresses in Japan” (which is still unlawful).

SOURCE:  Jalan:  (recently amended to say “NJ without domestic contact addresses” refused)

Rakuten:  (now amended to say “no bookings from overseas”)

Still excluding:

When I call these hotels and ask why they feel the need to exclude (it’s my hobby), their justifications range from the unprofessional to the cowardly.

Most claim they can’t provide sufficient service in English (as if that’s all that NJ can speak), so naturally it follows that they won’t provide NJ with any service at all. Or they say they have no Western-style beds (I wonder if they worry about people using chopsticks too?).

More clever managers claim “safety” (the trump card in Japanese culture), as in: “In case of an emergency, how can we communicate with NJ effectively to get them out of a burning building?” (When I ask how they would deal with blind or deaf Japanese customers, they become markedly less clever.)

The nasty managers hiss that NJ steal hotel goods or cause trouble for other guests, thus making it a crime issue. (After all, Japanese guests never get drunk and rowdy, or “permanently borrow” hotel amenities themselves, right?)

This attitude in Japanese hotels is surprisingly widespread. According to a 2008 government survey, 27 percent of them said they didn’t want any NJ customers at all.


Some might claim this is no big deal. After all, you could go someplace else, and why stay at a place that doesn’t want you there anyway? At least one columnist might claim that culturally insensitive NJ deserve to be excluded because some of them have been bad guests.

Fortunately, these apologist fringe opinions do limited damage. However, when a government agency allows — even promotes — the systematic exclusion of NJ clients, we have a real problem with the rule of law in Japan.

Consider the curious case of the Fukushima Prefectural Tourist Association ( ). In September 2007, I was notified that their English site was offering member hotels two preset options for “acceptance of foreigners” and “admittance of foreigners” (whatever that difference may be). Of the 142 hotels then listed, 35 chose not to accept or admit NJ customers.


I contacted FPTA and asked about the unlawfulness. A month later their reply was they had advised all 35 hotels that they really, really oughta stop that — although not all of them would. For its part, FPTA said it would remove the site’s “confusing” preset options, but it could not force hotels to repeal their exclusionary rules — FPTA is not a law enforcement agency, y’know. I asked if FPTA would at least delist those hotels, and got the standard “we’ll take it under advisement.”

Case closed. Or so I thought. I was doing some followup research last December and discovered that even after two years, FPTA still had the option to exclude on their Japanese Web site. And now nine times more hotels — 318 — were advertised as refusing NJ (gaikokujin no ukeire: fuka).


I put the issue up on, and several concerned readers immediately contacted FPTA to advise them their wording was offensive and unlawful. Within hours, FPTA amended it to “no foreign language service available” (gaikokugo taio: fuka).

This sounds like progress, but the mystery remains: Why didn’t FPTA come up with this wording in Japanese on its own?

Moreover, unlike the Japanese site, FPTA’s English site had stopped advertising that NJ were being refused at all. So instead of fixing the problem, FPTA made it invisible for NJ who can’t read Japanese.

Furthermore, when researching this article last month, I discovered FPTA had revamped its site to make it more multilingual (with Korean and two Chinese dialects, as well as English). However, the multilingual site buttons for searching accommodations led to dead links (the Japanese links, however, worked just fine).

On May 24, a Mr. Azuma, head of FPTA’s Tourism Department, told me it was taking a while to reword things properly. I asked if the past two years plus six months was insufficient. Miraculously, in time for this article, the foreign-language links are now fixed, and no more excluders can be found on the site.

However, the underlying problem has still not been fixed. Another NJ recently alerted me to the fact that the only hotel in Futaba town, Fukushima Prefecture, refused him entry on May 2. He had made the mistake of going up alone to the front desk and asking in Japanese if he could have a room. Management claimed none were available.

Suspicious, he walked outside and had his Japanese wife phone the hotel from the parking lot. Presto! A twin room was procured. She walked in, got the key, and all was sparkly.

When I phoned the hotel myself to confirm this story, the manager claimed that a room had just happened to open up right after my friend left. Amazing what coincidences happen, especially when this hotel — also featured on the FPTA Web site — advertises that they “can’t offer services in foreign languages” (or, it seems, even if a foreigner speaks a nonforeign language).

