(The original forum for this information was Issho Kikaku. Please note that Issho Kikaku is NOT A PARTY to this lawsuit, and any reference herein to Issho Kikaku should not be construed to assume that Issho Kikaku has any stance in these matters. Disclaimer here,)

This URL is organized thus (click on the link to page down):



Be careful what you wish for.... That sentiment has never been truer for Issho Kikaku Benci, as media coverage of the issue expands beyond blurbs and borders. I have just webbed no less than 26 new files (both text and jpeg) on the BENCI page (, and to give a glimpse of its valuable contents, here are selected documents on the Onsens issue within the month of February alone: (this section does not exactly read like a novel--more like a list--so you might want to skip to the next section if you are not in the mood)

DOMESTIC ARTICLES (all in Japanese unless otherwise indicated):

1) THE JAN 31 OTARU SHOUDAI FORUM: WHAT HAPPENED? A detailed firsthand account in English on what went right and wrong.

2) HOKKAIDO SHINBUN Feb 1, 2000, showing how clearly the issue has polarized.

3) ASAHI SHINBUN Feb 1, 2000 on the same.

4) HOKKAIDO SHINBUN editorial (shasetsu) Feb 2, 2000, citing spatown Noboribetsu's success with foreign guests, and demanding that the exclusionary signs come down.

5) Three KYODO TSUSHIN articles on the Onsens Issue and the Jan 31 Otaru Shoudai Forum, sent to all major newspapers in Japan and translated into dozens more internationally

6) JAPAN TIMES and DAILY YOMIURI Feb 1, 2000, English versions of above Kyodo articles (with interesting differences in translation depending on paper's editorial policies)

7) NHK TV "HOKKAIDO CLOSE UP" (Hokkaido Broadcast) Feb 5, 2000. A thirty-minute special on the onsens (complete translated English teletext).

8) NHK NATIONAL TV, Feb 9, 2000, News Eleven. Excerpted from the above NHK Feb 5 Hokkaido Close Up report, but condensed into distortion; it practially justified the onsens exclusionary policies and then was capped by anchorman's ignorant statement that customs unique to Japan (i.e.washing off of soap before bathing) are the cause of this problem. Comments in English and Japanese.

Feb 1, 2000 in German and English.

2) TAIPEI TIMES reprints Gregory Clark's Japan Times Christmas Column Jan 22, 2000, and also Issho Kikaku's answer Feb 2, 2000.

3) THE TIMES LONDON Feb 2, 2000 adds that the Japanese Government "routinely turns a blind eye to discrimination".

4) Russian newspaper KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA Feb 2, 2000, laughingly critical of the Otaru Onsens, as excerpted and reported in Hokkaido Shinbun, Feb 5, 2000

5) LOS ANGELES TIMES Feb 19, 2000, has Otaru City International Relations Manager Takeuchi Kazuho making the refreshingly parochial statement, "Foreigners, mainly Russians, may not have the same idea about possessions as we do."

Now for the people skills:

Issho Kikaku Benci has been busy liaisoning and getting the word out. A sampling of important people we have touched base with:

Feb 9, 2000, from 9:30 to 10:40 am
We met with Canadian Ambassador Mr. Leonard J. Edwards in a meeting with the Hokkaido International Business Association (HIBA), of which Benci Coordinator Dave Aldwinckle happens to be Secretary. In the last ten minutes of the meeting, Issho handed Mr Edwards an information package on the Otaru Onsens Issue and briefed him on the situation. Brief here. Mr Edwards expressed interest and would take the information under advisement.

Feb 14, 2000 10:15-11.45 am
In a 90-minute meeting, Issho gave a second briefing (the first Oct 6, 1999) to Consul-General Mike Meserve and Consul Mike Gayle. After reviewing Issho's information packet, we asked if the USG would consider following the example of the Germans (click here) and possibly the Canadians by writing a letter of concern to the GOJ and/or Otaru City.

Consul-General Meserve said that the USG has already made its position clear on this issue. Every year, the USG issues a very clear and strong report on human rights conditions by region and country at their website here.

