MAY 23, 2000

By Dave Aldwinckle, Issho Kikaku BENCI Project Hokkaido Representative)

(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,)



This post is structured thus (click on any link to page down):


1) Q&A
Since the issue of enterprises which exclude foreigners appeared in the press from September 1999, many people in Japanese legislative and administrative bodies have taken stances for the record. For reader convenience, we present them in Q&A form. The issue boils down to five questions:


A1: YES, according to the Otaru City Government in their monthly newsletter, "Kouhou Otaru" No. 620, April, 2000, pg 6, where they not only say that it is discrimination, but also racial discrimination:

"Refusing service to all foreigners is discrimination due to race, and terribly regrettable." (gaikokujin no riyou o ichiritsu ni okotowari suru koto wa, jinshu ni yoru sabetsu de ari, taihen zannen na koto desu). Click here.

A1: YES, according to the German and Canadian Embassies in Japan:

"Looking at the traditional and friendly relations between Germany and Japan, we see this discrimination towards a German citizen based only upon appearance or nationality as a very serious problem. In the same fashion, the treatment shown is disadvantageous to citizens of other EU countries in Japan, as well as all foreigners this case will affect. " (Click here).

"I would like to thank you for bringing to my attention incidents of apparent discrimination against foreign nationals in Hokkaido onsens... I was disturbed to hear about the difficulties some foreigners are facing in terms of access to business facilities, such as onsen." (Canadian Ambassador to Japan Mr Edwards, Click here)



A2: YES, according to the Ministry of Justice, Division for the Protection of Human Rights, (Jinken Yougobu), which wrote, in a letter to Tony Laszlo of Issho Kikaku dated October 26, 1999:

"In our country as well, the human rights of non-Japanese are guaranteed by both the Constitution and by world declarations on human rights, and in addition, in January 1996, 'The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination' was issued, which strongly demands that actions be taken up to resolve and eliminate discrimination based upon race or nationality." (wagakuni ni oite mo, gaikokujin no jinken ni tsuite wa kenpou oyobi sekai jinken sengen tou de hoshou sarete ori, kuwaete, heisei 8 nen 1 gatsu, 'arayuru jinken sabetsu no teppai ni kansuru jouyaku' ga hakkou shi, jinken sabetsu ya gaikokujin sabetsu no kaishou no tame no torikumi ga tsuyoku mitomerarete imasu)
Full English and Japanese text here.



A3: NO, according to Takeuchi Kazuho, Director of the International Exchange Division, Otaru City Government, who states in an interview with the Hokkaido Shinbun, May 7, 2000:

"Foreign residents are demanding an anti-discrimination ordinance including regulations on punishments, but the present situation makes that difficult. Japan has ratified the Treaty Against Racial Discrimation, but adequate domestic laws have not yet been established." (zainichi gaikokujin no katagata ga otarushi ni, bassoku kitei o morikonda jinshu sabetsu teppai jourei no seitei o motomete imasu ga, jitsugen wa muzukashii to omoimasu. nihon wa jinshu sabetsu teppai jouyaku o hijun shite imasu ga, kokunai hou no seibi wa mada susunde imasen) (Click here for page one and page two. Full English translation of this article under Item 2 below.)

A3: NO, says anchor Watanabe Noritsugu (filling in for Kume Hiroshi), TV Asahi NEWS STATION, OCT 10, 1999, 10:37 PM:

"In Japan's law books, the Dai-Roppou, in over 5000 pages there are no actual laws which forbid racial discrimination. In Japan's Constitution there is Article 14, which guarantees legal equality for all, but nothing forbidding racial discrimination." (Telecast translation at http://www.issho.org/BENCI/bortztvasahi101299.html)



A4: NO, says the Otaru City Government, via Mr Takeuchi in the abovementioned May 7 article:

"I think it is premature (jiki shousou) for Otaru to take the lead and establish an ordinance. It is moreover extremely difficult to clearly stipulate (kitei suru) behavior as racial discrimination. Otaru City might be able to issue a declaration (sengen) or an ordinance, which do not provide penalties but outline the goals to aim for." (otarushi ga senkou shite jourei o seitei suru no wa jiki shousou to kangaemasu. mata, jinshu sabetsu ni ataru koui o meikaku ni kitei suru no mo hijou ni muzukashii. bassoku o moukezu, doryoku mokuhyou o shimesu teido no jourei ya sengen nado wa kanou kamo shiremasen.)

