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Hi Blog. This JT article has been sent to me by lots of people and has stirred up quite a bit of debate in cyberspace. Frankly, I’m a little surprised (albeit happily) that this was in any way treated as news. I thought that this sort of thing was so normalized a practice that people largely ignored it, treated it as part of the background noise/inconvenience of living in a place like Japan. Kudos to the reporter and the Ryuugaku student for taking it up afresh.
It has always been to Debito.org’s great chagrin that we have no page (aside from some “pinprick protest” posts and solutions here, here, here, here, here, and here) dedicated to exclusionary businesses within the rental market. Partially because landlords don’t hang up a shingle saying “Japanese Only” that we can take a picture of to name and shame (like we can and have done for exclusionary businesses open to the public). Racist landlords can instead launder their discrimination through third parties like realtors, keeping incidents scattered and individualized and more or less on the downlow, and making Japan’s rental market a racialized minefield for NJ residents.
One thing that can be done (in the Ryuukoku University case mentioned in the JT article below) is for the university co-op to simply refuse to do business with or advertise apartments to anyone on campus for places with exclusionary practices or landlords. Deny them the lucrative student market. This has to be done systematically back to combat the systematic practices in place. This should be standard practice at all universities, and it is something students (Japanese and NJ) should push for. I know of one place that is considering doing so (more later).
But one of the reasons why this situation persists is not only due to the lack of a law in Japan protecting people from discrimination by race and national origin in the private sector. It is also due to the pedants, apologists, and self-hating gaijin (see the copious comments below the JT article) who riddle debates with cultural relativism, general relativism (e.g., “discrimination happens to everyone in Japan and everywhere in the world”), apologism based upon culturally-based conflict and guilt by association, chauvinism and “the foreigner must have done something wrong” merely by existing in Japan, and red-herring points including privacy and landlord rights (overlooking the fact that landlords already have quite significant power already just as property owners in this situation — before you get to their carte-blanche privilege to be racists). These cyberspace sharks argue against themselves and deter people from banding together and helping each other. They also help to keep discrimination in Japan normalized. We had the same debates during the Otaru Onsens Case (1999-2005, immortalized in all their glory within our new Tenth Anniversary eBook “Japanese Only” on Amazon for $9.99), but fortunately they did not carry the day back then because we won our lawsuits against the racists.
Back to this issue: I look forward to Debito.org Readers sharing their stories of exclusionary landlords and realtors in the Comments Section. Do try to give names, places, and dates if you can. And if you have any visuals of clear exclusionary rules, please send them to me at email@example.com and I’ll find ways to include them with your comment. Arudou Debito
Student seeking Kyoto flat told: No foreigners allowed
Campus cooperative says it is powerless to prevent landlords from discriminating
BY SIMON SCOTT
The Japan Times April 23, 2013, courtesy of lots of people
After spending 2½ years living the quiet life in buttoned-down Shiga Prefecture, Ryukoku University student Victor Rosenhoj was looking forward to moving into bustling central Kyoto, where things promised to be more lively and international. First, though, he needed to find a suitable apartment, so he picked up a copy of the student magazine, Ryudaisei No Sumai, from the cooperative store on campus.
Thumbing through it, Rosenhoj, originally from Belgium, came across an attractive and affordable place just a stone’s throw from Gojo Station in the downtown area. His heart set on the apartment, he made an appointment at the student co-op on the university’s Fukakusa campus, which arranges accommodation for students in the Kyoto area.
When he pointed to the apartment he was interested in, the shop manager told him that no foreigners were allowed to rent the place.
“Well, the very first moment I was told that, I thought I had misheard something. But it soon became clear that it wasn’t a misunderstanding,” Rosenhoj said. “I felt both hurt and angry at the same time, though it took a while for those feelings to really reach the surface.”
Rosenhoj said one of the things that surprised him the most was the “matter-of-fact way” the manager informed him that the apartment was off-limits to foreigners. After Rosehoj confronted the manager about the issue, he says he was somewhat apologetic about it, but at the same time dismissive of the idea that it could be construed as racial discrimination by a foreign customer.
Rest of the article and comments at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2013/04/23/issues/student-seeking-kyoto-flat-told-no-foreigners-allowed/
52 comments on “Japan Times: “Student seeking Kyoto flat told: No foreigners allowed”, and how NJ tie themselves in mental knots”
I appreciate the politics of this website and that I am suppose to kneejerk to say, “how terrible, how racist” but could someone ask the question, “why?” and get to a really honest answer?
My experience is that this might not be immediate easy to do but is not impossible.
For an example, I know that at some Universities there is actually a policy of reverse racism, or positive discrimination, where Korean and Chinese students get to live closer than Japanese students.
Is it a question of landlord’s policy or a choice of flatmates by the students?
If it is the landlord’s policy, is it because he has been stung by foreigners in the past?
What is being defined as “foreigner” here, is it just Caucasians or is it all foreigners? Or is it actually ‘other Asians’, e.g. no Koreans, no Chinese and Caucasians are being bundled in with them?
Is the objection because of their race, the compatibility of their culture or previous bad experiences?
I certainly think that room mates should have a stake in deciding who they share an apartment. I would refuse to share a smoker. I would probably refuse to accept buckets of kimchi in my home (but would be happy enough with a Korean if they could accept that). I would refuse someone who did not take off their shoes at the door. I might even have limited compassion for an idiot who I had to tell how to do everything in a broken, second language in my own home. I would prefer to live with people who shared the same, approximate values and did not want to tell me what to do in my own home. None of that would make me a racist.
But it’s a hell of a lot easier just to say, “no foreigners”.
I need to admit something at this point. I have been a landlord and run a student house on an absolute racist standard. I only had Japanese students.
The reason I only had Japanese students is because we had so much unbelievable trouble with “foreign”, meaning white, tenants. The Japanese paid on time in cash, washed the place down when they arrives, washed the place down when they left, always took their shoes off at the door and treated the property and other tenants with respect and consideration, e.g. regarding noise, lack of damages and so on. They were also able to introduce other Japanese tenants which we could instantly trust to the same degree. It was amazing. And they lived fairly communally together.
