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Hello Newsletter Readers. My latest Japan Times JBC column 109 has come out. Excerpt:

“‘Attach the evidence and wait for your day in court,’ says Turkish plaintiff after Osaka victory”

Ibrahim Yener, a Turkish national and 14-year resident of Japan, was refused service last October by an Osaka used car dealer, which stated in an email (text at that they would not serve foreign customers. The car company also stipulated that even if the customer legally holds Japanese citizenship, they would only sell to people who could “hold their own (sonshoku ga nai) against native speakers” in terms of Japanese language ability (as determined solely by the car company).

Yener felt this was discriminatory, filed suit and won. The presiding judge said that it “was based on prejudice that a foreigner would cause trouble and does not justify the discriminatory treatment.” But what made this case particularly noteworthy is that Yener navigated Japan’s legal system all by himself — without a lawyer.

Thus this case offers potential lessons for other non-Japanese or international Japanese who face similar discrimination. JBC contacted Yener last week to find out more about the thinking behind bringing the case…

Anchor site for the article at

Now on with the Newsletter:

Table of Contents:

1) New Japanese “Party of Hope” remains unhopeful for Japan’s NJ residents, requiring new party entrants to deny all NJ voting rights
2) “Japanese Only” signs come down in Monbetsu, Hokkaido. Finally. It only took 22 years.
3) Nikkei: Japan’s “Japanese Only” apartment rental market may adversely affect NJ worker retention during labor shortage
4) “Japanese Only” rules mutate: Hagoromo-yu, a bathhouse excluding LGBT in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, in reaction to local same-sex-partner ordinance
5) Positive book review of “Embedded Racism” in “Sociology of Race and Ethnicity” journal (American Sociological Association)

6) NJ Osakan Ibrahim Yener wins lawsuit against “Japanese only” car dealer
7) Plaintiff Ibrahim Yener provides with details on his successful lawsuit against “Japanese Only” Nihon Autoplaza car company

…and finally…

8 ) My Japan Times JBC 108: “In wake of Charlottesville, U.S. should follow Japan and outlaw hate speech”, Aug 24, 2017

By Debito Arudou Ph.D. (,, Twitter @arudoudebito) Newsletter Freely Forwardable


1) New Japanese “Party of Hope” remains unhopeful for Japan’s NJ residents, requiring new party entrants to deny all NJ voting rights

In case you haven’t heard, the center-left (and former governing party) Democratic Party of Japan (once Minshuutou, now Minshintou), has suffered a further blow to its existence, now having to sell its factional soul to a new party (Kibou no Tou, or the “Party of Hope”) headed by a name-brand candidate and Governor of Tokyo (Koike Yuriko). Koike is ostensibly just about as far-right as PM Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party. As proof of that: In the JT article below, KnoT is demanding as a litmus test that new party entrants from the DPJ sign on to a party platform denying NJ residents (including Permanent Residents) the right to vote in any elections.

Given that PR in Japan, a legal status that is reasonably hard to achieve (and specific to Japan when it comes to its “Special Permanent Residents” (tokubetsu eijuusha), i.e., the Zainichi Koreans and Chinese “generational foreigners” and descendants of former citizens of empire), requires significant time and commitment to Japan, this is yet another slap in the face to people who stay (in many cases their entire lives), pay taxes, and contribute to society the same as any other citizen. The alarmism that KnoT in the article below displays is straight out of the LDP handbook — arguing that giving foreigners any power would mean they would turn against Japan, even secede — which is nothing short of distrust of foreigners’ very existence in society. Or xenophobia, for short.

In sum, voters have a choice between two viable parties now, both rightist with essentially the same platform, except that one is PM Abe and one is Rewarmed Abe, for those who don’t like the man and would prefer a shiny new woman. Sigh. Meanwhile, Japan’s tolerant left will remain in disarray for the foreseeable future.


2) “Japanese Only” signs come down in Monbetsu, Hokkaido. Finally. It only took 22 years.

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

Monbetsu, Hokkaidō
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.

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.


3) Nikkei: Japan’s “Japanese Only” apartment rental market may adversely affect NJ worker retention during labor shortage

Nikkei: This year, the country released a first of its kind national survey that highlighted the extent of housing discrimination foreigners face. According to the study, released by the Ministry of Justice in March, out of 2,044 foreign residents who had sought housing within the past five years, 39.3% reported being turned down because they were not Japanese.