A4: NO, says Otaru City Assemblypeople in face-to-face meetings with Issho Kikaku, all of whom except the JCP questioned the necessity of passing an ordinance:

A4: MAYBE, says the Otaru Mayor, Yamada Katsumaro:

"I want to study this issue at the administrative level, to determine whether or not we can make a human-rights ordinance or declaration." (jinken ni kansuru jourei ya sengen o dekinai ka dou ka, chounai de chousa kenkyuu o susumetai), adding, "This isn't a problem which the city can solve by making an ordinance." (shi ga jourei o tsukureba kaiketsu suru to iu mondai de wa nai). (April 28 Mayoral Press Conference, from Otaru Doshin Apr 29, 2000)

A4: NO, says the Hokkaido Government, in a letter to Tony Laszlo from Hokkaido Sougou Kikakubu, Kouhou Kouchou Kachou Mr Matsuo, May 1, 2000:

"Some people think that a resolution to the issue via a hastily-made (sessoku) ordinance would not necessarily be preferable to a resolution via the issuance of a policy which had the approval of all parties involved. This is why from now on, we think that it is essential to start asking local cities, towns, villages, and each concerned party for their cooperation, prudently taking this up with an aim to resolution."

(tsuite wa, sessoku ni jourei nado no seitei ni yotte nomi kaiketsu o hakarou to suru koto wa kanarazushimo kaku kankeisha kara sandou o erareru sairyou no saku to wa ienai no de wa nai ka to iu kangae mo aru tame, kongou mo, jimoto shichouson o hajime, kaku kankeisha ga renkei o hakari tsutsu, kaiketsu ni muke shinchou ni torikumu hitsuyou ga aru to kangaete orimasu.)
Page one here and page two.



A5: YES, according to Kawamura Yasuhisa, Division of International Press, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a letter he sent to the New York Times, November 22, 1999, stating:

"I agree with [Howard French, NYT reporter] that certain discrimination exists in Japanese society and that it should be rejected in all of its forms. That is precisely why the judge of the local district court correctly cited Japan's obligation under the international treaty in making his ruling about the Brazilian journalist. This is proof that the Japanese judiciary is acting responsibly. The Japanese Constitution guarantees basic human rights to foreign residents as well basic human rights [sic] and prohibits discrimination against them. Many laws and regulations also prohibit discrimination in their respective areas. In labor conditions, for example, the Labor Standards Law and the Employment Security Law provide equal treatment regardless of nationality. " (Click here)

A5: NO, says the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) to Lower House Parliamentarian Kaneda Seiichi (see report under Item 4 within this post):

"[At ISSHO's presentation of April 20,] Minshu Party MP Kaneda Seiichi, a representative from Hokkaido,... reported on his discussions with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding this issue. According to his account, Foreign Ministry officials told Kaneda in his chambers that, as the cases in Hokkaido involved discrimination between individuals, they did not necessarily constitute breaches of (CERD)." (Click here)

[NB: Under this argument, refusing to allow foreigners entry may in fact be a matter of discrimination between an enterprise and individuals, not between groups, meaning that the CERD should not apply in the Otaru Onsens Case.]

A5: YES, says the MOFA website (Click here, see website answer #5, on the question of discrimination between individuals):

"Clause 2 Section 1 (d) stipulates that signatory nations should bring to an end, and forbid discrimination between individuals, with the goal of bringing about, without delay and by all suitable means, policies which will eliminate all forms of racial discrimination and promote understanding between all races... it is understood that the signatories are obligated to eliminate discrimination between individuals through suitable means, including the establishment of legal measures on occasions when creating legislation is appropriate." (...rippou suru koto ga tekitou na baai ni rippou sochi o toru koto to mo fukume, teiyakukoku ga tekitou to handan suru houhou ni yori, shijinkan no sabetsu o teppai suru gimu o sadameta mono de aru to kaisaremasu)



(Excerpts of the debate between Dave Aldwinckle of Issho Kikaku and Takeuchi Kazuho of Otaru City, which appeared in Hokkaido Shinbun on May 7, 2000. Presented in the same order as in the article.)


