Fukushima Prefectural Tourist Information website advertises that now 318 of its hotels refuse NJ clients


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Hi Blog.  Now back to business.  While doing research over the new year, I got quite a shock when I was doing some followup on a case of exclusionary practices.  I reported on Debito.org in September 2007 that Fukushima Prefecture’s Tourist Information website was advertising 35 hotels that refused NJ clients.  This is one of the few business sectors that actually has explicit laws preventing refusals of customers based upon nationality alone (thanks to the Hotel Management Law, see below), so when a government agency is even promoting “Japanese Only” hotels, you know something is rum indeed.

What’s even more rum is that even after I advised the Tourist Information Agency that what they were doing is unlawful, and they promised in writing to stop doing it, now two years later the same website is now promoting 318 (!!) hotels that refuse NJ clients (in other words, about half of the total).  You can’t help but get the feeling that you have been lied to, and by government bureaucrats.

A brief write up, with links to sources, follows.  At the very bottom are screen captures of the FTIA website evidencing the exclusionary practices.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Place:  Fukushima Prefecture (35 hotels, now 318 hotels)[1]

Background:  In September 2007, the author was advised that the Fukushima Prefecture’s Tourist Information website[2] in English listed and advertised 35 hotels in the region that officially refused NJ clients.

Action taken by observers/activists:  In September 2007, the author contacted the Fukushima Tourist Information Agency, and advised them this practice of refusing NJ is unlawful under the Hotel Management Law (Hotel Management Law (ryokan gyouhou), Article 5[1], which says that hotels may not refuse customers unless 1) rooms are full, 2) there is a threat of contagious disease, or 3) there is a threat to “public morals” (fuuki)).  A FTIA bureaucrat who contacted all 35 hotels responded in October, stating, “Most of the answers were, ‘We do not explicitly refuse NJ’,” as they had never had a NJ client.  However, eight hotels of the 32 they were able to contact stated they would continue to refuse NJ, because they did “not have staff who spoke English”, therefore “they could not positively (sekkyoku teki ni) receive NJ”.  The FTIA said they advised them of the unlawfulness of this practice, and would be clarifying their website questions in future.

Current status (as of this writing):  A January 2010 search of the Japanese website[3] using search terms “gaikokujin no ukeire: fuka” revealed 318 lodgings refusing NJ lodgers, and amending the search terms revealed 335 places accepting NJ.  It would appear that the prefectural tourist agency officially offering the option to refuse NJ lodgers enables businesses to refuse.  This would appear to be within character:  The GOJ reported, in an October 2008 nationwide survey of 7068 responding hotels, that 27% of all hoteliers did not want NJ clients[4].

[1] Primary source information at https://www.debito.org/?p=1941

[1] https://www.debito.org/whattodoif.html#refusedhotel

[2] http://www.tif.ne.jp/

[3] http://www.tif.ne.jp/jp/spot/cat_search.php, enter 外国人の受入:不可 into the キーワード section.

[4] “No room at inn for foreigners”, CNN October 9, 2008, and 「外国人泊めたくない」ホテル・旅館3割 07年国調査」 朝日新聞2008年10月9日, both archived at https://www.debito.org/?p=1940


Here are some evidentiary screen captures from the FTIA website as of January 3, 2010 (click on image to expand in your browser)
First, the site with search terms that indicate that 318 hotels refuse NJ clients:

Example of one hotel that explicitly says it refuses NJ clients:

Screen capture with different search terms, indicating 335 hotels of the total allow in NJ:

Example of one hotel that allows in NJ clients:


56 comments on “Fukushima Prefectural Tourist Information website advertises that now 318 of its hotels refuse NJ clients

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  • Shocking. However, note that the total is not 318+335, a large majority of lodgings simply don’t have anything under “外国人”. Searching limited to “泊まる” gives over 2000 results, and this includes all but one of the places that has a gaijin classification, meaning “only” about 15% of them explicitly reject foreigners. I hope it is reasonable to expect that the ones that don’t say one way or the other will actually accept foreigners, though you can’t be sure…

    — Well spotted. Thanks. Will amend.

