My SNA Visible Minorities 45: “Judges Strip Equal Protection from Naturalized Citizens”, on the unjust Aigi Country Club decision (Apr 24, 2023)


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Hi Blog.  My blog post from yesterday has become a full-blown column at the Shingetsu News Agency. Here’s the opening:

Visible Minorities: Judges Strip Equal Protection from Naturalized Citizens
Shingetsu News Agency, April 24, 2023 by DEBITO ARUDOU in COLUMN

SNA (Tokyo) — It’s the next stage of evolution in Japan’s variant of racial discrimination: a naturalized Japanese citizen was last year denied membership at a golf course—explicitly for being a former foreigner. He sued. This month a district court in Mie Prefecture ruled that this was not an illegal act of discrimination.

You read that right: not illegal. Follow me down this rabbit hole.

Aigi Country Club in Kani city, Gifu Prefecture, refused a former Zainichi Korean with Japanese citizenship. Their justification, according to the Asahi Shinbun, was that “our club has a quota for foreign nationals and former foreign nationals who have become naturalized Japanese and restricts new memberships. We currently have no vacancies in that quota.”

In court, Aigi Country Club duplicitously denied outright racism by claiming that they refused him for more reasons than foreign roots. It didn’t matter. The judges acknowledged that the plaintiff was refused for being foreign and they still ruled against him. They accepted that this was an instance of discrimination, but it wasn’t enough discrimination.

The judges ruled that a golfing club by design is a “closed and private organization with strong personal ties among its members” and that Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees “freedom of association.” In their reading, private groups are free to decide their membership criteria and, at any rate, playing golf is “not indispensable for social life.”

In sum, it wasn’t an instance of discrimination “beyond socially acceptable limits.”

Really? Let’s parse the legal reasoning and put it in context in terms of the arc of court precedents on racial discrimination in Japan…



The rest of the SNA article is at

The website substantiating all of this is at

Have a read, and lament for Japan’s future if horrible legal precedents like this are allowed to stand. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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8 comments on “My SNA Visible Minorities 45: “Judges Strip Equal Protection from Naturalized Citizens”, on the unjust Aigi Country Club decision (Apr 24, 2023)

  • Dr. Debito this was one of your best SNA articles yet.

    “Beyond socially acceptable limits” holds that some discrimination is inevitable (for example, separating bathrooms by gender).

    Funny you mentioned that as an example — on June 16th, the third petty bench of the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments over the economy ministry’s refusal to allow a transgender employee to use the women’s bathroom on her floor.

    Assuming that the Supreme Court rules in favor of the plaintiff, a legal precedent would be set whereby the inevitability of ‘some discrimination’ would in fact no longer be the case thereby invalidating the logic of “beyond socially acceptable limits”, correct?

    — Probably not. But it’s up the judge’s “discretion”, and that means appeals up the ladder over years if that particular judge’s version of discretion doesn’t agree with that precedent. Judges in Japan are weird, entitled, self-important people.

  • I said it to Shibuya Immigration when they proudly said to me that I could apply for PR, “No thanks, no point. I intend to leave one day.”

    This is far, far worse. This guy jumped through all the hoops. What’s more, he is Asian so presumably can pass for a Japanese which “they” seem to prefer- he could and probably did make a strong effort to assimilate. He was probably born here. He had to give up his Korean heritage, and lets not forget Korean laborers were brought here originally- not by choice.

    And it is STILL not enough. I would say this dooms Japan’s demographics ultimately. Who wants to become a second or third class citizen at great personal cost?

  • This actually is bad for Japan’s security: if the feeling grows in NJ business execs, consular staff etc that Japan is inherently racist and the game loaded against them, why play? They start to “Japan pass” and that undermines feelings of wanting to bother with Japan’s legitimate security concerns, and certainly not investing etc. Japan’s treatment of NJ’s starts not to look all that different from China’s.

    Sounds far-fetched? Well, consider how all these issues of Zainichi citizens of Korean background have hindered South Korea- Japan security arrangements. There is some doubt that if North Korea attacked Japan, South Korea would actually do much to come to their aid (unless they themselves were attacked by the North). Or any such aid would be lacklustre, as Korea is another nation where nationality and blood are intertwined. Neither Korea nor Japan have got over their race issues.

  • This is absolutely outrageous and disgusting… sigh. I can’t imagine how the guy feels with this joke of “Justice”

  • Jeff Smith says:

    We knew this was the result.

    I personally have never believed nor trusted Japan’s “naturalization” system, because it seems everyone who naturalizes is still not considered Japanese, ever.

    I feel like the Japanese government and judiciary system have taken advantage of the chaos since Trumpy and now the Ukraine and are breaking all civil rights and human rights codes.


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