“Japanese Only” tourist information booth in JR Beppu Station


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Hi Blog. Let me turn the keyboard over to Kyushu visitor DB, who catalogs the latest permutation of Japan’s “omotenashi” towards NJ tourists, where “hospitality” meets Japan’s inevitable “separate but equal” ideologies. Dr. Debito Arudou

April 6, 2018
Hi there Debito,

Are you aware there is a “Japanese only” information booth at JR Beppu Station? My partner and I walked in to get some information about a local onsen travel route. The woman sitting at the available desk basically refused to deal with us, and told us to go to the desk for foreigners. She initially pretended that the desk was for Japanese language help only. When we pointed out that we could speak Japanese (we had been the whole time) she shifted her excuse. The whole time she leant way back in her chair, and spoke in an extremely dismissively rude tone. In six years living in Japan I have never been treated as poorly.

After we gave up and walking out half in shock I noticed the signage. The ambiguity of “Japanese” here covers the apparent reality that they actually will refuse to serve anybody not visibly Japanese regardless of language ability.

While the “Japanese only” info desk was next to the front exit, directly connected to the main hall that has the ticket gate, the other “foreigner info” desk was a booth that was set up in the adjoining part of the building where the restaurants are. It wasn’t too far away, but it was clearly set up after the fact in order to keep the increasing number of foreign visitors separated out. There was a hand written sign noting that the staff could speak English and Chinese. Although the other desk had four staff, this one had one or two depending on the time if day (two initially, one when I passed by later). The service was fine. (But of course, we used Japanese there anyway because that’s simply easier, so there was zero point in moving except because we were forced to. )

I’ll be sending a formal complaint later, but I thought I’d send you the story. Here’s some photos attached, taken April 6, 2016. Feel free to share the story if you like. Regards, DB.


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60 comments on ““Japanese Only” tourist information booth in JR Beppu Station

  • I’ve had that kind of treatment too with a japanese travel company. I can’t remember which one for certain so I don’t want to say any name in case my memory is faulty.

    They organised busses everywhere and had a woman on duty to help with any questions we had but she refused to acknowledge my presence or even look at me. Pretty humiliating.

    DB, if you get a chance to go back please get a video of her refusing, if you can.

  • Wow, THE tourist information center inside a JR station is refusing to cater to Japanese-speaking foreigners? Before seeing the photo I though it would be the kind of booth set up by volunteers working for free.

    This is truly disgraceful. As in, a new low.

  • DB, those photos are so telling: no other customers in the booth at all, but they can’t help you. Pathetic.

    And who is that creep with a badge lurking around the entrance?

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    My eyes are on the second photo. What’s the point in putting English alphabet if you only accept inquiry in ”日本語”? And refusing based not on language(if you speak Japanese or not) but on appearance(how you look)??? Please forward 2nd and 3rd photos(showing that woman) to the JR Kyushu. This is unacceptable. Awful customer service. Grade: F

  • I don’t have direct experience, so my examples have less impact. But, my friend from the Philippines (who speaks great Japanese) told me she received this treatment twice in Kyoto:

    1. Queuing for a taxi. She joined the shorter ‘Japanese’ line instead of the joining the long ‘foreigner’ line. When she reached the front she was denied service and told to join the foreigner line.

    2. At Kyoto station she was denied service from a major travel agency desk, and told to go to another location designed for ‘foreigners’.

    Both of these situations no doubt come about under the stated aim of providing an tailored English language service to non-Japanese people.

    However, it’s not hard to imagine that it’s also about protecting Japanese customers and staff from being ‘inconvenienced’ by ‘foreigners’.

    Either way, my friend was speaking Japanese, so I can see absolutely no justification.

    Does the ‘foreigners’ line for taxis at Kyoto station still exist?

