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Hi Blog. I’m sorry for taking some time to get to this: I’ve been rather busy recently, and I was hoping that an English-langauge article would take this issue up and save me the need to carve out some time translating from the vernacular press. Found a couple references (a passing one here and a more elaborate contextualizing in the Japan Times here), but they’re missing a couple of important nuances, so here goes:
47News.jp (article below) reports that the Ministry of Justice Legal Affairs Bureau has refused to acknowledge a “No Foreigners” apartment as a violation of human rights. This is the outcome of a case back in 2013, where an exchange student at Ryuukoku University was denied a flat despite going through the Student Union, and he took it to the Bureau of Human Rights for the official word on the subject. Now more than two years later (presumably the poor chap wasn’t living on the street in the interim), the MOJ determined that the foreigner-averse landlord had not violated anyone’s human rights, refusing to elaborate further. Great. Job well done and great precedent set, BOHR.
Two things of note before I get to the article: One is a media bias. Note how once again the 47News.jp article portrays the issue incorrectly in its sidebar illustration:
(from 47News.jp, March 30, 2015)
It’s not “Foreigner Discrimination” (gaikokujin sabetsu no jirei). It’s racial discrimination, because the first case they cite (the Otaru Onsens Case in 1999) eventually has a Japanese being refused too. Yet the Japanese media will almost always refuse to undermine the incorrect narrative that racial discrimination never happens in Japan.
Second thing is that Japan’s generally ineffective Potemkin Bureau of Human Rights (jinken yougobu) has a long history of blind-eyeing the very thing it’s charged with protecting against. As further evidence of its ineffectuality – even complicity with discriminators – here is an example where the Sapporo BOHR advised a local government (Otaru) that it has no legal obligation to pass ordinance against racial discrimination, only suggesting that the city make such an ordinance if it considers it necessary. This from my book “Japanese Only: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan” (Tokyo: Akashi Shoten) , pg. 347 in the English version:
(Annotations within the document by the Sapporo BOHR.) Further, the BOHR has denied information to claimants on the pretext of protecting claimants from their own privacy, so I wholeheartedly agree with the exchange student’s complaints about the lack of transparency. So this latest event of saying a blanket exclusionary policy as not a violation of human rights is but one more example to record on Debito.org for posterity.
Translation of the article without footnotes follows, with full article in Japanese. Any errors are mine. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
(Foreigner Apartment Refusal) Ministry of Justice on “No Foreigners” apartments: not acknowledged as a violation of human rights. Student Union that introduced the apartment apologizes to student.
47News.jp, from Kyodo, March 30, 2015, provisional translation by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
A European exchange student in his twenties who wished to rent an apartment in Kyoto could not get a rental contract because the apartment was “No Foreigners”. He asked for recourse from the Ministry of Justice’s Legal Affairs Bureau in Kyoto for discrimination against foreigners, but the Legal Affairs Bureau refused, stating, “We cannot determine that the facts constitute a violation of human rights.”
The Student Union at Ryukoku University in Kyoto, who acted as the interlocutor to the realtor, apologized to the student, and has ceased introductions to places that refuse foreigners. The university has advised the Student Union to improve its services. The student’s supporters have voiced the need for seeing how the Legal Affairs handled the issue as a problem.
Lack of Transparency
The Ministry of Justice has called for the end of street demonstrations expressing discrimination against foreigners that may be called hate speech [sic]. On its online home page it introduces a case of “a barber who refused customers on the basis of them being foreigners” as a violation of human rights. As to this case of the refused student, the Ministry of Justice refused to explain further why this was not acknowledged as the same. The student criticized the situation, saying “the Legal Affairs Bureau’s handling lacks transparency.”
The student attempted to rent the apartment in Kyoto through the Student Union in January 2013, but was told at the Union that the landlord refused. In September 2014, the Bureau notified him that “We decided that it was unclear that there had been a violation”. “We admonished (keihatsu, or “enlightened”) the Student Union.” According to Ministry of Justice guidelines, even in cases where there has not been a violation of human rights, admonition can be carried out.
