“Foreign nationalities OK” apartments bin at Century 21 Saitama realty, and “We’re sorry about our foreign staff’s language & cultural barriers” notice in Family Mart Kyoto (SECOND UPDATE with answer from Century 21 Japan)


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Hi Blog. One important job Debito.org has been undertaking for more than two decades is the cataloging of “Japanese Only” exclusionary signs (and in this case, signs that also publicly denigrate foreigners), to make sure that evidence of Japan’s racial discrimination does not disappear into the ether. Starting with the Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments , the Debito.org Blog you’re reading now is also putting up cases we receive from Debito.org Readers spotting them about town.

It’s important to do this so that everyone can see that this is an ongoing issue. Racists and xenophobes can put up these signs and notices because they are not illegal. Japan has no law against racial discrimination, the only one of the G7 developed countries, and now more than a quarter century after signing the UN CERD (in 1995, where it promised “without delay” to take all measures, including laws, to eliminate racial discrimination), Japan still has not and will not. Let’s put up another treaty violation, shall we?

And please feel free to send me more: debito@debito.org. In addition to the Rogues’ Gallery, the Debito.org Blog’s past record of “Japanese Only” signs and rules is here. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.


Place: Century 21 Realty Saitama Kawagoe Ekimae (Century 21不動産、川越駅前, 埼玉県川越市脇田町105) March 28, 2021, Submitted by ARW, who notes “The photo of the staff was taken after I called their attention to the ‘box’.”

Comment: How nice of an American company to play by Japanese rules by assuming the default for rentals is “Japanese Only”, with a special box that “foreign citizenship OK”.  Not the first time I’ve seen this.

Anyway, I’ve contacted Century 21 USA to report this issue as discrimination.  (Oddly, there was no option to select “Japan” under their list of countries they do business in.)


Place: FamilyMart convenience store, Kawaramachi-Takoyakushi
295 Narayacho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8033

On Jan 17, 2021, RM says: I saw this just now and thought you should have a look. Found that little nice racist notice on the entrance door on a Famima in Kyoto Kawaramachi. Basically says “I deeply apologize for troubling you with my foreigners” in essence. Unbelievable.

The sign says (Debito’s translation):  Regarding the foreign staff at this branch:  We have a large number of foreign staff at this branch. Customers may find their language and cultural barriers to be a nuisance. Employing them was at our discretion, and we are sorry for the inconveniences.  We will soon be focusing our efforts on coaching staff in the proper manners for Japan’s customer service. Your understanding and forbearance would be much appreciated.  BRANCH MANAGER.”

Comment:  Wow, how arrogant and dehumanizing. Please cue the shakuhachi soundtrack before you teach your foreign minimum-wage workers how to unlock the “Secrets of the Orient” — to overcome foreigners’ presumed “language and cultural barriers” interfering with proper “Japanese customer service” in a konbini!   I wonder what happened to inspire the Manager to put up a notice publicly shaming his pet foreigners? (And for the record, I’ve seen plenty of taciturn, indifferent, and unmannerly Japanese staff working for next to nothing in Japanese convenience stores; would I have gotten a sign up if I’d reported their lack of “Japanese manners”?)



Begin forwarded message:

From: C21 Customer Relations <CustomerRelations@century21.net>
Subject: FW: Complaint notification email (Consumer: Debito Arudou)
Date: March 28, 2021
To: “debito@debito.org” <debito@debito.org>

March 28, 2021

Debito Arudou

Dear Debito Arudou:

Thank you for contacting Century 21 Real Estate LLC. We received your complaint involving your experience with CENTURY 21 Japan.

While the goal of all CENTURY 21® franchise offices is always to meet and exceed the customers’ expectations, we recognize that there may be circumstances where any office or salesperson can fall short of expectations or where the parties may not communicate perfectly. As the franchisor of the Century 21 Real Estate System, we ask CENTURY 21 affiliated brokerage offices to address consumer complaints respectfully and promptly to protect the goodwill of our service marks, but as independently owned and operated businesses, the franchisee must handle any complaints or issues directly with the consumers. Accordingly, Kunihiro Osada the franchisee, is the appropriate party to address your concerns.