    • Jim Di Griz says:

      When taxi waiting lines were first separated into ‘Japanese speaking’ and ‘non-Japanese speaking’ at JR Kyoto station, I said right here that it would mean ‘Japanese’ and ‘non-Japanese’ by ethnicity.
      I want them to put up signs in Japanese so that I can see if it says ‘nihonjin’ or ‘nihongo’.
      All too often, ‘nihonjin only’ service is hidden behind a facade of ‘nihongo only’ as an excuse for racism.

      • Thanks for the information.

        All other taxi drivers in Japan, and every other country I’ve visited, seem to cope with language barriers fine.

        • Jim Di Griz says:

          Yeah, I’ve never had a problem with taxi drivers in Japan regarding racism. But it seems that there’s a steady creep of ‘Japanese only’ changing in definition from ‘nihongo only’ to ‘nihonjin only’ and the NJ community should be on guard for that, I guess.

      • Baudrillard says:

        Do the non Japanese speaking ones charge more (for their Engrish skills)? As that is how it works with real estate agencies.
        Funny how the more expensive, inconvenient housing is more willing to accept NJs (4 out of 28 called, from my agent’s experience).

  • Japan wants tourist money but hates tourists so they are pushing for racial segregation. Non-Japanese residents should wake up to this.

  • And this is the country that wants to host the Olympics. Japan wants it both ways. They promote their country up and down, start programs like Japan house to educate foreigners about Japan. They even want foreigners to be shills for Japans PR program. But then when said foreigners come to experience the unique and beautiful culture of Japan suddenly we need separate services to accommodate them so as not to inconvenience the poor Japanese. sorry but it doesn’t work that way. You can’t advertise yourself to the whole world and then get picky when foreigners take you up on your offer.

  • Sapporo2000 says:

    Another recent example of a “Japanese Only” sign, this time in a brothel in Shinjuku/Golden Gai area, for the apologist this is perfectly fine as long they don’t see these signs in other type of establishments such as bars, clubs etc but for brothels and other type of adult entertainment bars it’s perfectly acceptable. talk about cognitive dissonance and Hypocrisy.

    “Only Japanese People”

  • Eoghan Hughes says:

    I’m pretty sure it’s illegal in Japan to create or publish a photo intended to portray a human subject (which the bottom one clearly is) without that subject’s consent. As rude as she was (I’ve been served at “Japanese language only” tourist information booths just fine before, so this really looks like her personal problem) I don’t think it’s a crime for people in the service sector to act like a dick.

    — This is complicated (see here and here). However, it’s not illegal. This is not, for example, a private citizen having her privacy invaded in a private space. This is a representative of an organization acting in her official capacity in a public space. She can take responsibility for her actions.

    • This is EXTREMELY confusing actually, and unfortunately while the articles talk about the subject, the articles didn’t really answer the question well at all. I don’t suppose you have other sources on this matter.

      I am aware that this isn’t really an issue with Koumin acting on the job, but what about private companies and individuals acting in their capacity in illegal/legal (but poor service for example)?

      — Doesn’t matter. They are still acting in their official capacities as representatives of an organization in a public space.

  • Brooks Slaybaugh says:

    I don’t get it. There are places in Japan that would hire a foreign person to speak English and Japanese or another language. This was on TV and I saw about an English woman who worked up in northern Hyogo for the city. In Beppu there is Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University. Lots of foreign students there. I don’t see why JR in Beppu could not hire at least one person(or more) to speak English/Chinese/Korean to tourists.
    Japan wants to develop its tourism in other locations besides the big cities. So I guess it is working, but there is a need for interpreters.

    —- And in this case, a need for staff who don’t weird out when they encounter Japanese-speaking NJ and refuse to give them service.

    • @Brooks
      You didn’t read the original post. There was a “foriegners” information booth. That’s where the poster was told to go. Because of racial profiling.

      • Brooks Slaybaugh says:

        I read it but can’t believe it. Omotenashi nashi. What kind of customer service is this? It seems like apartheid. Well I would like to know how Koreans or Chinese would fare if they went.

