“Gaikokujin Appetizer Charge” in Osaka Dotonbori restaurant? Debito.org investigates.


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Hi Blog. Debito.org Reader XY sends the following message:

From: XY
Subject: Racist Izakaya Bill?
Date: January 6, 2019
To: debito@debito.org

Hello Debito,

Happy New Year and thank you so much for all that you do for our community here in Japan.

A friend of mine found this on a message board:

I haven’t been able to do a proper identification of authorship and all that comes with that. I understand proper evaluation of sources is, more than ever, really important. However, I don’t have that.

Anyway, I have the bill (if it hasn’t been doctored), and the post from the message board.

My Japanese is nowhere near good enough to do the proper investigation of this. But I know that this sort of thing would be big news, (if we weren’t living in Japan).

Please have a look if you get a chance. You are pretty much my last resort here as I don’t have the skills to properly investigate. We passed it through the usual channels, JET boards, etc. People are pretty conflicted. I think the restaurant should get a chance to respond. Maybe this type of thing is probably normalized anyway and maybe I am just overreacting. It’s interesting to me that this was a systemic choice, not the work of a single employee (often the case in the States).

Sincerely, XY

From: Debito Arudou
Subject: Re: Racist Izakaya Bill?
Date: January 29, 2019
To: XY

Hi XY. Thanks for your email. I finally got around to talking to the Izakaya (06-6646-4888) on January 30, 2019, at around 2PM. The person in charge (a Mr. Tada) said that this was not an addition to the bill for NJ customers. The charge for appetizers there listed is the same for Japanese and NJ. It’s just their way of letting their records know that there was a foreign customer. That’s what he said. Anyway, FYI.

Sincerely, Debito

From: XY
Subject: Re: Racist Izakaya Bill?
Date: January 30, 2019
To: Debito Arudou

Thank you very much for getting back to me! It’s great that you called to confirm this with them given the weirdness of the whole situation and wording.

At the very least, this puts it on their radar and they will think twice about their “record keeping” practices. A few of my friends were curious about this and I’ll be sure to let them know the result and that you were on the case!

Thanks again so much!!

Sincerely, XY

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20 comments on ““Gaikokujin Appetizer Charge” in Osaka Dotonbori restaurant? Debito.org investigates.

  • girlintokyo says:

    My friend and I were given an English menu at a restaurant in Shibuya that had higher prices than the Japanese menu. I asked the waitress about the discrepancy, and she said something like, “Oh, sorry! That’s the wrong menu. This one (indicating the Japanese one) is correct.”

    Whether they just hadn’t updated the English menu with the new prices or planned to overcharge foreigners isn’t clear, but from now on I plan to check both menus.

    It isn’t at all surprising to me that they assumed when I walked in that I couldn’t read Japanese. They may have been depending on that to get away with it.

  • Andrew in Saitama says:

    And yet again, falling into the trap of logging people by appearance.
    And what do they hope to achieve by keeping records of the number of visible minorities that visit their establishment?

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    As long as the charge applies to both Japanese and NJ customers, I have no issue. Still I don’t understand why this restaurant needs bother ‘calling it out’ on the receipt when they have NJ customers. They would never do that to Japanese customers for sure.

  • Is it a different appetizer for J and NJ? That could (possibly) be a justification for marking out the supposed and completely unprovable nationality or ethnicity of the patrons.

  • But the reciept clearly does say “gaikokujin tsukedasu” meaning “foriegner charge”, so it’s hard to imagine what the equivalent wording would be for Japanese customers if they are also charged this fee….

    I am quite suspicious.

  • AnonymousOG says:

    There’s actually 2 wrongs going on here.

