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

"kokusai rikai kyouiku fouramu", original promo flyer on it at

JAN 31, 2000, 6:30 PM TO 8:45 PM

Attendees were:
Issho Kikaku BENCI Project
Exclusionary onsens management
Otaru City Government
Otaru U of C exchange students
Coordinator: Funatsu Hideki, Former Chair, Otaru U of C International Center

About 80 people were in the audience. Press Coverage was heavy, with all the major non-economics-focus newspaper dailies plus Kyodo, and at least NHK, UHB, and HBC TV stations attending. It was a good gathering. Pity about how things would turn out.

This email is organized thus:




We at Issho Kikaku BENCI were kept in the dark about the specific proceedings of the Forum, finding out only on the day of the event (having fortitudinously gone there some hours early) that there were going to be surprises.

One surprise was that, despite promises to the contrary from the managers of the two exclusionary onsens (see Jan 3 2000 report), one onsen, Yunohana, refused to come. Reason was Yunohana's dislike for the Forum coordinator, Funatsu-sensei (who had strongly and vocally opposed the exclusionary policies at the Nov 5, 1999 city-international group meeting with the onsens), apparently thinking him a biased coordinator. Osupa, the second onsen, had also turned down the invitation, but later relented when Funatsu visited the manager, Mr Ohkoshi, and promised he would be neutral.

The second surprise was the unorthodox format. There would be three rounds to this Forum. In Round One, exchange students from several countries would take eight specially-marked panelist chairs: ONSEN A, ONSEN B, CITY GOVERNMENT, CITIZEN A, CITIZEN B, ACTIVIST, THE PRESS, and EXCHANGE STUDENT, then would give their respective viewpoint. Round Two would involve the real actors in this drama, people like Osupa's Ohkoshi and myself, to take a seat that was *not* ours. We would have to give viewpoints that were not our own and walk in another person's shoes. Then Round Three would enable us to speak our minds and get an exchange going.

Other surprises included... well, you'll see.

The exchange students took their chairs for Round One and began reading their opinions. I will only mention the interesting ones: ONSEN A represented absent Yunohana, which, it turns out, is harder-core than ONSEN B, Osupa. Osupa contains games and karaoke that are open to foreigners even if they cannot bathe. Yunohana has the same facilities but bars foreigners from ALL activities inside ("foreigners make a mess and damage things", they apparently have said). Next, CITIZEN A was disapproving of having foreigners with their bath while CITIZEN B was contrastingly copacetic. Finally, THE PRESS was up there because Funatsu believed that the papers were getting things wrong--erroneously portraying the issue as one between "foreigners and Japanese" instead of "different types of residents". Since the EXCHANGE STUDENT seat was not supposed to be filled by a real representative, Otaru City Soumu Buchou Mr Satou, assumed the chair and a non-Japanese name; he looked like he was having fun portraying a fresh-faced foreign student ready to learn all about Japan, including the baths.

This intellectual exercise did loosen things up and got some ironic yuks from the audience. Problem was it went on too long--taking up about 45 minutes of the two hours. It reminded me of a Stevie Wonder concert my wife saw in San Diego in 1990, benefiting some sort of "Save the Children" type of organization, and Stevie didn't appear until nearly 11pm. The interim was a few hours of children plinky-plunking some musical instruments badly. I had much the same feeling at this Forum. Although the exchange students did try hard and were fun to watch, I felt that this was not the place for exchange students to show their homework.


Round Two kicked off in earnest with shakaijin taking their non-representative seats. Otaru City Sato became ACTIVIST, an exchange student became CITY GOVERNMENT, a Yomiuri reporter became copacetic CITIZEN B, two elderly volunteer citizens from the audience became EXCHANGE STUDENT and ONSEN B. Osupa Ohkoshi copped out and took exclusionary CITIZEN A. And I? I took ONSEN A with a great deal of relish.

I won't dwell on what was said here (as the better stories come later), but as ONSEN A I focussed on the problem as a simple matter of supply and demand. If our customers demanded none of those goddamn foreigners, a place with no foreigners is what they should be supplied with. Simple economic logic. I also noted that our fine city has a long history and very little contact with foreigners (which was a fortunate misassertion, as one of the elderly citizens on the panel later dispelled that myth by revealing that Otaru Port was built by Korean (slaves) during the war!). And I threw in the "large frightening foreign-language-speaking foreigners" for good measure, and noting that as a business we have a right to institute policies for our own survival. I was, mind you, very careful only to parrot the onsens' arguments without making them stronger. That was Ohkoshi's job in Round Three.


Round Three then had us switching chairs and cutting loose. ONSEN A's seat was left vacant, and ONSEN B's Ohkoshi demurred (later claiming that he was unaware that he was to give his prepared speech now, thus getting in the
last word). CITY GOVERNMENT came out clearly against discrimination, wanting the open-door city policies enforced and looking forward to everyone's cooperation. CITIZEN A and B, moreover, both turned out to be
anti-onsen discrimination (B was actually an activist himself demanding US military ships not stop at Otaru; one did the next day). Then it was my turn to make my arguments as ACTIVIST.

