Discussion: What do you think about special discounts for NJ?


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Hi Blog.  The Community yahoogroup has been having an interesting discussion about “positive discrimination”, where NJ actually get special treatment or discounts for being foreign.  What do readers of Debito.org think about that?

Here are some posts from The Community developing the issue.  Comments?  Debito

Just wanted to pass along a very nice thing that happened today —
went out to a cafe here in Fukui with my family for lunch and was
surprised to find a sign in English at the register reading “10%
discount to all foreigners”.  Although the discount is nice, it’s even
nicer to see a shop going out of its way to open itself up to NJs,
especially in a conservative prefecture like Fukui.  It’s the first
time I’ve seen anything of the sort expressly written out as a sort of
store policy, so it was definitely a nice experience.  The food was
good, too.  😉

I doubt any other community members will ever get the chance to go
there, but just to give credit where it’s due, here is a link to the


Although the foreigner-friendly sentiment may be admirable, do people really approve of differential pricing depending on nationality?

That said, someone recently insisted on taking the tax off something I bought in a tourist-oriented shop in Kyoto, even though I was not taking it abroad. I didn’t complain too hard!

If I noticed a shop nearby that was giving discounts to foreigners and they had items I needed, I wouldn’t hesitate to go there.

It does however beg the question of how they define foreign and how
they determine foreignness. Would zainichi Koreans be included here,
and are they asking for ID or are they just basing it off appearances?
How about the likes of Debito and myself, [both naturalized citizens]?

I think your sympathy with the people who try to be foreigner friendly
is as well intentioned as the people who make those efforts.

To try and convey the feeling, instead of just the principle, of what
I’m talking about, I’d like to relate an anecdote.

There used to be a club in Roppongi called “Vanilla”. And they gave out
tickets that said:

“with this ticket, 1.000 yen/2d
Foreigners & Women use only”

As anyone who has gone clubbing in Roppongi, 1000 yen for two drinks and
admission is a pretty sweet deal.

So I showed up with some people, a mixed crowd of some Japanese, some
foreigners, some men, some women. Two of the men were non-Japanese Asians.

At first the women at the front counter would not accept the tickets
from the Asian men. But, as you suggested a person could do, they then
provided their “gaijin cards”.

And the women *still* checked with the managers to make sure it was all

The distinct feeling we got was that the idea of the foreigners discount
was that they had an image of what being a foreigner who goes to a club
is like. They wanted the kind of young and cool black American you might
see in a rap video, or a tragically hip white DJ-type you might see at a
rave in London.

In other words, yes, my friends could prove they were, in fact, foreign
and eligible for the discount.

But they sure didn’t feel great about having to confront the feeling
they got from the club, which could be described as “Oh… when we said
‘foreigners’, we didn’t mean *you*, but, I guess we have to let you in

I understand the sentiment here, but we accept ladies’ day at the cinema and
senior discounts or children’s discounts in a number of places.  I think any
effort to be foreigner-friendly (as opposed to foreigner-suspicious or
foreigner-hostile) should be accepted with the good will with which it was

If you are an Asian foreigner and want the good discount, you could flash
your alien registration card.  If you are a “foreign”-looking Japanese
national you could of course refuse the discount, but aren’t there times
when nice manners and accepting people’s attempts to be friendly trump
politics?  It might even be a funny teachable moment:  “I know I look
foreign, but I’m actually Japanese.  Can I still have the discount?  [LOL].”

I’m all for challenging rude and hostile treatment of foreigners (or
anyone), but I do fail to see what we gain by rejecting on “principle”
people’s attempts to reach out in kindness.

I think the reason senior and student discounts exist is because of the
general societal consensus that those people don’t have as much
disposable income as the working middle class. We respect that students
are working for future contribution, and seniors have given us past
contribution. So we cut them some slack.

With situations such as ladies night at clubs or movies, it’s marketing.
If the women come, the men will follow.

So the question then comes back to us as, do we want to be seen as
disadvantaged (like seniors with fixed incomes) or a marketing tool
(like women getting half price at a bar).