We will, of course, advise Kunihiro Osada, Master Franchisee of CENTURY 21 Japan about your complaint and request that they address your issue directly with you. When they have received our communication, we expect that the office will reach out to you to discuss the matter. It is our hope that your complaint will be resolved quickly and amicably, but we cannot provide any assurances as to the outcome.
Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.


Customer Relations

Century 21 Real Estate LLC.
175 Park Avenue
Madison, NJ 07940


From: 酒井 秀敬 <h-sakai@century21.jp>
Subject: Complaint notification email (Consumer: Debito Arudou)
Date: March 31, 2021
To: “‘debito@debito.org'” <debito@debito.org>
Cc: “‘CustomerRelations@century21.net'” <CustomerRelations@century21.net>, 経営企画部 <japan@century21.jp>

Dear Mr. Debito Arudou:

We acknowledge receipt of your email regarding the issue involving one of our franchisees in the Kawagoe area. It has been forwarded to us by the Customer Relations Department of CENTURY 21 Global Headquarters in the US (C21 US), which you have initially contacted regarding this matter.

Firstly, in case you are not familiar with how a global franchise system works, please allow us to offer an explanation. CENTURY 21 Real Estate of Japan, Ltd. (C21 Japan) is the Master Sub-franchisor of the CENTURY 21 brand in Japan. We serve as the administrative headquarters of our franchise operation in Japan.

CENTURY 21 offices in Japan are franchisees and not branches of C21 Japan nor C21 US. Our franchisees in Japan are all independently owned and operated. Therefore, we are not directly involved in the advertisement of listing properties of our franchisees’ businesses. Also, as Japanese real estate brokerage, our franchisees are governed by Japanese law such as Real Estate Brokerage Act, which is known as “Takuchi-Tatemono-Torihiki-Gyouhou” in Japanese.

Having said this, however, we take very seriously any actions or behaviors of our franchisees and agents that might be less than the professional standards that we set and, in any way, tarnish the reputation and integrity that our brand has attained over the past decades. All of the regional headquarters within the CENTURY 21 global network are obliged to follow specific policies and procedures that are set by the Global Headquarters to maintain a uniform standard of excellence.

There are certainly cases where an “expectation gap” arises between the prospective customer and the agent, and oftentimes this gap grows wider during the course of interaction between the two. This is particularly true when different cultural norms, sets of regulations, and industry practices exist. For example, in the US there is the wide-reaching Fair Housing Act (FHA) that bans pretty much all forms of discrimination. Japan does not. Therefore, what could be a violation of the FHA in the US would not necessarily be one in Japan.

Having said this, however, C21 Japan HQ believes it is never good for business to practice and kind of intentional discrimination and caution our franchisees accordingly. We will, therefore, request the office you have identified to remove the subject bin to avoid any semblance of discrimination, no matter how unintentional the original reason might have been. We apologize for any unpleasantness that you felt because of the bin’s existence.

Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.

Best regards,

Hidetaka Sakai
Global Business Relations Office
CENTURY 21 Real Estate of Japan, Ltd.
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19 comments on ““Foreign nationalities OK” apartments bin at Century 21 Saitama realty, and “We’re sorry about our foreign staff’s language & cultural barriers” notice in Family Mart Kyoto (SECOND UPDATE with answer from Century 21 Japan)

  • “we cannot provide any assurances as to the outcome”

    In other words, the brand name “Century 21” means nothing.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve tried fighting this battle with Century 21 myself. I got them to apologize to me in person and agree to de-list the racist landlord who refused me on account of literally my name alone–I applied for his property online through an automated form, and my name is written in kanji–but a year and a half later continued to encounter the same racism problem at another Century 21 branch. I was eventually able to find a place to rent without acquiescing to racist interrogations about my nationality or demands that I display my gaijin card, but it was difficult. I can’t say this enough: if we keep caving in to racist demands from landlords or property management firms, things won’t change. If we give our business to apartment locators “specializing in foreigners,” we will create a financial incentive for companies to resist and block change, lest they lose their niche market.

    The issue with Century 21 reminds me of US-based tech companies operating in Japan giving Wajin racism a pass, and consequently the larger mainstream Western corporate media taking a hard left-wing stance on essentially everything in regards to Western society, but largely failing to even give notice to right-wing extremism and racism in Japan and other East Asian nations. No underlying objective morality exists; the prevailing narrative pushed by corporate media is interpreted as the “local ethos.” Really goes to show just how skin-deep the left-wing media bias in the West.

