“To De-Sign or Not to De-Sign”: A debate about what to do re exclusionary signs


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Hi Blog. There’s a debate going on between Debito.org Reader OG Steve and myself that is too good to leave buried in a Comments Section. It was occasioned by a recent blog entry about a sign, up at an outlet of bargain haircutter QB House in Tameike Sannou, Tokyo, requiring Japanese language ability for service. OG Steve made the point that he was happy to see an exclusionary sign up that proclaimed clear and present exclusionism (as opposed to the hedging wording of “we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone”), which in his view actually made discriminatory policies harder to stamp out. I disagreed, as in my view clear and present exclusionary policies, especially in the form of signs like these, encourages proliferation and copycatting, institutionalizes the discrimination, and further weakens civil society’s ability to take action against exclusionism. OG Steve replied that it makes the evidence and case clearer, and thus strengthens the hand of people who wish to take judicial action. I replied… well, read on. Then we’ll open the floor to discussion. It’s a worthy topic, so let’s have at it, and see if we can get some conclusive arguments from other Debito.org Readers as well.


2011/01/11 at 5:13 pm

Let’s remember that ironically, American businesses DO often have signs which say “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone”. D’oh!


So when business owners write a sign which gives a reason they are going to refuse service to you (whether it be race, language, whatever) we of course, rightly, get upset about the fact the company is openly announcing their discriminatory practice, but… when business owners write a VAGUE sign which doesn’t give an exact reason they are going to refuse service to you (like “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone”) we strangely DON’T complain about these vague signs.

Why don’t we complain about those vague signs? Are we so naive to believe that business owners who put up those vague signs are only going to use their self-proclaimed “right to refuse” strictly in “the appropriate, right, correct” situations?

Of course not, business owners who put up those vague “right to refuse” signs can and do successfully play the ugly game of discrimination like this:

“Yeah, Mr. Lawyer, I hear what you said, you’ve come here to ask me why I kicked your client out of my shop. Well as you can plainly read the sign on the wall says ‘We have the right to refuse service to ANYONE’, it doesn’t specifically say ‘Anyone who does something dangerous’ or ‘Anyone who does something bad’ (which is what you perhaps are naively assuming it to mean) nope, it simply says ‘ANYONE’.

“Now, it seems to me that you are trying to claim that I kicked out your client based on his race, now that’s a serious claim there partner, and furthermore you want me to admit this crime right now to you verbally, so that you can take me to court and easily win a discrimination lawsuit against me.

“Well, my answer is simple: our business never, ever, ever, would do anything illegal, we never have, never do, and never will. Whenever we utilize our god-given supreme-court-upheld Right to Refuse ANYONE from standing on our property and doing business with us, we always refuse for one of the LEGAL reasons, of course, whatever they may happen to be, and finally Mr. Lawyer: we don’t have to answer your questions about the DETAILS of what we we’re thinking during any particular refusal, neither to you nor to a police officer. And even if the police officer, without any admitting testimony from us, were somehow legally able to arrest us on the charge of suspected racial discrimination based on someone’s sob-story, when court time comes around we’ll simply answer “Not guilty”. We don’t have to prove our innocence. This isn’t some country with Napoleonic justice like Japan. This is America. (And worst case, if the judge really wanted to hear a denial, I can claim that the customer’s eyes were darting back and forth suspiciously like someone about to commit a crime or something, and that’s why we kicked him out.) Good luck PROVING that I was thinking racist thoughts, you don’t know what goes on in my mind. That’s why I chose this vague sign. That’s why clubs in America use bouncers who are given secret orders to discriminate about who gets in and who doesn’t get in. See, we have learned how to continue discrimination while simply pretending the discrimination doesn’t exist. You just need a vague sign, or a bouncer who will hide the owners orders about which races are allowed, and which races aren’t.

“Now Mr. Lawyer, you too, it’s your turn to see my utilize my Right to Refusal. Get off my property immediately. And have a nice day!” 🙂

OK, I’ll relate that rant back to the blog post in question by concluding as follows:

At least that branch manager is ADMITTING that he or she discriminates, and that the discrimination is specifically against non-speakers of Japanese.