SOURCES: here and here

Let’s connect some dots: We have public policies working at cross-purposes. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism wants more NJ to visit and pump money into our economy, with Japan relaxing visa requirements for mainland Chinese tourists as of July 1. Yet the Ministry of Justice and other law enforcement agencies just want to keep policing NJ, and that includes deputizing hotels. This is why since 2005 they’ve been demanding hotels photocopy all NJ passports at check-in — again, unlawful (Zeit Gists, Mar. 8 and Oct. 18, 2005).

Of course, this assumes that anyone pays attention to the laws at all.

Japan’s lack of legal support for hapless NJ tourists (not to mention residents) — who face unfettered exclusionism precisely where the HML says they shouldn’t — are thus finding local government bodies conspiring against them.


Brains cooked yet? Now get a load of this:

As of June 1, the Toyoko Inn chain, already saddled with a history of poor treatment of NJ and handicapped customers, opened up a “Chinese only” hotel in Sapporo. When I called there to confirm, the cheery clerk said yes, only Chinese could stay there. Other NJ — and even Japanese — would be refused reservations!

I asked if this wasn’t of questionable legality. She laughed and said, “It probably is.” But she wasn’t calling it out. Nor was anyone else. Several articles appeared in the Japanese media about this “exclusively Chinese hotel,” and none of them raised any qualms about the legal precedents being set.

SOURCES:  Toyoko’s history:
Sapporo Chinese Only:

So what’s next? More hotels segregated by nationality? Separate floors within hotels reserved for Chinese, Japanese and garden-variety gaijin? What happens to guests with international marriages and multiethnic families? Are we witnessing the Balkanization of Japan’s hosteling industry?


Folks, it’s not difficult to resolve this situation. Follow the rule of law. You find a hotel violating the HML, you suspend its operating license until they stop, like the Kumamoto prefectural government did in 2004 to a hotel excluding former Hansen’s disease patients.


Oh wait — the ex-Hansen’s patients were Japanese, so they deserve to have their legal rights protected. It sucks to be NJ: The laws, such as they are, don’t apply to you anyway — if they are applied at all. Yokoso Japan.


Oh wait — the ex-Hansen’s patients were Japanese, so they deserve to have their legal rights protected.

Sucks to be NJ: Let NJ in our orderly society, and they cause so much confusion that people don’t even feel the need to obey the law anymore. Now that even Japanese are being excluded, no doubt NJ will be blamed for disrupting the “wa” once again. Yōkoso Japan.

Debito Arudou coauthored the “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants.” Twitter arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Send comments on this issue to

Asahi has whiny article on how Chinese tourists don’t spend properly


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Hi Blog.  Here’s something to kick the weekend off:  A whiny article by the Asahi picking on Chinese tourist spending habits.  It’s not that they don’t spend, oh no; it’s more that they don’t spend PROPERLY.  They spend too much of their time SHOPPING!  Heavens to Murgatroyd!  I think Japan’s media in this economic climate should be happy that rich Chinese are coming here to spend at all (and not staying on to trouble Japanese society through illegal overstays); they’re already being sequestered in some places.  But no, we’ll get the grumbles that they’re not getting out enough anyway.  What would be the perfect tourist in Japanese media eyes, I wonder?  What would be the perfect consumer, period?  Dare anyone criticize the Japanese public for their underconsumption, then?  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


China tourists stingy in some areas
2010/06/16 Courtesy of Peach

Japanese businesses and local governments that have gone all out to win over the throngs of Chinese tourists are finding that their guests can be a frugal bunch at times.

The Chinese tourists have shown a tendency to scrimp on accommodations and meals and bypass tourist attractions for the main purpose of their trips–buying electronic appliances and designer brand clothing and accessories.

Industry officials said if Japan wants to truly capitalize on the roughly 480,000 Chinese who visit Japan each year, it will have to do much more to convince the tourists that there is more to Japan than just shopping.

“Many of the points of interest, meals and souvenirs that Japanese are promoting are of little interest to Chinese,” said Ke Yue, president of public relations company Japan-China Communication Co.

Ke said Japan’s strategy should include nurturing human resources to specialize in the needs of Chinese tourists, whose numbers show no signs of slowing down.

