NJ company “J Hewitt” advertises “Japanese Only” jobs in the Japan Times!


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog.  In what came as a shock to me, alert reader Rob sent me scans of yesterday’s (March 9, 2009) Japan Times Classified Ads, with three sections advertising for “Japanese Only” applicants!  See scans:


Sounds a bit like a forklift operator.  But Japanese Only?


“Must be bilingual”.  So then why Japanese Only?


Selling soap and ear piercing products.  Okay, again, why Japanese Only?

Nice company, this J. Hewitt KK (http://www.jhewitt.co.jp/).  Seems to be run by a NJ named Jon Knight.  Feel free to drop the company a line to say how you feel at info@jhewitt.co.jp

Rob also sent a message of complaint to the Japan Times.  (You can too.  Classified Ads Dept at jtad@japantimes.co.jp, and all other departments at  https://form.japantimes.co.jp/info/contact_us.html).

For by their own guidelines:


Advertising jobs that discriminate by nationality may not be “offensive” to some, but they certainly may easily be construed to be illegal.  They violate Japan’s Labor Standards Law Article 3:  “An employer shall not engage in discriminatory treatment with respect to wages, working hours or other working conditions by reason of the nationality, creed or social status of any worker.”  That’s before we even get to the Japanese Constitution Article 14

I shouldn’t have to be barking about this.  I expected more from the Japan Times when it comes to promoting equality in the workplace.  Shame on them, and especially on their client.

JT, screen your advertisements and stop abetting discrimination.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

28 comments on “NJ company “J Hewitt” advertises “Japanese Only” jobs in the Japan Times!

  • What’s ironic is that one of the things they sell, body piercings, will cause Japanese to discriminate against you (whether you’re NJ or Japanese).

    Many spas/gyms these days ban “body art & piercings” in addition to tattoos.

  • How well is Article 3 (equal treatment) of the Japan Labor Standards Act even enforced?

    I remember reading somewhere in print that, involving foreigners or “NJ”, there were only two high court cases about it in Japan. In both cases the NJ cost.

    Maybe the Labor Standards Investigation office is a lot more thorough, and so there are few instances that make it to a court. But something tells me that the hurdle on proof of discrimination is so high in Japan that Article 3 is just pretty words.

  • Almost the same as the ad on “Gaijin Pot” by7ACT “Native English speakers ONLY”, while two lines above they say “Native-level English ” which is not the same.
    From what I checked, 7ACT is run by Australians.
    I sent them a letter(mail, in fact) of complaint, stating that their ad is illegal, since it discriminates against people from countries others than US,UK,Canada, Asutralia, NZ and SAR.No answer at all.

  • also, why are they looking for only Japanese in an english paper…? or do they mean `nikkei` only because they can fit in once they speak perfect japanese…

  • That someone is looking for a Japanese shipping clerk or office and accounting manager through Japan Times might have a reason.

    Kantou region has dozens upon dozens of licensed headhunters who do this as side business. Some place ads they have no hope of filling so that they get the hundreds of resumes. Others place a lot of ads to give the impression that they are actually successful headhunters with a lot of leads.

    I am currently peeling off the layers of an onion who presented himself to me as an “executive recruiter” with a deep bench of clients. In fact, his snazzy sounding office building is, per Google search, something that looks more akin to a building looking for tenants. The fact that a microbrewer also occupies the same floor does not help matters. (Again, via internet search.)

    And the international network on the website is simply other distantly associated people operating out of side offices, their homes, or shared space. I was in fact the one that pointed some of the affiliates out to the “international” recruiter.

    So first, I would suggest stepping back and asking if these are even real jobs or if the “recruiter” isn’t really just looking for resumes from Japanese people who speak English and read the JT.

    But total agreement on bringing folks to task about the “Japanese Only” part.

  • GiantPanda says:

    The Labor Standards Law only applies once the person becomes an employee. It governs the relationship between employee and employer, and does not apply to people who are not yet employees. So the company can be as discriminatory as they want in their hiring practices. And we all know that the “people” in Art. 14 of the Constitution is translated as “kokumin”, meaning NJ are excluded…. that’s how they got back at the Americans for giving them the constitution I guess.

    — We’ve talked this over again and again on Debito.org, and bringing up this red herring about “kokumin” vs. “people” in the Constitution is getting annoying. Legal precedent and established practice in Japan has established that NJ are also protected under the Constitution. Everyone in Japan is. Talk to any constitutional law lawyer or your local MOJ Jinken Yougobu and they’ll tell you the same. So leave it out.

    As for the LSL, I was wondering about this very issue of protections BEFORE employment, and conferred with some people schooled in labor law last night while blogging. The verdict was that we’re just not 100% sure, I’ll admit. But I strongly doubt the law was framed in the spirit of “you can discriminate as much as you like against people before you hire them”; that’s just counterintuitive. The issue then becomes one of enforcement. Obviously I’m not going to interpret in favor of discrimination, and I’m certainly going to advocate an enforcement against discrimination.