That’s much more honest than the places in America with those vague refusal signs that DON’T admit the real reason they are going to kick you out, and that’s much more honest than the places who DON’T post the discrimination reality at all: by using Bouncers who refuse entry to certain races using phrases like “club capacity”, “guest list”, and “dress code”.

If the truth of the matter happens to be that that manager of that branch has decided to ban foreigners simply because he doesn’t like them, and the “language” reason on his sign is simply tatemae instead of honne, then forcing him to take down the sign isn’t going to solve the real problem, he’s simply going to throw up the “batsu” sign whenever a “whitey” or “darkey” tries to walk in.

Problem solved for him, he can simply take down the legally dangerous sign while covertly continuing the discriminatory practice. Great. We won, we stopped discrimination! Or will se simply take down the signs and make the discriminators become more covert as in America? 🙂


2011/01/11 at 7:24 pm

— It’s not clear what you are advocating here.

Are you extolling the virtues of having clearly exclusionary signs up because the exclusionary attitudes are clearly more “honest”… therefore more honorable? And a therefore a good thing?


Are you decrying the fundamental “dishonesty” of people who really have to work much harder in other societies (“we reserve the right… to refuse service … to anyone”) in order to discriminate — wording their signs or rules more carefully, so as to avoid the mechanisms of societies where anti-discrimination legislation and enforcement authorities are in place?

It’s not as easy as you make out in the second case (i.e. just put up a vague sign and presto, covert and unfettered discrimination). There are plenty of means to make sure the exclusionism is not for reasons related to race (“no shoes, no shirt, no service” — put those on and there’s no excuse; “not on the guest list” — if you can gather enough evidence to make the case that guests are being selected by race, then you’ve got a case for court or for local anti-discrimination authorities to investigate), not to mention entire societies sensitized to the issue to the degree where other extralegal means of applying pressure (boycotts, pickets, bad press, and anti-defamation leagues) are also present. There are plenty of means to investigate and tamp down on discrimination once alleged, and it’s not as much an uphill battle when society clearly frowns upon exclusionary activity — keeping a beady eye on potential transgressors.

But if you prefer the first case just because it’s somehow more “honest” (and you seem to be advocating that the exclusionary sign should stay up — for forcing it to come down merely drives discrimination underground and makes the rules covert), then all those knock-on anti-discrimination means go out the window, since inaction (or action by a tiny vocal minority) makes any protest seem ineffectual, and clear and present exclusionary signs become “the acceptable thing to do”. As history shows, discrimination left untouched merely grows, mutates, and ultimately assumes a self-justifying dynamic of “everyone else is doing it; hey, it’s so widespread that it’s a cultural thing now; it’s just how we do things, and what keeps our society running smoothly and orderly…”

So let’s be clear. You want exclusionary signs to stay up?


2011/01/12 at 1:12 am

I want the victims to be able to make the discriminators PAY, via successful lawsuits.

When a discriminator puts up a sign announcing that he is discriminating against “all foreigners”, a photo of this sign becomes easily admissible evidence of his discriminatory POLICY.

Of course, unfortunately, one needs to be a naturalized Japanese citizen to successfully sue (because the Japanese constitution translators changed “people” to “citizens”) but the main point is this: AT LEAST, with the signs up, a naturalized Japanese citizen can successfully make the discriminators pay, as you did.

If the bathhouse HADN’T stupidly post that sign stating their company policy, if they simply had quietly refused service one-by-one to “gaikoku-DNA-people” that tried to enter, by throwing up the “batsu” sign with their hands WITHOUT explaining why, it would have been MUCH harder for you to have received that 111 man yen.