The impact is now being felt by employers. In recent years, numerous Japanese manufacturers and services have been trying to make up for the country’s shrinking labor force by looking elsewhere for workers. They want to create an inflow of talent, but housing discrimination could become a dam. As of last October, Japan had 1.08 million foreign workers, up 58% from five years earlier, accounting for around 2% of the total workforce, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. […]

The IT industry is suffering from a significant labor shortage, and the consultancy was acutely aware of the discrimination problem last year when it welcomed a systems engineer from the Philippines. To dodge any hassles, the company consulted a property agent that caters to foreigners, whom industry players describe as an “underwhelming minority” in Tokyo. Even real estate agencies with experience helping foreigners run into the same problem: “Almost nine of 10 private housing units in Tokyo do not allow foreign tenants,” according to Masao Ogino, CEO of the Ichii Group. “It is still an extremely exclusive market.”

Tsuyoshi Yamada, a human resources manager at Total OA Systems, said a lack of sufficient support for non-Japanese employees, including in regard to housing, could throw a hurdle up in front of the company’s plan to bring in overseas talent. This concern is particularly strong for smaller IT companies like Yamada’s. “Even if we finally find a promising engineer,” he said, “retention could become a problem.”


4) “Japanese Only” rules mutate: Hagoromo-yu, a bathhouse excluding LGBT in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, in reaction to local same-sex-partner ordinance

As has argued for decades, if you don’t make discrimination explicitly illegal, it spreads and mutates.

Now we have a bathhouse (the most famous type of “Japanese Only” businesses in Japan) named “Hagoromo-yu”, in cosmopolitan Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, which has a sign up explicitly refusing custom to all LGBT customers “who don’t follow rules and morals, or don’t practice moderation” (setsudo o mamoru).

But here’s the nasty kicker (and brazen nastiness seems to be the hallmark of Japan’s excluders these days; just consider the antics of Osaka car dealer Autoplaza in the recent Yener Case). The sign even includes this iyami on the bottom, striking back against the unusual progressiveness of the local government:

“Shibuya-ku has established the ‘same-sex partners ordinance’, but we at this establishment will refuse service to any LGBT customers who who don’t follow rules and morals, or don’t practice moderation.”

How nice. Location and contact details of Hagoromo-yu below. Feel free to give them a piece of your mind, as moderately as you like.


5) Positive book review of “Embedded Racism” in “Sociology of Race and Ethnicity” journal (American Sociological Association)

Review excerpt: [Embedded Racism] is a brave critique of Japanese society and its failure to look outward in its demographic and economic development. The book will, no doubt, add to a lively discussion already afoot in Japanese studies, critical race studies, and critical mixed race studies of racism in Japan.

[…] The strongest part of the book, in my view, is chapter 5, which illustrates how “Japaneseness” is enforced through legal and extralegal means. The examples of visa regimes and even exclusion from sports and other contests through educational institutions show how everyday racism leaks into larger organizational practices, often without challenge.

[…] The book is clearly written and seems to be aimed primarily at undergraduate students, as it makes an important contribution for those wishing to understand racism in Japan better, and it compiles interesting documentary legal data about the history of cases of discrimination in Japan. The book would easily suit courses that address global conceptions of race and ethnicity and how these are changing in Japan at both the micro and macro levels because of globalization.


6) NJ Osakan Ibrahim Yener wins lawsuit against “Japanese only” car dealer

Another NJ wins in court against a “Japanese Only” establishment, this time a car dealer who wouldn’t send Osakan Plaintiff Ibrahim Yener information about their goods because he’s a foreigner. Yener joins the ranks of Ana Bortz, the Otaru Onsen Plaintiffs, and Steve McGowan, all of whom won and/or lost in court in varying degrees.

The positive thing to note here is that Mr. Yener filed suit all by himself, without legal representation, and still won. He no doubt had the company dead to rights because he had their refusal in writing. That means that anyone else with a case as watertight as his can also take it to court and win, and I advise people to do so whenever possible. The negative thing to note here is that once again the award amount has been reduced. In the Bortz Case, the award was 2 million yen, in the Otaru Case it was 1 million yen per plaintiff, and in the McGowan Case, after a ludicrous defeat in lower court, it was eventually only 350,000 yen on appeal, which didn’t even come close to covering his legal fees. In the Yener Case, it’s now been reduced to a paltry 200,000 yen, which means it’s a good thing he didn’t seek legal representation.