  • Indeed shocking. One more thing to note though, it appears like the gaijin classification is part of the form to get into the listing. Some hotels might feel like they are explicitly advertising to foreigners unless they choose the “not possible” option.

  • The most shocking thing to me is that accept foreigner is an actual category on the site, like accept pets or accept groups.

    How that can seem like a good idea is beyond me. Yes, say that you cannot provide anything other than service in Japanese. That is a fact and allows people to make choices of convenience.

    But don’t shut the door on people for no reason but ignorance. I blame the website, not the hotels, who probably saw the category and though something like “oh, we don’t provide any special services for foreigners”. If the category wasn’t there I doubt many people would even think of it.

    Shame on the Fukushima Tourism website.

  • [However, eight hotels of the 32 they were able to contact stated they would continue to refuse NJ, because they did “not have staff who spoke English”, therefore “they could not positively (sekkyoku teki ni) receive NJ”.]

    ………..And this is assuming that all foreigners speak english.

  • Gilesdesign says:

    In most cases I think these owners just worry they cannot communicate the specific rules and etiquette related to staying at a ryokan. Of course this makes the wrong assumption that NJ and Japanese people cannot communicate and NJ unaware or incapable of understanding Japanese culture and customs. The other more unpleasant side could be some racism instilled by Japanese media about NJ not respecting others property or being likely criminals/general troublemakers.

    Ignorance breeds fear and fear breeds racism. Education is key.

    Perhaps the government needs to better educate their people about NJ.
    I saw an Japanese TV show the other day that seemed to be trying to promote a myth that black people have better eyesight (a bit insensitive given the eye health crisis in Africa). They even had an african hunter spotting giraffes at a distance together with gasps from the show host. Nobody mentioned training and experience could play a part in his skill.
    NHK and the rest are obviously incapable of educating the public about NJ beyond reinforcing daft stereotypes so perhaps it is time the government stepped in.

  • John (Yokohama) says:

    Moral and legal issues aside this is just plain dumb on an economic basis as well. With the declining population there just will not be enough Japanese to keep all these places afloat. Reference the last few days articles on the declining population including the Japan Times today.

    Their excuses are just BS as well. I have travelled to many countries, like others, where I do not speak the local language but always manage.

    If I had the money I would travel to, along with a lawyer, every place on the list that advertises exclusion just for fun.

  • Simple answer to this problem, change that *insert expletive here* option to “English speaking staff: Yes/No” and leave it at that. Shouldn’t matter where you were born or what your passport says if you CAN speak the language, and even if you can’t, you look at that “English: No” and decide whether you want to search for a place that DOES have English-speaking staff, or make do with pointing at a phrase book or whatever other communication method you can think of.

    This is HUGELY offensive… I love to stay a little pensions with my family… have never been refused when making a reservation OR upon arrival, but knowing places like that are out there always puts a little bit of fear into the fun of every trip I plan. :-S

  • the other very strange thing about the homepage is that only the japanese gives you search/links to actual hotels.
    they have other language versions but as far as i can see there is nowhere to search for hotels.
    one can only assume its a case of having to appear international without actually becoming so.

    i suggest we should all complain about this ..
    (i complained about the rakuten issue before and managed to get one changed)

    — Funny. The English search engine once did avail people of information of what hotels refuse NJ. That’s how my contact first found them in 2007. Looks like instead of fixing the problem, they just made it harder to find.

  • In most cases I think these owners just worry they cannot communicate the specific rules and etiquette related to staying at a ryokan.

    It could be, but those most unknowing of the rules and etiquette are likely never to even know they are being excluded, because it’s written in Japanese. So those likely to have the most difficult experience, communication wise, can’t read the warning to stay away, anyway.