WITHOUT the sign, if you took them to court, the company could reply, “No no, it’s not our company policy to discriminate against foreigners, not at all. There are a million and one legal reasons why one of our staff might have refused entry to you. And we don’t have to prove which one it was. Just for conversation, here are 2 examples: It’s company policy to follow fire safety rules, and on that day perhaps we simply might have been at capacity. Who knows. And no, we don’t have to prove that we were. Did you happen to collect any proof that we WEREN’T at capacity on that day? No? Then you don’t have proof of a discriminatory policy, you simply have a sob-story and speculation about our inner thoughts. Case closed. It’s also company policy to protect our staff from anyone who “appears” or “seems” to be possibly dangerous, regardless of race, gender, age, etc., and on that day perhaps one of our staff simply might have made a case-by-case judgment call, which is both his right as an employee, and our right as a company. (As they say in America, “We have the right to reserve service to ANYONE, we don’t have to prove the reason each time, we simply can no longer post those explicit ‘No Coloreds’ signs like we used to.) So, did you collect any proof that the staff member who refused you DIDN’T feel you looked dangerous? Of course not. To re-iterate, our company does NOT discriminate against foreigners, and we don’t have to prove our innocence, the onus is on YOU the PLAINTIFF to prove that we have a racially discriminatory policy, and without any sign on the wall… it’s going to be very hard for you to prove. And worst case, even if you prove that the staff member was racist, even if you recorded a verbal conversation with that staff member telling you to get out because you don’t look Japanese, you STILL can’t prove that it was company policy unless you have a photo of a sign or a company manual, so we’ll just quietly “fire” the isolated racist staff member for his “disobeying” our official company policy of “non-discrimination” (and perhaps we’ll rehire him a few months later, after he has been “counseled” and “reformed”, but the main point is, you lose the lawsuit, because you have no proof of a racially discriminatory COMPANY POLICY.”

Debito brother,

I want the naturalized Japanese citizens to take photos of signs which stupidly admit the policy of discrimination, so that the judges will be more likely to rule that the business with the policy of discrimination has to pay the plaintiff.

After we naturalized Japanese citizens get properly paid for the stress of these businesses with openly posted policies of discrimination (say, 7 successful lawsuits per naturalized Japanese citizen = 777 man yen, ka-ching), THEN those racist loser company owners will take down their stupidly-honest signs and start using the clever-hidden legally-unprovable discrimination-techniques: by putting up signs that say “ANYONE” without ever admitting the reason, or by foregoing the signs all together and simply refusing folks one-by-one, case-by-case, without ever admitting the reason.

PS – As I recall, the Japanese constitution doesn’t even forbid PRIVATE COMPANIES from discriminating against Japanese citizens, it simply forbids GOVERNMENTS from discriminating against Japanese citizens. Oops, thanks a lot for that limiting qualification, American writer of Japanese Constitution.

And as I recall, even the American constitution itself doesn’t forbid PRIVATE COMPANIES from discriminating against customers, there simply are STATUTES that forbid discriminatory HIRING practices, which is why companies throughout America openly post signs that say, “Right to refuse ANYONE.”

Final Re-cap:

If the sign says “We refuse Foreigners”, the racist policy is thus posted, it is easy for naturalized citizen victims to get compensation for feelings hurt due to being refused.

If there is no sign, if the racist policy is thus hidden, it becomes almost impossible for victims to get compensation for feelings hurt due to being refused.

And if the sign cleverly says “Right to refuse Anyone”, the racist policy is thus hidden, it becomes almost impossible for victims to get compensation for feelings hurt due to being refused.

I hope you feel me, I’m not trying to be argumentative at all, I’m simply pointing out some facts are ironic, embarrassing, surprising, unjust, often unnoticed, and painful to admit. 🙂


January 12, 2010, 8AM JST

Thanks for the reply. Some answers:

1) You don’t need to be a naturalized citizen to win against these exclusionary establishments. Ana Bortz (a NJ) won against her exclusionary store without J citizenship. I believe we would have won against Otaru Onsen Yunohana even if I had not naturalized. My being a citizen closed one potential loophole, but it could go either way depending on the judge. And that leads me to my point:

2) Leaving it up to the Japanese judiciary to resolve this situation is extremely risky. We have had at least one other case (Steve McGowan) where we had the manager of a business saying on tape that he doesn’t like black people and he refused Steve because he is black. The judge still refused to rule in Steve’s favor, discovering a technicality he could exploit (which was later fortunately overturned in High Court). Build up enough of these precedents, and you’ll actually arm the defense. I’d prefer not to leave it up to Japanese judges, rather to law enforcement authorities and a clear legal code (hence my need for a law).