If I gave you a break down of experiences we had with Caucasians, some of it would not be printable but typically, rent not paid, people leaving without warning, damage to property, in one case they had a large drunken party in which guest urinated in the hallways and stole brass stair rods, household fittings were remove, rubbish was dumped and left in hallways and shower, they stank and were noisy, the painted walls and tiles without permission, and broke locks to allow them to enter the building, the carpets and bed were filthy after they left and had to be replaced. They moved in other non paying tenants. And I know and have dealt with other landlords having the same problem. Luckily we never experience fights but I know others who have.
Oh, and the Japanese made less noise when they had sex, if they had sex in the property at all, unlike others.
It appears to be a ‘rite of passage’ for foreign (Caucasian) students to trash their apartment when they leave and not pay the last month or two’s rent, which the landlord then loses money over.
The landlord also faces the risk of losing other good tenants, i.e. more income and having to deal with upset neighbors.
So, please, a little bit more depth of reporting please. I am happy to respond from the point of view of a landlord and on the basis of other landlords’ experience.
— I see. We should allow landlords to balance the reportage out and portray themselves as victimized. Even though they essentially have the balance of power in the renter-rentee relationship, as witnessed in their ability to act on their prejudices and discriminate against people (as you clearly have above). Hokay. Keep the debate clean, everyone.
PS: Need a source for your claim, “I know that at some Universities there is actually a policy of reverse racism, or positive discrimination, where Korean and Chinese students get to live closer than Japanese students.” Just stating it as fact without evidence makes you sound like Gregory Clark.
In fairness, I should point out the the properties in question where overseas and not in Japan.
— That’s an enormous omission. Are you discussing in good faith?
“I might even have limited compassion for an idiot who I had to tell how to do everything in a broken, second language in my own home. I would prefer to live with people who shared the same, approximate values….”
1) You think someone who doesn’t speak your language perfectly is “an idiot”.
2) You want to live with people who think the same way as you.
Therefore, under any reasonable definition, you are a full-on racist.
By far the most disconcerting thing, even more than the fact that such racism and discrimination is allowed here, is the matter-of-fact way in which it’s just dismissed – “you’re not allowed to live/enter here, but that’s not discrimination, it’s just Japanese only.”. I’ve heard this argument more than once here and the fact that people can (collectively, no less) work out such flawed lines of reasoning speaks of even deeper issues, I worry.
@Pourquoi non? #1
Interesting… If we’re going by anecdotal evidence, I’ve seen Japanese tenants who:
-Never collected mail, letting it all pile up in the apartment
-Blocked the stairs and corridor with their motorbikes
-Took over all of the bicycle parking spots when they had friends over.
-Came home drunk at 2AM and were laughing and being loud until early morning.
-Left water running on their balcony for a whole weekend, flooding the place.
-Left alarm clocks ringing for a whole day.
-Left the place with no prior notice, leaving furniture and everything behind.
-Had countless pets, despite the no-pet policy.
-Smoked, despite non-smoking policy.
And that’s just what I observed myself over the course of 4 years, in a relatively limited area of the country. Who knows what else might be out there butt hey, if landlords can generalize over a small sample of a certain ethnicity so can I, right?
Furthermore, every other week I’d get a leaflet in the mail advertising a “room cleaning service”, which take care of the mess Japanese tenants leave behind.
A quick google search can get you this kind of results:
If Japanese tenants were so “tidy and orderly”, there certainly wouldn’t be a market for that kind of service, don’t you think?
Based on what I have experienced:
-Landlord decided he didn’t want foreign tenants anymore and evicted a friend of mine (I’ll try to convince him to explain the case here)
-Had a friend be denied apartments over and over just because the landlords wouldn’t rent to foreigners.
-Was told by a smiling real estate agent that they wouldn’t rent to people of my nationality (even though he didn’t know where I am from) because of past bad experiences the company has had. Also, he require any NJ tenant to have a Japanese person would “be responsible for them”, despite the NJ tenant having lived in Japan for more than a decade.
-Real estate agencies declining guarantors for leases because they are NJ.
culture plays a big part in how Japanese people view themselves – and others. Food for thought:
Their solution to the Croatian tour guide being 5 min. late (and starting the tour w/o everyone present!) is NOT to change, but rather, to offer to train the Croatians in Japanese culture… hubris anyone?
So, in Australia today, if rental car companies refuse to rent to Japanese tourists, because they “had a bad experience in the past”, Japanese people should understand?
3 – remember the Japanese man who raped and murdered his English teacher several years ago? Shall I teach white children to be afraid of Japanese men (because of his actions)?
Your argument – that past negative experiences with NJ are justification for discrimination – is ridiculous.
When others do it to Japanese people, you call it racial discrimination (which it is). When Japanese people (like you) do it, it is ok, because previous foreigners did not take their shoes off…?
Racism is racism. It does not depend on culture, and certainly does not depend on who is doing it. When Japanese people (like you), admit to being racist, but refuse to admit they are racist, it just makes their actions worse.
But that too is an integral part of Japanese culture – to behave badly, but refuse to acknowledge it. I want to change Japan’s nickname from “the land of the rising sun” to “the land of the misleading euphemism”. Too direct for you? Don’t let your culture hit you on your way out.
Hi, just a short story from 2011. I was looking for an apartment to share with a friend, both of us freshmen at Osaka University. We went to CJT (www.cjs.ne.jp) – their Ishibashi office, to be precise. After having found a list of places we were interested in, it turned out because we could not even see some of them. The reasons were just “gaijin dame”, or in one case, “gaijin not dame, but there’s 2 of you and you’ll bring [gaijin?] friends inside..”
At the time my Japanese sucked (not that it’s that better right now), and I was ignorant of many many things. I know now I would do otherwise, but then, I just ignored it. And it’s not like this place we’re living in now, that has been introduced to us by the same company, is that bad.
[end of main answer, our problems AFTER renting the place follow]
The only downside is, the building is really old and the walls (especially between floors, as it turned out later) are really thin. That was not a problem at all, since we lived on the first floor, and the apartment above us was empty. However, when an older guy moved above us, the problems began.