(jourei seitei shi sabetsu teppai o)

"If you make the rules clear this problem will be resolved. Removing people who cause nuisances (meiwaku) and do not follow the rules is a matter of course (touzen). There were undoubtedly people in the past who did not mind their manners, but there were probably lots who didn't know Japanese customs. If we look at the record of facilities which refused foreigners, one cannot say that they thoroughly (shikkari to) explained the rules. Even if there was a language barrier, they should have been able to able to respond with flyers in foreign languages which explained bathing customs.

"Leaving this problem alone worries me that this movement (ugoki) will expand into other business sectors. As we recently surveyed in Wakkanai, we found out that a bathhouse, a sports shop, and even a barber shop is refusing service to foreigners. Which means that things are happening just as we feared.

"I appraise Otaru City's efforts to launch various policies to deal with this situation. However, I am a bit uncertain as to how effective they will be; it is noticable how unprepared (fubi) things are, where not a single employee in the city's international communications staff speaks Russian. The City government says that it is necessary to raise the awareness of citizens in these matters, but when might that come true? It might not change after even a hundred years. But foreigners being kicked out are suffering (kurushindeiru) now.

"This is why we are demanding that the Otaru City and the Hokkaido Governments establish an anti-discrimination ordinance. In Article 14 of the Constitution it is clearly stated that one shall not be discriminated against by race or gender, and in a Japan which has ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, refusing foreigners like this is against the law. It has been pointed out that established laws (houseibi) have not progressed far enough yet, but it is essential for self-governing bodies (jichitai) to take the lead (sossen suru) and make the effort to find solutions.

"I don't think the Otaru bathing facilities are racists (jinshu sabetsu shugisha). I know they are in a dilemma with the fear of how their customers will react. So if an ordinance is passed, it would become easier for the facilities to explain to their users, 'It is illegal not to, so we are going to let in foreigners'.

"Japan's declining child base (shoushika) has been drastic, and there will come a time in the future when Japan must accept huge numbers of foreign laborers. Japan as a country using foreigners but not giving them service engenders nobody's respect. I think that 'foreigners not allowed' will eventually be a minus for Japan."


(kanjoumen no yuuwa wa muzukashii)

"I feel it most regrettable that for Otaru, a city which aims to become an international city, the image of 'racial discrimination', as reported in overseas media, has spread to the whole world.

"Every year many Russian ships dock in our harbor. With close to 30,000 Russian sailors a year spending money here, they hold a regular (ittei) share of our economy and we cannot ignore them. So it is a problem if these people cannot get service.

"In addition to giving notice to the bathing facilities that they should make steps in the right direction (genjou kaizen o moushi ireteiru), the City has distributed flyers in English, Russian, and Japanese explaining bathing customs to Russian sailors via shipping agencies and Customs officials. We are also continuing an administrative-level 24-hour emergency service in case there is trouble at bathhouses.

"Moreover, we want more city citizens to think about human rights, so we put an summary of the issues on the City webpage and printed two special articles in the Otaru Kouhou. There has been some progress ridding signs of discriminatory language, but it looks like it will take time to resolve this problem.

"I never expected that Otaru as a whole would be seen as exclusionary, but some citizens do have bad impressions of Russians as 'frightening' or 'shoplifters', etc. According to the bathhouse managers, some customers have said, 'The very act of bathing with a foreigner is objectionable' (gaikokujin sono mono to nyuuyoku suru no ga iya da). This seems to be especially strong with older people. It is true that people don't always give all that warm a welcome to Russians, and as long as this feeling remains so will the problem. We can currently find no decisive answer.

"Foreign residents are demanding an anti-discrimination ordinance including regulations on punishments, but the present situation makes that difficult. Japan has ratified the Treaty Against Racial Discrimation, but adequate domestic laws have not yet been established. I think that for Otaru to take the lead and establish an ordinance is premature for the times (jiki shousou). It is also extremely difficult to clearly stipulate (kitei suru) behavior as racial discrimination. Otaru City might be able to issue a declaration (sengen) or an ordinance which do not provide penalties but outline the goals to aim for. From now on, City Hall as a whole plans to discuss this."