3) Leaving it up to naturalized citizens to play “Japanese Only Sign Whack-a-Mole” is untenable, since court cases take years, cost money and great amounts of mental energy, and incur great social opprobrium (given the general distaste for lawsuits in Japanese society). Clear and present evidence is one thing. Advocating that signs stay up as lawsuit bait or legal entrapment is a losing strategy.

4) As I said earlier, exclusionary signs beget more of the same, through copycatting and clear institutionalization of an action. Exclusionary signs must come down, and a legal framework of protections against racial discrimination must be enshrined. That’s asking for a lot at this juncture, so I’ll accept the half-measure having the signs forced down for now, even if that allegedly deprives people of evidence to sue (it doesn’t: you get refused, threaten to sue, the sign comes down and you still sue, you still win, since you were still refused regardless of the present circumstances; the damage is done, as this is what happened in the Otaru Onsens Case).

If you haven’t read book JAPANESE ONLY yet Steve, I really suggest you do. It’ll also ground you in the dynamic of why your suggestions won’t stop the discrimination. Nothing will, short of a law backed up by sanctions. That’s why the UN CERD strongly advises one.

I’ll let the legal scholars out there comment more authoritatively on the “kokumin” aspects of the constitution and law enforcement, but my lawyers have told me repeatedly that Japanese Constitutional protections apply to non-citizens too, despite the wording, if you’d dare to push the issue in official mediating bodies.

Now let’s open the floor up for discussion. Pile on. Arudou Debito

14 comments on ““To De-Sign or Not to De-Sign”: A debate about what to do re exclusionary signs

  • About those” We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone” signs in the USA


    Does a Restaurant Have the Unrestricted Right to Refuse Service to Specific Patrons?
    No. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 explicitly prohibits restaurants from refusing service to patrons on the basis of race, color, religion, or natural origin. …continues

    But Aren’t Restaurants Considered Private Property?
    Yes, however they are also considered places of public accommodation. In other words, the primary purpose of a restaurant is to sell food to the general public, which necessarily requires susceptibility to equal protection laws. Therefore, a restaurant’s existence as private property does not excuse an unjustified refusal of service. …continues

    So Are “We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to Anyone” Signs in Restaurants Legal?
    Yes, however they still do not give a restaurant the power to refuse service on the basis of race, color, religion, or natural origin. These signs also do not preclude a court from finding other arbitrary refusals of service to be discriminatory. Simply put, restaurants that carry a “Right to Refuse Service” sign are subject to the same laws as restaurants without one.

  • crustpunker says:

    As someone who has little understanding on the “kokumin” aspects of the Japanese constitution, would it be possible to ask someone who may be kind enough for a brief synopsis of the history of racial discrimination in terms of how it is outlined in Japanese law/ constitution etc… I think without that being clearly established for everyone who may not know it (like me) it is hard to enter into a debate. A link or something would suffice just as well. I tried but got mired..

  • Debito 🙂

    Right on, I feel you. And I see I made a few statements that were incorrect, thanks for the corrections.

    Maybe my lengthy diatribe could have been summarized more succinctly and more honestly like this:

    I’m selfishly trying to maintain and increase my own happiness, and the happiness of my family, as all living organisms do. As soon as I become a naturalized Japanese citizen, I want to successfully sue as many Racist Discriminators as possible: #1 to get money for myself and my family, and #2 to punish those racist discriminators for their Exclusionary actions which hurt people’s feelings.

    And I was simply trying to say, I hope that 2 or 3 years from now, when I receive Japanese citizenship, that some Stupidly-Honest-Racists still have some signs posted admitting their Openly-Racist-Policy, because I wanna get PAID while making sure they are financially PENALIZED.’

    Meaning, it sure would be unfortunate for selfish ‘ol me, if 2 or 3 years from now, I go out with my Japanese passport hidden in my pocket, looking for signs posted admitting the Openly-Racist-Policy, and find that the situation has become a Hidden-Racist-Policy.’