Personally, I think both of those perceptions keep us viewed as
separate. In the short term they are well intentioned and harmless in
any one specific case. But the more situations where foreigners get
privilege for being foreign will keep Japanese seeing us as some kind of

Yes, very well stated. That is really almost precisely the way I felt in reading about this. I’m sort of torn between, on one way, a desire to applaud somebody’s attempt to be kind, but at the same time concerned about the very fact that people of a different nationality are seen as either objects of discrimination or privilege. I understand the sort of “duty free” treatment of tourists, because there it is very much a question of purpose of travel rather than nationality, but when the store also gives special treatment to foreigners who are basically members of the Japanese community (in general, I watch Japanese politics more closely than American politics), then I think it requires some thinking.

40 comments on “Discussion: What do you think about special discounts for NJ?

  • Hypothetical question for you, Debito-san (and any other naturalized former-NJ):

    If you were to visit a place with a discount like this, were given the discount based on your “foreign appearance,” would you accept it or would you mention that you were Japanese and turn down the offer?

  • I don’t like this one bit. How do you define foreigner??? The problem with this is that it in effect make the prices higher for “non-foreigners”, which by default is negatively discriminating against those “non-foreigners”.

    So did the person in Fukui who posted this get the discount? Did it apply to everyone cuz there was one NJ there? Did it apply because the NJ customer was paying? If the kids were “half” did they get the discount? Maybe one “half” kid looked “foreign” but the other did not, how was that handled? Discounts based on some subjective criteria is just another way to draw a line between people. You and us. Unacceptable.

    Discounts for foreign nationals, tourists, students, women, or seniors are still discriminating but at least they are well defined and can be verified by a state issued ID.

    I applaud the fact that this business is making an effort to reach out to the “foreign” community but there has to be a better way.

    This all leads to the question, if the 10% discount was for “Japanese”, would it give you a warm fuzzy spot in your heart because this business was reaching out to the “Japanese” among us?

  • With signs like:
    “10% discount to all foreigners”.
    seems nice…sweet, great. The proprietor is probably a decent person and wishes to help/engage the foreign community more, perhaps.

    But, there is such indoctrination of anything foreign, here in Japan, i suspect if an Asian NJ went to the cafe/restaurant they would get the same:
    “Oh… when we said ‘foreigners’, we didn’t mean *you*, but, I guess we have to let you in anyway.”

    So for some, their intentions are good, but not being a “classic” foreigner, one challenges their ignorance and prejudices which they think they do not have. If, after being suitably chagrined by the experience they ‘allow’ the not-classic look foreigner in, surely, this slowly, albeit very slowly, helps to break down this impenetrable wall of indoctrination by the GoJ on its citizen, of what a foreigner is, bit by bit.

    Maybe, just maybe, in time, when the word foreigner is used, it wont automatically mean the “classic NJ” person, and hence, not being judged by ones appearance alone.

  • maguro in meguro says:

    If a shop near me had a foreigner discount I’d stop going there. For all the good intentions I prefer being treated as a normal member of the community, and I don’t like kicking up a fuss. If they had a tourist discount I’d go there though and refuse to use it even if they insisted. Fortunately I live in an area where foreign residents are treated as normal members of the community (by other residents, not by the Japanese bureaucracy ofc).

  • There’s no possible justification for ‘positive’ discrimination. Sure it’s great to receive a discount, but to receive one based on your skin color or nationality? If that’s ok, we definitely shouldn’t be surprised if we’re negatively discriminated against – it works both ways.

    Scenario A:
    Staff to Foreigner: You get a discount because you’re not Japanese.
    Staff to Japanese: You’re from Japan. Sorry, no discount.

    Scenario B:
    Staff to Foreigner: You don’t get the discount, you’re not Japanese.
    Staff to Japanese: You get 500 yen off because you’re Japanese.

