UPDATE NOV 9, 2000

(Originally sent to Friends, Issho, Shakai, UMJ, Reporters, and others Thurs, Nov 9, 2000)

Two articles for your perusal:

One year on: A Critique (kenshou) of the Foreigner Bathhouse Exclusion Issue


Hokkaido Shinbun Otaru version, Oct 27, 2000
By Nishimura Daisuke
(Translation by Arudou Debito/Dave Aldwinckle)
(Original Japanese here)
[NB: This article came out before the translator visited Yunohana Onsen as a Japanese citizen and was refused admission. More on that here. Hokkaido Shinbun article reporting this refusal on Nov 6, 2000 in jpegged Japanese here]

PHOTO: Front of Yunohana Onsen, with the sign up since January 2000: "Due to various circumstances, we refuse entry to foreigners. Furthermore, we are currently considering what to do from now." (shojijou ni yori gaikokujin no kata no gonyuujou wa gorenryou itadaite orimasu. nao, kongou ni tsukimashite wa kentou chuu de gozaimasu) Caption with the photo: "THE SIGN REFUSING ENTRY TO FOREIGNERS IS STILL UP AT THE BATHING FACILITY"

SUMMARY: It's been over a year since the problem surfaced, where some Otaru bathing facilities refused service to foreigners, bringing forth a backlash from non-Japanese residents decrying racial discrimination. Although one bathing facility softened its rules, turning around and allowing foreigners entry, others still continue to exclude to this day. The same problem has expanded to other business sectors, such as eating and drinking establishments, making it seem likely that the solution will take some time. We examine what has and has not changed over the past year.

1) QUIETLY DOES IT (hissori to)
From March of this year, after seven years of refusing foreign patrons, an onsen near the port [Osupa] began quietly letting them in. If there had been public fanfare about their "business now open to foreigners!", owners worried there would be a backlash from the regular Japanese customers. At this time, the onsen gets a little over ten foreign customers per month. "Little by little our Japanese customers seem to be getting used to it."

Whenever a foreigner drops by this facility, the man at the counter assesses (mikiwameru) if the individual has the potential to cause trouble, and decides whether or not to let him in. If he looks like a Russian sailor, entry is refused. The man in charge [Ohkoshi-san] says, with a heavy heart (kurushii mune no uchi o akasu), "We know that there are problems with the way we receive people now. However, given the fact that if we open things up completely our customers will stop coming, this is the fine line we have to walk (giri giri no sen)." He says that since he let foreigners in, business has dropped by 20 to 30 percent.

Another facility right at portside [Panorama] repealed its exclusionary rules and opened itself to the public unconditionally last year in November. Russian bathers now make up about ten percent of all clients. The facility has put up a sign explaining bathing rules in Russian at the entranceway, and staff make more regular rounds inside the bath area just in case. They say that their business has dropped by ten percent since last year.

On the other hand, there is one other facility [Yunohana] which continues to exclude foreigners. Its entranceway bears a sign, "Due to various circumstances, we refuse entry to foreigners." The person in charge admits, "We are aware (ninshiki) that this is racial discrimination. However, our Japanese customers have very strong feelings of dislike (kyohi hannou wa tsuyoku), so for the livelihood of our employees we can't reach any other decision."

But one thing came up that could not be predicted when one of the onsens opened up completely last year--the discord (fukyouwaon) within the industry. According to one resentful (ikidooru) manager, "It's unfair that we should open up our doors to foreigners and bear all the risks while they don't." (kochira wa risuku o seioi gaikokujin o ukereteiru no ni fukyouhei da)

Otaru taxi drivers: "We're worried about trouble so lots of drivers stay away from Russians." And the number of cases of refusals at bars and restaurants is going up. Dislike (kyohi hannou) of foreigners is widespread (hiroku oou) in downtown Otaru.

2) DISAPPOINTMENT (shitsubou)

The City of Otaru made about 4000 leaflets (chirashi) explaining bathing rules in Russian, and last December distributed them to sailors thorugh the duty-dree shops. However, about 30,000 Russians visit Otaru per year, and there have been no more distributions since. Only two special issues on the issue in the Otaru Citizens' City Bulletin (kouhou) up until last April.

The City also rushed forth to create a "shien shisei" (assisting positioning) system where bureaucrats would man a hotline for 24 hours in case of bathhouse trouble. "This will take care of everything" (kirifuda ni naru), they gushed (ikikondeita).