A fierce price war has erupted over tours to Japan, with the price of a five-night, six-day packaged trip being offered for as little as 4,000 yuan (about 53,000 yen or $577) to 5,000 yuan.

According to an executive at a Chinese tourist agency, companies are eking out profits by cutting costs for meals and accommodations.

As a result, 90 percent of the packaged group tours are handled by Chinese, Hong Kong or Taiwanese businesses because few Japanese tourist companies would be able to generate a profit.

In Kisarazu, Chiba Prefecture, located at one end of the Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line highway that spans Tokyo Bay, the number of Chinese who stayed overnight soared thirteenfold from 2,089 in 2005 to 26,162 in 2009.

The rise was attributed largely to the change in management at the Tokyo Bay Plaza Hotel in the city in 2006, when the current owner, a Japanese national originally from China, took over.

But the influx of tourists has not led to increased income for local businesses in the area.

According to Tokyo Bay Plaza Hotel staff, most Chinese simply use the hotel as a launch pad to travel across the bay and spend their money at stores in the Ginza and Akihabara districts of Tokyo.

The tourists’ shopping priorities are also reflected at the Taiyoro restaurant on the 47th floor of the Apa Hotel & Resort Tokyo Bay Makuhari in Chiba, which is usually packed with Chinese tourists on weekends.

“Ninety-five percent of our customers are group customers. Of them, 70 percent are Chinese,” said Akiharu Taiyoro, operator of the Taiyoro chain of restaurants. Taiyoro, a Shanghai native who became a naturalized Japanese in 2006, operates 10 restaurants in such tourist destinations as Tokyo and Osaka.

In 2009, more than 1.18 million people dined at Taiyoro’s buffet-style restaurants, which offer all-you-can-eat lunches for 1,500 yen, and dinners for 2,000 yen, plus free soft drinks, for two hours.

Tour groups accompanied by guides can receive a 30-percent discount.

Taiyoro said he visits China every other month to negotiate with travel agencies there.

“Chinese tourists come to Japan to shop, so they like to finish their meals quickly. The average tour group will spend about 45 minutes eating at our restaurant before a new group comes in. So it is a low-margin, high-turnover business, but it’s profitable,” he said.

In Fukuoka, where 66 cruise ships from China are scheduled to call port this year, city officials have estimated an economic windfall of 2.89 billion yen from the Chinese visitors.

But according to a travel agency official in the city, the cruise ships moor in Fukuoka for only about 10 hours, and most tourists are more interested in shopping than taking in the sights.

The central government has eased visa requirements for individual tourists and increased promotion campaigns to lure more Chinese tourists to Japan.

But experts say this may not be enough to spread the wealth.

“Japan must rush to create an environment that allows visitors to freely enjoy their visit,” said Du Guoqing, an associate professor of tourism at Rikkyo University.

Du, for example, pointed out that the inability to use Chinese driver’s licenses in Japan deprives the tourists of a chance to see much of the country.

Yomiuri: Nouveau riche Chinese buying up Japan, Niseko


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Hi Blog.  As a somewhat Sundayish Tangent, here we have the Yomiuri talking about Chinese investing in Japan, both as consumers and businesspeople.  Of note to me is the Yomiuri’s claim that the Chinese are displacing Australian investment in Niseko, Hokkaido.  Fine with me.  Hokkaido could use the investment.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Mega-China Changing Japan-China relations / A piste of the action: Chinese take to skiing and shops
The Yomiuri Shimbun May. 25, 2010, Courtesy of Peach

China’s rapid rise is causing ever-widening repercussions in its relationship with Japan. This is the second installment in a series of articles examining new currents in bilateral relations.

At 9 a.m. most days, the majority of shops are yet to open in Akihabara, Tokyo’s electronics shopping district.

Yet two sightseeing buses are parked in front of bulk electrical appliance chain Laox Co.’s flagship store. Emerging from the buses, about 100 Chinese stream into the shop. Laox is open for business.

The electrical cooking appliance section on the fourth floor proves particularly popular. A Laox employee, a Chinese national flag sticker worn on his chest, begins explaining the products on display. Sun Renmei, 61, of Shanghai, points at a stack of boxes containing rice cookers. She buys four: for herself, her children and a friend.

“I’ve been looking forward to buying high-tech Japanese rice cookers,” she says with a smile before hurriedly boarding one of the buses.