    Positive or not, discrimination is discrimination, and the last poster above is totally correct:

    Personally, I think both of those perceptions keep us viewed as separate. In the short term they are well intentioned and harmless in
    any one specific case. But the more situations where foreigners get privilege for being foreign will keep Japanese seeing us as some kind of novelty.

  • I’m against this. There is no such thing as positive discrimination; it is really discrimination against someone else. All I want is full equality, nothing more, nothing less.

  • Now here is something new that I haven’t thought about in quite a while… Hmm…

    To keep a long post short, I don’t have any big problems with it and, in fact, I have taken advantage of such discounts in the past for admission to parties and clubs.
    Feel bad for the Asian NJ that experience awkwardness in such moments as described above but on the flip side, they have their own unique bag of advantages that non-Asian NJ such as myself aren’t allowed to carry around. (get carded or stopped on your bike much?)

    It would be really inappropriate to mention the word karma at this point and I hope no one goes that way. No seriously, it would – because just like in the case of the 2 ladies that initially made that “unintentional” gaffe “we don’t hate white people!!”, it doesn’t apply here either.
    There is no karma, only the images in Japanese minds of what a foreigner is and looks like and acts like.

    Whatever ethnic ancestry you hail from, there will be things that you can take advantage of here as a result of said images. I suggest making a list… Whenever you are feeling that “Jpns is teh sux0r!”, just look at your list and remember how cool you are. 🙂


  • I am opposed to it. Positive or negative, discrimination is still discrimination. Fighting the discrimination that you dislike while accepting discrimination that works in your favor is hypocritical.

    Think of it from the other perspective. We complain with good reason when we see “Japanese only” signs. I think Japanese should rightly complain about “Foreigner only” practices such as these.

    The sad thing is that like so much discrimination in Japan, both positive and negative, I do not think that many Japanese will ever consider this to be discriminatory in nature.

    This is a hard one to fight. While the economy is bad and many are not as financially stable as before, I could not rightly accept such a “discount” with good conscious. If I came across such a situation, I would insist paying the normal price, regardless of nationality. Ideally I would like to talk to a manager, but more likely I may just avoid such a place.

  • Sorry but to those people who balk and take offense at a shop that is giving out a discount to foreigners I assume then that naturally, they have never EVER used their own status as a “foreigner” to benefit themselves or otherwise serve their interests in ANY way shape or form? Sheesh! Not to start any static but just trying to keep things in perspective here.

  • A number of sight-seeing attractions in Matsue City, including the castle, have a foreigner discount. I went with an (ethnically and legally) Japanese friend and her ethnically half-Japanese, and at least a quarter-Chinese daughter (an American citizen.) The ticket booth people believed the mother when she told them her daughter was an American citizen and so the daughter got the discount. Admittedly, if you take a good look at her you can see she has some NJ-blood.

    Though just now I wondered, did they believe it more easily because I was there and they assumed that I was the father?

    Incidentally, the Japanese friend did not get a discount.

    At any rate, if it’s the sort of discount where you show your passport and get a cheaper ticket I don’t see a particular problem with that, in as much as they are trying to get more tourists from overseas (I guess they aren’t interested in domestic tourists.) But I agree with many of the posters here, just giving people a discount for looking like the classic foreigner is a bit odd.

    I might opt to refuse the discount now. The whole division of “you and us” is really starting to wear on me.

  • You can’t call this a “positive discrimination” when you look at it from the Japanese’s perspective: they are not given the benefits of 10% off based on their nationality alone.

    This kind of treatment gives birth to resentments and racial tensions. Bad trend.

    Their intent may be nice, but so many times in all corners of the world bad things are done for good intentions. Refusing services to foreigners is done for the intent to maintain peace and protecting the business along with the customers, just as an example.

    It’s nice to see topics like this brought up here though.

  • As a naturalised citizen and white as the ace of spades isn’t, I must admit to having mixed feelings about this one (assuming that I would qualify for said discount based purely on appearance). On the one hand, discounts are always nice and the sentiment is certainly appreciated, but on the other hand I’d agree with what most others are saying here in that it seems a little too arbitrarily discriminative to ignore.