  • I was there 2 weeks ago and didn’t have a problem. I walked up, asked a question in Japanese and got the help that I asked for.

    I also disagree that this is new or anything like that. Just lkast week, I saw the same set-up at Kanazawa Station – an English-only help desk and a line for help in Japanese.

    — Debito.org did not make the case that this was new. In fact, we’ve talked about “foreigner taxi stands” at Kyoto Station here years ago. And as predicted back then, “foreigners” are running the risk of being refused regular service under systems like these.

    I’m glad to hear it didn’t happen to you, but are you writing this in order to be dismissive (in addition to being misinterpretive)?

  • “The whole time she leant way back in her chair, and spoke in an extremely dismissively rude tone. ” This is rich, considering I got into the Japanese students at the eikaiwa I worked at for sitting back on the sofa in the “lounge” they had. The boss said we had to sit with out backs bent forward, looking more attentive, at all times, despite the furniture being designed for the opposite!
    One rule for them and another for us. And the fact I remember this after 15 years or so, indicates how former J supporters leave as detractors with long memories at the absurdities of “the RULES” in Japan.

    Those bitter chickens are now coming back to roost.

  • realitycheck says:

    Good article but again we can expect the usual set response from officialdom that this is to help foreigners and has nothing to do with making sure the Japanese public are not inconvenienced by us.

    Speaking of travel agencies as a couple of posters have. a shout-out to JTB Ueno. It may have changed now but hopefully it hasn`t – a foreigner walking in and speaking passable if not fluent Japanese a couple of yrs ago would be treated well and engaged with in simple Japanese.

    The bad and sometimes downright snide attitudes experienced sometimes in Japan extend to the ward offices.Yes there are some well-meaning staff who may not speak English or other foreign languages but do their best to make their foreign residents feel welcome.

    However, in some of them there is a culture of dismissiveness and arrogance towards non Japanese. The Japanese-speaking rule there does not aim to include those foreigners who know Japanese and can use it to any extent, It is used with a don`t care attitude, too bad if there is no written material in English even if we are collecting taxes from you.

    You*d be surprised at where that attitude is. A well-heeled ward starting with M inTokyo has just about zero information in English or other languages for its foreign residents. Including tax forms. And no designated English speaking staff member or members there to help the tax paying foreigners including the non well-heeled ones.

    • I’ll push back here slightly and say that expecting Japan to provide documents and information in English is slightly entitled. It’s great that they do often do this, but I don’t think it should be seen as something that must happen.

      If you are a medium- to long-term resident you owe it to yourself and others to learn as much of the language as possible.

      • Jim Di Griz says:

        Well, I see your point of view, but Japanis the place in terminal population decline, desperate to attract NJ ‘trainees’ and ‘students’ and ‘elite foreigners’ to come over and help out with Japan’s labor shortage and taxation shortfall, so the onus is on Japan to go that extra mile and do everything possible to attract NJ and make it easy for them to live here, otherwise they will choose somewhere else and Japan will be the loser.

    • Baudrillard says:

      Foreigners are not allowed to submit tax returns online, but Japanese can. So says Kawaguchi ward office!

      We have to go there in person and submit them (so they can check).

  • realitycheck says:

    To Sendai Ben,
    I don’t see anything ‘entitled’ in noting that key documents for important issues with legal ramifications such as taxation forms/other tax info are continuing to be the norm in Japanese wards with relatively high foreigner populations.
    And as English is the recognized global language, including in Japan, I’d say that it makes some sense to have key documents for issues which can end up putting people on the wrong side of the law if they don’t understand them or fully understand them, in English.
    Those of us who have to go cap in hand to renew our working visas breathe a sigh of relief that Immigration at least provides those forms in English instead of making visa renewal an obstacle course where you can mess up your extension by not being able to understand some or all of the language on the form.
    And one of my points was that this rich ward in Tokyo falls way behind less privileged wards which at the least provide information people at the first point of contact who will speak easy Japanese to foreigners or at least point them to somebody who understands simple English.
    Contempt is a harsh word but it certainly comes to mind when thinking about the way some private businesses and so called public services which are funded by foreigners too, treat non Japanese.
    Too many elements in Japanese society are claiming some kind of privileged right and entitlement to backwards behavior because of Japanese exceptionalism – supposedly.