At the height of its prosperity, Laox boasted 149 outlets nationwide. In summer last year, however, following years of poor performance amid intensified domestic competition, Laox was bought out by Suning Appliance Co., the owner of China’s largest bulk home electrical appliance chain.

Its president now a Chinese, Laox has repositioned its customer base as international, an extension of previous measures taken to improve the company’s ability to deal with customers in foreign languages.

The flagship store has been renovated as a duty-free mecca that sells not only electrical appliances but also daily goods and souvenirs from Japan. Information about each product is provided in three languages–Japanese, English and Chinese. Twenty-three languages are spoken in the duty-free shop, including Tagalog.

While it usually opens at 10 a.m., management displays flexibility and moves forward opening hours on behalf of group tours, if their timetables so require.

Today, overseas visitors account for 60 percent to 70 percent of the flagship duty-free store’s customer base, a 10 percent increase since the Suning Appliance capital tie-up. Proceeds from sales to foreign customers have increased 70 percent.

In June, Laox is scheduled to open a variety store in Shanghai selling Japan-related products and services. This will be followed by an ambitious plan to increase the international Laox outlets to 100 over a three-year period.

Once a rarity, Chinese-owned shops serving Chinese customers in Japan–or overseas–are increasingly common nowadays.

China has also replaced Australia as the main foreign player in tourism and investment in and around Niseko, a southwestern Hokkaido town recently popular among foreign visitors as a ski resort.

“Australia was once the chief player in tourism and investment here. Since the [global] financial crisis, however, there has been an increase in the number of Chinese companies [conducting such activities],” Tomokazu Aoki, a senior official of Niseko Promotion Board Co.’s secretariat, said.

Founded in 1897, Niseko’s Yamada Onsen Hotel is renowned as the first resort to be built in the area. However, sold to a Chinese corporation this year, the hotel will reportedly be rebuilt as a villa-style accomodation.

A relative newcomer, the Hanazono ski resort has also been acquired by a foreign buyer, a Hong Kong-based communications company.

All this means progress and the go-ahead for further resort development in Niseko.

In April, The Times, a British newspaper, carried an article that read: “Chinese visitors to Niseko used to take a simple view of apres-ski: head to the nearest izakaya and scoff as much Hokkaido crab as possible. Nowadays, after the last run of the day, they scramble for the nearest real estate agent…The Chinese who come to this resort generally have money, are hungry for luxury and find a Japan that, increasingly, is for sale at knockdown prices.”

A local real estate agent said, “Most villas here are priced between 50 million yen and 100 million yen. Few Japanese can purchase such property, but there are Chinese paying cash to buy them.”

The business-savvy Chinese view the resorts as moneymaking assets and rent the villas out to tourists except when they themselves wish to stay there. This can earn them annual profits equivalent to about 5 percent of the villas’ original purchase price.

It is a trend that is set to continue. Teikoku Databank Ltd. estimates more than 300 Japanese corporations are currently funded by Chinese capital. Honma Golf Co., a major golf equipment manufacturer, is one of the latest–it became a Chinese subsidiary this year.

Mutantfrog on Death of Yokoso Japan, plus birth of Welcome to Tokyo


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Hi Blog. Japan is rebooting its image for international tourists. According to Adamu at Mutantfrog:


April 7, 2010
The Japanese government has announced a new international tourism slogan:

“Japan. Endless Discovery.“

Great, at least this time it’s in English! It’s similar to many other simple catch phrases used by other countries: “Malaysia, truly Asia,” “Seoul’s got Soul,” and so on. The Japanese-language slogan is more of more of a mouthful and literally translates as “Japan, a country where you will encounter endless discovery.” There’s also a new logo with a stylish but classy combo of cherry blossoms and the Japanese Rising Sun.

I like “Endless Discovery” because it has a message that happens to be true. As a foreigner living in Japan most days there’s something new to discover. This message could help put new visitors in the right frame of mind to enjoy themselves. Japan’s not a country like Thailand where you can head straight to the resort and not worry about foreign customs. It’s an adventure in many respects – new food, few English speakers, complicated train system, etc. (and the area outside of Tokyo is even harder to navigate), so why not put a positive face on what Japan’s got to offer?

