NPA enforcing Hotel Management Law against exclusionary Prince Hotel Tokyo

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Hi Blog.  Interesting precedent here.  A hotel which refused a booking to a major organization (in fact, cancelled their reservation) looks to be taken before the public prosecutor by police.

This is a good precedent.  The police are at last enforcing the Hotel Management Law, which says you can’t refuse people unless there are no rooms, there’s a threat to public health, or a threat to public morals.  But hotels sometimes refuse foreigners, even have signs up to that effect.  They can’t legally do that, but last time I took a case before the local police box in Shinjuku, they told me they wouldn’t enforce the law.

Not in this case.  Read on.  As I said, interesting precedent being set here, what with this criminal case instead of a civil suit.  Pity it took more than a year to enforce, and it took a group this big and organized to kick the NPA’s butt into action.  I’m not sure this is a situation the average NJ will be able to take much advantage of.  But again, a step in the right direction.  Courtesy of HH.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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Police move Prince Hotels-teachers union case to next level

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

 

Police sent papers to prosecutors Tuesday against the operator of a Tokyo hotel that refused entry to the Japan Teachers Union for its annual convention, fearing protests by right-wing groups.

Police said Prince Hotels Inc., its president, Yukihiro Watanabe, 61, the 52-year-old general manager of three Prince group hotels, and managers of the company’s administration and reception departments are suspected of violating the Hotel Business Law.

They said the parties reneged on their obligation to provide lodging as stipulated by the law.

It is rare for police to establish a case based on the hotel law’s stipulation, according to officials of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

According to police, Prince Hotels and Watanabe in November 2007 rescinded a contract signed with the teachers union to use the Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa in Tokyo’s Minato Ward for its 57th National Conference on Educational Research scheduled from Feb. 2, 2008.

They also refused, without a justifiable reason, to let the union reserve 190 rooms at the hotel for conference participants, police said.

As a result, the teachers union was forced to cancel the plenary session of the conference for the first time since 1951.

According to police, Prince Hotel officials said they were aware that their actions were illegal, but they insisted they had no choice because the Japan Teachers Union’s convention could draw “protests by right-wing groups and cause problems for other guests and residents nearby.”

The union has demanded an apology and has sued the hotel for compensation.

The union filed a criminal complaint with police in August last year.

Under the Hotel Business Law, hotel operators are prohibited from denying accommodations to guests except when they pose a clear risk of spreading a communicable disease, engage in illegal activities, or disrupt public moral, or when the hotel has no vacancies.

Violators face a 5,000-yen fine, but under a special measures law on fines, the hotel operator and executives can be fined a maximum 20,000 yen if found guilty.

A lawyer representing the union said the issue with the hotel touches upon basic constitutional rights.

“Freedom of assembly, protected under the Constitution, will be jeopardized” if government and judiciary fail to take strict measures, the lawyer said.

The union made reservations in March 2007 through a travel agency, paid half of the costs in July that year, and signed a formal contract the following month.

The hotel then sent a certified letter to the union saying the contract had been annulled.

The union fought back and won a tentative injunction from the Tokyo District Court to allow it to use the hotel facilities.

The Tokyo High Court upheld the injunction on Jan. 30, 2008. However, the hotel still refused to let the union members in.

Minato Ward, where the hotel is located, reprimanded hotel officials in April 2008. But the ward stopped short of using administrative penalties, such as ordering a suspension of business operations, after receiving a letter from the operator vowing to prevent a recurrence.

Prince Hotels issued a statement Tuesday saying it “considers seriously the sending of papers to prosecutors and will continue to cooperate with the investigation.”

(IHT/Asahi: March 17,2009)

ENDS

9 comments on “NPA enforcing Hotel Management Law against exclusionary Prince Hotel Tokyo

  • The proper tactic is clear.

    If the hotel is “afraid of protestors” then the Teachers’ Union
    should hold legal, but noisy, protests in front of every hotel in the entire chain every day until the hotel takes back its illegal stance.
    And if the rightwingers decide to threaten the teachers and hotel, the police can be forced to stop playing mahjong in the back rooms of their kobans and guard the teachers and hotels.