We use to stay up late and watch tv/talk together in my roommate’s room (my room being the one below where the neighbor slept), sometimes call our families during the night – this is when he used to start to bang the floor hard. Once, when he got really mad, he used a powerdrill during the night (3AM?). Also, on New Year’s Eve, while I was calling people back home still after midnight, he got pissed and watched loud TV (loud as in, I can hear not only some voices, but also what they were saying…) until ~5AM.
After a couple of months, we couldn’t take it anymore, so went up and asked him what was his problem. This is when we learned about the walls being so thin and being such a bother. (On a side note, we have a family with a small child next to us, they moved in long before the guy I’m writing about, never heard any complaints from them about us being noisy.) We settled eventually to an agreement that we would stop the TV and talking to another no sooner than at midnight. (I found that a bit weird, because before I moved to Japan, I was doing these things, my neighbors probably were too, and nobody had a problem with anything… Then again, as the guy pointed out, thin walls, something that I definetely did not experience before.) Unfortunately, this was not a exactly what I would call a nice conversation… He first wanted us to go back home, accusing us of fleeing from draft, and then after a while, made something akin to a threat, saying that he’ll talk to the landlord and either we or him have to leave this summer…
We had this running gag about “koko wa nihon da yo, temee no kuni ni kaerinayo” or something like that, this being a quote from Gaikokujin Hanzai File… never did we imagine in our wildest dreams that one day, this would actually happen to us…….
Postscriptum: I remember some places at the time clearly having 留学生不可 on their file in CJS.
Hopefully this is already gone by now…
As above, “The only downside is, the building is really old and the walls (especially between floors, as it turned out later) are really thin. ”
My story was, the real estate agent agreed to try for me as I spoke Japanese (this was in the early, bubble 90s) and he tried 28 places. Only 4 said “Gaijin OK if he speaks Japanese” and these places all tended to be over-priced or far from the station, etc.
Which made me think of an anti racist poster I saw in the UK in the 80s. “Black people do not choose slum housing; they are forced to live in them!”
Which seems to be the case in Japan, perhaps even more so.
@Pourquoi non – You are the idiot here.
Housing discrimination in Japan is real and it is based on race. Have PR, in Japan over 15 years, own a medium sized company with very large Japanese clients, am over the 1/2 century mark in age and have a salary probably in the top 2.5% of wage earners in Japan. There are still numerous (more than 1/2) places that will not rent to me. This is one area where Japan is backwards and it is a bad reflection on Japan as a whole. It is also indicative of some of the issues Japan faces with its inability to adapt.
As for your BS about foreign tenants you are welcome to come by my residence sometime and I will show you some Japanese neighbors that are not quite on a level with the Japanese tenants Bruno is talking about in Post 4, but are quite close.
I have also been a landlord (not in Japan) and have had tenants of all races (including Japanese). My Japanese tenants were no better than anyone else.
There is an equal cross section of idiots in any population.
Pourquoi non – What a narrow world view you have…feel sorry for you
Bad news for you buddy, last I checked (2010) there were “外人不可” listings in the local free real estate magazine, so it’s certainly not gotten better in any measurable manner.
I don’t know who the heck you are, and I’m not interested in beating you up because you’re not simply worth it. You just sound like you’re pretending to be inherently dumb because I don’t see anything true about your statement at all. You are so lucky to have your posting right on top ’cause it would certainly be in the shredder if I had my blog and saw exactly the same posting you made here.
Although nowadays it is much less common than two decades ago to see rental residences openly advertised as unavailable to foreigners, the practice still remains very prevalent, just slightly less obvious. Having said that, it certainly does not take much searching to find numerous examples.
For instance, Century 21 Japan (Shibaura Office, センチュリー21芝浦総合管理) offers a number of residences listed as unavailable to foreigners. I would be curious to hear the take of Century 21’s global headquarters on this. Such practices certainly wouldn’t be good for PR of global operations.
Here is one link to an apartment located close to Tamachi Station in Tokyo listed by Century 21 Japan (Shibaura) with that dreaded “外国人不可” (unavailable to foreigners) tag listed in the “特色” field:
Here is a link to that agent’s top page:
A Google site specific search with the query [“外国人不可” site:www.c21net.co.jp] shows 48 residences by this realtor with the “外国人不可” restriction.
re: reverse discrimination, I will take me a few days or so to find out again but I do remember it was also in Kyoto.
I think these matters are serious, I think resolutions should be found but I think they need better researched and reported upon rather than turned into a one sided soapbox debate.
I don’t see any of you admitting problems on the foreigners side nor proposing solutions for them.
If it my money/mortgage, my property, my loss and my family’s livelihood, explain to me what right you have to tell me how to run my life and business the way I want to?
I disagree on the ‘balance of power’ if one has to take legal action against a tenant to remove them or is left to legally pursue them, especially abroad in almost all cases it is just not worth doing so and bad tenants know it.
I suppose from my point of view, I see it more as an exclusive members club point of view rather than “racist” and I see the many of views being expressed here just people complaining that they cannot have what they want, but that is life. You can’t always get what you want and the easiest solution, it would seem, is to make friends who will be responsible for you. That’s the way it works for Japanese too (usual work or family). It’s a good system.
To Joe: No, in that voice I was speaking as a tenant.
Are you suggesting that people should not have a choice in who they should like with?
Why should I not get to choose who I want to live with? (In my case, I was also living in the same mansion block).
Being a private landlord is a private business, we are not talking about social housing here and society’s responsibility to home the homeless, immigrants, or refugees. Being a landlord requires a big investment and has a relatively small return and like any business one tries to minimize one’s losses on the basis of probabilities and, particularly, in minimizing one’s stress. It’s also generally an older person’s employment.
I suppose you will have reject the last arguments I am going to make but I will write them all the same. What you are seeing as “racism” is often a kind of embarrassment, concern or feeling of inadequacy from the Japanese point of view because they do not know what to do or say and are worrying too much about “what if” something goes wrong. That I will admit goes too far.
They want to keep within what they can cope with and this is particularly true of older people. Many of the problems with foreigners arise merely because they are intimidating.