Meserve presented me with an eighteen-page highlighted copy of the report for Japan, which can be found here:

Reading it later, I found the report a thorough overview (and a good start for anyone who needs a primer) of Japan's human rights abuses and institutionalized inequalities--with cases, dates, and annual updates. Highlights of the 1998 report:

a) Detentions, interrogations, confessions, and convictions
b) Trials and appeals processes
c) Conditions in Japanese prisons and denial of public oversight
d) A huge section on women: Tax laws which penalize working wives, sexual harassment, the "Comfort Women" issue
e) Children vis-a-vis ijime, violence in schools, enjo kousai
f) The disabled and the lack of a barrier-free Japan
g) Indigenous people, ethnic minorities, and foreigners (immigrant non-Japanese residents are relegated to "alien workers", but that should change in future reports), assimilation and naturalization difficulties
h) Workers' rights

These annual reports are highly critical of Japan and every year raise hackles. Meserve pointed out that no other country takes the time or expense to issue reports with such depth and frequency. So, with future reports likely to include issues of domestic discrimination a la Otaru, the USG is already doing more than Germany.

Issho also asked for the possibility of a State Department Travelers' Advisory (saying something like, "Be advised that in port towns, such as Otaru or Wakkanai, where high numbers of transient foreigners are present, there is the possibility of an establishment refusing service or asking you to leave the premises because you a foreigner." However, Meserve, after investigating State Department policy on Travelers' Advisories, said that they are reserved for situations where American citizens are in physical danger (such as in places of civil unrest, cf. Indonesia).

Meserve has also talked to the Mayor of Otaru and other members of the community on the issue. "I would like to express appreciation for the City's efforts to end discrimination at the onsens. I hope the signs come down as soon as possible," he said.

Issho BENCI Dave Aldwinckle's briefing to the Sapporo US Consulate may be found here

Feb 24, 2000. 11:30am-12:15pm.

Issho met with Consul Nail M. Latypov to discuss the Onsen problem and its perpetration by of Russian sailors. Mr Latypov expressed concern and indicated deep awareness of the issue. He noted that many cities, not just Otaru, receive Russian ships. Wakkanai is the most popular with 3590 ships per year, then Nemuro (1728), Okhotsk-Kai Monbetsu (1477), then Otaru (1163), Abashiri (541) and Rumoi (472). However, he confirmed that businesses in all six of these seaports (yes, all six) have signs barring foreign patrons. The problem has spread.

Issho has independently confirmed the situation in Wakkanai through local contacts, one who has lived there for 15 years. Wakkanai used to have a US military base until about a generation ago, and the city was very sorry to see it go to the Jieitai. There is still an early-warning ICBM system manned I assume by an American skeleton staff (it was ten years ago), but the point is that Wakkanai until recently was like Misawa--small, militarily strategic, and friendly to the Americans. It has gotten progressively worse over the past three years. Evidence of that may be found at the BENCI website, with one public bathhouse (yes, a koushuu yokujou) named Yuransen flagrantly violating Hokkaido ordinances by excluding foreign residents through separated bathing facilities.

We proposed, inter alia, that Consul Latypov negotiate for several statements of regret and support for this problem. See our proposal here. Issho wishes to sponsor/co-sponsor Russo-Japanese cultural exchange events in the future, should the Russian Government be amenable, and has suggested both to Otaru City and Russia that they make use of the Nahodka sister-city relationship, to bring over Russian interns in exchange programs (like Sapporo does with each of its four sister cities). These employees may be on call to help ameliorate sensitive situations by removing the language barrier. Long-shot proposals, including Russian Government offices in each of the major Hokkaido seaport towns where listened to. In sum, Issho has appraised the Russian Federation of the situation, and made several concrete proposals for which we will just have to wait and see.

Feb 23, 2000, 1:00PM to 7:00 PM

Issho Kikaku's Hokkaido Coordinators Dave Aldwinckle and Olaf Karthaus met with Mr Kayano, son of Kayano Shigeru, the first and recently retired Diet member from the Ainu, the indigenous people of Hokkaido. A trained lawyer and unelected candidate for the Diet in the previous election, Kayano Shiro is well-versed in issues of discrimination, thus wanting information on Issho and the Otaru Onsens Issue for his quarterly journal, The Ainu Times. He drove up from Biratori, the site of the Ainu Museum, and met the owner of one exclusionary onsen, Osupa's Mr Ohkoshi, who happens to be newfound personal friend of Aldwinckle (see below).

In a meeting in Ohkoshi's office, Kayano asked him a number of softly-pitched hardball questions, including:

Kayano: With this "Japanese Only" restriction, on what basis do you decide who is Japanese and who is not?

Ohkoshi: On the basis of citizenship. However, we have recently changed our rules to allow in naturalized foreigners and permanent residents.

Kayano: But your signs are still up.

Ohkoshi: Yes. That is because we don't want to take them down and give everybody the wrong idea. Our customers expect them to be up, and if we take them down, our customers will think we have done a U-turn and stop coming. It would in fact be very easy for us to take the signs down and keep on quietly refusing foreigners, but that would be dishonest too. We want our policies to be clear to everyone.