  • As it happens, I just noticed a tour guide website (a private company, not related to the information desk in the article above) stating:

    “Dear foreign customer, we don’t give you service due to safety reason and regulation.
    We are appreciated your understanding.
    (申し訳ありません。 安全上の理由により,外国の方はお受けしておりません)”

    I wonder if the owner of this company simply can’t envisage that a non-Japanese person could speak Japanese, and therefore could understand one of his tours. Or, whether, he is simply xenophobic and dislikes non-Japanese people.

    Not speaking Japanese would be a valid reason for refusing service as his tours involve water sports. But, the message on his website sounds absolutely awful.

    — Can we have a link to this website so we can better see the context?

    • Well noticed, Steve.

      About Diving: “Gaijin Refused” http://archive.is/kUTlD
      Even just Walking: “Gaijin Refused” http://archive.is/rk6Gw
      (Look at the photos, not dangerous hiking, simple relaxed walking.)
      The smiling race-excluder: Mr. Ken’ichi Konishi http://archive.is/STvQx

      Embarrassed Mr. Konishi?
      What about the emotional suffering (Seishin Kutsuu 精神苦痛) you caused,
      to all Non-Japanese-Race people, whom you denied service based on race.
      People had to explain to family members, “This walking tour guide refuses my race.”

      I’m sure Ken’ichi will claim he LOVES Non-Japanese-Race people, “This is for Gaijin safety!”
      But he chose to deny service to all Non-Japanese-Race people, regardless of language fluency.

      He could have said: “日本語が話せないの方はお受けしておりません”
      But he chose to deny service based on race: “外国の方はお受けしておりません”


      Treating differently based on Language (Language Discrimination) is legal.
      Treating differently based on Race (Racial Discrimination) is illegal.
      According to the U.N. International CERD Treaty Japan signed.
      “Gaijin Refused” violates the U.N. International CERD Treaty.
      No matter what excuse is given, “Gaijin Refused” is illegal.
      U.N. Treaties Japan signed are Japan’s Supreme Laws.

    • Sure, it’s http://www.begin.jp/index.php

      The nuances of the Japanese language are lost on me.

      I thought that 外国の方 is just the formal version of 外国人.

      But, is there any way in which this can be read as ‘a person living in a foreign country’ instead?

      I guess it could be possible that people living in foreign countries aren’t covered by this guy’s insurance policies.

      I’m trying to understand if there’s anything that makes the Japanese version of the message sound less discriminatory than the English version.

      — No. They just added the word “regulation” in the English version to make it sound like there was a legal reason behind refusing foreigners. There is none.

      And 外国の方 is mere window dressing to make the refusal sound more polite. But it is still a refusal.

      • Loverilakkuma says:

        Sorry, Steve. Reason for refusal written in Japanese, “Anzenjo-no-riyu” is insubstantial. Even though English word “regulation” is meant to “safety measurements,” there’s no reason to refuse a foreigner(whether a tourist or a long-term resident), based on coverage of insurance policy. It’s not license or permit. Rental car companies, like Enterprise, Alamo, or Hertz, make money by selling insurances in the package. So is tourism. If “foreigners are not covered in his insurace policy,” as you say, then, that’s obviously a problem for secretly selling out discriminatory practice in a poker face.

    • Loverilakkuma says:

      I was just trying googling the sentences above. I got the website named “begin (http://www.begin.jp/aisatu.php). They are a tourist agent in a remote southern island called Tokashikimura, 35 mins off from Naha, Okinawa prefecture.

      Here’s their contact.