Anyway, glad that Mr. Yener won. It’s just a pity that after all this time and effort, there isn’t any deterrent of punitive damages against racial discriminators. That’s why we need a criminal law against racial discrimination in Japan — because the excuse the Japanese government officially keeps making (that laws are unnecessary because there is a court system for redress) becomes less compelling with every lawsuit filed.


7) Plaintiff Ibrahim Yener provides with details on his successful lawsuit against “Japanese Only” Nihon Autoplaza car company

As mentioned in the previous blog entry, Osaka resident Ibrahim Yener won his court case against a car company that refused him on the grounds (the company claims after the fact in court) of being a foreigner with insufficient Japanese language. However, Mr. Yener has just written in to with more detail on his case, making it clear that arbitrary language barriers were merely a ruse to refuse all “foreigners” (even those with Japanese citizenship) their business. Fortunately, the exclusionary Defendant’s reasoning didn’t wash in court.

The Defendant, not mentioned in the Asahi article in the previous blog entry, is Nihon Autoplaza, and they offer services such as buying used cars on Japan’s very vibrant second-hand automobile auction market. (I have bought cars through that auction system before, and lack of access to it will have a significant impact on your ability to get a used car affordably in Japan, something quite necessary for people in Japan’s ruralities or for small businesses.) One more takeaway from this case is that, according to Mr. Yener, the Defendant acted even more idiotically in court, angering the judge. So I’m worried that this case might not have been as slam-dunk as it might seem for future victims of “Japanese Only” businesses who want to sue (because a lawsuit is the only real option Japan’s international residents have to protect themselves against discrimination).


…and finally…

8 ) My Japan Times JBC 108: “In wake of Charlottesville, U.S. should follow Japan and outlaw hate speech”, Aug 24, 2017

JBC:  As you probably heard, two weeks ago there was a protest in a small Virginia town against the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, a Confederate general who defended slavery in the American South. Various hate groups, including white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, assembled there with shields, weapons, fascist flags and anti-Semitic slogans. They were met with counterprotest, and things got violent. A supremacist slammed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one and injuring 19.

Charlottesville has shaken hope for a post-racial America to the core. But before readers in Japan breathe a sigh of relief and think, “It couldn’t happen here, not in peaceful Japan,” remember this:

Japan has also had plenty of hate rallies — there was about one per day on average in 2013 and 2014, according to the Justice Ministry. Rightist xenophobes and government-designated hate groups have assembled and held demos nationwide. Bearing signs calling foreign residents “cockroaches,” calling for a Nanking-style massacre of Koreans in an Osaka Koreatown, even advocating the extermination of “all Koreans, good or bad,” Japan’s haters have also used violence (some lethal) against the country’s minorities.

As JBC has argued before (“Osaka’s move on hate speech should be just the first step,” Jan. 31, 2016), freedom of speech is not an absolute. And hate speech is special: It ultimately and necessarily leads to violence, due to the volatile mix of dehumanization with flared tempers.

That’s why Japan decided to do something about it. In 2016 the Diet passed a law against hate speech (albeit limiting it to specifically protect foreign residents). And it has had an effect: Japanese media reports fewer rallies and softer invective.

America, however, hasn’t gotten serious about this. It has no explicit law against hate speech, due to fears about government censorship of freedom of speech. Opponents argue that the only cure is freer speech — that somehow hate will be balanced out by reasonable and rational counter-hate. That persuasion will win out.

But in 2016, it didn’t. Hate speech is precisely how Donald J. Trump got elected president…

That’s all for this month. Thanks very much for reading!
Debito Arudou

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29 comments on “DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER OCT 14, 2017

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    I bet Jeff Kingston is glad that he doesn’t write for the Japan Times anymore. I’d be embarrassed to have Japan Times on my C.V.’s list of publications alongside this kind of war crime denial;

    Absolutely shocking that Japan’s English language daily, in the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics, is paying someone to write such right-wing revisionist hate-speech. As always, it does nothing to ‘correct misunderstandings’ about Japanese war crimes, but rather serves to heighten awareness of Japanese past misdemeanors and heighten revulsion towards present day Japanese who deny them.

