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Maori woman refused entry to bath due to traditional tattoos
SAPPORO, Sept. 12, 2013 Kyodo News, courtesy of JK
A public bath facility in Eniwa, Hokkaido, refused entry to a Maori woman from New Zealand due to her face tattoos, a facility official said Thursday.
The Maori language lecturer, 60, has the tattoos, called ta moko, worn traditionally by some indigenous New Zealanders, on her lips and chin. She was in Hokkaido for a conference on indigenous languages in the town of Biratori in the northernmost prefecture.
On Sunday afternoon a group of 10 people involved in the conference visited the thermal baths but were refused entry by a facility staff member.
When a member of the group claimed the decision was discriminatory, the staff replied that the facility prohibits entry to anyone with tattoos in order to put customers at ease.
“Even if it is traditional culture, a typical person cannot judge the context behind the tattoos,” the facility official told reporters.
An Ainu language lecturer who was in the group said he felt sorry to disappoint an important guest.
“It is unfortunate that other cultures are not understood,” he said.
According to the food and sanitation section of the Hokkaido prefectural government and the National Federation of Public Bath Industry Trade Unions, the law on public baths allows operators to refuse entry to customers with infectious diseases, but does not rule on customers with tattoos.
Prohibition of tattoos is often used by public facilities in Japan to prevent entry by members of the country’s organized crime groups, many of whom have tattoos on their bodies.
Hi Blog. Oh the ironies of the above happening. It’s standard practice nationwide at many public bathhouses to refuse entry to Japanese with tattoos because they might be yakuza, and it’s long been a debate when one gets NJ who have tattoos as fashion statements.
(Courtesy Debito.org Rogues’ Gallery. Note sign and people with tattoos, on left. And while we’re at it, note sign that refuses foreigners who can’t speak Japanese and who don’t have valid visas. More information here.)
But what really floors me is that a) it’s in Hokkaido, site of the famous Otaru Onsens Case (where people were refused entry just for being foreign; well, okay, just looking foreign), b) it’s in Hokkaido, site of the indigenous Ainu (whose conference in Biratori this indigenous Maori lecturer was attending), and c) it’s a traditional face tattoo, which the Ainu themselves used to have before the GOJ outlawed them:
Well, luckily for these bathhouse owners the GOJ erased that culture in its indigenous Ainu, not to mention erased most of the Ainu culture and people themselves. So nobody in Japan can claim cultural suppression of expression of tattoo culture anymore since suppression worked so well.
But wait, there’s more irony. Check this out:
Gov’t aims to complete national Ainu museum for 2020 Olympics
Full text of articles below. Submitter JK notes:
On the one hand, it’s about time the Ainu get the recognition they deserve. Yet on the other hand, focusing on the Ainu creates a cultural blind spot:
“The project aims to end discrimination against Ainu people in Japan and create a society where people of different ethnicities can live together in harmony.”
Wait, hold on – why stop with just the Ainu? Why not end discrimination against *all* people in Japan and create a society where people of different ethnicities can live together in harmony?
My fear is that the GOJ will use the Olympics to politicize the Ainu at the expense of other NJ (e.g. Zainichi Koreans, immigrants).
That’s precisely the point, really. If we’re the GOJ, we’ll turn a blind eye towards (if not actively promote) the cultural suppression and denial of domestic ethnic diversity.
Except when we’re on our best behavior because the eyes of the world are on us. Then we’ll pay lip service to the ending of discrimination against one minority group. Never mind the others.
And if anyone comes here during the Olympics and gets refused service somewhere? Sorry, shikata ga nai. We have no laws against racial discrimination in Japan. Even though it’s closing in on twenty years since we promised to do so when signing the UN CERD in 1995. Maybe if you give us the Olympics a few more times, we’ll promise to protect a few more minorities.
I assume the Maori researcher has a topic for her next research paper. Arudou Debito
先住民族マオリ女性の入浴拒否 北海道・石狩管内の温泉、顔の入れ墨理由に（道新 09/12 06:25）
Gov’t aims to complete national Ainu museum for 2020 Olympics
September 11, 2013 (Mainichi Japan)
SAPPORO — The national government’s panel to work on revitalizing Ainu culture has decided to complete the building of an Ainu-themed museum and memorial park around Lake Poroto in Shiraoi, Hokkaido, by the summer of 2020, with a goal to promote Japan’s multiethnic culture during the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, chairman of the Council for Ainu Policy Promotion, said, “The government aims to make the 2020 Olympics an opportunity for people overseas to learn about Ainu culture.” His comments came during a panel meeting on Sept. 11 to explain the plan to complete construction of the “Symbolic Place for Ethnic Harmony” as a national center for Ainu culture revitalization before the Games begin in Tokyo in July 2020.
The project aims to end discrimination against Ainu people in Japan and create a society where people of different ethnicities can live together in harmony. It will conduct studies on Ainu history and culture while working on human resource development for the cultural preservation of the Ainu. The government also plans to bury bones of Ainu people at the site, which have been collected from their graves for research purposes by institutions including the University of Tokyo and Hokkaido University.
An expert panel on Ainu policy blueprinted the idea of building the memorial museum and park in 2009 as the 2008 Diet resolution concluded that the Ainu were an indigenous people of Japan.
毎日新聞 2013年09月11日 東京夕刊