When I see some of you respecting the problems from the landlord side, and proposing solutions for them, then I will take you more seriously.
In the meantime, I would suggest making relationships that will stand guarantor for you, buying your own property and if you complain about not being able to get loans, get together and start your own banks or credit unions.
Stop expect others to cater for you and take responsibility for yourself, and then extend that to other foreigners if you feel so strongly about it.
— Keep it clean, everyone.
I have to wonder if the poor owner of the apartment that Rie Fujii lived in refused to ever rent to Japanese people ever again.
You’re joking with us right?
Why are you even letting this racist anti-NJ guy post?
— Because sometimes it’s a useful exercise to engage actual bigots so you can articulate and hone your arguments. Sometimes, that is. This person was making prejudiced arguments that prima facie sounded cogent, but as Commenters demonstrated by responding were not. The discriminatory system of real estate rentals is egregiously so in Japan because people make these arguments unchallenged (or don’t make them at all, and pass them off as culturally-correct normalized and unquestioned practice). Duly challenged. Thanks for commenting, everyone.
Purquoi non said “we are not talking about social housing here and society’s responsibility to home the homeless, immigrants”
Yes we are.
This thread was about Ryukoku University soliciting NJ students-where are they going to live?
Ditto the 2000 top NJ execs the J Govt keeps wittering on about, not that 2000 actually come here; maybe they cannot find good housing…..
Once again Japan wants foreign money, but not the foreigner.
As a concession to Pourqoui Non, we could perhaps replace the word “racist” with “xenophobic”.
Same difference though.
I can understand that some landlords might see renting to foreign student tenants as involving certain risks, not knowing what to expect, for example, of the cultural background of the potential tenant. Moreover, it’s mostly people in their early twenties we’re talking about, and I guess that the risk of loud and messy parties could in fact be higher depending on the background of the tenant. I’m from Western Europe, and most student parties held in apartments in my country are louder and messier than those I’ve seen in Japan – partly because the Japanese students I know don’t really do house parties. Also, not paying the rent and bills for the last month or so before returning to the country of origin does seem to be somewhat common; I’ve seen people do it in my environment, be it on purpose or by accident. So from a business point of view, I can understand declining to rent to foreign students as a risk minimising move.
That doesn’t change the fact that it’s discrimination, however; you’re judging an individual you haven’t even met purely based on his or her belonging, in your mind, to a fuzzily defined group. I think immediately screaming ‘racism’ is simply inaccurate, though: if we can assume a degree of rationality in the landlords involved, discrimination based on nationality and cultural background would seem to be more likely. That doesn’t make it any better, but let’s at least be accurate.
If you ask me, landlords should be free to make their own business decisions. The colleges involved, however, likely loving to sloganeer about ‘internationalisation’ – which college in Japan doesn’t nowadays? – should put their money where there mouth is, and set acceptance of foreign tenants as a condition on advertising apartments in their cooperative stores and the like.
Pourquoi Non. I have to say have a bit of respect for you talking your piece here. There are two sides of the coin though. All societies have people who act as you describe, even here in Japan. So what I think a lot of the people on this site will try to tell you is that in any society, even here in Japan, to generalize about a given people, or culture, for any reason is very wrong. I mean think of it this way: I had my house broken into twice, yes they were Japanese. So by your logic all Japanese are thieves and should be put in jail to protect society??? Yes???
People are people, some do very good things and some doe very stupid things and some do very bad things. That is what makes a society evolve, grow up, and move forward. So looking at it in that light think to yourself: I am doing business, so there is inherent risk in what I do. It is part of doing business. So instead of just giving a blanket, gaijin dame! Look at the person first. How are they dressing??? Where do they work??? then say oh this person has x chance of doing good business with me. If you can’t seriously do this well then I do believe what others are saying about you. Look at both sides of the coin, not just your side.
@Porquoi Non — “Start your own banks”? Are you serious?
— He’s not. He’s trolling. His IP keeps changing. First it was Holland, then India, and now it just comes up as Anonymous Proxy.
@Pourquoi non? #15
By this point, I can’t be really sure you are not trolling. You are arguing using the same old tropes that everyone here considers to be BS, so it’s really hard to take you seriously…
“I think these matters are serious, I think resolutions should be found but I think they need better researched and reported upon rather than turned into a one sided soapbox debate.”
We have here a report on a newspaper and several people reporting on their cases of discrimination. Even if we consider your anecdotal evidence to be true, why should we consider your report to be true and the others to be false? If it’s going to be “he said this, she said that”, please provide at least one verifiable report for your case.
“I don’t see any of you admitting problems on the foreigners side nor proposing solutions for them.”
Are people supposed to apologize or try to find solutions for foreigners just because they are “foreign” as well? Things do not work that way.
Either way, I have presented problems with Japanese tenants and you have also not admitted to problems or proposed solutions, so…
“If it my money/mortgage, my property, my loss and my family’s livelihood, explain to me what right you have to tell me how to run my life and business the way I want to?”
It’s called the constitution, buddy. You can’t tread on other people’s rights simply because it is your property.
“I disagree on the ‘balance of power’ if one has to take legal action against a tenant to remove them or is left to legally pursue them, especially abroad in almost all cases it is just not worth doing so and bad tenants know it.”
In Japan, “maybe”, but that’s mostly because most people are not comfortable with the idea of legally pursuing something. Elsewhere, I can bet you anything that landlords do sue.
“I suppose from my point of view, I see it more as an exclusive members club point of view rather than “racist” and I see the many of views being expressed here just people complaining that they cannot have what they want, but that is life. ”
An “exclusive members club” governing something that is a basic human right and discriminating on the basis of race or nationality. If you see nothing wrong with that, then you are indeed lost.
“Why should I not get to choose who I want to live with?”
Because you are providing a service. Legally, if they are paying and do not violate any of the conditions on the lease they have a right to live there. Their ethnicity, nationality, or what they do inside 4 walls should be none of your business. By the way, do you run a background check or are this selective of your Japanese tenants as well?
“Being a private landlord is a private business, we are not talking about social housing here and society’s responsibility to home the homeless, immigrants, or refugees.”