    THIS would be the proper precedent to establish.
    Break the law and the common people will protest, causing the very ruckus the hotel claims is the reason behind cancelling the contract.
    Police don’t enforce a law, and they end up spending their days in stuffy riot gear standing between schoolteachers and insane right-wingers in black vans. Suitable punishment for the initial laziness.

    The piddly 5000 yen fine is not going to change any minds.

  • Michael Weidner says:

    “Violators face a 5,000-yen fine, but under a special measures law on fines, the hotel operator and executives can be fined a maximum 20,000 yen if found guilty.”

    5,000 yen to 20,000 yen only? Is that actual or is it a misprint? If they are going to take them to court for such a small fine, even if it sets precedent, IMHO is a waste of tax payers time and money.

  • Contracts mean nothing here in Japan, so it doesn’t surprise me that the hotel cancelled it knowing that they can wriggle out of any “law” thrown at them. The fact that the hotel even admits their actions are illegal, again, they know the law is weak as dishwater and as such, like many, act with impunity.

    I recently spent 2 years fighting a cancelled contract case, just concluded last month. Cost me a fortune. The “other party” said just the same to us, when we said we would take them to court. They laughed and said they don’t care!!

    However, the judge agreed with us, ruled in our favour. Yet, cited commercial code 512. What this means is that ‘another party’ can lie, cheat deceive, mislead etc etc as much as they like, they can even, as in our case, “take” our money and not return it. Since 512 says as soon as we start “communicating” with a merchant, we must pay them for their time (1/2 our losses)….even though they mislead and cheated us!!!!! Being honest, lawful, professional and acting with integrity has no place in this.

    We were also told by our lawyers that “service” as westerns understand is not the same here. Since the law in this aspect is based upon the German definitions. (I noted in a previous post by you about this “service”).

    Paying for a service has surprise surprise, a different and actually more than one meaning here!

  • Such incident creeped me out. Why legislating in the first place if they have no intention of enforcing it?

  • John K

    Sounds like you’ve had a rough time just recently so I don’t want to impose on your time or patience, but I’d really like to hear your story.

  • Hi Debito- I thought this was the best way to reach you so I apologize for the off topicness-

    My friend who is a 67 year old New Zealander is married to a Japanese woman. He just tried to renew his spousal visa and was told that he cannot renew it because he is “too old” and because he has had a heart attack. This was at the Fukuoka Immigration Office.

    Is this actually a valid rejection? To me it sounds absolutely ridiculous!

    — Er, no. Age has no bearing on marital status. Get the man a lawyer, and have him write this up a a report for us to read. If possible, carry a recording device, go back to the Immigration office, and reconfirm what was said.

  • John K,

    Ah yes! The lovely civil law (code based) system.

    Yet the majority of non-Asian foreigners come from common law systems. So our idea of contract is considerably different–based on custom or tradition that became judge-made rules.

    It comes as a surprise, and maybe it shouldn’t, that astute Japanese are aware of our assumptions and how to exploit them under their legal system.

    In a civil law, code-driven system like Japan’s, every legal issue has a home somewhere in a code. Even if they have to rely on interpretations from Germany.

  • Debito,

    Refusing a foreigner a permission to stay in Hotel and this cancellation of rooms to Japanese people are perhaps looked with different spectacles by NPA.

    For any majority community in the world and its law enforcement people, it’s easy to waive and hush up noisy foreign looking individuals (minorities), but it’s certainly not easy for them to waive protest by own community.

    We read about Jane’s fight. We also know some Okinawan girl’s plight. But look at the publicity the two cases got. One is silently suffering as she is NJ and for the Okinawan girl, whole Japan was furious.

    So though the two examples are different, the common point is discriminate those who can be easily discriminated. And NUMBERS / MAJORITY plays the game !

  • TJJ/Asteriks

    It seems to me that the laws are written around making illegal business “legal” albeit temporaryily. Since what “westerners” consider lawful, honest and professional etc, is an anathema here.

    I’ve been asked several time by friends about my “issues” and consequently learnt far more about Japan than i ever though (Just like Debito did with his case – makes for some hard consumption). I’m trying, albeit it very very slowly, if at all, to get the law changed. This will be a very long slow process. What surprises me, is that everyone agrees the law is an ass and is wrong, yet no one is willing to do anything about it….as the topic of this posting above highlights!

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