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Hi Blog. Here’s another quick one that’s just dying for a shout-out specially on Debito.org for its delightful irony:
In yet another example of how Japan’s economy is not going to save itself unless it allows in and unlocks the potential of its foreign residents, here we have the flashpoint issue for “Japanese Only” signposted exclusionism: public baths (sento or onsen). As per the Otaru Onsens Case (which has inspired two books), we had people who did not “look Japanese” (including native-born and naturalized Japanese citizens) being refused by xenophobic and racist bathhouse managers just because they could (there is no law against it in Japan).
Now, according to the Japan Times below (in a woefully under-researched article), the bathhouse industry is reporting that they are in serious financial trouble (examples of this were apparent long ago: here’s one in Wakkanai, Hokkaido that refused “foreigners” until the day it went bankrupt). And now they want to attract foreign tourists. It’s a great metaphor for Japan’s lack of an immigration policy in general: Take their money (as tourists or temporary laborers), but don’t change the rules so that they are protected against wanton discrimination from the locals. It’s acceptance with a big, big asterisk.
Admittedly, this is another step in the right direction. But it’s one that should have been done decades ago (when we suggested that bathhouse rules simply be explained with multilingual signs; duh). But alas, there’s no outlawing the racists in Japan, so this is one consequence. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
Japan’s public baths hope foreign tourists will help keep the taps running
BY SATOKO KAWASAKI, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
THE JAPAN TIMES, JANUARY 5, 2016
Japan’s public baths, known as sento, represent an institution with hundreds of years of history. They provided an important public service in the days before homes had their own hot-water bathtubs.
Sento can range in style from simple hot springs piped into a large tub to modern facilities resembling theme parks and offering a range of therapies.
In the Edo Period (1603-1868), sento were so popular that every town had on. They were important centers of the community.
Sento are on the decline both because homes now have fully fledged bathrooms and because retiring operators find it hard to find successors to take on their businesses. There are now around 630 establishments in Tokyo, down from 2,700 in 1968, a peak year for sento.
Faced with this trend, the Tokyo Sento Association is trying to tap demand from non-Japanese residents and tourists.
It has installed explanatory signs at each facility showing non-Japanese speakers how to use a sento in five languages. It also plans to create an app for people to search for sento in English.