    If the Ryoukans STOP posting signs on their buildings and on their websites that say ‘Japanese Only’ or ‘No Foreigners’, if they START using more SHREWD, more SLY, more CLEVER tactics to practice their discrimination… (like racists in America do, sorry folks, I’m an American and I’m not too proud to admit that barring non-whites from establishments still happens everyday in America, we simply have stopped putting up the “Whites Only” signs, to avoid lawsuits…) then in that case when the Ryoukan refuses my it’s going to be a lot harder, almost impossible, for my to prove that the owner has a POLICY of discrimination.

    How can I prove that the Ryoukan WASN’T simply “all booked” or “closed for repairs”? If I arrive to my pre-reserved reservation (using a Japanese friend, via phone or internet), and then when I arrive they see my face they can suddenly say, “Oh, there must have been some mix-up, even though you do have a confirmation number, that room has uh, been, uh, given to another customer already. Sorry, maybe our staff goofed. She’s still in training. So, we’re all booked up now. Too bad. We recommend you go to some other Ryoukan, maybe on the west side of town, they might have an open space for you there.” In which case the only lawsuit I can win is, “This Ryoukan accidentally erased my reservation.” What will that get me? An 1 man settlement? That’s not the amount of justice I’m looking for.

    All I’m saying is, the percentage of Japanese who are racist (whatever percent that may be) are not going to stop being racists. Nope. Never. They are not going to stop having racist policies. They are not going to stop refusing foreigners and foreigner-looking naturalized-citizens. They simply are going to stop admitting the policy exists. They simply are going to take the signs down. They simply are going to stop verbally admitting their racist policy. They simply are going to start being more creative about carefully choosing lies, if sued, to explain WHY they refused you.

    — Right. Like any racists anywhere. That’s why you need laws against discrimination.

  • As long as a swimming pool operator can refuse entry to anyone with a tattoo, a barber can refuse service to people who can’t speak Japanese. We can cry racial discrimination all we like, but its not all about us, its about the majority being comfortable with refusing rights to the minority. I may be overgeneralizing, but I think most Japanese see nothing wrong about restricting rights willy nilly as long as it has no impact on them personally.

    — I think you’re overgeneralizing.

    I have heard that the sign has come down at QB House Tameike Sannou. Anyone care to drop by and visually confirm that?

  • For me, such signs are indicators of an existing discriminatory policy at certain facility, while at the same time thay are a manifestation of this facility’s sence of legal invincibility.They are an arrogant way of saying-We don’t like certain type of people and we absolutely don’t care what anyone else thinks.Still, I don’t think removing a sign will remove the whole discriminatory policy, although it is a good beginning. The people at the facility can continue with the discrimination, only to do it in more subtle, cunning way-and there had been some comments on this.
    Unless there is really strict law about discrimination, which not only to force the facilities from removing the signs without any other consequences ( temporary halt of business operations, putting them into nation -wide Japanese black list, expensive fine) those signs will keep appearing.Unless everyone knows that discrimination is illegal and they can go to jail for it, removing a sign won’t change much.
    Bottom line-such signs should not exist, because the idea of exclucionism is wrong.But removing them should not be like sweeping some garbage under the carpet and let it rot there, or cutting the weed so it cannot be seen. The garbage should be taken out and thrown away, the weed sould be pulled out from its roots.When a sign is removed, make sure the guys know that discriminating people is wrong, not that they have to remove it simply to please somebody.

  • thanks for all your work getting the sign down..
    progess at last.
    as ever,debito comes up with the goods!
    keep up the top work!

    — Well, it wasn’t me who got the sign down (pending confirmation). I just helped somebody publicize it. Thanks to those who take further action and moreover succeed.

  • I don’t think it’s okay to say “If you don’t speak Japanese, you’re not welcome in this shop.” I do think it’s okay to only speak the only official language of the country in which the business operates. We’ve all seen it, most of us have probably been in the uncomfortable position of being WITH someone who was doing it. Especially English speakers… walk into a store or a restuarant in Japan and just EXPECT the staff to speak English. They don’t try to speak Japanese. Don’t attempt much in the way of body language. Don’t pull out a phrase book and point at what they want to say. They just speak English, despite the fact that the business is NOT an international hotel or an international airport or anywhere else where some degree of multiligualness could be expected. And being bilingual is not and should not be a requirement to find employment as a BARBER.