      ☆ 住所 : 〒901-3501 沖縄県島尻郡渡嘉敷村字渡嘉敷1918-1
        ☆ 電話 : 098-896-4114
        ☆ 携帯 : 090-3272-3939
        ☆ FAX : 098-896-4115
        ☆ mail : tokashiki@begin.jp


  • realitycheck says:

    Ah, the struggles of a supposedly highly developed society in 2018 to accommodate with maturity the simple wishes of nonJapanese who have been encouraged to come here and spend their money. By the Japanese Government no less.

    And by the simple fact that just as Japanese people for around 4 decades or more have been flocking to other countries and also asking for services, and not necessarily being perfect visitors 100 percent of the time, so too non-Japanese are coming to Japan.

    The tired, small-minded Japan-think is getting embarrassing. The Japanese sense of exceptionalism is digging in with maximum irrationality. Another example is the collaboration of so called progressive media such as the Japan Times which runs another article on how Japan is ‘struggling’ with tourism.

    Apparently Japan is special, it is fragile and it needs to be preserved from too many tourists whose main fault seems to be they are not the Japanese.

    France and the UK are only two countries we could name that seem to have coped just fine with waves of Japanese tourists for a long time, including the many who can’t or won’t speak any of the host countries’ languages, those who insist on photographing everything including private dwellings and any non Japanese face they find attractive or interesting, those who don’t know how to behave in locations and buildings steeped in history that is just as long as that of Japan.

    Japanese exceptionalism or Japanese immaturity and xenophobia? The Japan Times article has its share of foreign supporters or at least those who are writing under foreign names and in fact may be Japanese people. Rachael Worley is the most ignorant example.

    She or he lashes out at somebody who dares to disagree with their sloppy and misleading mixing of tourism with immigration and diatribes against tourists who actually visit Japan legally and pay for it.

    Rachael then calls tourism ‘occupation’. Yes, this is what some Japanese and their bone-headed supporters say about people who legally enter Japan on a tourist visa and pay the money that Japan demands for the privilege.

    Rachael has only 4 comments on JPT so she or he seems a troll that has emerged to slam non- Japanese. All this hysteria and not only from people with clear personality disorders and inadequacy complexes is becoming ridiculous.

    Japan will become a laughing stock sooner rather than later if it maintains this ‘Waaa waaa, foreigners are ruing the Wa, how dare they come to our country although we do the same in theirs, we are special, can’t you see,’ etc.

    All this idiocy connected to tourism as if the Japanese people are offering refuge and welfare to the millions who pay very well for entering Japan to look around, is just another symptom of the last gasps of Japanese self-thought supremacy.

    By 2040 and maybe sooner, Japan will have to beg people to come and bail them out financially by investing and living here. And no, Japan will not be able to dictate terms such as stay here for a few years, pay into our health and pension with your taxes, and then go home.

    It’s all rather childish, really. And very backwards in the 21st century. And Japan Times should stop feeding it.

  • Kyoto Joe says:

    Debito, your tendency to make harsh accusations (of racial discrimination and exclusionism) while seemingly making no attempt of your own to corroborate the situation is alarming and counter-productive. As with the Kyoto City subway sign case, you are promoting a narrative that at the very least is more complicated than a simple case of “Japanese only”.

    As luck would have it I found myself in Beppu over Golden Week, so I decided to do a little homework (which again, should be YOUR job, since you are the one making claims of exclusionism). The booth was crammed with people but I waited my turn, and asked a question (in Japanese) about the area I was traveling to that day. There was absolutely no issue; the lady (shown in one of those pictures) was helpful and gave me a little pamphlet to assist.

    I then told her that there had been complaints that the booth was “Japanese only” and asked her to clarify the situation. She handed me off to another staff member, who explained that Beppu is a popular tourist destination for Japanese people as well, and they found themselves being overwhelmed with the recent heavy influx of foreign tourists. They didn’t have the space to add foreign language-speaking staff in that booth itself, and since there is no space to renovate the booth itself, they added a different one.