The old “discrimination is something the government should do something about, not private business”. This mentality is one of the reasons racism runs rampant in Japan. Again, you don’t get to be deliberately racist just because it is your private business. Were it elsewhere, you’d be out of business in no time flat.
“In the meantime, I would suggest making relationships that will stand guarantor for you, buying your own property and if you complain about not being able to get loans, get together and start your own banks or credit unions.”
Blaming the victim. And no, it does not work. Many people struggle getting credit in Japan because of basic discrimination, and I’ve seen guarantors being refused in a lease despite having real estate and stable employment just because they are foreigners themselves, so the “get together” part does not work if the real estate agency/landlord is being deliberately unreasonable.
Besides, where are people supposed to live until they can “build relationships”, “buy their own property” or “start their own banks or credit unions”? The streets?
I think it is somewhat hilarious that people still try to perpetuate the “Japanese people are clean and tidy” myth. I think about 90% of Japanese households I have seen were the very opposite. Very messy and very untidy to the level of what you see on “hoarders” programs. But it wasn’t just clutter like “Omiyage” boxes or cheap 100-Yen shop crap spilling from all drawers and stacking on the floor – the kitchen areas were often covered with a thick layer of oily gunk, like they were never cleaned at all. Seeing Japanese homes, it becomes very clear that for many, buying crap they don’t need and have no storage for, seems to be the only pastime they engage in.
Now, there are “hoarders” in any culture, they are called “messies” back where I come from, and they often come from poorer and less educated backgrounds. In Japan on the other hand, it seems that this phenomena is not limited to the lower income / education demographic. The psychological issues leading to hoarding would also suggest a connection to modern Japan.
If Japanese people abroad are extra tidy and clean, it might just be out of fear of the consequences in a culture they don’t understand. Still, it is necessary to judge people one by one, and I think that if you had so much trouble with Western tenants, you probably only have yourself to blame for it – a good landlord should have a feeling for potential trouble makers.
I decided to change my mind, since he was willing to take a stab at us on the issue—especially when he espouses the rights of “exclusive members.”
@Pourquoi non?, #15
>If it my money/mortgage, my property, my loss and my family’s livelihood, explain to me what right you have to tell me how to run my life and business the way I want to?
So, you are a property owner, huh!? Still I’m not sure I can believe it or not, but let’s assume you are indeed one of those who you think deserve exclusive rights.
It’s simple. Property owners should make careful decisions on housing applications so that they would offer rents fairly and squarely to tenant candidates, based on their resident status/immigration records, criminal background, jobs/professions, etc. Race and ethnicity should not be prime factors to deny or terminate housing contract whatsoever. Being refused due to foreign-looking is NOT the same as being refused due to history of criminal offense, being alcoholic, drug-addict, carrying diseases, etc. Nor does it alone make him/her to disturb neighbors, destroy properties, or fail to pay the rents for over several months. These happen regardless of whether a contractee is Japanese or non-Japanese. Any argument that justifies rent refusal based on physical appearance–rather than practical evidence (i.e., history of criminal offense, outstanding payments, frequent violation of housing rule) for the protection of one’s interests– is based on one’s speculation that piques the tone of discriminatory practice; and hence, untenable.
I guess now it’s time to tell my own story about this.
After the combined busting of the tech bubble and 9/11 my U.S. company was “restrucutured” and I lost my company apartment, my business class travel, etc. and the trimmings. To save money, I rented a much cheaper place at a local estate agent, and was “guaranteed” by a former Japanese colleague. I was just glad to find a half-decent place (much lower rent than my corporate place, but beggars can’t be choosers).
It was a very hard and depressing time; my girlfriend (now my wife) was away in the U.S. completing her masters degree, my skills, once so highly paid, now left to a local market.
Eventually after about 8 months I picked myself up and got reemployed as a local freelancer at about half what I used to get paid but still, a job is a job, and there was even less prospect of employment back in the U.S. where things for my market were even worse.
Which brings us to the point of the story. I decided to go to the Estate Agency where my colleague had helped me get a place, but now this time went with my girlfriend to search for a bigger, better place. As the fudosan had always been very nice to me, and I’d created “no problems” I felt very sure they would help me out. I’d been in a couple, no more than a couple, may three times I think, to say hello as I know that this sort of behavior or attitude is highly valued.
But immediately we visited the shop, something was wrong. My girlfriend was back and it was our first time at the shop together. We were met by a very cocksure employee, someone I’d not met before, and immediately felt us running into problems. First of all we used to have a rule. I’d become increasingly upset with being treated like a spare part in dealings with Japanese people when we’d been together, and after a couple of years in New York my girlfriend had really flourished. She’d always been independent minded and strong and really now understood my position. Frankly, she’d not been one to exhibit what I would call somewhat stereotypical behavior of some (many) younger Japanese girls. Since I’d known her, she’d never dress “cute” or do things like “giggle” or “titter” with the rather weird and annoying mannerisms that I’d found here. She’s always been her own person really. After coming back from NY, these trends had been magnified, and of course, she was dressed in clothes she’d bought in New York. So looking back, I think the cocksure young guy, you know the type, dressed in a sharp suit and groomed to the point of femininity (I don’t bother to shave even on days off) seemed to take an instant dislike to us, which he had trouble disguising.
So the conversation seemed to immediately shoot off into a weird angle. I started, and the boy was pleasant enough, but this rapidly turned into bemusement and then something uncomfortable for him when his attempts to ignore me and engage my girlfriend instead were ignored by my girlfriend, who every time had the conversation bounced at her, turn round and looked at me, silently.
So then the boy started with what I could very patronizing “baby talk” Japanese. This started to frazzle me, because, after all, all I wanted was an apartment, I was a customer- I thought- in good standing and the fudosan stood to make more money out of the higher rental and of course all the other fees. As the boy dealing with me was a good deal younger than me I decided, you know, just to tell him, look, can we just get down to business here. As you can see I speak good Japanese, so can you show me some places with rent around 150,000 to 200,000 yen…you know, just a small place but something better than the IDK I had.