I’d like to give Maehara and his people some credit for picking a slogan that actually makes sense. It’s comforting to think the people in power might actually understand the outside world a little bit. It’s one big, noticeable difference between the parties.

This will replace the old slogan Yokoso! Japan, announced in 2003 to much confusion by most people who had no idea yokoso means “welcome” in Japanese. Well-known Japan commentator Alex Kerr was especially critical, saying it might as well be “blah blah blah Japan.” It’s been a favorite target of mockery among many in the gaijin community and can currently be seen on taxis, buses, posters, and even transport minister Maehara’s lapel pin. You’ll be missed! The “Visit Japan Campaign 2010” site is still up, so you can soak up some of the goodness before it closes. There’s other questionable language on the site, like “Yokoso Bazar” and “Revalue Nippon.”

Rest at


That’s one thing of interest. Now how about Tokyo’s very expensive reboot? Courtesy of BD:


April 8, 2010
Debito: Wanted to call your attention to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s new “Welcome to Tokyo” tourism website which features a short anime which [according to the Tokyo Shinbun Dec 20, 2009, link now dead] reportedly cost 50M Yen. That’s my tax dollars at work trying to lure foreigners to a city who’s governor is historically renown for his anti-foreigner rhetoric. Wonder if there’s anything that can be done to call out the points made by UN Rep Bustamante with regards to this site’s obvious ruse.


COMMENT: About the Tokyo promo: Watch the “Honey Anime” in particular. A lot of bald-facedness going on there. I don’t personally watch much Anime (so it might be an issue of genre or style), but I find its eight-year-old-child attitudes towards life a bit cloying, and inappropriate for regular tourists. And you just gotta grimace at the bit where Tokyo-to’s oceanic territory is depicted as a haven for happy whales (never mind the Red Tides or, you know what…). As flash and expensive as the site is, I find the promotion campaign a bit “terrarium in a fishbowl”, with little apparent knowhow of how to appeal to outsiders and what they want after a very expensive plane trip plus hotels (oooh, Tokyo’s got a ZOO!!).  And let’s not mention our xenophobic governor…

Charming for some, no doubt. But for me, just weird, and not terribly appealing, having been to Tokyo as a tourist (and guest speaker) my entire life in Japan (that’s right; I’ve never lived in Tokyo). Come to Tokyo and see how clean-line it really isn’t. Like seeing the waxwork dish of lunch outside the restaurant, and coming in to see it’s not at all what it was advertised. But that’s only my impression. What do others think? Arudou Debito in Sapporo

UPDATE: Kyoto Tourist Association replies, tells Kyoto hotel “Kyou no Yado” to stop “Japanese speakers only” rules


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 JapansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
Hi Blog.  Regarding an issue I blogged here about earlier this week, about a hotel named “Kyou no Yado” that advertised on its Rakuten Travel listing that it would refuse any customer who did not speak Japanese, an update:

I contacted the Kyoto Tourist Association, the Kyoto City Tourism Board, and the National Tourism Agency in Tokyo about this issue with handwritten letters last Monday.  I received a letter yesterday sokutatsu (included below) from the Kyoto Tourist Association, as well as a personal phone call yesterday afternoon from a Mr Sunagawa there, who told me the following:

  1. The hotel was indeed violating the Hotel Management Law (which holds that people may only be refused lodgings if all rooms were booked, there was threat of contagious disease, or endangerment of “public morals”) by refusing people who could not speak Japanese,
  2. The hotel was hereby advised by KTA to change its rules and open its doors to people regardless of language ability,
  3. The hotel did not protest, and in fact would “fix” (naosu) its writeup on its Rakuten Travel entry,
  4. The hotel hasn’t gotten to it yet, but assuredly would. (It still hasn’t as of this writing.)

I asked what was meant by “fix”, and whether the language would just be shifted to find another way to refuse people again in violation of the Hotel Management Law.  Mr Sunagawa wasn’t sure what would be done, but they would keep an eye on it, he said.

Mr Sunagawa was very apologetic about my treatment, especially given the rudeness of Kyou no Yado’s written reply, and hoped that I would consider coming back to Kyoto soon and not have an unfavorable impression of it.