    I pointed out that the signage was quite poorly done and had the potential to be seriously misunderstood, and the lady seemed to accept my explanation. I offered them a better option (“Japanese speaking staff only — for foreign language help, please visit the foreign language help desk” or something like that) — and she was grateful. Whether they’ll use it or not is another question, of course.

    At the very least, the woman was clear that there is no intent to discriminate by race — only that they do not have staff members with foreign-language skills in that booth. So at worst, this seems to be a case of poorly-written signage (not uncommon in Japan). Terms like “separate but equal,” with their strong connotations with the history of racial segregation in the US, seem entirely inappropriate and in bad taste here. (FWIW I ride the taxis in Kyoto frequently, and although one eager young staffer tried to herd me toward the foreign line once I just told her 結構です and that was the end of that. No “forced segregation” is happening there either.)

    I think it’s time to stop the instant accusations of discrimination based on single anecdotes from random people. Seriously. You are not doing anyone a service with stuff like this. On the contrary, this kind of stuff just muddies the waters and sows confusion when REAL instances of racial discrimination occur. You and your readers might try being a little more charitable at first, and make accusations only when you’ve done your due diligence and found that actual discrimination has occurred.

    — Thank you for investigating this. I am pleased your experience was different from what the original poster experienced.

    But that does not negate what the original poster experienced. And your constant referring to the “intent” of the alleged discriminator is irrelevant. Any bully can claim they didn’t “intend to bully”, and any discriminator can claim they didn’t “intend to discriminate” (most do, as a matter of fact). Performance is what matters, not intent. The original alleges he was was refused service. That sign, as worded, would bear that out. I’m pleased you’ve suggested alternative wording (I have done so myself in the past), but that’s not our job. It’s the job of the organization offering a service to the public not to put up signs and create potential misunderstandings (especially when backed up by action that confirms that there was no misunderstanding).

    The bottom line is that you don’t trust the original poster. Fine. I do. So if your experience was different, great. And if you want to take action that prevents refusals based upon physical appearance from happening again, also great, and thanks. But again, that does not negate the original poster’s experience, or the evidence he presented. As such, this testimony belongs on Debito.org. I am pleased it spurred you to action to do something about it. Again, thanks.

    • She also may have spent the intervening time after (the first episode) in the room of mirrors. Then, after having a good hard look at herself, changed her approach. That’s not impossible either.

  • realitycheck says:

    ‘It didn’t happen to me so it doesn’t exist or if it does, it’s a misunderstanding’ is a common fallacy used by people who don’t want to face the facts and effects of discriminatory attitudes.
    This does not only apply to Japan, of course. However, as Japan is the topic of this website I and most people who read it and support Dr Debito in his sometimes thankless task to bring such matters to light and try to make a difference, believe it is absolutely fine to focus on the broader situation as well as the micro-details.
    What discriminatory attitudes represent and the symbolism thereof both expresses and fosters the underlying problem.
    Japan is no exception and as a society it has significant problems with being a 21st century society that is a member of and relies on the global world and all that entails.
    There is no official sakoku now officially, and it is time for Japanese society to get up to speed with other developed countries.
    Our countries have their problems too, but the key point is there are laws with teeth and the general public attitude as well as those of legal and social institutions is against discriminatory practices.
    Defending Japan in such a piecemeal and selective way keeps reinforcing the notion that Japan can pick and choose which discriminatory practices are acceptable.

  • ” the lady seemed to accept my explanation.
    -well, how very gracious of them! Omotenashi indeed.
    I offered them a better option” (“Japanese speaking staff only — for foreign language help, please visit the foreign language help desk” or something like that) — and she was grateful.
    -I am sure they really appreciate one foreigner telling them what to do.
    Whether they’ll use it or not is another question, of course.
    – I think we all know they won’t.