    Or perhaps the purpose is more to assure the Japanese that their onsening activities will not be sullied by different and undisciplined heathens from the outlands?

  • Obviously it is wrong and and against the law and that is really where the discussion with the hoteliers should end. There should be no asking them to reason their policy – it should be a clear/firm directive from the FTIA, and if they persist, a knock on the door from the police.

    For the purposes of the discussion here though…my thoughts:
    Since it is written in Japanese that foreigners are not allowed it doesn’t seem to be aimed very well at the people they are apparently trying so hard not to disappoint (or disuade). It seems to be aimed at other like-minded people…i.e. “rest assured, you will not see a foreigner at our hotel”

    If it had anything to do with wanting to not disappoint customers and “accepting them positively” (whatever that means)they should also try and avoid other potentially more “troublesome” situations such as whether or not there is wheelchair/disabled access…or if pets/smoking are allowed.

    I guess the problem with going down the path of stating which languages are spoken or not is that it could, without any malice intended, lead to a prevalence of signs saying “Japanese Only” (of course the English is not always clear whether talking about the people or the language).

    — For the record, almost every “Japanese Only” sign I have ever ventured across has meant the people. I know because I call and confirm.

  • well obviously somebody(debito i presume?) has complained,because this has changed now..
    the 318 hotels have now been magically changed to
    (no foreign language service available)
    i suppose this is progress(?)

  • It’s surprising that these hotels are so open with their racism. I would have expected them to make excuses about being full rather than admit they don’t want foreign guests.

  • I see this as clumsy, rather than malicious. Unlike the’Japanese only’ signs Debito has pointed out before, these are all in Japanese, so any fresh-off-the-boat, non-Japanese speaking foreigner isn’t going to understand them or be offended. And if they try and call to make a reservation in their own language…well there won’t be any communication possible with the ryokan, so they’ll give up and go elsewhere. I reckon these 外人不可 indicators are there for the benefit of tour operators or travel agents. I also reckon that any foreigner calling up and speaking decent Japanese wouldn’t have a problem getting a room. (Maybe I should say ‘I hope’, not ‘I reckon’). 🙂

  • I am shocked at the civility of most of the comments. The exclusionary language is in Japanese, so who do you think they are appealing to? They are telling Japanese people that they won’t have NJ at these hotels…lovely, isn’t it?

    The bottom line: It is illegal, but they are doing it anyway. So what options, if any, are there?

  • Progress! The sign has been changed, relatively close to how Kimberly stated it should be, to simply claiming they can’t speak foreign languages.

    But the question remains, even with this new seemingly-nondiscriminatory sign, will the 318 hotels actually let people lacking Japanese DNA in?

    I think someone, as John (Yokohama) mentioned, should go visit those places and find out. This’ll be much easier than that “No Japanese” idea.

    Someone, who has a Japanese name and nationality yet lacking the correct skin color, should make an online reservation using Kanji of course.

    Then, together with a lawyer discreetly holding a video camera, you go and see if they suddenly ILLEGALLY decline and cancel your reservation.

    Then, you, as a Japanese citizen protected by the laws of Japan (unlike us mere citizen-tax-paying non-citizens) can sue them and maybe… win!

    Debito, when the universe gives you lemons, you should make some lemonade and get paid! Yep, that’s right, I mean it, this is a present for you!

    Yeah, I know some people will say, “He’s just suing for the money.” Who cares what people say? A “real” Japanese wouldn’t just walk away sad.

    Any person with Japanese DNA would be outraged if ILLEGALLY DENIED HOTEL ACCOMMODATION, especially with an advance reservation.

    While your lawyer begins the legal proceedings with the first hotel caught on film committing this illegal act, you guys can go do it again, and again!

    Look, enough complaining. To stop discrimination we have to take Action: either put the shoe on the other foot or have the courts make them pay.

    People only change when they feel some pain, whether be it to their ego or to their wallet.