However, the exchange student raised the question, “Wouldn’t most Japanese think that this is discrimination? Would only admonishing without any legally-binding force actually stop this from happening again?” He repeated, “I had the chance to learn and grow from learning Japanese culture, but I was quite hurt by this problem.”
Easing the Unease
Ryuukoku’s Student Union leader Doumen Yuuko sees that this landlord’s refusal to rent to foreigners is but a “vague feeling of unease” (bakuzen to shita fuan). Thanks to this case, the Student Union no longer refers students to renters that have “no foreigners” policies. She said that recently the Union is politely explaining to landlords that the former will handle any troubles that result from unpaid rents and differences in lifestyles. Ms. Doumen added, “As a university, we accept many kinds of people. It’s important that we see diversity not only in regards to foreign exchange students.”
When contacted by Kyodo News for a comment, the representative for the Bureau, a Mr. Ohyama Kunio, responded, “We cannot comment on that case, or on whether we took up that case.” For the sake of preserving privacy, the Bureau does not publicly speak as a matter of principle on cases that have been raised for relief.
Ms. Moro-oka Yasuko, a lawyer that takes on cases of foreigner discrimination, suggested, “They probably are thinking that because the landlord refused the exchange student before it got to the contract stage, that’s why it didn’t become an explicit violation of human rights.”
The Japanese Government, a signatory to the UN Convention for the the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, has the duty to forbid discrimination. However, Japan’s human rights organs have a deep-rooted image of having “insufficient enforcement power”. Ms Moro-oka charged, “As agreed to in the treaty, Japan must make a law to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.”
MAIN ARTICLE ENDS. (Footnotes untranslated.)
【外国人入居拒否】 法務局、人権侵犯認めず アパートの「外国人不可」 仲介の大学生協は謝罪
47News.jp 2015/03/30 Courtesy of HT
龍谷大生協の 堂免裕子 （どうめんゆうこ） 専務理事は、家主側は部屋を外国人に貸すことに「漠然とした不安」を感じているとみている。今回の問題をきっかけに、「外国人不可」の賃貸住宅の仲介をやめた。最近は、未払い家賃の補償制度や生活習慣をめぐるトラブルへの対応を、家主側に丁寧に説明しているという。堂免さんは「大学はいろいろな人を受け入れる。留学生に限らず多様性（ダイバーシティ）という観点が重要だ」と話す。
法務省人権擁護局は共同通信の取材に対し「そうした事案を取り扱ったかどうかも含めてお答えできない」（ 大山邦士 （おおやま・くにお） 調査救済課長）と答えた。同省はプライバシーの保護などを理由に、人権救済の申し立てへの対応は原則として公表していない。
外国人差別問題に取り組む 師岡康子 （もろおか・やすこ） 弁護士は「留学生に対し家主が契約の段階で断るといった行為がないと人権侵犯には当てはまらない、と考えているのではないか」と推測する。
17 comments on “Kyodo: Ryukoku U exchange student denied “No Foreigner” Kyoto apartment in 2013; MOJ in 2015 decides it’s not a violation of human rights!”
A bit surprised by how late this article was posted here considering how significant this ruling is. This ruling appears to be effectively legitimizing racial discrimination in business in Japan. As someone who deals closely with international students, the issue of students facing racial discrimination when searching for housing (especially graduate students or researchers visiting Japan) is major. I do not know of one single student who has not faced this difficulty in one form or another, and they receive no assistance on the part of the real estate company or the university.
The lack of news coverage about this ruling and the impact also is very telling too. I have seen nothing other than this in the general news in Japan.
In my opinion, this ruling is a national disgrace for the country of Japan and its so-called “justice system” and I hope to find more about this situation in Japan and what can be done.