This was suddenly too much for the employee who sneered at us, looking at my girlfriend – “We don’t rent these sort of places to people like you…” he burst out, “staring at my girlfriend.”
I really was shocked. Then the penny dropped. He didn’t know us of course, and he’d probably figured my girlfriend as Korean, or who knows, even worse, gasp, Chinese! As she was so quiet, she obviously might have been someone uneducated I’d picked up…I could read it all his face…I can’t imagine what he was thinking, but I guess some people who read this blog can make a go of it!
I mean this really is too much. Why should profession in his mid-30s have to put up with this garbage from some boy of a local estate agent. You know, be openly insulted like that?
My girlfriend gave him a look that should have made him cringe- this was really too much for her. She icily started asking him who he thought he was, and what he meant. As she was older and obviously much more intelligent and educated than him, I would have expected him to back down, but he was evidently a king sized trainee asshole… it was really unpleasant. So I waded in to him, saying basically who the hell are you to treat us like this as I am a customer….at which point the manager, who knew me, entered the shop and said, you know “Ohayo Mr. XXXXXXX, how are you…”
You should have seen the look on the the rat’s face. I don’t know whether he was going to explode in embarrassment or anger. I was so angry myself at this point, and my girlfriend was pissed, I just got us up and we walked off.
No doubt the manager was told a distorted side of the story- of course who knows. But I even think we could have even become an example of why it’s difficult to rent to gaijin- you know they get angry and are difficult to deal with and don’t understand our customs.
Never mind the outright insulting behavior and blatant racism. That doesn’t count for anything, as there is no law against it, and there is always someone else to rent to.
If a potential tenant is being knocked back purely on the fact that he is “not Japanese” then lawsuit.
Guesthouses and hostels do have issues with foriegners being obnoxious; I think your referring to those residences. Including the rest of us as being like that is just being ignorant and an apologist for all things racist Japan. A majime universtiy student or PR individual with spouse and kids seeking a residence is an all together different situation. There are two very open and well known areas of discrimination experienced by NJ in Japan: housing and employment. Without longterm housing and stable employment, its hard to live in Japan unless you live in a hotel with money from abroad or an expat or US military base employee. It would be self destructive for a student or longterm resident not to comply with the social norms of living in Japan; only those who are here for short stays can act uncivilized. I found your post to be laughable at best, and an insult to those of us that have been here for over 10 years. As for foriegners being nasty and Japanese the epitome of clean- I beg to differ. As with all things in Japan, many Japanese appear to be clean but the actual is something all together different. Visit any resturant and pull out the appliances; youll be amazed at what you find. Real cleaning is done once a year here, until then its neglected. Being proactive and taking initiative is discouraged here. so cleaning is done when its “ok” to clean (before shogatsu). Ive been in some apartments in Japan, rented by single Japanese, that were filthy and disgusting. Thats why you pay that deposit; a cleaning company comes in and sanitizes the place. I been shafted many times with making my place sparkle before I left, only to find out the Japanese guy next door left a huge pile of grease, nimotsu etc, and nobody said a word about it because he was Japanese. The cleaning company just came in and cleaned it up; he went somewhere else and did the same thing. You ever see any post about nasty Japanese leaving their mess behind? It goes on here all the time, both in business and private. Its perfectly ok to bash the foriegner, as your doing, but to air Japanese dirty laundry is a no no.
I can’t understand, since I know universities want more foreign students, but these students could have a problem with finding a place to live.
The government needs an anti-discrimination law when it comes to housing.
In my case, I have two small dogs, so 90% of places will not rent to me.
When I first arrived, back in 2000, I was looking at a place in Machida with my boss and the rental agent.
My boss was surprised that she showed me a certain place and he said that before this landlord would not rent to foreigners.
The agent said the landlord changed her mind since she needed money. I guess money is better than having an empty place.
“..If it my money/mortgage, my property, my loss and my family’s livelihood, explain to me what right you have to tell me how to run my life and business the way I want to?..”
If the transaction is “business” then it must comply with the business laws of the country, i.e. it is not a private matter.
Thus you suggesting that it is perfectly acceptable under Japanese law to discriminate someone in business, QED.
However, if you are implying there are such laws then you are clearly the racist.
Whatever the debate, the opposing views must always be heard, no matter how distasteful they may be to the opposing side. It also serves, as Debito points out, as an education. Otherwise everyone is signing from the same hymn sheet…ok…so what, for what reason..to be a ‘member’ of an elite club or sorts?? Hmmm…
In my line of work, I strongly encourage opposing views as a necessity.
An opposing view is not the criteria/definition of a “troll”!
— No. It’s just that certain people under no circumstances will either consider or engage in a discussion of opposing views. They come on to express dogma, stir things up, and then leave. “Pourquoi” became a troll when 1) he expressed the same opposing views as dogma without taking into account counterargument or engaging in constructive discussion, 2) he expressed views about whole peoples in a way that were antithetical to the essence of this blog (as he admitted in his opening sentence), i.e., bigoted if not racialized views, and 3) he anonymized himself through IP laundering to make himself untraceable and avoid responsibility for his statements. Okay, bye bye then. He had his say. And that’s all he’ll say, so take his statements apart for the fallacies therein and understand better for yourselves why unfettered discrimination is a bad thing for societies.
There have been a few lawsuits of people being denied apartments because they weren’t japanese, and they won.
So, if you REALLY want the place you can sue.
The one that comes to mind is this:
“..he anonymized himself through IP laundering to make himself untraceable and avoid responsibility for his statements…”
Ahh that’s the deal breaker. Bit of a give away after that 🙂
Education/information is always the key….in this case, you have more information than ‘we’ do about ones anonymity, which helps to clear things up too 😉
@ Big nose #25, what a terrible story, and I think all of us have had an experience like that; it is these defining moments that turn Japan fans into detractors.
In hindsight (easy enough to say, sorry), you should have just asked for the manager you knew; doing it the so called “Japanese way”. As an older, existing client you do not need to deal with or talk to the kid. Just pull rank by being the customer, the elder, the person with an existing relationship with someone else there.
So unfortunately, the kid won as he was able to get a rise out of you,you fell into the angry gaijin trap he set, and you left. Then I am sure he could laugh it off with his boss with a few old stereotypes.