    I think the sentiment could be better expressed by a sign in the window saying “We have English menus/English speaking staff”. Of course, not all foreigners and tourists speak English as a first, or even second language yada yada, but in terms of putting said foreigners/tourists at ease over the sort of welcome they could expect I think it would do the job more than satisfactorily.

    As an aside, a sumo stable was set up in my town about 3 years ago, and even now a fair number of shops have “sumo wrestlers welcome!” signs in the windows. I don’t recall if they were offering discounts though… I’ll try and remember to get a picture of one later.

  • Most places have schemes like this,I guess euro rail pass is one.Japan rail pass is another.Shops give other nationals sales tax free shopping on production of a their passport.
    However has anyone in japan been legitimately over charged in Japan and been told they are being over charged because they are not Japanese or in the health insurance scheme.
    A red cross hospital(name withheld) will not charge you 100 percent for medical treatment. They will instead, charge you “120 percent”. Of course, 100 percent i can understand,but 120 percent.
    The reason they stated is “because you are not Japanese and don’t have national insurance.

    — Need sources for these claims, please.

  • I’d rather just pay the same amount of money as everyone else. If the situation were reversed I would be upset about it, too.

  • I’ve never intentionally used my status as foreigner to benefit myself, no. And I think others can say the same. Now when I first came and didn’t speak as much Japanese as I did now, I probably DID get away with not quite following the rules in some cases, now that I think about it… but only in cases where I really didn’t understand, and I’m a little embarassed now to remember those times, and wish I had known what I was SUPPOSED to do, or that someone had explained it at the time.

    I agree that positive discrimination is still discrimination. I wouldn’t go to a restaurant that offered a foreigner discount, although I do think that the owner probably MEANT well. “10% discount for all tourists” or “10% discount for all foreign exchange students” for example, I would understand…. tourists are going to be eating out and spending money, you’d want them to choose YOUR restaurant over the others. And students, as one of the posters Debito quoted mentioned, have less money in general and it’s a nice thing to do. I don’t think a foreigner discount falls into the same category as ladies’ day or a student or senior discount, and as others have said…. who counts as foreign?

    Discrimination, positive or negative, only HURTS those of us who are trying to be just one member of our communities. I don’t want my kid to be rejected from preschool or anything…. but it would hurt no less (and drive me away from the school) if I was told he didn’t have to go through the application and interview process but could get an automatic acceptance based on the color of his skin… would you?

  • we have the same thing in hawaii for local residents who, in some business places, receive what is commonly referred to as a “kama’aina” discount. these kama’aina discounts might be something like 10% off a purchase at a coffee place, perhaps a discounted or even free tour (botanical garden), and the like.

    the kama’aina discount is based not on nationality or appearance, but on residency. do you live in hawaii? if so, you qualify for a discount sometimes (sorry, not on taxes, not at the gas station!).

    now the question is, what is a “kama’aina?” the literal meaning of kama’aina is “native-born, one born in a place, host; acquainted, familiar, Lit., land child.” so it generally means someone born in hawaii or someone who has lived there a long time and is considered “local” (term of choice by locals). but in the case of the discount, kama’aina refers to anyone with a state of hawaii driver’s license or someone who can prove they live in hawaii and pay utlities (gas, phone, etc.).

    i have lived in hawaii sine 2001 so i guess i am considered a kama’aina (at least at discount time) but i certainly don’t think of myself one in the true sense of the word nor would locals think of me as local. rather i am a “haole transplant” (a term all you gaijin who hate the word ‘gaijin’ can go crazy over!).

    so would i accept a discount for being a foreigner in japan? well, uh.. yes. i guess so.

    would i be pissed to be charged more for being a foreigner in japan? hell yes!

    is there an inconsistency there? (mujun shiteiru?)…

    perhaps, but that is the fickle nature of an opportunistic gaijin like me– those yen add up ya know.