  • there seems to be always the sweetheart in our gaijin ranks that claim there is no discrimination when we post an “experience”, and they then “follow up” on such claims to try and prove their point. Its an obvious no brainer that the offender will never claim responsibility, disqualifying sweethearts claims of ” well, it doesnt exsist” such nonsense is reserved for newbie 101 Japan arrivals, who apply some back home logic, “well he said he didnt do it” as some kind of proof. I would pay no heed to the amateur hour clowns who spew such nonsense

  • NJ suggestions are rarely taken onboard or implemented in Japan, IMHO. Even foreign experts are ignored, from Ishihara rejecting one “He is just a foreigner, it doesnt matter” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GSWxdHDuDrc
    as the most damning example.
    I recall being paid a lot to retrain a middle aged senior sales manager (red flag right there, I bet you all know whats coming next!) to sell in English and seek out new, foreign clients, to boldly go where no Japanese stationary company had gone before. The company absolutely HAD to do this, as they had relied on decades long relationships with clients who were dwindling away. Same old story in so many sectors in Japan.
    In what seems like a scene taken from the end of “The Wolf of Wall Street”, I had asked him a year before at the start of the course to sell me a pen. He said I should buy it as it was “nice”.
    After a year of in depth negotiation techniques and logical thinking exercises, the exit test arrived and once again he attempted to sell me the pen.

    “This pen is good, because it is nice”.

    Tangentially, even if they do finally take onboard your NJ advice, they will never admit it came from an outsider. Oh, the shame of that. e.g. the firing of the Brit who was designing the olympic stadium https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/jan/15/tokyo-olympic-stadium-architect-denies-copying-zaha-hadid-design
    This is just disrespectful. If it was an idea influenced by Sempai, you would be that Kohai would not deny it.
    But because it comes from an outsider, as Ishihara revealed, “it does not matter.”

    I move that there is no point why you would bother to go to Beppu and try to “improve Japan”.

    And at worst, they may even accuse you of interfering, Ameri’splaining or Japan’splaining, or even of having a colonial western-imperialist attitude.

    Don’t bother, just shame it for the world to see. Then, Japan might improve.

  • realitycheck says:

    Good points but on the other hand there are knowledgeable Japanese, middle aged or older or younger, who understand and can admit the problems of this mindset.
    But where can they start to change it? Unlike in Germany, the grandchildren and great grandchildren of war criminals who see little to nothing wrong with their families’ shameful histories in oppressing their own people as well as others and paint it all as some story concocted by post WW2 western powers, run the country.
    They have done so since Japan supposedly became democratized with a few political breathing spaces from time to time.
    Unfortunately the opposition when in power has never been given the luxury of time the toxic Jiminto grab-bag of war crime deniers, far right politicians who are not honest enough to wear uyoku uniforms and drive black truck loudspeakers, and propagandists of false notions of ‘the Japanese race’ against genetic and historical realities.
    These facts along with the fact that the rapidly ageing population prefers such political rulers is a recipe for more of the same.
    In truth Japan has decades of economic, social and population decline coming in the near future through its pathological denial of change that other developed societies have been through and will go through.
    Another problem is as these different forms of decline bite, it is likely that many in Japanese society will refuse to accept responsibility. Instead they will target ‘the other’.
    I would like to be more optimistic but change will be very difficult without a strong socio-political culture that chooses to move away from such abnormality.

  • AU did this me to a few years ago at the shop in Gran Front next to JR Osaka station.

    I went in to pick up a phone they had sent off for repair, got a ticket from the machine and told the staff at the counter (in Japanese) that I had come to pick up my phone that was supposed to have been repaired. She said ‘hai’ then asked me to sit down while I waited. After 40 minutes of waiting, having seen several other people be served almost immediately after coming in, my number was finally called. I went over to the table, said ‘Konnichiwa’, and sat down. The staff member just didn’t say anything and started typing something on his phone. It got to be an uncomfortably long time before he turned the phone round to show me that he had written a message in Japanese apologising that the situation was very complex and no English-speaking staff members were around. I just said to him “大丈夫、日本語を話せますよ?”. It turned out to be something ridiculously simple like I just had to show my ID before I could receive my phone.