Kayano: How about Resident Koreans and Chinese?

Ohkoshi: Technically, they're refused. No doubt some get in. We can't tell them apart from Japanese.

Kayano: What about us Ainu?

Ohkoshi: You of course can come in. You are Japanese citizens.

Kayano: I see. But you know what you are doing is unconstitutional, right?

Ohkoshi: We know what we are doing is wrong, and we want to stop. But we keep getting calls from customers saying, "Ganbatte! We are forming a 'Save Our Osupa' Association, and we want to help you keep the foreigners out.' But when I ask their names or those of their organization, they refuse to give them. So I have no choice but to say, 'Sorry, but you'll have to stop that. We do not want support like that'. And also we are being attacked by the anti-discrimination activists. We have become a symbol of both the good and the bad. Either way, we lose customers.

Kayano: You are in a tough situation. If you take down your signs while the other onsen, Yunohana, keeps theirs up, your customers will just go over to Onsen Yunohana. I wanted to ask them too about their policies, but Yunohana refused to talk to us.

Aldwinckle: Yunohana is not talking to anyone these days--the city, the mass media, even Issho. They boycotted both the Jan 31 Forum and the Feb 21 Doshin Debate [see below]. And they are making money from it. They've found enough money recently to do TV advertising.

Kayano: How is Osupa doing from all this free publicity?

Ohkoshi: Our business has actually gone down a bit.

This brings us to the next part of this Nyuu Yoku Times:

Feb 14, 2000, 6:30-10:00 PM

Aldwinckle went as an individual to meet Mr Ohkoshi, who was very happy with our sudden detente in the last moments of the Jan 31 Forum (click here). I took him up on his offer for a beer (He even offered me a bath at Osupa, as I am a permanent resident. But I have the policy, like Sammy Davis Jr did, of not walking through a door unless people like me may follow.) in one of his favorite sushi restaurants, and as the beers took effect Ohkoshi and I really let our hair down.

He told me of the soul sickness he was feeling about the issue. Economic livelihood or no, he didn't believe in keeping the doors closed anymore. He had heard all the arguments our side had put forth, and increasingly they rang true. His daughter would be studying overseas, if not homestaying, and how would she like it if she met somebody like her dad and was refused service because she was a foreigner?

I began to see Ohkoshi in a tragic light. Recalling the judge in MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET, where Kris Kringle was on trial, this situation was redolent of the scene where the judge, for the sake of keeping Christmas alive for his grandchildren, had to say publicly that he believed in Santa Claus--thus admitting to himself that the man he was trying to expose as a fraud could in fact exist. Likewise, Ohkoshi saw that he had to accept foreigners as people with feelings, not as abstract economic factors or figments of overseas life, and acknowedge that we too existed--moreover had the right to exist in both Japan and his onsen. He no longer wanted to perpetuate the mindset of economics-as-ultimate-justification-for-exclusion-of-innocents. During beer three, I told him of the systematic discrimination non-Japanese feel both legally (the juuminhyou and koseki, the gaijin cards and checkpoints, financial disability and high hurdles for naturalization) and socially (perpetual othering even by the Otaru city government, the onsens--oops!, the other cities being emboldened by Otaru and following their example with exclusionary policies of their own) which tied everything together. Ohkoshi realized he was part of a system that was diminishing the standard of living of an entire segment of the population, and he wanted no more of it.

So I offered to help. I asked him to contact those Osupa customers who are most virulently xenophobic (about 90 of them wrote their names and addresses along with their harsh comments on the Osupa survey), and convene a mini-forum within Osupa itself. I was truly curious as to why so many people are "allergic" to foreigners--was it a wartime memory (being kicked out of Sakhalin/Karafuto in the late 1940's or spending years in Russian concentration camps--there are lots of those types of veterans in Hokkaido), was it a business problem (one banker HIBA talked to refuses to do business with Sakhalin due to a deal gone bad in 1956!), or was it just a problem of lack of contact? I would listen and make suggestions, maybe soften them up to the idea that we are not all that bad after all. Worth a try. I was interested on both professional and personal levels.