    So I ask anyone who says that people aren’t protected BEFORE employment to find some legal justification for it. A similar law, the Equal Opportunities in Employment Law (danjo koyou kikai kintouhou), protects against discrimination by gender BEFORE employment, obviously (otherwise, if you think about it, it would be absolutely meaningless as well as weak). However weak the law is in enforcement you can still sue under it and win (viz 2002 Nomura Case. here and here). So I’ll assume the same thing about the Labor Standards Law, and put the burden of proof on the people who would support an interpretation favoring discrimination. Thanks.

  • @Norik
    Maybe they’re looking for a way to keep the door closed for Japanese people but allow people who aren’t exactly native speakers but are still foreign. I would have sent an email and a letter though, not only to 7ACT but to Gaijinpot as well.

  • Looks like a direct hire situation by a distributor, not branching out into the search business.

    Another possibility is that the business is not aware that the ad will ONLY run in English?

  • Mark Mino-Thompson says:

    Just a thought on what might be behind this ad. Debito can probably confirm this for me, but isn’t there some provision when setting up a company in Japan that staff (N/NJ) have to be equal, ie. one Japanese hire for each NJ (or was that just in a dream I had)? If this is the case, perhaps the company needs a “Japanese” (citizen) in order to make their quota?

    Other than that, I can’t see any logical defence to this type of advertisement.

    — One of my friends who tried to set up his own company in Sapporo (The Finland Design Center) was told by the GOJ in the 1990’s that he had to hire two full-time Japanese, since his was a a foreign company with no Japanese torishimari yaku, and there were local-hire issues. This bankrupted him in just a year or two.

    I have another NJ friend down in Tokyo who set up his translation company with no local hires. He’s still chugging along strong, couldn’t understand why Sapporo lowered the boom on him.

    So again, it might just be a matter of enforcement in these cases. Dunno for sure.

  • Dear Debito,

    I can offer you one clue with respect to your comments in 11. The “Business Manager Visa category” for foreigners is interpreted by Japanese MoJ/Immigration People and other authorities, in such a way that, “An NJ investor who sets up a business in Japan and is need of this Visa category (Business manager / investor) then that NJ MUST employ minimum two Native Japanese people”. And if you dont show proofs of that employment, they reject your Visa application or simply tell you to apply for Engineer or other category visas. I have had this experience in past with me and a few of my friends while I was trying to set up a Japan office for one of my employers in India.

    As regards the Hiring practices, (sometime back in that Takadanobaba Ad matter) many on this blog had said that its an Open Secret in this market space to dodge NJ out of such requirements.

    If anyone NJ applies to any Japanese Job Portals and tries it oneself, he or she can even give you proofs on this discrimination. Even when they dont say we will not take NJ or say we will take only J, once you apply / send email, they will respond with a sorry letter. Well not always the reason will be Kokuseki, as most people have started taking care of this issue. But if someone who has had this experience, s/he may be able to give us all a proof. I had one such email proof long time ago, but I dont have it in hand now (I lost it somewhere). Request other friends on this blog to share if they have such proofs, by sending it to Debito.

    Another careful reading into the “Perfectly Legal-Looking Ads” will tell you the rotten smell. Its when these headhunters post the jobs in their web site they ask tacitly in ‘desired skills’ that the candidate should have a Native level command on Japanese language, meaning, even if an NJ applies in English (as the so called ads are in English) s/he can immediately be turned down on either language capability or origin whichever is most convenient to the head-hunter or his principles paying him for this work.

    Another trade secret is given by someone earlier. Its also an open secret to collect resumes and show that your Db is strong enough to prospective clients. These days, however, no one from prospective employers’ side is impressed with any number of NJ’s resumes as there is a generic NJ non-acceptance wave, which has started from likes of Toyota, and it has reached virtually all industries and everyone in the Japanese HR teams know that their own government wont do anything or wont even bother if they collectively discriminate against the NJ people, at this time of crisis.

    What is shameful and what surprises me, is the fact, that an NJ company is actively doing this kind of advertisement and a newspaper like JT has allowed this to be published.

  • Two points:

    JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization) mentioned somewhere on its site that a KK in Japan must have a Representative Director who is a resident of Japan. There doesn’t seem to be any rule if the person must be Japanese, only that they live here.

    It may have been different in the early 1990’s. Maybe then there was a citizenship test, and a requirement for the size of the board.

    The residency requirement, obviously, is there to prevent corporations being set up and run by ghost management that is actually located in another country. That goes on a lot with smaller outfits, and it’s not clear whether the Japanese authorities always look the other way.