    If the sign reads, “We apologize that we do not have any English speaking staff,” I wouldn’t have a problem with it. I think it’s fine to say, “Don’t expect us to speak English and don’t expect us to understand when you explain in English how you would like your haircut, because all of our staff are monolingual” (possibly in a more polite manner). But if someone sees that and decides to try their luck with gestures and/or a picture cut out of a magazine or something… refusing service is another matter.

    So yes, I agree that THIS PARTICULAR SIGN, based on its wording, was inappropriate. But I also think it’s beyond inappropriate when English speakers just go in to a restaurant, and without even bothering to ask “Do you have a waiter who speaks English?” just launch right into friendly chitchat that’s more likely to make the poor employee feel uncomfortable than anything else. Visitors to a foreign country need to at the VERY least be apologetic about the fact that they don’t speak the language. And people who have lived here for a couple of years and still can’t manage to squeak out “eigo wakarimasu ka?” are simply being rude. Not everyone is capable of becoming fluent in a year. But memorize one sentence? Takes a day, if that. Should have been accomplished on the flight over.

  • Debito wrote: “That’s why we need laws against discrimination.”

    I think that you WILL get a law against discrimination, with proper penalties such as fines and prison, enacted by investing your limited time and energy into the following action:
    Sending an effective well-written hardcopy letter addressed directly to an actual powerful decider (i.e. National Diet of Japan House of Representative) clearly proving why it is in HIS best personal interest to personally persuade the majority of his fellow representatives that it is in THEIR best personal interests to enact such a law immediately because it is in JAPAN’S best personal interests to (#1) bring more tax money into Japan and (#2) finally be awarded a seat on the U.N. Security Council and (#3) bring more tax money into Japan (Yes, that’s right, money is mentioned twice because to increase the standard of living of the Japanese people ware-ware need to bring more tax revenues into Japan, and thus we need to motivate rich tax-payers to bring their tax-revenues into Japan by enacting Japan’s new Non-Discrimination law.)

    Conversely, I think that you will NOT get a law against discrimination, with proper penalties such as fines and prison, enacted by investing your limited time and energy into the following action:
    Asking various racist shop owners, one-by-one, to
    “please stop openly writing your racist policy”
    “please stop verbally admitting your racist policy”
    “please stop covertly continuing your racist policy”
    “please don’t start claiming your policy isn’t a policy”
    “please don’t start refusing entry using ‘case-by-case’ technique”
    Criminal actions are reduced by fines and prison, not the word “please”.

    The effective action seems to me to be the former, not the latter.

    I hope my summary above isn’t too “zuuboshi”, I hope you don’t take offense at my way of saying “unless you do THIS, you’re wasting your time and energy”, and I hope you don’t just angrily reply, “Well why don’t you do it Steve?” And the answer is, as mentioned in the past, I’m not going to decrease my chances of being granted Japanese Citizenship by becoming an activist (as a matter of fact, special message to the billingual staff assigned to watch Debito’s site and report any extraordinary revolutionists producing ideas here: my real name isn’t even Steve, ha-ha). Governments in general don’t often award citizenship to people who are actively trying to change the status quo. I’m quite sure that when the Japanese government gave you, Debito, a known activist, Japanese citizenship, you simply got really, really, lucky.

    So, since you slipped through the cracks and can never be kicked out of Japan, :-), I recommend that you, together with any naturalized Japanese citizen that has Japanese legal skills (Eido, come back, we need you) should sit down and write Japan’s new Non-Discrimination Law, make it simple & strong, and then write a powerful effective one-page cover-letter, and then send it to a decider who has the ability to persuade his fellow deciders to enact it. 🙂

    Persuading rulers to enact a law, that’s effective.

    Begging criminals to stop being bad, that’s ineffective.

    Begging Debito to start persuading rulers, that’s crazy ‘ol OG Steve. 🙂

    PS – Kaizen Kaizen, why not send the proposal straight to the TOP?

    You can persuade the Emperor to persuade the House of Representatives!

    How will you get your hard-copy letter to be handed to the Emperor?

    Pretend the letter is coming from a Royal Prince of some unknown country!