However, the onsens poured cold water on the proposal, stating things like, "The City would be of no help even if it did intervene." In fact, over the past year there was only one case of any assistance, so realistically this policy did not function (kinou shinakatta).

The City's August proposal to establish a "Human Rights Discussion Committee" (Jinken Mondai Konwa Kai) to bring together academics, businesspeople, and interested persons on a regular basis remains shelved at the conceptual stage. As the first attempt of its kind in Hokkaido, this was a noteworthy gesture, and instead further disappoints those people affected by this situation.


Is refusing service to foreigners permitted by law?

The Director of Otaru City's Department of Public Health (hokensho) retains the right to issue or revoke the licence of Public Bathhouses (koushuu yokujou). However, according to the Public Bathhouse Law, punishments (gyousei shobun) are applicable only when standard operating rules are violated (eigyou kyoka jouken ni ihan shita toki), or when the establishment is remiss in taking "measures necessary to preserve public health or morals" ("nyuuyoku sha no eisei oyobi fuuki ni hitsuyou na sochi" o okotatta toki dake). The DPH points out that, "These laws are only for the maintenance of public health. They were not expected to deal with racial discrimination."

Article 14 of Japan's Constitution states, "All people are equal before the law, and shall not be discriminated against by race, creed, sex, class, or personal background, politically, economically, or socially." [I don't have the exact text of the Constitution in front of me. The Japanese: Kokumin wa hou no shita ni byoudou de, jinshu, shinjou, seibetsu, shakaiteki mibun mata wa monchi ni yori, seijiteki, keizaiteki, mata wa shakaiteki kankei ni oite sabetsu sarenai.] One can argue whether or not "kokumin" ["nationals" in the Japanese, "people" in the English] includes foreigners, but there are no other laws which punish activities discriminatory by race. This is why civilian groups (shimin dantai) have petitioned both the City and the Hokkaido Goverment to establish an ordinance forbidding racial discrimination.

Last autumn, the Hamamatsu Division of the Shizuoka District Court stated in a landmark ruling that "refusing entry to foreigners is illegal" (gaikokujin no nyuuten kyohi wa fuhou). It ordered a jewelry store which ejected a Brazilian meerly for being a foreigner to pay compensation of 1,500,000 yen. It was the first judicial precedent where an international treaty, the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discriminatin, was applied to domestic law.

If these exclusionary Otaru bathing establishments were taken to court, it is possible that the same ruling may come down. This is not simply the problems of a few outsiders--it concerns all of us. (hitogoto de wa nai no da).

By Nishimura Daisuke

"Newspapers are always writing things up in noble words (kirei na kotoba bakari). It's alright to talk about international communication, but who's going to compensate me when I go belly-up after letting foreigners into my business?"

This was said to me by the manager of one of the onsens, making me think very seriously about how deep the problem runs.

They booze up and raise hell. The get in the bath without washing off. They walk off with the soap. And given how big they are and since there is a language barrier, it's not unreasonable to consider them frightening...

Most people in the bathhouse industry know that the people who cause these problems are no more than a tiny fraction of the foreigners around. They know that turning them away is a step in the wrong direction. But they say, "If only one Russian is in the bath, our Japanese customers will stay away."

I understood that just picking on the bathhouse owners will produce no progress. The real force in kicking out foreigners is not the bathhouse, but rather the users. In other words, all of us Otaru residents.

"If Japanese go overseas, they get discriminated against as well. Why do people only criticize Otaru?"

I also heard the above from many Otaruans. But I would like for them to imagine the sorrow and isolation they would feel if they say a sign saying, "We refuse service to Japanese."

I would like for Otaru people to think about themselves and how they might help to resolve this problem.


NOV 8, 2000, pg 15

(from http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?nn20001108b4.htm, but it might be a dead link as I don't think The Japan Times archives)

Landmark ruling fails to result in law to eradicate 'no foreigners' signs

By TAKUYA ASAKURA, Staff writer

A year has passed since the Shizuoka District Court issued a landmark ruling that awarded damages to a Brazilian journalist for being refused service at a jewelry shop in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, simply because she was foreign.

Ana Bortz's court victory, however, apparently did little to end such discriminatory business practices, which still persist, especially in rural towns with rapidly growing foreign populations.