  • If people here are this majime then I truly applaud you for never using your foreign status to benefit yourself. I find it hard to believe myself but that is just my opinion.(and I don’t mean to insinuate that doing this is necessarily a bad thing anyway)
    What defines “positive discrimination?” It seems to me that you would actually have to work quite hard to avoid all of the perks that you get (regardless if you realize it or not) that come with living in Japan, naturalized or not. If anything, I think one would be able to make the case that in Japan there is probably way more positive discrimination going on at any given time as opposed to negative. It’s just that most people don’t get all up in arms when someone is genuinely trying to do something nice for them.

    A couple of months ago I ate lunch with mi famila at a “Bikkuri Donkey” hamburg joint. While perusing a separate menu included with the regular menu that was laminated on a piece of a4 paper, I noticed that they had various odd “special” days at totally random times during the month. Some of them were things like “pregnant women get free miso soup” or “people wearing a company badge get a side menu at 5% off” amusing yes? Well, scrolling down the list one in particular caught my eye. “Free miso soup for Japanese people” (of course this was all in Kanji)
    What say ye to that?

    I actually took a pic of this and sent it to Mr. Arudo who encouraged me to have a word with the management and to gently explain to them why this might be perceived as offensive. I made it back there just recently and that A4 menu no longer seemed to be part of the menu. (Sorry I didn’t get back to you about that Debito!) Now, I dunno why said dubious menu was no longer there. Perhaps someone beat me to the punch about having a kind word with the manager or maybe someone realized it may be a bit insensitive (yeah right, I know) Anyway, photographic evidence does exist and I thought that perhaps this story may have some relevance here.

  • I understand Debito would like me to reference the red cross hospital claim. Sadly the client has returned home and referencing this would be impossible.However i did see the bill and patient at the hospital and queried the bill.Total cost stated 患者負担割120 percent” normally it is stated as 30.This was several years ago now and since most people have travel insurance they would be able to claim the cost back.However this is still an abuse of someone who may be in a very vulnerable situation. I am not sure if this is a national policy or if this was hospital policy.Totally unethical.

  • I have been treated at a Red Cross hospital in Japan before, without Japan NHI, and was charged 100%, as I would expect. Obviously don’t know if it was the same hospital; doubtless it wasn’t the same circumstance, so just a different data point.

  • Discrimination is discrimination period.

    You can’t just turn a blind eye when it’s in your favor.

    Some people got carded many times, some got overcharged, so what?
    This is not your payback, and accepting this pocket change we are only reinforcing the status of gaijin.

    Equal rights goes both ways.
    Equal responsibilities goes both ways.

    Japan has a world of opportunities for those who are accepted in the society. Work, Family, Friendship, you name it.

    Discounts for gaijin is not one of them.

  • I think with hospitals or clinics, charging full price for those without national insurance is normal anyway based on the principle that they can claim it back off their own travel or private insurance at a later date. It’s plausible that the additional 20% is classed as an administration fee as they’d have to process the payment differently to the norm and may be required to prepare additional paperwork should the overseas insurer require it. Reasonable or not, I would have to question whether charging additional fees based on method of payment would count as discrimination, as outlet stores such as Yodobashi Camera do the same thing with their points, awarding less if you pay by credit card etc.

  • Regarding the 120% hospital charge, I can’t cite sources either but I have heard of it from people before. But I understood it to be applied to everyone, Japanese and foreign alike if they don’t have insurance. Much like the Kokumin Hoken back payments. It’s just unfortunate that foreigners tend to have more problems with health insurance etc.

  • Andrew Smallacombe says:

    I’d have to go with the majority of posters here. The INTENT is nice but the criteria are ill-defined and exclusive.
    As I mentioned to a workmate who was doing a presentation on discrimination, “positive discrimination” can be embarrassing. This, despite the good intentions – and the coffee shop gets points for trying – does nothing to make things more equal.
    10% discount for all non-residents of Fukui? I’d be happy with that.

