Written By Dave Aldwinckle

Since ODT's Dec 29 article, "Sister City Accused of Prejudice", mentioned us, NPO Issho Kikaku (NOTE correct URL www.issho.gol.com/BENCI), we would like to make some clarifications.

Otaru, Dunedin's Sister City, has bathhouses which refuse entry to non-Japanese, in violation of the UN Convention on Racial Discrimination which Japan adopted in 1996.

Issho advised Mayor Turner of this on Oct 4. On Nov 19, Turner wrote that she believed "the City Council are doing all that they can".

We beg to differ. Otaru's Nov 15 letter to Turner (click here to see it) misrepresented the issue--that "naughty Russians" force the bathhouses to "refuse all the overseas people".

Actually, they exclude anyone without Japanese citizenship, technically including Japan-born ethnic Koreans and Chinese.

Moreover, as someone denied entry, I resent the label of "overseas person". I am a Permanent Resident. Living here twelve years, I have land, Japanese wife and kids, and fluency in the language. I live here the same as a citizen. Yet I was not allowed to bathe with my family due to my race.

Yes, race. When we visited one bathhouse with other international families, only the Caucasians were denied entry. A Chinese was first let in, then evicted when she revealed her nationality. How will my Western-looking children fare when they grow up?

Otaru City says it is taking measures. Not before time. These policies are six years old, and only when BENCI publicized them domestically and internationally was any action taken. Regardless, Otaru City has refused to 1) convene a public forum on this issue, 2) allow non-Japanese (onstensibly the cause of the problem) to attend any meetings they did convene, or 3) pass or even propose a local ordinance ("jorei") to forbid discrimination by race or nationality.

Worst of all, the bathhouses profit from this. Busier thanks to free publicity, they make the exclusion of innocents a marketing tool. If let stand, this will set a dangerous precedent, incentivising other industries to shut out and rake in.

We hope Mayor Turner will look deeper into the issue and urge Otaru to pass anti-discrimination "jorei". Demand the comity that Japanese sailors enjoy when visiting fellow seaport Dunedin.

Dave Aldwinckle, Sapporo
One Issho Kikaku BENCI Project Coordinator
January 17, 2000

(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,)

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