Original articles in Japanese, page one here and page two



Hokkaido Government
Kita 3 Jo, Nishi 6 Chome, Chuo-ku, Sapporo, 060-8588 Japan
Phone 011-231-4111

Thank you very much for offering your opinion on "Teian no Hiroba". As I am in charge of the Public Relations (Kouhou Kouchou) Section, please allow me to answer you, Mr Laszlo, about the problem with limitations on entry (nyuujou seigen) for foreigners in bathing facilities.

Most bathing facilities do not put limits on foreigner entry, but a very small number (goku ichibu) do so with signs saying "Japanese Only" in foreign languages.

We understand that in Hokkaido, there are many foreigners who have lived here a long time, work, pay taxes, marry Japanese and raise families. We understand that many have naturalized, and that all these people are excluded. This is very problematic.

On the other hand, as for managers of the facilities, after understanding that both a portion (ichibu) of ill-mannered foreigners exist and local customers (jimoto no riyousha) have their own needs, it is a reality (genjitsu) that at the present time these facilities have adopted these managerial rules in order to maintain their business livelihoods.

In these localities, there are concerned people cooperating to resolve this, distributing pamphlets to those bathers with bad manners.

Moreover, it is delineated in the Public Bathhouse Law (Koushuu Yokujou Hou) Article 5 Section 1, "Bathers at Public Bathhouses may not make bathhouse water remarkably (ichijirushiku) dirty, or commit other acts with the danger of causing damage to public sanitation (koushuu eisei ni gai o oyobosu osore no aru koui)", and in Section 2, "In cases where people commit the aforementioned acts, the managers or administrators of the Public Bath must check or put a stop to it (seishi)". Thus managers must carry out explanation and guidance (shidou) towards bathers with bad manners, regardless of nationality, for the sake of public sanitation.

This is why we getting the affected bathhouse owners to display posters explaining Japanese commonsensical (joushikiteki) bathing manners. Also, we plan to we have plans to make posters for managers affiliated with the union of Hokkaido Public Baths Department of Public Sanitation (hokkaidou koushuu yokujou gyou kankyou eisei dougyou kumiai kamei), listing bathing practices in Japanese and foreign languages. We are also thinking about cooperating with concerned unions (tougai no kumiai) to raise common knowledge (shuuchi) about the issue.

In addition, local public servants as a whole are continuing to raise resident awareness (ishiki kaikaku) through friendship parties (kondankai), but with the degree of mixed feelings (kanjou no motsure) and the many facets of this problem, there are many things which require time. This is a very delicate problem, so we think it is necessary to resolve things prudently (shinchou ni).

Some people think that a resolution to the issue via a hastily-made (sessoku) ordinance would not necessarily be preferable to a resolution via the issuance of a policy which had the approval of all parties involved. This is why from now on, we think that it is essential to start asking local cities, towns, and villages, and each concerned party for their cooperation, and prudently (shinchou ni) take this up with an aim to resolution.

At the present time, with the eruption of Mt Usu [in early April], there is a huge jam (fukusou) of business. We are very sorry that our answer was so late. With the state of Mt Usu, one never knows when a dangerous eruption might start, while refugees still remain displaced. We cannot be negligent, so all of our agencies (zencho) are currently dealing with this situation.

Although it is said that spring is coming, the weather continues with a wide range in temperatures, so please, Mr Laszlo, take care of your health.

Hokkaidou Sougou Kikakubu Seisakushitsu
Kouhou Kouchou Kachou Matsuo Akifusa?