— I agree, and again, I apologize for the delay in Debito.org getting to it. It came out basically while I was in transit to St. Louis for the Colorism Conference, and since then things have been a real whirlwind, making it difficult to carve out the couple of hours I needed to do this issue justice with proper background research and translation. If some English-language press had also taken it up right afterwards, it would have gotten up here sooner with simple citation. But as you know, I’m but one person managing this site. People who want to translate articles themselves (you, perhaps?) and post them to me for inclusion on Debito.org are also welcome, and their work will as always be acknowledged by name or pseudonym.
1.“We decided that it was unclear that there had been a violation”.
How much clearer can it be? The add says “no foriegners”. That is discrimination.If you can’t see that then you don’t understand what racial discrimination means.
2. “representative for the Bureau, a Mr. Ohyama Kunio, responded, “We cannot comment on that case, or on whether we took up that case.” For the sake of preserving privacy, the Bureau does not publicly speak as a matter of principle on cases that have been raised for relief.”
So then what’s on your website Mr. Ohyama? Cases that you just made up by yourself?
Debito, yeah, sorry if I was a bit harsh. I imagine it is quite difficult to manage everything, as I know there was a lot going on that week. Please don’t misunderstand my primary frustration though, as it isn’t with your post but the sheer lack of coverage in Japanese and foreign media on such a major issue and story like this. It is almost non-existent considering how major (and downright revolting) of a ruling that this is.
I believe this article is related by the way http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/04/09/national/social-issues/anti-discrimination-laws-sub-par-expert/
Again, thanks for posting this. I hope to see more in every news and social outlet regarding such blatant racial discrimination in Japan. Despite Japan’s claim it is globalizing education in Japan, I see little sign of that outside of campus in regards to living conditions, or laws to protect from discrimination.
This is also a good example of the reason why other countries have established solid legal systems. With a legal system there is oversight in terms of avenues of appeal. There is also transparency in that the court record of any decision is available.
In Japan, with racial discrimination, it’s just one old man, who decides yes or no, and no record or deliberations, no appeal, no transparency.
It’s kind of a sick joke.
I love the typically Japanese ‘solution’ listen in the original Japan Times article:
“The co-op, for its part, has since moved to improve the way it introduces accommodation to foreign students. Starting in fiscal 2014, it began to remove from its brochures details for apartments that have a no-foreigner policy.”
Great, this ‘improvement’ just sweeps the existing problem under the carpet, and avoids conflict whilst legitimising the existing discrimination and violation of foreigners human rights to seek shelter/housing…
“This is also a good example of the reason why other countries have established solid legal systems”
Yes, so true. Some admire Japans soft approach (stituational eithics) to the law as opposed to the more decisive hard approach of Western law, but that approach only works with a homogenus one mind citizetry. Its why multiculuralism or immigration will be difficult or impossible to implement long term in Japan. Of course they know this and will never allow it. If, for example, you work for no pay, try taking it up with the labor office. They will just give the employer a warning. After all, its you the foreigner who was given the great privilege to live and work in Japan.
“…Thanks to this case, the Student Union no longer refers students to renters that have “no foreigners” policies…”
Hmm..so, rather than stating to all landlords, one must accept any student J or NJ (as per UN rules require), or such places will be removed from the student unions listings….they take the pathetic weak option of just highlighting NJs are not accepted. Some SU that is!!
“…Ms. Moro-oka Yasuko, a lawyer that takes on cases of foreigner discrimination, suggested, “They probably are thinking that because the landlord refused the exchange student before it got to the contract stage, that’s why it didn’t become an explicit violation of human rights.” ..”
Aahhh…ok, so when was refused from entering a bar in Kobe, because they didn’t actually let me inside, there was no violation. Great Stuff 🙂
This just epitomises the “law” and cover-up in Japan when a lawyer comes with with this nonsenses!
And of course the “soft” approach to the law benefits those in power, like your employer. They can dish out the law all they want to you, but then when you go and stand up for your rights, there’s no hard law you can turn to. You can complain to the Ministry of this and the Ministry of that, but then you just get an arbitrary decision made by one old man, based on some warm fuzzy feeling and the desire to maintain the “wa”.
