Calling all readers: “Japanese Only” signs in Kansai, Nagoya, and Kanto areas? For March 2010 UN inspection.


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Hi Blog.  Japan is coming under review this month at the OHCHR CERD Committee again (it happens every two years), and I have submitted chapter to them in as part of an NGO group effort (more on that later).

I have just heard that the United Nations will be coming to visit Japan again in late March to see how she’s doing regarding keeping her promise to eliminate with racial discrimination.  (Information about previous UN visits here.)

I know for a fact that “Japanese Only” etc. signs and rules are up around Japan in various guises and places of visit.  After all, there’s no law against it.  So I have been asked to help out giving a tour of these places in the Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, and/or Tokyo areas.

So let me ask readers:  Do you know of any places open to the public in these areas that explicitly refuse NJ (or those who look like NJ) entry and service?  The best places actually have a sign up saying so.  If so, please send me (to 1) a snap photo (cellphone ok) of the sign, 2) a snap of the storefront with the sign visible, 3) the name and approximate address of the place and date of photos.  I’ll do the rest.

(Please say “Japanese Only sign submission for UN” in the submission’s subject line?)

Thanks for helping out.  Arudou Debito in Banff.

19 comments on “Calling all readers: “Japanese Only” signs in Kansai, Nagoya, and Kanto areas? For March 2010 UN inspection.

  • Mr Debito
    I can’t read japanese but a japanese’friend say me ,there is a lot of place like for rent house for ex. where its noticed “no foreigner” sometimes “writing softly” with nuance.

    — That’ll do. We just need reproduceable evidence, such as something in writing. Thanks.

  • May I just suggest that you might get more sympathy from the UN if the exclusionary signs were at establishments other than nightclubs, bars, hostess parlors, etc.

    Of course discrimination by any business is wrong, but some examples of it are likely to cut more ice with the UN than others…

    — Uh, we know this.

  • Its not a no NJ sign issue but if the UN inspectors come I wish they would visit a few housing agents. I had a bad experience with エーブル a housing agent last week, whilst I was sitting in front of them they called ahead to various landlords to check if NJ were OK for various appartments (whilst I get that this calling ahead is normal in Japan and advisable to avoid later disappointment for NJ, I had not been prepared for racist content of the phone call which nobody in エーブル seems to be even remotely ashamed of as the whole conversation is conducted in front of me) I even heard them reassure the landlords on 2 occasions that it was OK because I was not Chinese. When the agent finished the calls I expressed my shock and disappointment that this kind of racism had become so …normal!. I asked what was I supposed to do if I was Chinese, if he reassured prospective landlords (before they even asked, as far as I could tell from hearing one side of the phone call) that I wasnt Chinese then presumably Chinese people are excluded from エーブル? My friend sitting next to me at the time was Peruvian so just out of curiosity I asked, if my friend here a Peruvian was looking for an apartment would he also be rejected along with the Chinese. The man reluctantly said yes.
    As I communicated with エーブル in Japanese and he did not mention language once during any calls to the landlords, any excuse about the reason for NJ rejection at housing agents being because of language barrier I assume is a myth, the real reason is played out in the open for any undercover inspector to see, plain and simple racial discrimination.

  • Mr Debito,

    Thank you for all your job.

    Can I win in Japanese’court if I use the article 14(?)(about prohibition to make discrimination against origine,religion,sexe,etc) of Japanese’constitution and take proove (records,pictures,etc) for try to make lawsuit against the house rent office or the owner (the next one) who’s refuse to rent to me as a foreigner,

    What do you think Mr Debito?

    This is my experience,when I came in Japan in 2003, my wife and I decided to rent a 2 pieces in tokyo.
    We visited 3/4 house’rent offices and are interested about some offers,some offices are reluctant to give us good offers too,but after visit some rooms and agree to rent the time come for agents to call the owner..

    4 times owners refused with just answer Gaijin dame!..and the agents apologize!!
    Even if they don’t know my origine,its not just against Chinese or Peruvian,I’m European.

    My wife and I are tired about this situation, but she never complain against the agents or owner (maybe she knows she can’t,she never say me)
    If this happened in my country for us ,I will make a big problem,believe me.
    I advice my wife to go alone and she get one at her first visit,of course she don’t speak about me and our child and give her Japanese name ,not husband’name.