    Seems like this country is determined to shoot itself in the foot.
    One problem with this campaign, and everything the J government does for that matter, is a complete lack of consensus across all government ministries — on the one hand the ministry of tourism wants foreign tourists, on the other hand the ministry of justice doesn’t.
    I first noticed the chaos and disorganization in Monbusho when I came to Japan on the JET in the 90s and, obviously, nothing has changed since. Japan has been sinking further and further into the mud since the end of the Bubble and no one up top seems to have a clue what to do.
    Perhaps outside influence is the only way for Japan to change. Set up a Human Rights Japan committee thats sole job is to take legal action against such hotels and to push for legal change using pressure from outside governments as in the case with child abductions.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    Adam, it certainly is progress, and I’m not being facetious. Kudos to the Fukushima tourist bureau for taking the advice of whoever offered it, and for doing it so quickly. No indignant protests, no angry letters, just a quick rectification. If only all such problems coud be settled so efficiently!

    Debito, just for the record, I once saw a “Japanese Only” sign (more like a label; a very tiny one attached to the number dispenser) referring to the language; it was at a travel agency that I often use when arranging my research trips to Okinawa. I’d been there many times before and jokingly asked them if non-Japanese people couldn’t use their services anymore, and the young lady who always arranges my trips suddenly had a look of horror on her face as she realized how the English could be wrongly interpreted!

    They asked me for some better wording and I offered them a few options; the very next day they had changed it to “we only speak Japanese”.

    I’ve had similar successes with stores whose hastily-translated English signs can be off-putting. Many stores will post NO EXCHANGE at the cash register, not knowing that English speakers also use the word “exchange” to refer to returning a defective product and exchanging it for a good one. Taken by itself, this seems outrageous unless you see the Japanese word 両替 ryōgae, which only refers to changing money. I think one of the problems is that in Japanese, it’s not particularly rude to use very terse language on signs like this — 本日休業 (honjitsu kyūgyō, ‘off today’) isn’t much less polite than the verbose 誠に勝手ながら本日はお休みさせていただいております (makoto ni katte-nagara honjitsu wa o-yasumi sasete itadaite orimasu)or the like, and is certainly easier to parse mentally. In English, sometimes words need further explanation, and a brief “please” or “sorry” can go a long way.

    That’s a bit of a tangent from this case, where they’ve corrected something clearly discriminatory to simply reporting an unfortunate fact. Hopefully, if these hotels need to express 外国語対応不可 in English, they’ll use something tactful. If they’re willing to correct their mistakes so far, I’m betting that they’d listen to advice on English wording too.

    — They were advised by phone on proper wording back in 2007. And it’s not as if the Fukuoka Tourist Info Agency was facing a language barrier here. This is just callous and careless, IMHO.

  • like taylor i think the comments on here are at best naive and guilty of wishful thinking..
    why do you think they have no foreigners allowed on the japanese site??
    why do you think there is now no search facility in english for hotels when there was before when debito complained?
    the whole thing is sick.
    the sickest aspect is its quite obviously a deliberate policy by the fukushima prefecture.
    people onhere really need to wake up to how they are being treated..

  • I am relatively satisfied, actually. The initial problem was obviously on the part of the website, for having an ambiguous box to fill in.

    They have now changed that ambiguous box to something more appropriate and sensible, and that should deal with the problem.

    A (very fast) success story I think.

  • Obviously the problem here that only foreigners who can speak/read Japanese are going to be offended (what if they can read but not speak?), since the ones who can’t read/speak won’t find the place. That might be a good question to ask these people, which foreigners are not allowed the ones who speak and can’t read, or vice versa? And what about the nationality? The score on their JLPT? The color if their skin? Type of car they drive?

    [Incorrect assertion about NJ language ability and other odd assertions deleted]

  • WTF does it mean to say that they speak “foreign” anyway, and WTF is the point of putting this info only on the Japanese language pages? I’m half with the cynics, that this is just dressing up the racism in acceptable clothing. However I am half with the naive hopefuls that at least some of the hotels are just trying to be helpful and are merely clueless rather than actually hostile.