Now, bear in mind that all the speeches before mine are pretty sketchy in my memory because I was scribbling down my speech points on the spot in my notepad. But one thing was certain--this Forum was turning into an effigy-burning and Ohkoshi, the only onsen brave enough to stand up and attend, I realized would have to be commended for his efforts sometime or else he would gain sympathy points. (I might point out here that during Round One, I made sure to sit next to him--he was uncomfortably alone up in the front row--and chat with him from time to time. The TV cameras then focussed in on us together.) Anyway:


I then turned to Mr Ohkoshi and with a seated bow to the table thanked him for coming today. For with him all by himself and no Yunohana must be uncomfortable and lonely (hitori botchi). Just remember that Otaru City has proposed rules which once-exclusionary Panorama Onsen adopted three months ago. When I bathed there Panorama said there had been no incidents or altercations at all. Please open your doors so that I can enjoy your baths like everyone else.


I was coming down from the adrenaline so my memory thereafter is a temporarily skimpy. But after Funatsu made another ten minutes of summary remarks, the mike was opened for 20 minutes to the public. A South African minister in Otaru noted how he has to go out of town for a bath if he wants one with his family. Another Russian (?) with excellent Japanese was very indignant at being turned away very brusquely in the past. Other older Japanese Otaru residents made mostly anti-onsen points (one saying he doesn't like Russians much, but knows that that sentiment shouldn't apply to every foreigner), expressing shame for how far this has gone and why the city hadn't done something earlier.

Oh, and somewhere along the line Osupa's Ohkoshi gave his prepared speech--essentially that if Osupa opens its doors it will be bankrupted. He cited as justification the Osupa surveys showing more than half of their bathers surveyed wanted exclusionary policies.

That sparked. One of my friends, a tall, bearded, boomingly barrel-chested man who has been in Japan since the early 1970's, stood up to the mike (and later again from his seat) to blast Ohkoshi for carrying out such a biased survey. Copies of it were passed out to the audience, and my friend Mr Barrel demanded Ohkoshi read out question two: "What things would make you feel worried about foreigners if we admitted them? (tick as applicable: language barriers, theft, weapon-toting, narcotics-toting, bawdy behavior, hygiene, unextinguished smokes, bad bathing manners, violence, something else (please elaborate here)".) Ohkoshi obliged, and Mr Barrel said, inter alia, "There is no way for people to answer that they are NOT worried by foreigners. You see, your survey only confirms your prejudices."

Time was short. Funatsu then drew things to a close with another five-minute speech calling very clearly for onsen doors to be opened and an anti-discrimination jourei passed. He asked when the city might sponsor a more proper public forum on these subjects. Bureaucrat Satou took five minutes in classic mawari-kudoi bureaucratic fashion to say the city had no plans. With that, the Forum was over.


But it was not over. As I was exchanging meishi with sympathizers, I noticed that the TV cameras were swarming around Ohkoshi's panel chair. Two people, both Mr Barrel and another friend I'll call Mr Dapper were quite loudly dressing down Ohkoshi for the survey and for his audacity at claiming these results were in any way indicative or provided justification. I was out of earshot, but the effects were soon clear. Ten minutes later, Ohkoshi got up in disgust and strode out of the auditorium alone with all the cameras trailing.

Be it divine providence or whatever you want to put it down to, there was an opportunity for damage control. Ohkoshi had forgotten his coat and had to return inside. I went up, shook his hand and would not let go. I then put my arm around him as we walked to his coatrack, saying:

"Ohkoshi-san, taihen otsukaresama deshita. It took real guts for you to come here alone like this. I respect that. I am sorry that this forum ended up with everyone attacking you and you alone. I do not want this to affect relations between you and me when we work together to find a solution to this problem."

The cameras were again swarming around us, focusing on our backs, on our faces. To give them the sense of drama they craved, I released Ohkoshi's hand and let him take his coat. But after that Ohkoshi did not move--we just stood there as the cameras darted back and forth like tennis spectators to catch our mutual expressions across the divide.

As furious as he could be at the whole world, but clearly not at me (hell, I think he knew I had worked hard to tsukiau him, moreover never targeting him or his onsen by name in my speeches), Ohkoshi suddenly softened, locked his eyes on me, and said, "I don't think the real problem here is the surveys."

I said,"The real problem here is the attitudes of unforgiving Otaru citizens. We will have to work on that."

He slung his coat under his arm. "Let's have a bath and a beer sometime." I said I would be honored (although I did wonder where we would bathe). And with that, he continued his stride outside refusing all interviews and disappearing into the night.

I know this sounds like Norman-Mailer style egotist journalism, but this *really* did happen, and it was in my opinion a very bad ending to a rather mediocre meeting of the minds.


"This Forum was truly awful for us journalists," one of my newspaper friends said. "Except for the mayhem at the end, there was no real debate, despite what this Forum had promised us. Only people stating opinions and arguments that we already knew." If TV cameras were rolling, fine--they get the drama of the shout match. For the print media, my friend said, "it was a waste of time." The record concurs. Only the Feb 1 Asahi and Hokkaido Shinbun reported on the Forum (the latter with a photo), while as far as I know neither Mainichi or Yomiuri bothered. Feb 1 morning TV news, predictably, played it up, but I didn't catch the angle--I was by then driving up to Asahikawa and covering a different case.