    Representative Director, by the way, is the translation of Dai Hyou Torishimari Yaku. It often appears as “president” or “board chairman”, but it is actually something more significant. The officer has final say and some personal responsibility. This is probably why the term Representative Director is out there.

    Second, the U.S. and Japan have a Treaty of Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation (FCN Treaty). I might have mentioned this before here. The treaty allows Japanese companies to discriminate in favor of Japanese executive management in America, and also allows American companies operating in Japan to favor Americans for top positions.

    I’m not sure that fork lift operator is anticipated, even though it is a critical job if you are an executive who does not want to be lifting heavy boxes yourself. But I bet that Representative Director doesn’t have to worry about a Japanese taking his job.

  • Debito,

    One more for you:


    the author at this link suggests that LSL Article 3 would not include the hiring decision. (That is around the top of page 6 of the PDF.)

    The theory is that decision to hire is under the freedom to contract. The government should not “force” anyone to contract with others that they don’t want to. I think the same argument was being made by the Southerners against the U.S. civil rights act of the 1960’s, but that is an aside.

    How convenient if you can discriminate in the hiring decision, then you don’t have to worry too much about actually following the equal treatment provisions of Article 3 later on. And no one loses face.

    — Quite. If you signed a contract accepting the unequal conditions, you’ve effectively signed away your labor rights, because if you sue in a court of law later on, they’ll say you agreed to it so you haven’t a case. But if you don’t sign an unequal contract, you won’t have a job anyway if offering the unequal conditions is legal. So I guess the LSL really is useless in stopping discrimination beforehand. Rats.

  • Debito,

    This is a bit of topic drift, but in response to your post and examples, there is the new Labor Contract Law (effective March 1 last year).

    While the English commentary is usually sort of light on these developments, I have found two interesting posts. One is from the government via Fukuoka Prefecture


    The other is commentary by DLA Piper


    It looks like the law added just a few new things and clarified some old ones.

    Hopefully more discussion will be up about the Catch 22 foreigners are so often presented here about asking to sign something once they DO in fact overcome the gaikokujin hurdle. It puts them under the linked law above, rather than the one all the Japanese get to use. Again, it’s discriminator’s mission accomplished. And no one loses face. (See? You signed!)

  • GiantPanda says:

    Was not trying to be contrary – but as someone a little “schooled” in the labor law myself I just do not see how the LSL can be applied before an employment relationship exists. Even the Article you quote calls the two parties the “employer” and the “worker”. How can the company be the employer if it hasn’t hired the person? There is no equivalent to the EOEL that would protect people from racial or even age-related discrimination before employment. If the company had made an employment offer and then withdrawn it upon finding out someone is not racially Japanese, then you might have a legal leg to stand on, but they are free to apply their own standards when doing the hiring.

    As for the Constitution, as in any country it means what the Supreme Court says it means. What we need is a case that goes all the way to the Supreme Court, and to have them pronounce once and for all that “kokumin” in Article 14 means everyone resident in Japan. Anyone want to volunteer for a lengthy costly court battle?

    The requirement to hire 2 Japanese nationals full time comes from the Investor / Business Manager visa requirements. I think they can also be permanent residents. So if you already have a valid visa status and establish your own company you can hire whoever you like.

    — Thanks very much for filling us in further on all of these issues!

  • the labor laws do apply before a person is hired. for example if a person applied for a job and was denied an interview because the employer felt like they dont want to hire someone over 30 years of age. the the LSL will fine the employer for age discrimination. believe me it doesnt matter if its before a contract is offered or after…

    — Evidence please.

  • Speaking of the devil…





  • A little bit of a tangent, but I sent a short email of complaint to the ad department at JT. Their response follows.

    “Thank you for your comments on The Japan Times Classified Ads.
    We highly value your opinions, and would like to discuss the matter sincerely.

    We would like you to know that these adverts do not imply any discriminatory messages.

    However, we understand those expressions should be minimized to broaden job opportunities in all possible situations.

    We would like to discuss this matter thoroughly, including usage of expressions for future reference.

    Thank you very much again for your valuable comments.
    Japan Times Ad. Dept.”

  • Debito, I strongly feel the company ( ジェイ・ヒューイット株式会社 ) J Hewitt and the rep director ( ジョン・ナイト ) Jon Knight should apologize. Ben

    — Hi Ben. Send him and email and tell him so. info@jhewitt.co.jp

  • “We would like you to know that these adverts do not imply any discriminatory messages.”

    heh, I think Japan Times doesn’t know the meaning of the word discriminatory. “________________ Only” seems pretty discriminatory to me.