    Send it together with some expensive-seeming present with Royal seals.

    Explain that a Royal family member was discriminated against in Japan.

    Then from that point on, the letter can continue as summarized above.

    Now, imagine that you are the guy in charge of the Emperor’s mail.

    You’ve never heard of this African Republic of Zygaria, but who knows?

    You don’t want to risk getting fired for NOT passing along Royal mail.

    So you meekly place the letter with the present on the Emperor’s desk.

    The Emperor reads it and thinks “Hmm, this Prince makes a good point.”

    The Emperor tells some powerful Representatives to read the Law proposal.

    The Representatives decide to get onboard, since the Emperor is onboard.

    By the time Zygaria is found to be a ruse, the Law is enacted. Et Voilà! 🙂

  • Oops, we definitely need Eido’s intelligent input here, but when I invited a naturalized Japanese citizen with Japanese legal skills to come add some legal ideas, I now realize I meant to say: Joe Jones! 🙂

    Debito, Joe Jones, even HO :-), everyone, please, let’s constructively start brainstorming Japan’s new Non-Discrimination Law right here together, and then after a few weeks of thinking together and editing together, one of us (perhaps our ringleader Debito) will send it to some Law Enactors together with a good cover letter.

    So, what would YOUR ideal Non-Discrimination Law state?

    I’m hoping EVERYONE will throw in an idea or two or ten.

    Here is a rough draft Executive Summary:

    Clear definition of Legal-Refusal-of-Service.
    Clear definition of Illegal-Refusal-of-Service.
    Clear penalties for Illegal-Refusal-of-Service.
    Clear penalties for False-Accusations.
    Clear penalties for Police-Refusal-to-Arrest-and-Charge the owner of a business accused of Illegal-Refusal-of-Service.

    Here is a rough draft, that probably contains some mistakes and loopholes, please bluntly point out any corrections which need to be made:

    Law #1000001 “If a human has committed an Illegal-Action on a business property, the owner or staff of that business can Legally-Refuse-Service. (In this case, the owner or staff of that business can call the police, and a Police Officer is legally required as usual to arrive to the scene and arrest and charge the human to be tried in a court of law for the alleged Illegal-Action.)”

    Law #1000002 “If a human has NOT committed an Illegal-Action on a business property, the owner or staff of that business can NOT Legally-Refuse-Service. (In this case, the human who was Illegally-Refused-Service can call the police, and a Police Officer is legally required to arrive to the scene and arrest and charge the business owner to be tried in a court of law for that alleged Illegal-Refusal-of-Service.)”

    Law #1000003 “If a court of law finds that the human mentioned above DID commit the alleged Illegal-Action on the business property, then of course the business owner’s Refusal-of-Service is ruled Legal. (In this case, the human found guilty of the Illegal-Action will of course be penalized as the current laws proscribe for the Illegal-Action.)”

    Law #1000004 “If a court of law finds that the human mentioned above did NOT commit the alleged Illegal-Action on the business property, then the business owner’s Refusal-of-Service is ruled Illegal. (In this case, the business owner found guilty of an Illegal-Refusal-of-Service will be penalized as follows: 70 days of imprisonment, and 700,000 yen fine must be paid to the government, and 700,000 yen fine must paid to the victim of the Illegal-Refusal-of-Service. Failure to pay 100% of the fines within 1 year will result in 70 additional days of imprisonment.)

    Law #1000005 “If the court of law finds that either party made a False-Accusation when speaking to the judge, the other party will immediately be ruled innocent, and the party who made the False-Accusation will be penalized as follows: 70 additional days of imprisonment, and 700,000 yen additional fine to be paid to the government, and 700,000 yen additional fine to be paid to the victim of the false-accusation. And of course, failure to pay 100% of these additional fines within 1 year will result in 70 additional days of imprisonment.)