    #1. People raised in the current culture of Japan are too subservient to the erai-hito (business owners in general, richer folks in general, stronger folks in general) thus most don’t have the courage to strongly state: “Hey, you izakaya owners, you are committing the crime of fraud by not writing upfront in any signs or menus the existence nor the actual price of your ‘surprise hidden table charge’ which you then fraudulently rationalize by throwing a little unordered appetizer-present at the customer (while even then still not telling the table-charge price attached to this appetizer “present”), and then in the bill when you suddenly reveal the $5 or $10 or $100 (whatever the owner chooses with this particular sucker customer who has walked into the trap this particular day, since the actual price isn’t written anywhere upfront), then after that simple fraud comes the subsequent criminal act of coercing the fooled victims to hand over money against their will for a charge which they had never entered a verbal contract to pay (an unwritten undetermined unknown table-charge, which if the owner had properly shown the customer the charge upfront as one is required by law, the customer would have had the proper ability to DECIDE to either A. enter into that table-charge deal by sitting and ordering, or B. decline that table-charge by standing and not ordering and going to some restaurant which doesn’t have a table-charge) and the even more concerning crime begins when the owners and/or the owners’ staff then forcefully coerce the weak victims to pay (for something they never agreed to) through verbal intimidation (which often involves meiyokison slandering the victim in front of many public witnesses as supposedly ‘trying to defraud the restaurant by not paying what you owe’ (which literally is damaging to that customer if any of those witnesses decide, based on that accusation, to not give business to that particular customer’s business in the future, and probably will tell their friends to also do the same, since ‘that bad customer must be an un-trustable business-person, since the good restaurant owner loudly announced that customer was trying to avoid paying the full bill”) and then of course the ultimate crime in all of this hidden-table-charge act is in the end when the restaurant owners and owners’ staff physically intimidate customers who complain about the hidden-charges, indirectly implying and directly stating that the complaining customer is going to ‘be held (legally kidnapped) and the police will come and arrest you, the ‘criminal’ trying to not pay that portion of the bill’, even actually going so far as locking the door, preventing free movement, then assaulting and battering the rightfully complaining victimized customer. Hey restaurant owners: if this table charge is so important to your business’ bottom-line, you need to simply WRITE the price of your table-charge-with-connected-appetizer-present clearly on your enticing signs out front and on your menus, as required by law. Thank you.”

    And then of course problem #2 here is the fact that this particular izakaya owner has stupidly decided it is ‘necessary’ and ‘legal’ to order their staff to write on receipt documents, “this customer appears racially Japanese, but that customer appears racially Non-Japanese”, and no, this is not “merely” “nationality discrimination” (by the way, even nationality discrimination is unforgivable discrimination) but this is patently Racial Discrimination since the staff is writing their unneeded unlawful and quite possibly untrue note about the customer’s racial appearance based on: racial appearance, not actually having any evidence of the customer’s actual nationality/citizenship.

    TLDR: “Surprise, pay this cover-charge, even though it wasn’t written on any signs or menus” is NOT a “misunderstood cultural aspect of Japanese Izakaya Culture”, it’s actually fraud, plain and simple, and the subsequent coercion to pay the hidden-charge moves the crime-level into the restaurant owner’s staff committing acts of verbal threats, physical assault, kidnapping, and battery.

    Today’s summary: Japan 2019, please stop writing/saying/doing 2 different things based on racial appearance, because that act is rudely two-faced according to humanity-society and it is illegal racial discrimination according to the 1995 Japan-Signed United Nations’ Legally-Binding Supreme Law ICERD Treaty.

    • Baudrillard says:

      Stop trying to get NJs to pay into and prop up the Japanese Only Club without the same benefits.
      Considering the millions of everyday conversations in Japan that start “Nihonjin wa”, “wareware nihonjin etc” and all the companies called “Japan whatever” even if domestically trading only, and you would think that in ethno obsessed Japan “Japanese customer charge 300 yen” would be perfectly normal. If anything, it would affirm the Abe Zeitgeist that, hey we tax you more, but you are special, you are part of the unique Japanese volk. Thus, VIP charge of 300 yen in restaurants for membership in the Japanese Club.

  • I had sometime the experience that I did not get otoshi in restaurants (especially in Fukuoka), but I was also not charged for it. I think that they had many complaints by tourists “I didn’t order that…”, so I feel sympathetic, but was still annoyed that they treat me differently because I look different.