  • Bob in Chiba says:

    Not just the Japan times classifieds, but Careergate that JT uses to filter applicants online has flat out denied to introduce me to the companies I applied to through Japan Times Jobs. an excerpt from an email received Sept. 29th last year:


    この度は「Japan Times Jobs」から弊社ご紹介企業の求人にエントリー




    ■職種:Product Marketing Manager/Women


    株式会社 文化放送キャリアゲート

    Japan Times Jobs係

    東京都港区浜松町1-31 文化放送メディアプラス6F
    TEL:03-5776-3215 FAX:03-5776-3233
    E-MAIL: shokai@careergate.co.jp

    I called them to make a stink about it, but was told they are just following the client’s briefs…

  • Norik,

    I don’t really get your problem with the gaijinpot ads. Native level ability is a valid requirement for some jobs. Likewise, I don’t have a problem when businesses say they need native Japanese language ability. I can understand that some jobs DO require that. But that’s very different from saying Japanese only. One is a skill requirement, the other is a race requirement.

  • “Talk to any constitutional law lawyer or your local MOJ Jinken Yougobu and they’ll tell you the same.”

    Actually, some of my friends are constitutional lawyers (well, professors of Japanese constitutional law, [iyami deleted]). They tell me that there is some ambiguity around the phrase “kokumin” in its application to foreigners. My understanding is that the interpretation of “kokumin” as meaning “everyone in Japan regardless of citizenship” applies to constitutional articles that coincide with international treaties concerning universal rights. That’s why the Supreme Court ruled in 1964 that Article 14 (on equality under the law) applied to everybody in practice. It was not a recognition that foreigners “were” kokumin, per se, but that because Article VII of the U.N. Charter extended legal equality to all, foreigners had the de facto rights covered in Article 14 anyway. It was simpler to try such cases as though the Constitutional article applied.

    However, this does not apply to all articles of the constitution. This is most evident in its aspirational aspects. It would be absurd to suggest that the Emperor is a symbol of the “unity of the people” in Japan, including all foreigners that happen to be there at any given moment. One also wonders how the Emperor is supposed to select a prime minister from the Diet on behalf of all of the people in Japan, when only “nationals” (the du jure meaning of kokumin) can vote. In the recent legislation setting out the procedure for a referendum on constitutional change, there is also no provision for foreigners to vote, even though the Constitution says that the referendum is a “kokumin touhyou”. In fact, I believe that the recent legislation states that foreigners are not even allowed to engage in public demonstrations on the constitution prior to its revision.*

    So the short answer is, no, “kokumin” is not always a comprehensive definition of “the people” in Japan, in that it only extends to foreigners in certain situations, and even then only in a de facto sense.

    *This pisses me off no end – not least, because I think in this case, Abe’s restriction on “foreign” demonstrations may well be unconstitutional. I would have thought that was a violation of Article 21, which seems to guarantee the right of both assembly and speech to anybody regardless of whether they were a “kokumin” or not. I suppose it depends on whether you take the title of Chapter 3 of the Constitution (the rights and duties of “kokumin”) as applying to Article 21 or not. Have you ever looked into this issue Debito? It seems right up your alley.

    — Not sufficiently, no. Thanks for switching me on to this. Any sources I could pursue? Thanks.

  • Hoo boy! Is my face red! It turns out that the bit about the ban on gaijin demonstrations was expunged at some stage between its proposal by the LDP and its passage through the Diet.

    Here’s the LDP skeleton draft. As you can see, as well as restrictions on demonstrations by teachers and civil servants, foreigners are clearly banned from demonstrating:

    四 外国人の国民投票運動の禁止等


    I would have thought Komeito would have a problem with this, given their constituency, but it seems as though they let it slide through. I suspect that when the bureaucracy got a hold of it, they quickly figured out that it was constitutionally a no-go and the ban on foreign demonstrations was dropped. The government doesn’t seem to push the point in Diet records and the ban doesn’t appear in the final legislation. Maybe the government obeys constitutional process after all, when it is pointed out to them. Teachers, etc, still get no joy, but as they are employees of the state no constitutional principle applies.


    Anyway, FYI, here is a reference to the Supreme Court judgment I mentioned before on the status of foreigners as “kokumin” for the purposes of Article 14, not for the purposes of the entire Constitution:


    — Excellent. Thanks for this. Your point is well made, and I capitulate.

  • A headhunter told me that the Japanese Labor Office is telling companies to hire Japanese over foreigners. They must interview 3 or 4 Japanese candidates before considering any non-Japanese. Apparently it is very hush hush and not a written recommendation.

    I don’t know if that rumor is true, but the whole job market in Tokyo has skewed “Japanese only” in the past few months at the non-Japanese companies to say nothing of the domestic ones.

  • Dude what I could never understand is why most of the jobs at the embassy require 1 kkyu level japanese for local hires. I mean, arent most of the clientile English speakers?


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