Despite widespread media coverage, protests from the German Embassy and recommendations from municipal authorities, a public bathhouse in Otaru, western Hokkaido, continues to ban foreigners from bathing with Japanese customers. The proprietor said the Japanese customers do not like to share the facility with foreigners -- particularly Russians, who they claim behave wildly.

In Monbetsu, another Hokkaido port town where many Russian ships put in, a local association of restaurants and bars several years ago produced a common "Japanese only" sign, which is now used by about half of the group's 200 member establishments -- mainly bars -- according to the association chief, Mamoru Suzuki.

Suzuki said the association made the sign at the urging of its members after Russians allegedly committed serious crimes, including assaults and rapes, against employees and owners of local establishments.

"Women running bars only with hostesses said they were scared that they could be the next victim," he said. "It would be better if we could communicate (with the Russians)," he added, citing the language barrier.

It is not known how prevalent "no foreigner" business practices are nationwide, but signs have been seen in several Hokkaido port cities that host an increasingly large number of visiting Russian sailors, according to Issho Kikaku, a Tokyo-based civic group that has been gathering information on the issue.

Similar cases of discrimination have also been reported to the group from cities including Hamamatsu (again) and Naha, Okinawa Prefecture. Several "Japanese only" signs are also seen in the entertainment districts of Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward.

A coffee shop owner in the ward said he banned foreigners after a couple of non-Japanese guests yelled at a Japanese customer who asked them to speak quietly. He said he has often experienced similar problems involving foreign customers.

"I don't like to put up a sign like that," he said angrily. "But my shop has been supported by regular (Japanese) customers."

What is more serious for non-Japanese in Tokyo is that many real estate agents and landlords refuse to rent them apartments, said Fumio Takano, representative of Tokyo Alien Eyes, a group that supports foreign students here.

There may be various reasons behind the bias, but Tony Laszlo, a representative of Issho Kikaku, said that whatever the reason he is offended by the very idea of seeing "no foreigners" signs.

The government has the responsibility to eradicate such practices under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which Japan joined in 1996, he said.

Laszlo said the problem is not how prevalent such discriminatory practices are in Japan but "that there are no laws in Japan to stop racial discrimination."

Last month, Laszlo and members of other nongovernmental organizations jointly submitted a petition to the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly and the Shinjuku Ward Assembly to establish local ordinances to prohibit business practices that discriminate against customers based on their race or ethnicity.

They also visited Diet members to hand out their draft of legislation that would ban racial discrimination.

The lawmakers and the Justice Ministry, however, appear less than enthusiastic.

While both the ruling and opposition forces last week submitted their own bills to promote education on human rights, no proposal has been made on any legislation to ban race-based discriminatory practices, said Eiko Ishige of the Democratic Party of Japan, who is one of a few Diet members who have expressed interest in the issue.

When Issho Kikaku surveyed political parties before the Lower House general election in June to see if they considered antidiscrimination legislation necessary, only the DPJ and the Social Democratic Party responded positively.

Yu Kazuhara of the Justice Ministry's Civil Liberties Bureau said: "Generally speaking, (the ministry) considers it as running contrary to the Constitution and the international convention to uniformly exclude certain people" based on their race, ethnicity or nationality.

"But the matter concerns the operation of private businesses," he said, suggesting it would be difficult to establish such legislation.

Although some may doubt whether a legal ban will result in reducing discriminatory business practices, Shin Sugok, a Tokyo-based human resource consultant, said she believes legislation works.

She cited how the attitude of company managers regarding discrimination and sexual harassment against women changed after the Equal Employment Opportunity Law was amended to introduce penalties. "I know how a line of punitive code changed them," she said.

Bortz, the journalist behind last year's precedent-setting case, covers Japan for a Portuguese- and Spanish-language TV station here and is also participating in the ongoing battle for antidiscrimination legislation.

She said one bar in Hamamatsu changed its "No Brazilian and Peruvians" sign written in Portuguese to an English-language one that said "No services to all foreigners" after she won the lawsuit. There is also a fishing tackle shop that does not have a sign but still refuses to sell goods to Brazilian customers, Bortz added.

"I hope that the more than 18,000 tax-paying foreigners living in the city get consideration from the Hamamatsu Municipal Assembly," she said.

The Japan Times: Nov. 8, 2000 (C) All rights reserved


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