  • Just learned that otoshi is called tsukidashi in Kansai, so as another commenter mentioned, it could just be the otoshi charge, and the customer being unfamiliar with the practice didn’t know what it was for. Now, if they didn’t actually *receive* the otoshi because they don’t give it to foreigners (for the reason that the other commenter mentioned), then it would make sense that they wrote foreigner on the receipt so any staff realize the reason they are being charged but not getting their otoshi. The point still stands that it’s mazui to racially profile these days, even if the intention is positive, but with the facts providex I doubt there’s real malicious intent.

    • Baudrillard says:

      I have a Japanese friend, only speaks Japanese, to me he looks quite Japanese, and yet because he is a quarter Caucasian, in restaurants they think he is a foreigner. I ve seen it happen over and over and he must be sick of it. He has to tell them, “I am Japanese”.

      Would he get the Foreigner otoshi charge too? Would they change it if something said, I am “half” permanent resident etc?

      Its just a stupid thing for the restaurant to do.

  • HUH? Deputized by police to spy on NJ? ” their way of letting their records know that there was a foreign customer”
    What does it mean foreign? foreign looking? here we go again…..

  • “It’s just their way of letting their records know that there was a foreign customer.”
    Imagine the outrage if they used this way to keep track of Japanese customers:
    おばあちゃん)代き出し 300円
    おじいさん)代き出し 300円
    Of course, with NJ they feel they’re entitled to do whatever they want to.

    • Andrew in Saitama says:

      I was thinking along the same lines, except profiling those with physical disabilities.
      1) Completely pointless, except for patting yourself on the back for “attracting” such customers.
      2) Based on your assumptions from outward appearance.

      おもてなし. We have millions parroting it, but only a few who actually practice it.

  • Why does nobody here comment about what the restaurant staff actually said according to Debito? From that answer, it doesn’t seem that there is actually a menu item called “gaikokujin tsukidashi.” It seems that the restaurant could simply use a better system of customer identification with numbered tables or orders instead of attempting to describe the customers physically. Instead of crying racism or fraud, we could just kindly offer them a suggestion. Maybe the restaurant is just a small operation which hasn’t yet invested in numbered tags for orders or a computerized table number system (or they weren’t sitting at a table). Who knows. It’s complicated to be PC when you’ve got a small business and are just trying to survive; and many people have little understanding of how to deal with unusual situations—and of how their actions can be interpreted with discomfort or pain. Why not start with trying to help and proceed from there?

    — What would you “kindly offer them as a suggestion”, in an attempt to “help” a possibly customer-service-challenged restaurant in these so-called “unusual situations” (i.e., being patronized by a NJ-looking customer)?

    • Because we know more than you do. We know its not a small business – it’s a big chain. 99.9% of Japanese restaurants have table-allocation billing systems. This one has to make racial profiling comments on the receipt.

      It’s just like a MacDonalds in the US printing out a receipt with “Black family” among the particulars of someones order.

      Would you support that? And If you saw some restaurant doing that would you want to help them, as you propose we do?

      • AnonymousOG says:

        Yep TJJ.

        “The manager said it’s just their way of letting their records know that there was a foreign-race customer.”

        The manager thus doesn’t see any moral problem with his company ordering the staff to guess and enter into a computer receipt database the racial appearance of each customer who appears to be a “not appearing stereotypically purely racially Japanese” and thus a “foreign-race” person.

        Plus, it seems the commenter TS is naively assuming the person claiming “nothing wrong here” somehow lacks the motivation and ability to lie.

        We saw before how the owner of that “Japanese People Only” sign-posting (yes, that’s exactly what that business owner wrote on his sign, Japanese PEOPLE Only”) yet claimed on the phone, “The sign just said Japanese Only, meaning Japanese Language only, yeah, that’s the ticket.”

  • I agree with TJJ

    why even have the gaikoukujin label or identifier on the receipt to begin with?

    we all are bothered or internalize with this garbage everyday. I hear the word gaijin or gaikokujin at least 10 times a day.


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