    I was so annoyed though that they just assumed I was foreign AND couldn’t speak Japanese to the point of not being able to hand over my ID card making the whole 10 times longer than it really should have been… even after I went and spoke Japanese to them! They probably thought they were being nice but obviously it just pissed me off because it was completely unnecessary and inconvenient. I started going to smaller shops where they didn’t appear to have such a ‘service’ and got everything done in a timely manner. I didn’t renew my contract, partly because of that and partly also because AU staff made so many mistakes entering my address that I never got a bill which meant they cut my phone line – the shop staff even looked at the card while they were entering the data and it took me, THE GAIJIN, to call and VERBALLY check my address with the call centre. This country is really shocking to be honest

    • It just seems like anywhere you go, Japanese would suddenly get this weird “sudden-mind-freeze” and not knowing how to respond to even the simplest of questions just because you don’t “look like Japanese”.

      If you ask a question in Japanese it should be common sense that Japanese would respond in Japanese, yet many times they would try to respond with bad engrish or ignore you.

      Given that racism is so intense in Japan, I sometimes wonder if “Yamato Japanese” that get mistaken sometimes for NJ and get poor customer service.

      For some strange reason, Japanese often have no problem responding to Asians that can kind of pass for Yamato or Okinawan. Even my Filipino friends that speak Japanese are able communicate with Japanese without having to endure broken engrish or being ignored. Still there are times where I wonder, given Japan’s increasingly paranoid and xenophobic environment, that even Japanese are suspected of being NJ.

      I am betting that there will be some chance that the racist “Diving Buddies” couple or even Japanese who like the sun a lot are going to be mistaken for NJ somewhere in Japan due to their tan.

      Adding the fact that you have very paranoid nationalists like Ishihara Shintaro who questions if his critics are really Japanese. This has kinda got to the point that the tactic of calling progressive minded Japanese “you must be NJ if you criticize Japan” that I believe the Japanese are starting to believe this lie by now. The J-nationalist lie that liberal and progressive minded Japanese don’t exist.

      Given such an appalling display of even basic common sense by many Japanese, I highly doubt that Japan will get itself out of this economic rut or even save itself from fascism that I believe it is PERFECTLY CERTAIN the LDP will win the next election so there is no need to put ANY hope in that.

      • @Bayfield:
        Another reason that the LDP are a shoe-in for the next election (and all subsequent elections) is also wedded to the Ishihara model, in that they’ve done an excellent job of convincing the Japanese that it is “unJapanese” to vote for any other party. “TRUE” Japanese vote LDP.
        Unfortunately, until that mindset is changed through the teaching of critical thinking in schools, nothing will improve.

      • Jim Di Griz says:

        Somewhere on Debito.org are the cases of Yamato Japanese being detained by the J-police for ‘not looking Japanese’ (and therefore ‘must’ be NJ!).
        Since in these cases they weren’t carrying NJ cards or passports (because Japanese are not legally required to!) the J-police then detained these Japanese citizens for a number of hours!
        Dr. Debito can probably post a link to that for you.

        It’s just like something straight out of Kafka.


  • Baudrillard says:

    I always quote this one as its so weird in some many ways:
    “On Feb. 25, 2006, a 28-year-old foreign-looking Japanese woman was arrested in Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, for not carrying a foreign passport. Grounds for suspicion? According to the Mainichi Shimbun, she was carrying an envelope with Portuguese writing on it. Unable to talk because she was reportedly “not good at speaking to strangers,” she was released when they finally contacted her family after more than a full day of interrogation.”

    • “Grounds for suspicion? According to the Mainichi Shimbun, she was carrying an envelope with Portuguese writing on it”

      Well, that’s a lie. Show me a cop who knows what Portuguese writing looks like, the I might believe you. No, most likely she was pulled over for looking foriegn.


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