  • I agree with sendaiben and others who stated that the most shocking thing (well, not anymore, but at least when I first discovered this years back) is that there is possibility to even have a category like “gaikokujin OK / Not OK”. This effectively puts NJ in the same category as animals / pets (“OK / Not OK”).

    I am from Germany and this would be unthinkable to do over there, and would certainly cause quite a backlash from politicians, media and HR groups, etc.

    Good on you Debito, for bringing this up again. Imagine Japan getting the Olympics with policies like this in place 🙁

  • Not to pile on the negativity — well, OK, just a little bit — but another interesting thing if you think about it is that by changing the text there, the hotels are kind of involuntarily “answering” a question they were never asked…

  • Now if only apartment rental databases didn’t have the “no gaijin” column.
    Such cases are much less likely to be mere misunderstandings about language, plus there’s no hotel law to make it illegal.

  • Gilesdesign says:

    I sent an email 01/05 around 18:00 to tif@tif.ne.jp in english basically saying 1. It is offensive and 2. It encourages illegal behaviour (to deny guests based on their race or nationality)

    This is the response I got this morning….
    Thank you for your e-mail.
    We’ve already corrected our website lists on 2010/01/05 18:30.
    We have less consideration and research, for this, we apologize that it made
    you feel so uncomfortable.
    Thank you again for your message and advice.
    We have now strong reaffirm for the advanced websites for customers.
    Please feel free to contact us for any advice.

    Fukushima Prefecture Tourism & Local Products Association
    Well at least they corrected it quickly and apologised.

    — Thanks for doing this. Very much.

  • >In most cases I think these owners just worry they cannot communicate the specific rules and etiquette related to staying at a ryokan.

    If that were true, why have it in Japanese? Clearly, non-Japanese speakers wouldn’t understand it (i.e. who knows how they got to the website in the first place).

    Glad they changed it, as small a drop in the sea of mild xenophobia it is.
    Wish for the day when you wouldn’t have to point out the shortcomings.

  • Tangental question from my mailbox:

    Also, on a “by-the-way” kind of note with the recent discussion on
    hotel practices, do you know the legality of passport photocopies
    being a reqiurement of registration? I understand the necessity of
    producing ID and even writing down my passport number, but it is the
    ‘photocopying’ part that bothers me due to the rise in Canadian
    passports being forged for use in criminal activity and immigration
    fraud/human trafficking into Canada from asian countries.

  • “If that were true, why have it in Japanese? Clearly, non-Japanese speakers wouldn’t understand it (i.e. who knows how they got to the website in the first place).”

    Well we can speculate that the info could be useful for a tourist information agency who may be helping a visitor to book accommodation. Not sure if this is likely though. IMO and IME people have a tendency to collect and provide arbitrary information without much thought about its purpose or utility, see also the recent post about mailing parcels. As another example, our local city office provided an English-language pdf showing how to fill in the claim form for the ¥12,000 bribe early in 2009, but this info was only linked from a Japanese language web page and not mentioned on the English web pages that they also maintain!

  • Steve VonMaas says:

    Is there a right to a “private cause of action” (right for private individuals to sue) to enforce the non-discrimination law, or is it something only govenment officials can use to punish or change behavior, or is there no possibility of civil litigation by anyone to enforce the law?

    If there is such a private right to sue, can the expenses of the litigation be recovered in the lawsuit? Are punitive or exemplary damages awardable, even in the absence of any economic loss? If a private individual can sue, what does he or she have to do to have standing to bring the case? Does one have to physically go and attempt to stay there, or can attempting to make a resrvation by telephone be enough?

    Also, where could such a suit be brought? Only in Fukushima, or from where a telephoned reservation were denied?