I can appreciate it is not easy to deal with this situation; the solution is just to not bother and only deal with people you know, another “Japanese” way of doing things. And this tends to come with experience of being in Japan a few years, and realizing that the kid in the Hosto suit is just a gopher and not deserving of your time.
I suppose I would have gone back later, or called the older guy you knew, and complained about the kid’s dress sense and hair, i.e. adopting a conservative old Japanese customer’s crusty mindset, and use it against them, but then I am quite vindictive when riled, and perhaps you are not.
The most alarming signal of this story though, is how racist and bigoted the younger J-generation can be. The most optimistic thing I can draw from this is that if the kid dresses like a Shinjuku pimp and thinks and speaks to you the way he did, then he is possibly ignorant, uneducated and would be better suited working for the right wing yakuza;real estate has of course traditionally been their game, after all…
Ahhh! You had me going that time, you scoundrel! 😃
I’m currently enjoying a couple weeks off from Japanese culture back home, and it really helps putting things in perspective. From afar, all this talk by Mr. Purquoi Non about how tidy and orderly, and not outspoken the Japanese are, which I have found to be a huge source of self-esteem in many people I met there, after all isn’t really much else than secondary rationalizing the inability to communicate to, and connect with, other cultures. What they think will be seen as a positive character trait is actually coming across as being inhibited, boring, and not trustworthy. Not having the b. to say what you think and want stands in the way of accepting them as proper grown-ups.
The skipping out on the rent argument doesn’t make sense. When I lived in Japan (most recently), I paid up front for my house – first month’s rent, last month’s rent, key money, “thank-you” money to the property manager. The landlord’s getting paid, and my advice to any who are worried about foreign tenants – address your issues in the contract. Don’t want people stinking up the place with exotic food — put it in the contract. Don’t want loud parties – put it in the contract. Rent due promptly due no later than the 2nd of the month – in the contract. It’s what happened to me. My story was not one of discrimination like the others, but if anything, it shows that there are landlords who do in fact want that money, whether it comes from a J or an NJ. I agree that the university should blacklist property managers who deal with owners who deny foreigners, but I also feel that educating property owners is essential.
Agree with post 35 that the skipping out argument is not valid.
From a different perspective, when Permanent Residents with further ties either through business ownerships or families and substantial incomes are denied being able to rent it is very difficult to argue it is anything but racism.
That aside, even the lack of Permanent Residency and having a job that pays a low wage should not disqualify someone from renting. If a person is here legally with a paying job and can afford the rent they should have a place to live. Unfortunately there is little recourse for this in Japan and that is one thing that Debito-san has been arguing for consistently for years that I agree with.
I do not always agree with posts here but this one is a big issue. I think housing discrimination is pervasive in Japan and it is a black eye on the country and society as a whole.
We had a contract when we bought our first house. That’s when i discovered that contracts and law are totally meaningless in Japan. It is lip service to appease a “wider” audience, look, we have laws, we care we are civilised. Utter rubbish. Oh, and yes, we took our estate agent to court…took 2 years cost us loads of money, we “won” but a pyrrhic victory, as the lying cheating fraudulent estate agent was allowed to keep our money because “well, they did provide a service to you”…just to maintain the “harmony” of J society because it wasn’t deemed fair to allow us to win and keep our money! Bollocks…
@ Baudrillard # 32
Thank you for telling me what you thought I should have done, and I guess I should appreciate your appreciation of how hard it must have been for me, and thank you for your “advice” on what you think was my “mishandling” of the situation.
But this was ten years ago. Oh dear.
My point is not to get advice on what I should I have done (I disagree with you on what you think I should I have done, despite your “appreciation” of how difficult it was for me, actually I felt I handled it fine as there was a no-win situation and I ended up somewhere far better because of it) but to point out how little things have changed.
What is your point about Fudosan and the Yakuza though- are you saying that estate agencies (both small ones) and the larger chains are linked to the Yakuza? That was quite interesting, can you tell me more about this?
お問合わせ物件 XXXXX 201号
This is what you get after visiting a japanese real state agency, even if you have a decent japanese and money in the pocket to pay as much “reikin” and shikikin as they want to ripoff.
@ Big nose
it is quite common for the yakuza to operate offices ostensibly as real estate agents, and often said that somewhere down the line, any real estate agent will have to deal with them.
I was not really offering advice to you per se as it is all in hindsight, merely pointing out that the so called Japanese way can be turned and used against little chinpira’s like the one you had the misfortune to encounter.
Youth are disenfranchised in Japan so an older, existing customer (that was you) can just ignore them. Ironic, but sadly if youth are going to give you a hard time, just put them in their place as an Oyaji, NJ or not!
It was 10 years ago, but you could still the friendlier older guy a ring, ask if the younger guy is still there, and then give him a kind of “friendly reminder” of the poor service that the younger guy (who has probably moved on) gave you, and THAT is why they have not seen your business since then. They may thank you for your feedback.
I have done this a few times, calling up people to complain 10 or 15 years later. Japanese corporations think/plan in the long term and as its a nation of “Oyaji” (lol) 10 years actually is not actually as long ago as it would appear.
Don’t get mad, get even. It might help the next hapless NJ who chances through that real estate agent’s doors.
I feel that the lack of right to housing for non-Japanese in Tokyo is at the forefront of necessary changes. There are other issues: work options, child custody, various forms of insurance. What makes housing at the top of my list is that everybody wants and needs someplace to call home.
For the most part housing in Tokyo isn’t anything special. A room with a bed, a small kitchen, another room, a dusty veranda. I don’t mind the setup. There are a lot of people in Tokyo, and not much space.
When a landlord denies me access based on my race to such basic forms of housing and after being willing to pay so much just to get in the door, it’s a serious affront. Got a job. Got credit cards. Been here more than a few years. Got a guarantor.
Believe me — I can be responsible for a shoebox.
I may be a bit noisy in comparison to the average Japanese tenant, but I’m not some raging hooligan screaming my head-off, late with the rent.