COMMENT:  This is far better than I expected.  The KTA had told me on Monday that they had no real authority (kyouseiryoku) here to advise a nonmember hotel, yet here they were taking this up and making the call.  I guess Kyou no Yado’s reply was really unbecoming to the situation.  Bravo.  Quite honestly, given the fact that I’ve contacted a number of authorities regarding local exclusionary signs and rules (which usually resulted in nothing being done), I wasn’t even expecting an answer (hey, bureaucrats will get paid anyway even if they sit on their hands; avoiding work is easier for them).

Find another exclusionary hotel like this?  Contact the local town or city tourist agency and include the letter from the KTA below, referring to it as a template for how some government agencies do get off their duff.  Anyone want to do that for the exclusionary hotel in Wakkanai? (“Itsuki”, the one which outright refuses all foreign clients, even cancels reservations if the customer’s name looks to be foreign).  Be my guest.  Don’t be theirs.

Meanwhile, let’s keep an eye on “Kyou no Yado’s” Rakuten Travel listing.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Letter from KTA follows, click to expand in browser:




“Japanese speakers only” Kyoto exclusionary hotel stands by its rules, says it’s doing nothing unlawful


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 JapansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  As is my wont, I don’t like to leave exclusionary business practices alone.  Even if that means letter writing and cajoling people to cease a bad habit.  What gets me is when even cajoling doesn’t work, and the cajoled turns uncharacteristically rude towards a paying customer.  Then I get mad.

Background:  Last October, I attended a writers’ conference in Kyoto, and discovered that even in September just about all hotels in Kyoto were booked (it was approaching peak fall color season).  The only one left was a place in Fushimi that advertised online that they refused anyone who could not speak Japanese.  This is, by the way, contrary to the Hotel Management Law (Ryokan Gyouhou, which can only refuse customers if all rooms are taken, or if there is a health or a “public morals” problem).

I tried to vote with my feet and find alternative accommodation, but wound up having no choice, and made the reservation with the Fushimi place.  I did, however, the night before going down, find last-minute alternative accommodations at an unexclusionary hotel (at more than double the price).  Then I paid in cash by post to the Fushimi place the sizeable cancellation fee for the last-minute switch.

But I also enclosed a handwritten letter telling them why I cancelled, expressing my discontent with the rule that people would be refused for a lack of Japanese language ability (what with this tourist town, there are always ways to communicate — including speaking electronic dictionaries; how does one judge sufficient “language abilities”?  and what about deaf or mute Japanese? etc. etc.).  I also asked them to repeal this exclusionary rule, pointing out that it was an unlawful practice.

I got a rude reply back.  Without addressing me by name, I got a terse letter without any of the formal aisatsu or written tone that a customer-client relationship in this society would warrant.  It also included further spurious insinuated logic that since they couldn’t speak any foreign languages, this business open to the public was somehow not bound to provide service to the general public.  They also categorically denied that their rules are unlawful, coupled with the presumptuous claim that since they didn’t refuse me it was odd for me to feel any disfavor with their system.  And more.  In other words, thanks for your money, but we can do as we please, so sod you.

Now I’m mad.  I sent this exchange off yesterday with a handwritten note to the Kyoto City Government Department of Tourism and the Kyoto Tourist Association, advising them to engage in some Administrative Guidance.  The latter organization has already told me that they are a private-sector institution, and that since this hotel is not one of their members they have no influence in this situation.  And if the city does get back to me (I’ve done this sort of thing before; government agencies in Japan have even abetted “Japanese Only” hotels), I’ll be surprised.  But I’m not letting this nasty place slide without at least notifying the authorities.  This is just one more reason why we need a law against racial discrimination.

Here come the letters I sent, scanned, plus the reply.  Click on any image to expand in your browser. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

(And a quick word to the Protest Letter Police:  I’m not in the mood to have my grammar corrected, so don’t bother; my letters below have not been proofread by native speakers, but I think they get my points across just fine.  I’m doing the best that I can, and if you think that a letter has to be perfect before it goes out, and I’m somehow “shaming the entire gaijin community” if it’s not, fuck off.  Here are the letters warts and all.)

My letter to the Hotel, Kyou no Yado Fushimi:


My reservation, two pages, with their exclusionary rule based upon language ability:



The hotel’s reply:


My letter to the Kyoto authorities:


UPDATE:  The Kyoto authorities respond, and the hotel rescinds its exclusionary rules.