    • @HJ

      Ive experienced this as well. Applied at US owned or joint ventures in Japan, been refused due to mickey mouse excuses. I just report it to the head office in the U.S., but Ive also noticed that the latest overly woke movement does not include overseas operations at all. Interesting times we live in.

    • Loverilakkuma says:


      I agree with you on corporate media narrative. I am increasingly getting annoyed with left-wing’s overbearing behavior since the beginning of 2017. It’s a shame mainstream media like MSNBC, CNN, and ABC are now desperately looking for another bait to retain their Nielsen rate after the departure of Trump. I feel so nauseated with their ‘woke’ behavior after watching them spreading diehard Russian scare narrative (a.k.a. BlueAnon conspiracy). They really don’t care what’s going on outside their home soil unless the US is deeply involved. Just like how they treat the news about Israel. They may report what Biden administration is planning to do with PM Benjamin Netanyahu in detail, but they’re not gonna cover the reality of Israel’s Jim Crow-ish segregation against Palestinians, let alone denying vaccines. That’s the case for America’s best diplomatic friend. Regarding their ever opportunistic attitude, I cannot expect any corporate media to make in-depth coverage of human rights issues in East-Asia. Not even PBS Frontline.

      Regarding Century 21, I’m really sorry for what you have experienced with them. That’s unconscionable. All I can say about any “gaishikei’ establishment is do not equalize them as foreign corporate entity. Local agents are generally Japanese nationals who really don’t understand the plight non-Japanese residents are facing on a daily basis.

  • I used Century 21 in Osaka with no problems. Maybe it depends on the branch. I looked at a lot of places in Sakai.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    About 20 years ago I tried to use Century 21 in Japan and was refused service.
    As soon as I started opening the glass door, staff leapt up from behind the counter in a state of near panic and came to intercept me in the entrance. They literally showed me the door and held it open for me to leave.

  • Salt Cicada says:

    The CENTURY 21 case is 100% pure discrimination. This should be reported to authorities and an online petition addressed to the USA HQ should be put in place to force them stopping doing the ostrich.

    The Konbini sign… I don’t know what to think about it. Maybe the owner got complaints from his staff that and he did that in an attempt to place a cushion between them and the customers. I am not really convinced it has been thought with a discriminatory mindset; but indeed in essence it is.

    • Jim Di Griz says:

      I can imagine the combini sign may be a case of having drunk/entitled/racist/bullying* man-children coming in and taking out their frustrations on the staff. There are plenty of stories in the news of ‘I am a customer, therefore I am god’ believing (usually) old men making trouble for combini staff even when they are Japanese. I imagine all the crap employees from China/Vietnam/Nepal etc get working at these jobs.

      *delete as applicable

    • Loverilakkuma says:

      The CENTURY 21 Japan is a fictitious global company that has no business relation with the US franchise. They could be even worse than some of US branches that are in trouble for housing discrimination lawsuits out there. Many ‘gaishikei’ corporations are de facto domestic companies disguised in the name of foreign corporate brand. Their franchise is Japanese, their stakeholders are Japanese, and the vast majority of their clients are… ahem, Japanese. Be deferential, show a condescending attitude, and make an insinuation(“we are not directly involved in the advertisement of listing properties” you are complaining about), and refuse to take issue as the matter of housing discrimination based on race(“expectation gap” arises when non-Japanese rent(s)/buy(s) a property… About what? GameStop syndrome?? So, they need “set of regulations” because NJ are inherently dangerous Reddit-junkies to destabilize Japanese “industry practices” by crashing their cushy housing market??? Oh, give me a break!) These are all within character of typical Japanese business.

      Konbini sign is even more sinister since it apparently stigmatizes particular targets(both visible and non-visible minorities) who are usually from non-western countries, usually with limited legal status.

  • That second reply from Century 21 Japan is gold. Admits housing discrimination is legal in Japan but does not express any criticism of it, then offers to deal with the problem not by refusing to do business with racist landlords but by hiding the label for “gaijin” listings. Problem solved!

    — It is gold, isn’t it? Eminently citable in future publications.