    — I’m not a lawyer, so my answers are not definitive. You can sue, of course, in civil court. You can claim whatever you like, but citing specific civil code laws will increase your chances of victory (I would suggest you convince your lawyer to claim violation of the Hotel Management Law). You can bring suit where you live (they have to travel to where you file). You sue for mental duress (seishin kutsuu), since you suffered no financial damages. And yes, a remote refusal should be enough, provided you get IN WRITING or WITH AUDIO RECORDING of the phone call (so no claims of misunderstandings or he-said, she-said can be tendered by Defendant) of them saying specifically they are refusing you because you are a foreigner. You need verifiable evidence or a witness (but verifiable recorded evidence is best, since judges can discount witnesses, as one did in the Valentine Case). Anyway, get my book JAPANESE ONLY and see how we won our case.

  • Gilesdesign says:

    I think a potential language barrier is a major concern for some ryokan I dont think they are all simply racist. You forget that Japanese booking agencies and Japanese friends also use this website to find somewhere for NJ to stay.

    Either way the website was offensive to NJ who could read it and excluding services from NJ who went through a booking agent or a friend.

  • Even though the website has now been changed, I would still recommend forwarding this example (before & after) to the Tourism Agency who are in a position to review any similar set-ups in other prefectures. They are the government agency with the biggest clout on these issues right now.

  • Tony In Saitama says:

    One way to make these ryokan realise the error of their ways would be the following;
    (for someone who has free time during the daylight hours, I sure don’t)

    1. Ring them up, and book rooms for a party of twenty. (In Japanese, using a Japanese name for the reservation.)

    2. Ring them back twenty minutes later (or if you want to be a bastard about it, the day before the reservation) and say that you noticed on the website that they don’t accept foreigners, and one of your group is a foreigner so you have found somewhere else that welcomes foreigners and want to cancel the entire twenty person reservation. If you wait until the day before, they will presumably have ordered food etc. and refused other reservations so they will be out of pocket, but if you do it twenty minutes later you can still show them that they are shooting themselves in the foot (i.e. some people will not consider them as a candidate for accomodation because of their policy of refusing foreigners), without risking any cancellation charges.

    If they come back at you and say that foreigners who understand Japanese language and customs are welcome and that they only want to avoid “misunderstandings” from foreign guests who do not fully appreciate the service provided, tell them that refusal of service from the get go is more of an insult to a potential customer than any misunderstanding that might arise during a stay.

  • Gilesdesign
    Thanks for contacting them,only if we work together and pester these people will anything change.
    I cannot understand your further comments at all though.
    if japanese are looking for hotels for foreign guests ,how is a comment no foreigners allowed helpful.

    debito contacted them 2 years ago about this.
    they promised to fix it and what did they do?
    they removed the english search engine for hotels.

    good luck with contacting the jnto – i can tell you they will do nothing at all.
    i contacted them about the ones on rakuten and they did not reply.
    kyushu tourist board kindly replied and said they couldnt /wouldnt do anything.

    — Please contact the JNTO anyway, thanks.

  • The JNTO (日本政府観光局) is not the Tourism Agency (観光庁). The JNTO is a promotional body, the Tourism Agency is an arm of government and oversees the JNTO. An Agency is one level below a Ministry (the Defence Ministry used to be just a Defence Agency).

    As an arm of government, it is specifically tasked with increasing the number of foreign visitors; creating incentives & removing impediments. They have an enforcement power which local Tourist boards and the JNTO don’t have. They are part of the Ministry of Land Transport & Infrastructure.

    I would send any details of issues such as this to the Agency:

    【連絡先】 観光庁総務課
       E-mail:kankocho@mlit.go.jp    電 話:03-5253-8111
       F A X:03-5253-1563

    By all means copy the local tourist boards or information offices but the Agency is more likely to get things done.