    One week after the owner came in our room,(sorry to say he’s dont look clean and smeell alcool),
    when I open the door with our baby in my arm he’s face change, he make 1m back and ask who I am and about my wife,
    I answer she make shopping now and comeback after, he speak all the time to me with smile,I think he’s “cool guy”
    but when he leave he go direct in my wife’parents house (they are garantor of us and live at 700 meters)
    and complain,they (too)don’t take my defens but just answer “daijobu,daijobu” that what my wife say to me,I think they apologize too..
    The owner complain to agents too arguing every other neighboors will leave because of my presence..
    its an old house with less expensive rent,everybody live here are not rich ,like us!

    My wife never complain,after weeks where the owner try to make problem ,I say to my wife to inform the agents that if he don’t stop i will get advice with a lawyer, I don’t know at this time there is no law against discrimination here.
    He stop to bother us but make the rent more expensive,after all the neighboors (old people in general)try to bother us,after 8 months we leave this place.
    Now,we are divorced and I have right to just live in “gaijin’houses’

    Sorry for my english and the long post.
    I hope you never stop your work ,its a big help for us.
    Thank you again Mr Debito

    — You’re welcome. I’m not sure if you will win. But you’re welcome to try.

  • For the people who complain against discrimination from real estate agents, how good is your Japanese?

    I’ve moved several times since I came here a few years back and never faced problems when getting the apt I want. I used the aforementioned Able as well and got a really nice place and didn’t even need a Hoshounin (brought bank and tax statements from my American company). I think the key is doing this all in Japanese even if you do have a wife. When you go to a real estate agent, don’t let her be the one doing all the talking while you sit back. Most landlords are probably worried that the foreign tenant cannot speak the language so if you prove you do ahead of time, then there should not be an issue.

    — Shouldn’t be. But it is.

  • Yesterday, while looking for a new place to live, my Japanese girlfriend and I were not allowed to see a place because previous NJ tenants were bad. I have lived in the same place for 7 years, and have been dealing with the same real estate agent for the last three or four of those years (contract renewals, broken water heaters etc…). He went to bat for me, telling the landlord that I was a good guy, my current landlord loves me, I had a good job, etc…. No dice. It had ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with my language ability, how much money I make or anything else other than previous NJ tenants were bad and so, therefor, all NJ tenants are bad. To put it in simpler words, straight out RACISM!

  • I speak pretty good, accentless Japanese (finally got 1-kyuu this year after five attempts). Makes no difference. The landlords hardly ever meet prospective tenants, just get their paperwork and (in my case) turn it down.

  • How can I proof I was refused sightseeing to hong Kong by 2 tourist agents. They told my Japanese wife “no foreigner” can join Japanese tour because they (Japanese) go to tax-free shop. Well, nice excuse. Then she told them she was Japanese and I`m her husband. They refused us both saying we can buy plane ticket in their office but not tour. In this country even for own nationals married to foreigner is tough. We ended up in JTB. They were shocked when we told them our story and a lady at the counter. She called somewhere to make reservation for us saying it was OK for me to go, but we asked her to tell the person on other side of the line that foreigner will join. There wasn`t a problem at all. Since then I only go for tour with JTB.
    The same was with apartment we live. Even though my wife is Japanese, she was refused along with me. Anyway we got it after long talk.
    Problem wasn`t owner but office itself. The reason was: Their rules are “no foreigner”. However they have US certificates on the walls about how good they are etc. Well…maybe self made. I will try to find out those agents and who was our “kanri gaisha”. It hase been changed since.

  • @Aaron

    I have moved house in Japan several times in 12 years. I speak Japanese very well. I have found that all agents ask if foreigners are OK on the initial call with the landlord/owner. I estimate that half say no to NJ. I have been denied viewing many locations due to the passport I carry and not due to my language ability. You have obviously just been lucky.

  • @Aaron,

    I did the same as you, used Japanese with Chintai and got a place without a legit guanantor (though I had to pay 15,000 yen for their guarantor service)

    But the key thing is, I went there with a list of 6 places I wanted to see that I looked up beforehand. 3 of those were immediately denied, because the “landlords are strict about gaikokujin”.
    A while back someone posted a link to a Chintai source page of listings, and there was a column for “No gaijin” just like for “private bath” or “no pets”.