    Law #1000006 “If the Police Station initially called does NOT send a Police Officer to the scene within 12 hours of the initial call, or if the Police Officer who arrives on the scene refuses to arrest and charge the business owner accused of Illegal-Refusal-of-Service within 24 hours of the initial call, then that Police Station’s Chief must be arrested and charged by the Head of National Police within 48 hours of the initial call, for Obstruction of Justice and Aiding a Felony Act, until the business owner accused of Illegal-Refusal-of-Service is duly arrested, and if subsequently found guilty by a court of law the Crime-Ignoring-Police-Station-Chief will be penalized as the current laws proscribe for Obstruction of Justice and Aiding a Felony Act.”

    Law #1000007 “If the Crime-Ignoring-Police-Station-Chief is not arrested by the Head of National Police within 48 hours of the initial call, the Crime-Ignoring-National-Police-Head must be arrested and charged by his boss (whoever that is) within 72 hours for Obstruction of Justice and Aiding a Felony Act, until the business owner accused of Illegal-Refusal-of-Service is duly arrested, and if found guilty by a court of law the Crime-Ignoring-National-Police-Head and the Crime-Ignoring-Police-Station-Chief will both be penalized as the current laws proscribe for Obstruction of Justice and Aiding a Felony Act.”

    This law will scare racist business owners, because they can no longer just blame it on “staff mistakes”. The business owner is now personally liable for Illegal-Refusal-of-Service. The business owner will now have the proper personal motivation to train their staff well.

    This law will scare money-hungry false-accusers from falsely-claiming they were refused-entry. Humans aren’t going to risk trying to falsely obtain court-mandated 700,000 judgement, if the risk of making a false-accusation is a 700,000 yen fine plus 70 days of imprisonment.

    This law will scare racist Heads of Police, because they can no longer just blame it on the “lower officers’ mistakes”. The Head of Police can’t just covertly tell the officers under him to simply ignore calls from people reporting Illegal-Refusal-of-Service, they have to make actually arrest the accused business owner or face arrest themselves. The Head of Police will now have the proper motivation to train the people under him well.

    Well, this is just the start of a beautiful brainstorming session, c’mon everyone, post your good ideas, please, blow my rough draft right out of the water with much BETTER law proposals.

    What would YOUR ideal Non-Discrimination Law state?

  • Kimberly, most posters here (I’m guessing) are long term residents of Japan who’ve taken the time to learn rudimentary Japanese to the level at least where they can explain in capable however broken Japanese what kind of haircut they want. To be then denied for being foreign looking or because my lack of proper grammatical ability causes a panicky staff member who hated English in junior high school when I explained what I wanted capably enough would be deeply exasperating and alienating.

    As an aside, I used to use a “tangotown” application on my now primitive cellphone years ago to show in Japanese to show, ironically, QB House staff, the kind of haircut I wanted. I didn’t expect precision, I just wanted it shorter in a certain style. They got my business, my hair got shorter, everyone was happy.

    You have some good points though, but locals and foreigners here work together best when they meet in the middle ground.

  • AJ, I think we pretty much feel the same way. Panicking and screaming “No English!” because someone speaks Japanese with an accent is obviously rude and inappropriate behavior toward a customer. I’m just saying that especially in that area, where there are a lot of embassies and a lot of tourists and a lot of temporary business expats, there are probably quite a few customers who just come in and speak English and expect to be understood.

    In that case, something to the effect of “We apologize that we do not have any bilingual staff” might be appropriate. Actually refusing service is not.

  • crustpunker says:

    Kimberly you make a good point. This can all quite easily be avoided by making people aware with a sign that “We apologize that we do not have any bilingual staff” Most sane tourists and people with little to no Japanese ability would logically feel compelled to take their business elsewhere. The customer would also have no grounds for complaining about the service OR discrimination as the sign has clearly stated more or less “feel free to come on in but be aware that you may encounter some degree of unpleasentness if your Japanese isn’t up to scratch”

    Seems to me like you have more or less offered a very good solution to this issue (until a clear law is established regarding discrimination). Also, now that I think about it, I don’t believe I have EVER seen a sign here in Japan to that effect. (been here for 12 years and all over the country)

  • Do not have time to read the whole article now, but just wanted to let you know: the exact same sign was up at Keio-Nagayama station in Tama-city as of last month claiming the same requirement of langauge ability. I went in and spoke decently without much of a fuss; it felt a little uncomfortable but I did not recieve any nasty sneering.


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