    And the real kicker is that the Japanese revisionist who writes this hateful rubbish (and who bashed America and the west in every JT column he writes- go check) has been living in the US for YEARS!

  • Jim, that article was interesting..

    ‘Think of it: When another powerful country takes over your country and treats you, however superficially, as its own citizen long enough, you will begin to think yourself as part of the country, however unconsciously — unless you are a dedicated nationalist. This must have been true especially when only a certain stratum of society strongly thought of national identity.’

    Yes, of course.. as long as you’ve been brainwashed or feel no connection to your homeland whatsoever; otherwise, I’d argue you most likely think of yourselves as an occupied people who’d like to get their own country back ASAP.

    ‘The women [who do similar work] in the military bases all over the world are basically ‘comfort women,’ even if they are not conscious as such.”
    Limiting ourselves to U.S. bases overseas, there are 900 of them. (…) How do you suppose those American soldiers take care of their sexual needs?’

    I’d say, a rather failed attempt at ‘and you are lynching Negroes’, since AFAIR the local prostitutes, whose clientele most likely doesindeed include the US military, aren’t exactly FORCED to do so* – but this crucial difference is ofc ommited in the article, conveniently enough.

    *actually, it’s quite the opposite:
    1. many brothels do not allow foreigners at all
    2. also, even if the venue as a whole is OK with non-Yamato, the girls have the right of automatically refusing to serve a gaijin customer . . .

    • Jim Di Griz says:

      Oh yeah, it’s a textbook example of the right wing employing multiple and conflicting approaches to one issue at the same time; denial, deflection, obfuscation, moral equivalence, nit-picking details, semantics.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    This is just a tangent. Ken Yasumoto-Nicolson once again revealed his ignorance by falsely claiming that Japanese students can achieve B1 level of English(CEFR, equivalent to Eiken 2nd or TOEIC 560) with a mere 787 hours of study–same amount of instructional hours set as the guideline for students in EU. Never mind that Japanese students at high school study more than 900 hours, and 2/3 of those still cannot pass the Eiken 2nd grade. Wonder if he ever tried speaking to Japanese students at junior/senior high schools in English only.

    • Don’t bother yourself thinking about Yasumoto-Nicholson (I’m sure that’s not how it’s written on his koseki- but hey, he’s gotta keep up the pretense!).
      After all the years trying to undermine and sabotage the efforts of people like Dr. Debito by cheerleading Japanese racism as ‘normal’, and ridiculing us for being ‘chicken littles’, now that he actually is living in Abe’s right-wing dystopia of a broken joyless Japan, he’s suddenly too ashamed to face up to his mistakes and has spent the past couple of years pretending he doesn’t exist. Very occasionally he pokes his head out from under his rock to make some nonsensical comment on JT, but who in Japan’s English language NJ community knows or cares who he is anymore?
      Irrelevance must be quite a reality-check for him, since he had such big dreams of being a ‘celebrity Japan blogger’ getting paid by big NJ companies to tell them how Japan works. Sad.

      • Loverilakkuma says:

        I guess he’s married to a Japanese for his hyphenated last name. I didn’t expect him to budge in the issue that would seem remote to his beat(I mean, anti-Debito propaganda machine, which is already dead). Even in the issues outside human rights and racism, he’s showing himself as an embarrassment of westerners living in Japan. I have never seen anyone who said Japanese students could acquire a basic level of English within 800 hours. Dumb and dumber. It’s hilarious to see him eaten alive.

      • Jim Di Griz says:

        I just went over to JT and looked in on that comment thread. The guy’s apologist knows no bounds; he starts by attacking the articles contention that Japanese need so many hundred hours of English practice to achieve fluency by saying that native-speakers of other European languages require much less time to master English. When a linguist points out to him that all European languages share common linguistic and culturalr roots, making English language acquisition faster for other Europeans, Ken starts obfuscating the issue by refusing to accept any definition offered, finally deciding that all testing methods are flawed.
        Fine, but he still can’t address the elephant in the room; the Japanese have a problem with the English language, and its teaching. But since Ken is an apologist, his whole goal in commenting was to waste people’s time, and stifle debate of the actual issue. From his point of view, job done: Japan defended!
        It’s pretty weird if you ask me, for a white man to come to Japan and appoint himself as some kind of guardian of Japan’s image in the English language blogosphere by whiling away his hours being a nit-picking pedant in internet discussions with people who are total strangers.
        There’s something there about ‘White savior’ complex, along with something about people engrossing themselves in the internet to escape their reality, whilst seeking the affirmation of strangers. Sad.
        Because it’s Ken the apologist I gave it that much thought and laughed, but I can’t be bothered to think about it more deeply than that.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Bizarre article in Japan Times starts with Japanese writer explaining that she was felt up by a Japanese groper when she was eight years old, ends by blaming ‘white male privilege’ of NJ in Japan.
    She also starts by saying that she can never rely on other Japanese to stand up for her in such a situation, ends by demanding that NJ step in! No thanks, the J-cops would instantly focus on the NJ instead of the groper.
    Shouldn’t she save all this for the oyaji instead? Women only cars on trains weren’t invented because of Harvey Weinstein.