Answer dated May 1, 2000
(Issho Kikaku letter was sent to Hokkaido Government February 15, 2000)

Page one here and page two




Report on ISSHO Kikaku's 4/20 presentation concerning the problem of private business that exclude foriegners

(List of discussants, attendees, and links to the original Japanese version here)

a) Summary

On April 20, 2000, from 11am to 1 pm, Issho Kikaku (http://www.issho.org , Representative: T. Laszlo), an NGO researching multiculturalism in Japan, hosted a seminar at Japan's Parliamentary Upper House, Tokyo, regarding exclusionary practices towards non-Japanese. From 3pm on the same day, the group held a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan. At both events, case reports were given on ongoing discriminatory practices on the part of businesses in various parts of Japan (including, but not limited to: Otaru and Wakkanai in Hokkaido, Hamamatsu City in Shizuoka and Naha in Okinawa), where private-sector facilities have been refusing entry to foreign residents. Through the presentation, ISSHO Kikaku made an appeal for the establishment of anti-discrimination laws and local ordinances which would prohibit the exclusionary business practices. The group also released a statement regarding the April 9th remarks made by Tokyo Governor Ishihara to Japan's Self Defense Forces (in which he warned that foreign residents of Tokyo would probably riot during the aftermath of an earthquake and requested that the SDF be prepared for such occurrences). Through the declaration, ISSHO Kikaku appealed to Japanese voters to elect leaders who did not harbor racist ideas. Nine speakers gave presentations at the event which was attended by three Parliament members (two of whom also spoke). Also in attendance were five secretaries of Parliamentarians and one Assembly member of Koganei City Assembly (Tokyo). The two presentations were covered by approximately thirty members of the press.

b) Brief on the proceedings of the Upper House presentation

Ana Bortz, a resident of Hamamatsu and member of ISSHO Kikaku's Benci Project, started the event off with a report on the current situation in her city. [Ms. Bortz won a claim for compensation in October 1999 against a jewelry store owner in Hamamatsu. In this case, the judge ruled that the shop owner's attempt to evict her from the shop (June 1999) - due to her being Brazilian - contravened the Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination.] According to Bortz, a number of Hamamatsu restaurants and shops currently forbid entrance to foreigners. Bortz then introduced a case in which a bus driver urged passengers to watch their bags because a Brazilian woman had gotten on the bus; the woman, who understands Japanese, no longer rides the buses for fear of being insulted again. She cited another case in which Brazilian children kept their nationality secret from the school they were attending, in order to avoid being discriminated against. In closing, Bortz described two other cases (one from Iwata City and one from Kakegawa City) in which applications made by Brazilian families for public housing were rejected, after neighbors objected to the idea.

Next, ISSHO Kikaku Director Tony Laszlo read a statement submitted by Yotsuya Kyoko of Justica e Fraternidade & Esperanca, an NPO active in Hamamatsu. Yotsuya's statement also cited incidents of discrimination in public housing, and noted that foreign nationals in and around the region have also been prevented from renting cars.

Fujii Seiji, a writer who has reported on the problems in Hamamatsu, reported that the defendant in the Bortz case (the jewelry store owner) is unrepentant and insists that the court's ruling was wrong. Further, the owner of a fishing goods shop which refuses foreigners said he "doesn't care at all" about the illegality of his exclusionary practices.

Tony Laszlo then read a statement submitted by Shimane Prefecture resident Mr. Wade Carlton. Carlton, reporting on a trip he made to Naha City, Okinawa Prefecture in March of 1999, noted that there are "No Foreigner" signs in cafes, discos and pubs along Naha's Kokusai Dori, or "International Avenue" (a popular tourist spot). Laszlo reported on similar reports made by Australian and English women who had been refused access to these establishments.

Laszlo then summarized the research that ISSHO Kikaku's Benci Project (http://www.issho.org/BENCI ) had made since September of 1999, regarding exclusionary practices in Otaru, Wakkanai and other cities in Hokkaido Prefecture. Laszlo reported on exclusionary barber shops, sports shops, restaurants and public baths in Hokkaido.

Lower House Parliamentarian Kaneda Seiichi (Democratic Party, representative from Hokkaido) reported on his discussions with Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) officials regarding the issue. According to his account, MOFA officials told Kaneda in his chambers that, as the cases in Hokkaido involved discrimination between individuals, they did not necessarily constitute breaches of the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

Laszlo thanked Kaneda for his efforts and presented Kaneda with a request for the creation of a law banning racial discrimination (prepared by the Benci Project), Kaneda expressed his willingness to take it up with party members on the Judicial Affairs Committee.