    I am pretty sure that many people THINK they got an apartment in Japan without racist hassles, but only because it happens behind the scenes.
    Walk into a progressive agents’ office, and they’ll be happy to provide you with a list of places, but they are NOT showing you any of the places with no-gaijin policies. You have no way of knowing this, and remain blissfully unaware that your options have been limited due to discrimination.

    Somebody with a lot of free time could investigate this. Again, the key being, you must be the one who chooses a list of places to see, and then see how many are denied.

    I might add that some landlords might be more motivated by the attitudes of racist tennants than their own personal hatred of gaijin. They just don’t want to put up with endless manufactured complaints from a racist obaa-san or three if you move in. Not an excuse, but it’s likely.

  • Aaron, I am fully bilingual with great intonation, and I have the credentials to prove it. That leads idealistic realtors to have me apply for 物件 which normal Japanese go for. Most racist owners still say ‘no’ to my money and spotless rental history.

  • Thank you Mr Debito.

    To Aaron,

    As somebody say,maybe you are lucky man..
    My Japanese’wife and I are not in many experiences in Japan,beleive me..

    Aaron,I understand the language is very important for comunicate here,
    but at this time my wife speak for us,and above all before the owner know about my nationality or if I speak japanese or not,or if I have a job etc,
    he never ask about that, he just answer to the agents “Gaijin dame”,and one more time ,they apologize!
    I can’t beleive it.

    Even if I speak japanese,do you think he will don’t say neighboors will leave because of my presence?

    If you really think it’s problem of language so they have to make the precision
    “No Foreigners..who don’t speak japanese”

  • @ Eric

    It looks like you had exactly the same situation as me. Even Japanese national with foreign spouse is refused. We got what we wanted but I was about to sue them from my wife side which would be better. Reason: 100% born Japanese Citizen has been refused house.
    We didn`t need to go through this after all.

  • Question 1:
    Is there a risk that naturalized Japanese citizens could also be refused by landlords?
    What do those landlords realy care about:
    1) your language ability?
    2) your nationality according to your passport?
    3) your looks?

    Question 2:
    What will happen to the generation of so-called half Japanese? Do they count as Japanese even if they don’t ‘look’ Japanese?

    Advice of the day:
    J person to naturalized J person:
    “You don’t look Japanese.”
    Naturalized J person reply:
    “No, Japanese people now look like me.”

  • Been her for some time now 19+ years, been married, divorced and raising 2 Japanese children here on my own!

    My first full day in Japan 19 years ago looking for an apartment with my then wife was quite an eye opener EVERY “fudosan” basically said no “Gaijin”!

    Went looking for a place to move today and at least half the places I went said no “gaijin” it’s an improvement but it shouldn’t be at all!

    Spent more then 12 years traveling around Japan for business, I have been to just about every prefecture between Kushiro (Hokaiko) and Kagoshima! Even as a guest of some of the largest department stores, I have been refused in hotels and restaurants even when the reservations were made by the Japanese companies I was working with!

    The reaction of the Japanese when such things happen is just “shoganai” no help or protest!

    The most memorable of all was when I won 4 place in an international design contest, the first place winner was an American he was flown all the way to Tokyo to collect his prize at a ceremony, after the ceremony everyone whent to an exclusive restaurant in Ginza, as we entered the president of the group holding the competition (also the Dean of a department of a very prestigious Japanese University) was told that they do not allow “gaijins” so instead of protesting he turned to me gave me some money and said,

    “you know Tokyo well please take the first prize winner out to some place nice, thank you!”.

    I protested but his reply was,

    “we can’t cancel or move because of this everyone else will be upset”.

    I left with the American and we made a night of it with the money we were given, but I can tell you that this man will never return here and he said he would never recommend anyone ever come here!

    You can’t make this stuff up it just too precious!!

  • Just my two yen, or little story, but…

    For one job I had here in Japan my boss set me up in an apartment in a different town from where I was working. She told me the reason for that was there was a landlord there who was willing to rent to foreiners.


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