  • Do J Xenophobes never stop and think that this is just driving NJ investment/support etc into the arms of regional rivals?
    But Japan is lucky; China has shot itself in the foot recently and Covid means the Olympics will be a Xenophobe’s dream come true.

    So they can be racist again….for now.

  • @ H Sakai

    I boiled down your argument:

    Racism is acceptable among your “professional standards” and does not “tarnish the reputation and integrity that our brand has attained”. Racism does not violate any of your “specific policies and procedures that are set by the Global Headquarters to maintain a uniform standard of excellence”.

    Hang that from your door please and the uninitiated will know to stay away.

  • Yeah the answer from Century 21 is comedy gold. They‘re just hiding behind the law and of course they‘re also using the good old „every franchise is independent and we can‘t do anything bla bla“ excuse. Well, the same can be said about any franchise system, yet I‘m pretty sure that if someone would put up a sign like that at a McDonalds restaurant, McDonalds would step in and revoke the license of that franchise owner. Maybe McDonalds isn‘t the best example since they had the Mr. James campaign and did nothing about it, but I’m pretty sure that a „foreigner ok (or even worse, Japanese only)“ sign would be a big concern for McDonalds headquarters. Century 21 just doesn‘t care, obviously. Racial discrimination is legal in Japan, so they won‘t do anything. They‘ll just remove the sign. They‘ll of course continue to list racist landlords who only rent to Wajin.

    They also had to invoke the classic „expectation gap”, which is just a fancy new word for „cultural differences“. It‘s not Japan‘s fault for being racist, it‘s you, the „gaijin“ who just doesn‘t understand Japanese culture and laws.

    That whole email is just the polite way of saying „go f yourself.“

  • It comes down to money. If getting on the woke movement bandwagon in one country increases your popularity and by extension, your profits, then better do it
    If wokeness isnt acceptable somewhere else, then just adjust your business model to what the locals are doing, even if it is contrary to what your claiming to promote elsewhere. just blame the minority who complain about it, all the while claiming to be sensitive to minority discrimination where it “matters”

    Ive witnessed this allot in Japan.

  • @Hidetaka Sakai

    “…that bans pretty much all forms of discrimination. Japan does not. Therefore, what could be a violation of the FHA in the US would not necessarily be one in Japan.”

    20 years ago your own Japanese government told the UN CERD commission that Japanese laws protect all people in Japan against racial discrimination. ( See http://www.debito.org/japanvsun.html) So who is lying? The Japanese government, or you? It has to be one of you.

    Japanese people can enjoy the full variety of benefits of living in western countries that protect their human rights very well. No housing discrimination, or if there is, it gets fixed fast by media shaming and lawsuits with actual teeth. Their treatment at work is protected by strict laws against racist remarks, sentiments or policies. Their school environments are supportive of racial diversity, not hostile to it, like Japan is. The list goes on and on.

    Pretty soon western people are going to wake up and ask themselves why do they allow Japanese people to get away with this imbalance in treatment. As your population declines, and your importance wanes, you can’t expect to keep reaping the rewards of overseas compassion and fairness, while giving none of your own back.

    Think about that and what it means for your offspring.

    • Already happening-As your population declines, and your importance wanes, you can’t expect to keep reaping the rewards of overseas compassion and fairness, while giving none of your own back.

      Witnessed a UK shoe manufacturer come to Japan, “its expensive and so racist”- moved production/design etc to Vietnam overnight. (its not even about China anymore)

  • Just mulling on the words: “Foreign residents in Japan are also guaranteed fundamental human rights under the Constitution except the rights which, owing to their nature, are interpreted to be applicable only to Japanese nationals (*1).”


    A careful reading of the above shows that MOFA doesn’t even understand what “human rights are”.

    Human rights are called human rights because they apply to all humans without exception. That’s why the US Bill of Rights is called the Bill of Rights, not human rights, as it only applies to US citizens (or residents). Human rights, on the contrary, apply to all humans, hence the name. So it is nonsense to say that gaijin in japan have the same human rights…except for XYZ.

    If they were not trying to limit gaijin human rights they should say, gaijin have the same human rights as anyone else. Gaijin also have the same constitutionally protected rights as Japanese citizens, except for those rights that by their nature can only apply to Japanese citizens.

    —- Correction: The US Bill of Rights applies to anyone on US soil.


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