  • Gilesdesign says:

    I dont think “NJ allowed” is helpful I was just debating the motive behind it.
    I was replying to an earlier comment.
    Marius suggested the NJ rule was only written in Japanese indicating it was aimed at guests that understood Japanese and thereby the ryokans could not have specified the no gaijin rule due to concerns about a language barrier but rather to reassure racist J guests (- I may have misunderstood him, check back)
    Whilst this may be true in some cases I was suggesting that some ryokan could rightly or wrongly be genuinely concerned about a language barrier because ryokans are aware that Japanese use this site to book for some NJ guests that do not understand Japanese.
    I am not saying that the ryokan should be concerned about a language barrier (the guest is capable of taking on that concern) and in specifying a NJ they make sweeping assumptions about NJ.

  • That is not I. He says he was banned here.
    I think he is ponta who frequents Japanprobe.

    — Quite probable. It’s the same tone and supercilious attitude. Thanks for setting the record straight.

  • Gilesdesign says:

    That blogger seemed to be suggesting that NJ could not handle the issue with Fukushima and so he or she had to step in and make a polite phone call to handle it the Japanese way with sensitivity not like us aggressive and rude lot of gaijins that cannot speak Japanese.
    Im not sure maybe I misunderstood? anyone?

    — You must have misunderstood. You’re not a native speaker of Japanese. Only We Japanese understand the sacerdotal code of our language. 🙂

    No, you got it right. Now how about that… You must have cheated! 🙂

  • One of my friend (Japanese) works in Shangri-la hotel. She can’t stand Japanese customers. She says they come here(hotel) to stay and they always complain about everything. The hotel policy is one complain- one free dinner in a hotel restaurant. She also says foreigners never (or almost never) complain. They come on business, tourism, etc., have no time to complain and can pay for their dinner.

    Of course the stuff like ” no gaijin” is discrimination. But for me it is just one more indicator that those hotels are dump. No booking, never. Thanks.

  • I looked through kentanaka’s blog…I wonder why that guy hangs on “expats in Japan” blogs if he hates us that much?

  • The Shangri-la is connected to Tokyo station. I imagine it’s a wonderful hotel, but it had the unfortunate timing of opening in the middle of the recession.

  • The TOYOKO INN hotel chain (東横イン) state the following in their “Terms & Conditions for Accomodation Contract” which can be found in any of their rooms:


    The Guest shall register the following particulars at the front desk of the Hotel …
    … (2) Except Japanese, nationnality, passport number, port and date of entry in Japan; (The copy of the passport is necessary) …”
    or in Japanese:
    “…(2) 外国人にあっては、国籍、旅券番号、入国地及び入国年月日。(確認の為、パスポートのコピーをとらせていただきます)。”

    My (Japanese) wife checked in so we had no problems. But by chance I noticed these conditions inside the room and talked to the front staff about them (in Japanese!). Here are parts of our conversation:

    Me: According to Japanese law you don’t need this information from foreigners living in Japan. Do you know that?
    Staff: We know it’s not required by law. It’s just our policy.
    Me: If I came alone (without my wife) and I didn’t show you my passport would you refuse me?
    Staff: Yes, we would.
    Me: But according to the Hotel Management Law coming without a passport is not a reason for refual.
    Staff: We know that. It’s not the law. It’s just our rule.
    Me: So your rule is above the law, right?
    Staff: Right.
    Me: How about foreigners living in Japan and travelling domoestically without a passport?
    Staff: Oh, they can show their driver’s licence or some other ID.
    Me: Why?
    Staff: We need to confirm that their address is correct.
    Me: Does that mean, you belive that Japanese guests dont need to show an ID because they would never lie about their address? But non-Japanese guests need to show an ID because they are more likely to lie about their address?
    Staff: That’s the rule at our hotels. But please don’t think it’s discrimination.
    ==> NB: She started using the word discrimination (差別) during our conversation. Because I delibarately decided not to use it!
    Me: If I told you I were Japanese would you believe me?
    Staff: Yes, we would.
    Me: So how you know someone is Japanese?
    Staff: If someone can speak Japanese , then he or she could be Japanese.
    Me: So your decision about someone’s nationality depends on that person’s language ability?
    Staff: Yes, that’s how we do it.

