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Hi Blog. Good news. A couple of weeks ago, friends Olaf and James wrote in to say that they went down Hamanasu Doori in Monbetsu, a seaport town in Eastern Outback Hokkaido. Here’s what book “Embedded Racism” Ch. 3 has to say about this case (expanded from the original entry on the Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments on Debito.org):
Place: Miscellaneous places around Monbetsu City (Hokkaidō) (two public/private sector bathhouses, a ramen shop, a restaurant, a karaoke parlor, and more than 100 bars).
Background: According to newspaper articles, plus several visits and interviews between 2000 and 2009 by the author and other activists, since 1995 Monbetsu’s local restaurateurs’ association (inshokuten kumiai) created and sold standardized signs in Cyrillic saying “Japanese Only Store” (Nihonjin sen’yō ten) that went up on over 100 bars and restaurants in the Hamanasu Dōri nightlife district. Interviews with bars displaying the signs revealed fears of Russian sailors’ custom, including the language barrier, drunken unruliness, nonpayment of bills, rumors of rape, surrounding Japanese customer dissatisfaction, and ties to Russian organized crime (although many interviewees said they had no actual experience with any of these issues – the sign was a preventive measure); some refused the author’s business even though he is not Russian and was accompanied by other Japanese. Three restaurants and a karaoke parlor expressed similar sentiments, and said they would have refused the author had he not been a fluent Japanese speaker. Two bathhouses (one private-sector, one public/private (dai-san sekutā)) claimed drunk and unruly Russian bathers were driving away Japanese customers).
Action taken by observers/activists: In July 2000, the Japanese Ministry of Justice, Bureau of Human Rights (jinken yōgobu) Asahikawa Branch wrote a letter (see ER Chapter Eight) to the restaurateurs’ association calling their activities “clear racial discrimination against foreigners,” demanding they remove their exclusionary signs. In an interview with the author in April 2001, the kumiai head claimed that these signs were now the property of their respective purchasers, and what they did with them was not their concern. After extensive media exposure of the situation in local newspapers and national TV between 2000 and 2005, signs began coming down, and further interviews and media exposure of the restaurants, karaoke parlor, and the bathhouses resulted in exclusionary rules being rescinded in the karaoke parlor, one restaurant and the public/private-sector bathhouse. In 2006, an interview with another restaurant enabled the author to personally take down one of the Cyrillic signs with permission. In 2004, the author and one other activist submitted a petition (chinjō) to pass a local anti-discrimination ordinance (jōrei), which subsequently died in committee.
Current status (as of end-2014): Confirmed in January 2010, at least sixteen of the original mass-produced Cyrillic signs are confirmed as remaining on the storefronts of Hamanasu Dōri bars and one restaurant. The private-sector bathhouse still has an exclusionary sign, but will let in “foreign” clientele if they speak a level of Japanese that satisfies the manager on duty. One of the former exclusionary restaurants went bankrupt in 2007. Monbetsu still has no anti-discrimination ordinance.
So the update is: The exclusionary signs are down in Hamanasu Doori. Pity it only took 22 years for it to happen, apparently by attrition. No thanks to the Monbetsu City Government, natch. Dr. Debito Arudou
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