"Dave, of course Dapper & Barrel got angry. What did you expect? They were deeply insulted by that rotten survey and the press is latching onto the results. You want they should have held it back? What good would have that done?" said my friend Mike on our way up to Asahikawa.

Actually, yes, I believe holding it back would have done a lot of good. For reasons I cannot fathom (I cannot tell whether it is just a curious cultural conceit or else a devious attempt by the media to deligitimize the pushy outsider), Japanese TV loves to broadcast angry gaijin. Baseball-bloopers perennially show, if they show any foreigner at all, the foreign batter getting hit by a pitch and then charging the mound. Some years ago, when pop star Matsuda Seiko's New York lover Jeff showed up in Japan to cash in on steamy details with a book, the press broadcasted Jeff flying off the handle when a reporter asked him to apologize to her (we never heard much from Jeff again). And oh, what ratings TV program "Koko Ga Hendayo, Nihonjin" gets as long as Terry Ito (incidentally, a producer of the show) keeps riling up the screaming gaijin! I have also noticed how interviewees in Japan, even if they spend an hour speaking calmly and only a minute with their guard down and their dander up, that unmasked minute is likely to be the bit broadcast--because it is more noteworthy and somehow indicative of character. (That is why the Japanese geinoukai have such carefully-cultivated masks and public personae, but I am still ruminating on this whole theory for the time being so don't jump on me yet.)

My point is that with all his years in Japan, Mr Barrel by now should have known better. The influence of Hollywood here notwithstanding, courtroom-style outings of the truth just don't seem to work in Japan unless Japanese themselves do it in their own inimitable style. Accompanying Mr Barrel was a Japanese friend with the tenacity of a insurance saleslady; she should have been the one serving the survey riposte. Instead, the end result (and this is a sad fact of life even in this day and age in Japan) was that the image coming across was of a wild bearded foreigner poking
fingers at Japanese. Not only does this reaffirm this as a foreigner-vs-Japanese issue (instead of resident-vs-resident), but it also proves after all just how frightening foreigners are. That was the feedback I got from my contacts in the media.

This awry bit had nothing to do with the differing cultural appraches to stressful situations. Funatsu, who enticed Osupa back with the promise of neutrality, eventually turned out to be just the opposite, especially towards the end with his speeches. I will admit: it was a guilty pleasure indeed watching Funatsu make Osupa, the mass media, and the city squirm with his very direct questioning (even showing the whole world just how unwilling the city is to take this any further from further forum into resolution). Had he been a panelist there would even have been no guilt.

But I believe that was not his role. As I am a frequent host of debates in Japan (around six times a year nowadays), I can relate that it is indeed excruciating when the discussion takes an ugly turn or a panelist leaves a crucial stone unturned--especially since, in the interests of neutrality, I have to leave my meddling fingers out like an anthropologist following the Prime Directive.

A host taking a side like that could backfire on the side he chooses to represent, for the public outcome depends entirely on the tender mercies of the media. Our host bug-pinning the city is one thing--as the Japanese government in general is viewed with distrust nowadays, making bureaucrats part of a monolith and fair game for public criticism. But allowing the effigying of one solitary individual private businessman runs the risk of victimizing him. Should the cameras prove anti-forumer, a simple editing of the scenes could make some viewers saying "kawaisou" for the onsens--eliciting sympathy for the "fundari-kettari" enterpriser only trying to survive and stay in business. For indeed, social sympathies over here (something like, "no law-abiding and profitable business should be forced to go out of business") are not the same as overseas: the theory of bankruptcy resulting in "creative destruction" simply does not hold ground (which is why Japan's structural trade barriers are so hard to argue against). The bottom line is that it is difficult enough extricating oneself from the foreigner vs Japanese rubric. It is even worse to threaten entanglement
with another dichotomy: "human rights" (jinken) vs tne newly-coined "right to make a living" (seikatsuken). The victimization of Osupa would only encourage that.

To be honest, I am not sure myself what the "right approach" in this situation should have been, but I daresay January 31's wasn't it. Not only does it leaves our image at the mercy of the media, it closes future doors of negotiation. I think it is a fair bet that Osupa will never voluntarily appear at another bargaining table or discussion forum.


So, how did the media ultimately portray things?

The print media was, fortunately, Forum-favorable. Regarding the larger issues involved, thanks to the presence of Kyodo there have been lots of recent articles in the domestic and international press: the Americans, British, Germans, and even the Russians (yes, Feb 2's Komsomoliskaya Pravda)--not to leave out Japan Times and Daily Yomiuri and probably other local newspapers--printed wire-service articles last week.

As for the broadcast media, NHK devoted a whole program (30 minutes) to it on Feb 5. It was a very good report. I have transcribed that segment in its entirety (boy, that took ages!) and is available here.

Dave Aldwinckle

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