— And yet, as I argued in my blog post and evidenced in the trollery happening both here and at the Japan Times comments section, even NJ themselves will argue against themselves, essentially agreeing that NJ don’t deserve a place to rest their head at night because they are NJ. I think we should start to turn our thoughts towards that phenomenon.
Sorry to hear you got hosed; my experience wasn’t bad at all. I should mention (sorry I didn’t before) that my property manager I heard about via word of mouth from a couple other NJ friends, and they had good things to say about him. He didn’t deal exclusively with NJ, but he spoke enough English to communicate in his trade (not that I needed that), and the two houses and one duplex-type he initially showed me had owners that apperantly had no issues with where I was from.
Also, the property owner for the house I rented worked in the used car trade (primarily going through auctions), so he had working contacts with NJ though that.
I thought that a strict interpretation of Japanese law states that discrimination at work and for housing in Japan is illegal. I was recently told that I was not elligible for a job because that company had never had the experience of hiring a foriegner. Is this discrimination? So you go to rent an apartment and the realtor say the owner has never had the experience for renting to a foriegner. How is one to interpret that? Shoganai? Situational ethics? The unique Japanese custom of getting to know you first, then opening the door? And all this hassel for, as you put it, a shoebox? Then more fun is to come as the neighbors complain if you make any noise at all so to do any hobby I must go to the park. It boggles the mind as to why anybody would be an apologist here.
A possible explanation for NJ agreeing with the idea that they aren’t worth the shoe box may stem from a feeling of guilt. As a “guest” in the country, the NJ may feel as though she or he is intruding on their Japanese neighbors. The Japanese neighbors may be at work all day and when they come home at night the last thing the Japanese neighbor wants to hear is some foreigner banging away at some hobby while carrying on with an extended, emphatic Skype conversation.
I can kind of see the rationale. The feeling of intruding causing a sense of guilt which would then cause the NJ to put themselves down.
The above description is by no means an endorsement for systemic racist policy, neither is it a blanket statement for all the reasons why NJ would proliferate such policies. I’m trying to focus on the emotional reasoning of the individual, not macro-sized chunks of vague political thought-speak.
@ Todd, above. I have concluded that J apologism, a fascinating phenomenon, is a postmodern disconnect from what we all wanted Brand Japan to be, and the reality we face.
We were desperate to put blatant examples of unpleasantness and discrimination as “exceptions”.
“..I have concluded that J apologism, a fascinating phenomenon, is a postmodern disconnect from what we all wanted Brand Japan to be, and the reality we face…”
Funnily enough, it also work the other way too. The Japanese and their disconnect with real life and different cultures that do not conform to “their expectations”, highlighted by the “Paris Syndrome”. If you’re unfamiliar with this, here is a nice article about it:
“..Many of the visitors come with a deeply romantic vision of Paris – the cobbled streets, as seen in the film Amelie, the beauty of French women or the high culture and art at the Louvre. The reality can come as a shock…. for the Japanese – used to a more polite and helpful society in which voices are rarely raised in anger – the experience of their dream city turning into a nightmare can simply be too much.”
Your situation is unfortunate, if country of citizenship was the sole discriminator in you not being considered for that job (i.e. otherwise fully qualified, already had the visa that allowed you to work in that profession or a visa that allowed you to work in any profession). There might be some private companies that, for national security purposes (like a private contractor working for the Ministry of Defense), require Japanese citizenship. And I don’t believe that a company should be obligated to sponsor a visa.
I don’t know if there’s any legal precedent you might be able to use; the only NJ employment discrimination case I’m familiar with is Park Jong-Suk v Hitachi. BLUF: He applied for the job at Hitachi as Arai Shoji, they hired him, and then subsequently fired him when the found out he had no family registration certificate (because he was NJ). Where this case may be different from your situation is that Mr. Park was already accepted for the job when Hitachi fired him for being NJ. Hope that helps. Here’s a link that provides some background on Mr. Park:
Takes me back to my days of looking for an apartment in the Kiba area, some years ago.
I was in a good job, very cashed up, spoke quite presentable Japanese, had my Japanese fiance along with me and her very wealthy lawyer father lined up to act as guarantor, so didn’t really anticipate that I’d have any problems.
I was astounded to have the door closed in my face over and over again.
The best explanation came from one agent who claimed to have absolutely no problem with foreigners renting from them. The conversation went along the lines:
Me: (Repeatedly stung by refusals) So it will be no problem for a foreigner to rent here?
Real Estate Agent: Of course not! Of course, you’ll need a guarantor
Me: No problems, my soon-to-be father in law will act as guarantor
REA: No, it has to be a relative.
Me: But my relatives live overseas
REA: No problem.
Me: So you’d like my mother or father to be guarantor?
REA: No, the guarantor has to be Japanese. And a parent.
Me: So my father in law would be the better option?
REA: No, they need to be a blood relative.
Me: But I’m foreign.
Me: But you said that you would lease to a gaijin
Me: But they need a Japanese parent?
Me: So I don’t need to be Japanese, but my parents need to be?
Much happier back home.
I recently had a similar experience to this chap. I visited Hello Work and went through the usual gaijin dame rounds with the calls from the counsler. So the counsler tabs through his employment book, and had a list of about 10 companies who are ‘foriegner friendly” I asked him what about all the other companies, they can discriminate? I thought the law prohibited that. Isnt this what the law says:
“All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin”
He gave the usual confusing manipulating answer, like these companies will allow a foriegner to work there. I said thats not what I am asking. Why cant the other companies do the same? The usual answer is to take it up the the J government. I thought they were employees of the J gov, enjoy the puzzel. Still lots of work to be done here. One of the forienger friendly places I think he called already had a foriegner, but didnt want any more. I guess they had a one pet policy.
Not to turn this into a pissing contest, but seriously? I went to the Hello Work down in Roppongi quite a while ago and applied for positions with companies which didn’t necessarily want foreigners. The HW folks called up those companies to see if I was acceptable and what it all came down to was whether or not I could speak Japanese well enough to function smoothly in their offices. Although eventually offered, I didn’t take any jobs with those companies only because I found a better deal elsewhere.
And “one pet policy” . . . really? Come on man.