    — What gets me is where people (usually NJ) claim that there is enough “positive discrimination” to offset the “negative discrimination” against NJ, so the “negative” isn’t worth fighting against.

  • Debito,

    You have stated above:

    “What gets me is where people (usually NJ) claim that there is enough “positive discrimination” to offset the “negative discrimination” against NJ, so the “negative” isn’t worth fighting against.”

    And I absolutely agree with you.

    Positive or negative, the problem is that it accepting it continually reinforces the “you look different than the majority (or what we think is the majority 😉 and therefore you should be treated differently.

    However, what are your or the communities recommendations for when we see this type of positive discrimination? Do we proceed the same way as if it were negative?

    My guess is as others have mentioned above that its not meant with the same intent as negative discrimination, so how can we approach those who are trying to be accepting, but perhaps not realizing they are discriminating?

  • Just about any sort of discount system sets up a potential for some sort of ‘discrimination’. If I don’t have a coupon for my free or discounted drink bar at Joyful, I am being discriminated against because only people with the coupon get the discount. How about ‘Early Bird Specials’ at shops or restaurants? Are late-risers being discriminated against? Someone mentioned ‘Ladies Day’ or ‘Couples Discounts’ being offered at the movies. Am I being discriminated against because I am not a woman or because I am single? Yes. Does this really bother me? Not so much.

    We offer or receive discounts of all sorts in doing our daily business. I may, as an educator, qualify for educational discounts when purchasing computers or software or texts. As a musician, I might receive certain sponsorship or discount privileges on purchases related to my work. As a business owner, I may want to promote my business though the support of certain segments of the population. To that end, I might offer a discount to those who I am trying to entice through my doors. As a patron of shops and businesses in my area, I may receive something that could be construed as positive discrimination through such things as a free drink or appetizer or a larger than usual portion at my favorite watering hole. While I’d like to think that this is because of my wonderful personality, I must admit that it is probably otherwise so. I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about these and I am happy to receive the courtesies. It’s interesting to hear that so many others will stand up on principle and refuse these niceties and will pay full retail. Does it create a bit of a conundrum for me sometimes? Perhaps. Intent — for me — plays a large mitigating role.

    I think we need to narrow our focus a little and not make such blanket statements about all things that may be discrimination — whether perceived positively or negatively. I think that discounts based on such criteria as race, religion, ethnicity, sex, etc., can be problematic and best avoided but one must also keep these sort of things in some perspective. Perhaps we could look at intent in many of these cases. Was the intent to be inclusionary and welcoming or exclusionary (when somewhat objectively assessed)? Intent (at least stated intent)itself can sometimes become problematic but I don’t think it negates the argument.

    — How about couching it this way? Is it a discount given for something you can eventually qualify for (customer loyalty, for example, as in the discount coupon for your next visit or purchase)? Or is it just something you’re given arbitrarily for a situation you’re born into and can never reasonably change?

    And is there ever “turnaround in fair play”, again, where the people who didn’t get the discount before could have a turn at getting it in future?

    Not expressing my opinion (and some would no doubt say by now we’re overthinking this), but just throwing out some possible qualifiers.

  • Regarding this:

    “Well, scrolling down the list one in particular caught my eye. “Free miso soup for Japanese people” (of course this was all in Kanji)”

    …was this in an area with a large foreign population? Bikkuri Donkeys TEND to be further away from train stations and in more suburban areas so my GUESS would be not, but that’s just a guess.

    If it was in an area with lots of foreigners, then yes I think it’s a bit nasty. Otherwise, the intent was PROBABLY “free miso soup for everyone.” Imagine a hamburger shop in the US offering, say, a “free Coke for Americans” on the 4th of July or something… I highly doubt in THAT situation that they would even bother to check passports or anything. But then again, Americans are less likely than Japanese to judge a person’s nationality based on appearance. Too bad you didn’t have a chance to ask them to change it, if the intent WAS free for everyone, they probably would have bowed deeply, apologized, and changed it.

  • OK Debito – I’ll say it – there’s a lot of overthinking going on here.