    This article is paired with an equally bizarre article by Nicholas Gattig;

    Whom I seem to remember writing an article about a year ago in which his listed all of his conquests by nationality, and reflected on how shallow he was. Doesn’t match up with what he’s writing here. Someone’s telling fibs.
    Also, given that Gattig returned to the US, I love how often he references Charisma Man in his articles. It really dates his Japan ‘experience’ and shows how out of the loop he is.

  • One reason why I’m glad to be leaving Japan: my tax shouldn’t be used so that the JSDF can train the Burmese army to commit genocide and mass rape against the Rohingya people;

    You know, and I’m totally shocked because I can’t imagine how the Burmese army developed a culture of ethnic genocide and rape, coz Japanese people keep insisting that it’s something the Japanese army NEVER EVER did.

    — To give you an idea how close historical ties have been between Japan and Burma (including the Japan Elites’ dislike of Aung San Suu Kyi), check out this 1999 paper from JPRI.

    • Thanks for posting that, it was really interesting.
      It’s sad that it takes an NJ to try to force Japanese companies to obey Japanese Law because the unions and the government won’t do it.
      The comments section was particularly interesting, divided almost 50/50 between Canadians who don’t understand that this guy’s employer broke Japanese law, and are whining that he should stop trying to force his non-Japanese values on the Japanese. I guess that these people haven’t ever lived in Japan (they don’t seem to be college graduates with such poor reading comprehension skills).
      And the other 50% of posts from people who have worked in Japanese companies in Japan and Canada, and unanimously say tat it was such a discriminatory bullying work environment that they would never do it again.
      The truth is out.

  • Japan ranks dead last in Asia for attracting top level foreign professionals;

    Structural racism and discrimination, feudal working practices, banana republic levels of corporate malfeasance, declining standards of living, uncompetitive remuneration, how did Japan not see this coming?
    Welcome to your future! That Bladerunner stuff? About as realistic a future for Japan as Thunderbirds.

  • @ JIm, Japan as Bladerunner? A radioactive ruin with demographic crisis as seen in Bladerunner 2049 is a possible distopia for Japan.

    I hope not, though.

    • Ha! Yeah, the latest Bladerunner showing total ecological and demographic collapse, with the wealthy elites having left everyone else to their fetes, yeah, that’s way more plausible than the original Bladerunner where Japan’s economic and cultural soft power influence made LA look like a future Akiba.

  • Remember APA Hotels? The owner puts a copy of his his warcrime denial hate-speech book in every room. The owner’s son-in-law won a cash prize in a essay competition for writing a revisionist apology for Japan’s war of aggression (competition organized by APA). Remember the owner’s son-in-law was drummed out of his position as the top-ranking Air Self Defense Force officer for his right-wing scribblings and comments and later arrested for breaching election law while he was on the right-wing campaign trail?
    Well, now APA Community, an apartment building management service is bullying tenants into not using AirBnB because AirBnB= lots of foreigners= danger, according to them.

    • Jim Di Griz says:

      Good article, but misleading headline (Japan doesn’t want immigrants), and misrepresents the Abe administration of trying to ‘promote immigration’, which we know isn’t true. Abe and Japan are only interested in revolving-door exploitation, hence Japan ranking as ‘Asia’s last choice for foreign talent’, which isn’t the story people want to hear.

    • Two lines sum up the entire article:

      “A lot of people think of Japan as an insular country, but that isn’t actually true.”

      “Things are improving under Abe”

      These two lines are all you need to read to know that the article is total right-wing propaganda with no basis in reality.

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