That’s the problem with arbitrarily applying law as a weapon of power, rather than a rule of justice and law. Sure there are times when one should look the other way, and yes there is context, but as Al pointed out, that is easily abused by those in power to suddenly apply some random law at will to suppress.
“Soft law” is no law. “Soft law” is social Darwinism, or “survival by the fittest” and is unworthy of a democratic country. I think it’s really that easy. Don’t let yourself be fooled by myths and superstitions.
@ B #9
It’s a perfect example of how ‘Japan’s unique culture’ really just means ‘Japan is not a democracy, governed by the rule of law, equally applied to everyone, nor should the J-populace expect it to be’.
It is completely ridiculous to me. I for one have tried many times to get both non-Japanese and Japanese people to unify and stand up for this in nonviolent protests across Japan. Each time I have been met with either fear, delusion to the problem, or out right “If you do not like Japan then leave.” Each time I see stories like this it really makes me upset that many people here have no courage to stand for simple human rights.
I have ministered to the homeless for over 10 years in Nagoya and even in this we have been met with anger for helping them to all out “Let them die and rid us of having to see them.”
What we need is a Martin Luther King Jr. Not just informing but organizing protests and speaking publicly on the problems.
@Rev. Daniel Rea, #12
That’s awful. Japan surely has no place to mock any other foreign country–including the US, UK, Europe, other Asian countries–over crude mentality upon the reality of socio-economic inequality. Just like billionaires and those brainwashed by Washington GOPs and pro-private reformers. What makes the country unchanged throughout its +2,000 years of history is a presuming assumption on structurally embedded rational distinction of people by nationality, ethnicity, gender, and so on. This not only hurts non-Japanese but also alienates native speakers of Japanese, especially those who are marginalized or ostracized from conventional, ethno-cultural, hetero-normative, capitalistic cultural norm of the mainstream society.
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 (search terms such as 「外国人不可」「日本人のみ」「日本人専用」).
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 14 residences by this realtor with the “外国人不可” restriction.
This is unfortuanetly common behavior in Japan. Having been a victim of a traffic collision, laid up in the street, and traffic and people just swerved and walked around me, I can tell first hand that this is just how it is. The culture in Japan is just this way; they usually turn a blind eye to any “trouble” As opposed to the Western busy body who is looking for publicity or exploit the situation, I guess it has its place, but perhaps more attention could be given to those in need. The homeless situation in Japan is a bit complex. I think there are jobs, and government shelter, but they dont want to to deal with the conformity and rules. Might be a factory or 3K job, pretty hellish. You either fit in, conform or your out, like out on the street, so they prefer the street. And those who see them, see them as misfits or noncormfist, and thats a big no no in Japan. The system is what it is, either you take what is offered to you (even if its crap) or your on the street. I think there are training etc for them; if your a gaijin good luck with that. Others have mental illness, and from what Ive read, there isnt much attention givin to that in Japan. If I was feeling down perhaps the remedy would be to gambaru more or look at the cherry blossoms; sorry, but I wouldnt expect much from that. There are NGOs who give them food etc, but my impression of many of the homeless in Japan is that its partly the “system” to blame, and partly what the individual wants because there really isnt much else to offer.
@Reverend (#12) I have heard similar sentiments towards the homeless. The lack of empathy is hard to bear, even for an agnostic like me who was raised Lutheran. Maybe, after all, Christianity is good for something. Oh, the ideas you get in Japan…
@ Markus #16
The way homeless in Japan are treated reminds me so much of the way the people dislocated by the Fukushima disaster are treated;
out of sight, out of mind.
And most people seem happy to think like that until they are confronted with the reality of these needy people, and then they react almost as if they are offended at having to see or think about them. It’s a kind of victim-blaming, and when the J-gov has been doing that for years on other issues, how can you blame the average J-citizen for copying the behavior? This is called ‘learnt behavior’ in psychology.