    It’s not as if there’s a grand trend of NJ discounts taking place in Japan. So, if a rare shop has ambiguous criteria to define discounts for NJ, I think the NJ community’s collective efforts (intellectual capitcal) in Japan are better spent on bigger issues. From the initial post there wasn’t a feeling of ill-intent taking place.

  • I think, accepting peoples good intent,thanking them for their kindness is important, and I guess if you receive a discount and are offended, why not leave the money as tip,give it to some homeless person,just ask to pay the full price, or just do not go there. There is no point in suffering and not everyone earns the same.Some here work for universities,or have well payed jobs and can afford to turn down such discounts.Others earn less than the minimum wage.
    I understand some peoples dislike for this.However, this should be an individual thing and we need to ask ourselves does this do more harm than good.Individually and to society. I don’t see a huge loss to the individual.Why should the group who wish to remove this discrimination force this onto someone who earns minimum wage.This could cause more harm to the poorer members of society who are already discriminated against financially.

  • Frodis talked about the intent being “welcome and inclusionary” OR “exclusionary.” But the problem I think the problem may be that it often feels like people are being both welcoming and exclusionary at the same time.

    I’ve had a group of old men from the community come into a bar one night and insist that I go and join them at their table (paying for my drinks and food.) At the time I thought it was nice, but I know they wouldn’t have done it save that I was a foreigner in the bar.

    They wanted me to have a good time, but only because I was a foreigner. I’m still not exactly sure how to describe me feelings about that, but it doesn’t really make me feel good. It seemed like I was included into the group, but only in a superficial way that made me wish they had just ignored me like any other patron. It’s not that I don’t like socializing with people and receiving free drinks and such, it’s just that I’d rather people choose to socialize with me because they like me as a person, not because of where I’m from or how I look.


    The question is not whether or not the discount could be apportioned out
    fairly. The question is whether or not it’s good to have such discounts
    at all.

    The underlying problem is to what degree we might be hypocritical if we
    demand equal treatment, but accept better than equal treatment when it
    benefits us.


  • In Thailand and Cambodia they have, shall we call it a “skin tax”. Temples are free for Thais but not for foreigners. And go to the market in Cambodia for local products or use a motodop and you will more than likely pay more than the locals.

  • I am not comfortable with this. It might be positive discrimination (although I question the motivation), but its still discrimination, so it’s bad. Look at it the other way, it is discrimination against Japanese, which I find equally repulsive as against any other group. Not sure what they would do with my offspring, who are both!?

    Still, not sure I would turn it down, not wanting to be rude, but then again I certainly wouldn’t request it should it be advertised. Still its nice that you can get discounted tickets on the Shinkansen, so I guess my principles can be bought in some circumstances….!

  • Interesting discussion. There seems to be an assumption here that the foreigner discount, as well as similar discounts for ladies or seniors, have their roots in principle. Occasionally that may be the case, but I think that most often, such discounts are purely an incentive designed to attract the business of a particular market segment that the seller isn’t reaching to its satisfaction. A 10% discount for foreigners because it’ll get them in the door, and they tend to have hearty appetites for food and beer, so their 20,000 yen tab marked down to 18,000 yen is still a good haul for the shop, given the huge mark-up that the starting point represents. A discounted shinkansen ticket because relatively speaking, Japanese are already more likely to ride the shinkansen (visit parents & siblings in another prefecture, etc.) and foreigners are more likely to take a plane to another Asian country during their vacation time.
    Yes, these are generalizations, but the harm in generalizations occurs when you assume that the group characteristics must apply to a given individual within the population. To understand the purchasing tendencies of a particular population segment and price your product or service accordingly is just good marketing. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that the ‘foreigner discount’ is generally just an attempt at maximizing profits, and has nothing to do with rewarding foreigners for being foreign or punishing Japanese for being Japanese.

  • Marco,

    I don’t believe you. Where is “your country”? In many countries, residents and non-residents are taxed differently, but I have never heard of this being determined by nationality.


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