Tanaka Hiroshi, Professor Emeritus at Hitotsubashi University, accused MOFA of having double standards. He argued that while MOFA officials were telling Kaneda that cases of discrimination between individuals are not in violation of CERD, they were saying different things to the outside world. To verify his claims, Tanaka referred to a letter written by an MOFA official on November 22nd to the New York Times (Click here to see it) which said, "...certain discrimination exists in Japanese society and...[it] should be rejected in all of its forms. That is precisely why the judge of the local district court correctly cited Japan's obligation under the international treaty in making his ruling about the Brazilian journalist. This is proof that the Japanese judiciary is acting responsibly."

Higashizawa Yasushi, a lawyer, introduced a case which he is presently in charge of where the plaintiff, Steve Herman (a US news correspondent) is requesting compensation for the damages he sustained after being refused an application for a loan because he was a foreigner who does not have permanent-resident status in Japan. According to Higashizawa, his client is claiming that the refusal of a loan on such grounds contravenes Article 14 of the Constitution and constitutes a breach of the CERD. Higashizawa said that the majority of Japanese do not share a common understanding of human rights, and made an appeal for schools to introduce such curricula as soon as possible.

In Ha Lee, a foreigner's rights activist, gave a presentation regarding anti-discrimination legislation recently enacted by Kawasaki City. This ordinance, which came into effect on April 1st of this year, aims to prevent housing discrimination against foreigners, the disabled, and the elderly. Laszlo urged the Parliamentarians to look at the legislation as a model to be employed nationwide.

Ito Shuko, a representative of the IMADR Secretariat, gave a presentation regarding a movement on the part of Japan's non-profit organizations to submit CERD-related reports to the UN. Ito's organization is coordinating the efforts of approximately thirty groups who have found problems with the report on CERD that the Japanese Government sent to the UN last March.

Laszlo announced that Issho Kikaku is also planning to take part in this process by writing a report on the various cases of denying access to foreigners, and on the response at the local, prefectural and national government levels.

Upper House Parliamentarian Fukushima Mizuho (Social Democratic Party) stated that Japan's laws existed only to control foreigners, not to protect their basic rights, and pointed out a need for revisions. She also criticized Tokyo's Governor Ishihara for his comments of April 9th, and announced her desire to create a law prohibiting racial discrimination.

Suzuki Ritsuko of the Sumida International Exchange Network spoke of the need for education programs which would help people understand the need for anti-discrimination laws and ordinances.

Laszlo read out a section of a statement prepared by Issho Kikaku, entitled "A Statement to Tokyo's Voters (with regard to Governor Ishihara's comments)". Through this document Issho Kikaku stressed that the Governor's words and actions helped to worsen the problem of the exclusionary businesses, and appealed to Tokyo's voters to elect a leader who does not hold racial or ethnic prejudices.



We at Issho Kikaku have spent more than half a year listening to the viewpoints of many concerned parties on this issue, and recording official positions in all three levels of government. At this point, our research indicates that local and regional governments do not seem interested in ensuring that their residents regardless of nationality are protected by Japanese laws. Thus the issue is no longer just local--limited to a tourist city, a couple of seaports, or a few foreign enclaves. Indeed, non-Japanese are now seen as a potential social threat by people as high up as the Tokyo Governor, who wants to call out the SDF to quell ahistorical fears of "illegal-foreigner rioting" in the event of a natural disaster (though how troops are expected to differentiate between legals and illegals on sight is unclear). Now more than ever, non-Japanese residents need a clear legal delineation of their Constitutionally-guaranteed rights. If regional representatives and their administrations will not keep the promises their government made to the international community, it is time to bring the issue up with national representatives as well.

There will be a general election in Japan on June 25. We hope that human rights for all residents of Japan will also be part of the debate agenda.



New Timeline in Japanese on the issue, with links to all articles and documents to date
Click here

Text of Chinjou Petition submitted April 17 to the Hokkaido Governor and Hokkaido Prefectural Assembly
Click here

Letter submitted to the Sapporo Russian Consulate (along with posters on Japanese bathing rules in several languages), asking for Russian Government assistance in resolving this problem
Click here


Issho Kikaku BENCI's NYUU YOKU TIMES, MAY 23, 2000, ENDS
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