Ohkoshi looked very relieved and said he would take this up with his boss. For indeed, nobody else could do something like this. Japanese talking amongst themselves about foreigners proves nothing about foreigners or how they should be or be treated in Japan. Only foreigners can themselves prove their worth to Japan, and it is their obligation to do so. Three hours of beer-induced bonhomie later, we were ready for the next step, which would come one week later:

Feb 21, 2000, 6:00 to 9:00 Otaru Doshin Building

One would have thought the new millennium and the increased exposure of this issue would have provided some impetus for change. However, economic incentives for exclusion aside, progress has also been stymied by a foot-dragging Otaru city government. The City of Otaru to this day refuses to sponsor a public forum on the subject for regular people (including non-Japanese residents, of course) to air their views and work towards a solution, choosing to work with its little in-house meetings (renraku kaigi) in hopes to keep a cap on the unpredictable. The last renraku kaegi was in early November 1999, so another one was long nigh. The wait-and-see attitude was drawing nothing but fire from the press.

So in came the press. Taking the initiative, reporters at Hokkaido Shinbun's Otaru branch (the most trusted interlocutor in town) convened a summit between the discriminator (Ohkoshi of Osupa--Yunohana refused to come), the discriminated (Aldwinckle, representing Issho), and the administrator (Otaru City Soumu Buchou Satou). This email is already long enough, so I will point to a statement of purpose written and released Feb 10, 2000 by Otaru Doshin.

The debate was long and frank but very fruitful, actually--a pleasant and constructive atmosphere was maintained throughout. There was a downside, however: Otaru City's Mr Satou stated that the city wishes to start policy meetings on the issue all over again, but only in-house. No public forums. And again, the city astoundingly has no plans to include foreign residents at the first meetings. Hence both the city and the onsens are continuing to enforce differing versions of the same policy--drawing lines between residents and taxpayers merely by nationality and excluding them. Thus after months of constant conflict and attempts at communication, lessons clearly have still not been learned.

I point to the first of three Otaru Doshin articles, one which came out on Feb 23 to establish the event (up with photo here). The next two have stage-style narrative, bigger photos, and panelist profiles, which came out on Feb 24 (Japanese jpeg) and Feb 25 (Japanese jpeg). Translations will come later.

Back to the pleasant atmosphere. As proof, let me translate a brief article which appeared in Hokkaido Shinbun, Feb 24 Yuukan, page 2:

TODAY'S TOPIC (kyou no wadai):
TITLE: BARE ALL AND COME CLEAN (hadaka ni natte)

"It has been half a year since the bathing facilities which refuse entry to foreign customers have become an issue. Two facilities have signs saying 'Japanese Only'.

"It all started when Japanese customers stayed away when foreign customers wouldn't mind their manners in the bath. But if that were the only problem, it would just be a matter of getting them to follow the rules. It seems the root of the problem runs much deeper.

"It is more a matter of people rejecting foreigners in general. 'They're big and scary', 'Even if it is deemed discriminatory, I don't like what I don't like'. Sentiments like that are unexpectedly deep-seated.

"'Let's set up special facilities for foreigners', 'Let's make membership systems'. But that just gives rise to new forms of discrimination. Until the source of these sentiments are dealt with, there will be no real solution.

"After last autumn, there have been several shots at resolution, such as Otaru City sponsoring policy meetings, explaining bathing manners to foreigners through distribution of pamphlets, both exclusionary facilities carrying out customer surveys, and Otaru University of Commerce volunteering to have an international-understanding education forum.

"Otaru Doshin itself also held a roundtable (kouzakai) on the evening of Feb 21. Attending were CEO of Osupa Ohkoshi Hidekatsu, Nanporo resident and university lecturer David Aldwinckle, and Otaru City Coordinator (chouseiyaku) Satou Makoto.

"Speaking frankly as they did meant they could discuss without talking past one another (hanashi ga kamiau). Ohkoshi said, 'I don't think things are good the way they are'. Aldwinckle proposed the establishment of an anti-discrimination ordinance. There was no conclusion, but everyone agreed that 'Eventually there is nothing else but to deepen understandings of each others' positions.'

"After things finished, something inconceivable happened over our late-night dinner: Both Ohkoshi and Aldwinckle put their glasses together in a toast and said, 'Next time I'd like a drink after a bath together.'

"It probably was the effects of the beer, with the advanced Japanese language abilities of Aldwinckle contributing. But even then, them saying 'Let's bare all and come clean' with the will to understand each other's feelings, will before long overcome (koufuku) this feeling people have of rejecting each other. Of this I am convinced."


Sound too schmaltzy to be true? See the article for yourself here.

Where there is beer and good humor and open ears and constructive action there is hope. Feb 26 sees our ISSHO KIKAKU first HOKKAIDO KAZEMAKASE in Otaru. Beer and bonhomie will be there as well. We will keep you posted.

Dave Aldwinckle
One Issho Kikaku Benci Project Coordinator

(return to lawsuit background page)