Japan Today: “Blond Hair Blue Eyes” Eikaiwa job ad


Hi Blog. The issue I was notified of and posted about last November has finally hit the national press. Background on that issue here:


Japan Today reports the following:
English school condemned for limiting teachers to blond hair, blue eyes
Monday, February 12, 2007 at 07:16 EST Courtesy Kyodo News

KOFU — An English-language school in Kofu, Yamanashi Prefecture, had publicly posted a recruitment poster limiting instructors to those with “blond hair, blue or green eyes,” leading activists to file complaints, people involved said Sunday.

The poster for recruiting instructors the school sends to kindergartens was posted at the Yamanashi International Center for six months until November, when the center removed it after receiving the complaints and apologizing for its “lack of consideration.”

“Linking appearance and qualifications of English educators is questionable. It encourages discrimination on appearance and race,” according to the complaints filed with the center by the activists, including American-born Japanese citizen Debito Arudou.

Arudou, associate professor at Hokkaido Information University, who is working on human rights for foreign residents in Japan, also filed written requests with the school, kindergartens and the Kofu Regional Legal Affairs to promote human rights.

According to people related to the school, several kindergartens in Kofu have asked it to send English instructors so their children can get accustomed to “foreigners,” attaching such conditions as “blond hair” and “blue eyes.”

The school “was aware that it was an old discriminatory idea, but couldn’t resist customers’ needs,” one related person said, noting that the school now regrets it.

It’s pretty late, and I’m too tired right now to comment meaningfully at the moment; will do so later on today. Watch this space. Debito in Kurashiki

6 comments on “Japan Today: “Blond Hair Blue Eyes” Eikaiwa job ad

  • Even though I’m a natural brunette with dyed reddish brownish hair at the moment, I’ve never been discriminated against simply because I’m half-Japanese half-Western without blonde hair.
    But many Japanese seem to think that every person from North America, Europe, and Australia has blonde hair, and that their hair colour is natural no matter what.
    It’s like as if many Japanese don’t think hair dye exists in those respective regions!

    Surprised remarks from my Japanese friends when they hear that not every Westerner has blonde hair, and that some people do dye their hair in Western countries prompts me to remark “Hey, Japanese people aren’t the only ones in the world who may colour their hair.”

    Speaking of hair colour, I also hear that many native Japanese people who colour their hair anything but black have trouble finding jobs (Shuushoku) because of their hair colour.
    It also seems that many employees think that all native Japanese should have black hair no matter what, and that anyone with hair colour other than black are incompentent people who cannot do their jobs right.
    Some people may criticise Japanese people for colouring their hair, but many people around the world colour their hair regardless of their nationality, and regardless of their natural hair colour.
    There’s that stereotype/joke that Western women with blonde hair are stupid and incompetent, right?
    I don’t believe in this stereotype, but the fact that a stereotype exists isn’t exactly illegal in itself.
    On the other hand, seldom in Western countries do people refuse to hire blonde haired women simply because they judge people by this stereotype and say “We don’t want to hire you because you have blonde hair, and blonde women don’t look like they can do the job right.”

    In Japan, however, I am aware that there is a stereotype that people with hair colours other than black are considered incompentent and are considered “not decent” members of society simply because of their hair colour. It’s sad that stereotypes exist, but that’s how some people think.
    The problem is, too many Japanese people (definitely conservative Japanese people) refuse to hire people with non-black hair, and take that stereotype literally and use it to judge people in general.

  • I’ve found that to be true as well. I was talking to a Japanese girl the other day who was going to have a job interview. When I asked her what she was doing to prepare, she said she was going to the salon to have her hair died black (it’s a fashionable, but perfectly reasonable shade of brown now). She spoke of this action as though it were absolutely necessary; I don’t know whether this was on her part or at the request of her previous employers, but she made it clear to me: you want to work in Japan? You should have black hair.

    As far as the blonde hair blue-eyed foreigner is concerned, I think I see it as being more of an acting audition than that of a serious job; you’re playing a role in the Japanese education system whether you’d like to think so or not, and that role is the stereotypical foreigner: the one who drinks Cola while walking and speaks English to you.

    Think about it: Japanese English-teaching companies and schools hire native speakers with little to no education experience; they expect you to know the language of course, but more important than that? Have a good presence in class. Be the one the kids about it with your strange foreign ways, your strange foreign words, and of course, your stereotypical foreign appearance. After all, you can’t discriminate against a casting company for calling for a specific part, now can you?

  • As the demand for English teachers slowly diminishes in Japan, so does the level of teachers! My wife enrolled our 2 kids at the Matsuzaka ECC satelite school only to inform me a few weeks later that she and the kids didn’t like the teacher. I went to the school to observe a lesson and meet the teacher Imelda – a Philippine girl of dubious stature and lesser English than my Japanese wife who recently scored 770 on a TOEIC test! Imelda clearly had no idea what she was doing. When I asked Imelda about her lesson plan for the day, she had none – just a book with a page open that she had obviously not even read. No plan, no point. When I pushed her a little further, she became curt and borderline abusive!
    Well done ECC! I for one, will NEVER enrol my kids with any ECC school again if this is the level of their teachers!!

  • Hey John, I do feel sorry for you and your kids. ECC, KTC, Geos, Aeon, Peppy Kids Club, (sh)iTTTi Japan, Chuoh Shuppan, Gaba…they’re all crooks and cheap-ass companies out to make huge profits at the expense of quality teachers and lessons. It’s so bloody obvious they’re ripping off naive and gullible Japanese customers and students by hiring cheap, rude, obnoxious, unintelligent, unprofessional, unreliable, short-tempered, lazy, late, disrespectful, illiterate, stupid…. foreigners to act a clown for paying customers. Just get a body in the classroom is how they think. Eikaiwa needs to clean up its act and pay real teachers with real salaries, benefits and bonuses. Until they do that, it’s always going to be a sad and crappy industry.


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