    At that time I decided to discontinue the conversation before it became even weirder than it already was.

    Summary about Toyoko-Inn hotels:
    (1) They will refuse foreigners if the foreigner does not show some kind of ID.
    (2) They use creative methods to confirm someone’s nationality.

  • The Shark Says: Summary about Toyoko-Inn hotels:
    (1) They will refuse foreigners if the foreigner does not show some kind of ID.

    I had exactly the same experience with this hotel chain. In my case my wife went first and explained the situation to me by phone. I had her convey that I refuse to stay at the hotel on the grounds of discrimination. The hotel then said to my wife that it’s not compulsory and seeing as I would be with my wife they would let it pass. Needless to say I wont be going to that chain again. The experience puts me off traveling in Japan.

  • The Shark and the Ant seem to have had a similar “Toyoko-Inn” experience.
    It’s a pity they have such a policy. Because that hotel chain is quite cheap and they are all over Japan.
    Their webpage and all their information is multilingual (Japanese, English, Korean, Chinese).
    However, I believe equal treatment matters more to foreigners than any non-Japanese language information.
    I personally will not be staying at Toyoko-Inn hotels again (as long as they have such a policy in place).

    One more thing:
    Sometimes they don’t listen when foreigners complain.
    So in my case my (Japanese) wife was kind enough to tell the front staff in front of other people that she too would not be staying there again if they didn’t treat her husband like all other people.
    Suddenly they paid more attention and promised my wife that we would get a reply from the hotel management regarding that matter.
    Haven’t received anything yet. But if we do get anything in writing that might be of interest to others I will post it here.

    One final thing about Toyoko-Inn:
    If you want to make reservation online, you need to tell them your date of birth and your citizenship. Even Japanese guests need to provide this information! Under citizenship (国籍) you can have a selection of 15 countries (including Japan). Otherwise you need to select “other countries”
    So they didn’t even bother to compile a list of all countries in the world. And the logic behind their selection is incomprehensible. Slovenia is included for instance, but Russia isn’t.

    You can check it out yourself. That’s their webpage:
    (of course: just for looking, not for booking!)

  • First I am not saying this never happens, because obviously it does (not one of the dudes that says if it does not happen to me it does not happen). It really sucks.

    I have used Toyoko Inns for over 5 years now for business and have never had this happen to me. I am usually travelling alone and on business. The locations I have used are numerous (Kofu, Kumamoto, Fujisawa, Sendai, etc.)

    The reason I bring this up could there be some other type of profiling going on? I am not married to a Japanese woman and usually show up alone. I complete the check in process in Japanese and write my name in katakana and address in my feeble nihongo.

    The places are cheap, clean, and have good internet connectivity and even a little breakfast in the morning. I think the best deal in Tokyo is the Toyoko at Shinagawa if you can get in.

    It sucks this is happening….especially to guys that are with their wives!!!! I hope the wives are furious!

    I am wondering if these events are taking place in the same locations?

    Shark do you mind saying where this happened? And if you get a reply I would love to see it. I use this chain all the time.

    — Hang on. I think Shark’s report deserves a separate blog entry. I’ll create one soonest and we can discuss it there.

  • I’ve had similar good experiences with that hotel chain as well Doug. In fact I recall one time I was asked for ID an I produced a business card asking if it was okay since I left my wallet at the conference site locker. They happily accepted it.

    I am quite surprised to hear about these bad experiences.

  • Any time a hotel (or employer, for that matter) asks you for a copy of your passport/gaijin card, you can say “under the Personal Information Protection Law (the kojin johohogoho) you are supposed to tell me the reason for taking my personal information. They will say something like “it is our policy to confirm the name and address of our foreign guests” or “the police requires us to confirm the details of foreign guests.” Then you can say “you can confirm this by merely looking at the ID, so you should not need a copy.” I have stopped people from taking copies on this basis.


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