"Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable."--Mark Twain

QUICK REVIEW OF EVENTS UP TO NOW (see http://www.issho.gol.com/BENCI for all substantiation and newspaper articles):

In September and October 1999, contingents from internationalization-oriented groups ISSHO Kikaku/BENCI and Welcome House visited Otaru, confirming that three onsens (Panorama, Yunohana, and Osupa) have for over a year had policies reserving entry to customers of Japanese nationality. Consequent media reporting, ranging from over a dozen articles in Hokkaido, Yomiuri, Mainichi, and Asahi Shinbuns (most recently Asahi Yuukan Saturday Dec 4, 1999), to even an aside in the New York Times (Nov 15, 1999), have widely publicized the rules and the ripples. Moreover, our letters and visits to the city and national government, various legal associations, and even an Otaru assemblyperson have brought both attention and urgency to a matter that had for years been left largely unaddressed. This process bore fruit, as on November 6, due to fears of a corporate imaging-down, Panorama was the first to replace its refusal sign with a detailed illustration of bathing practices, and opened its doors to all-comers.


THE NEWS: According to my sources, the holdouts, Osupa and Yunohana, are contemplating taking down their signs before the year ends.

To this end, Otaru Osupa, according to a recent article in the Hokkaido Shinbun (Otaru version), has put out a "questionnaire survey" (ankeeto chousa) asking its members how they think about sharing their bathhouse with foreigners. I translate the both article and the survey below for your reference.

The point of this post is to show that the survey may well be designed to justify shutting out foreigners all over again, as some of the questions within are of the "So, why do you beat your wife?" type of slant. Read on and see for yourself.

(All translations below by Dave Aldwinckle)

HOKKAIDO SHINBUN (Otaru version)
DEC 3, 1999


In an attempt to deal with and improve the situation
The City also will introduce the happenings up to now (ikisatsu) though its public journal (kouhoushi)

PHOTO CAPTION (partially obscured)
Man holding "The Otaru Onsen Osupa Survey" sheet. Future policies will be decided depending on results.


Amidst a swarm of criticism about the problem of some Otaru bathing establishments refusing entry to foreigners, one of the refusing establishments, "Otaru Onsen Osupa", sent on Dec 2 a "survey regarding accepting foreigners" to its members for its own reference in improving the situation. Otaru City also plans to carry an article in its public journal on this problem, with concrete attempts underway to resolve the situation between the government and the onsens in a positive manner (shisetsu to gyousei no genjou no kaizen ni muketa torikumi ga gutaiteki ni ugokidashita).


The survey, included in a mailing of the member newsletter entitled "Osupa Crew", was sent to about 4500 members, as well as made available at Osupa's front counter to regular customers. The survey provides six questions, including "The pros and cons (zehi) of letting in foreigners", "Worrisome things (shinpai na ten) after letting them in", in a multiple-choice format.

For example, under the heading of "pros and cons" it has six choices including "you should let them in", "there is no choice but to let them in", "you should refuse them". Under "worrisome things", it asks for concrete answers such as, "bathing manners", "theft", "carrying weapons", "violent behavior", ten in total.

Due on December 25, Osupa will decide its future reception policies depending on the results. If the "let-'em-in" faction has high numbers, Osupa will consider the view of opening its doors completely. Even if the "shut-'em-out" faction is high, Osupa has the aim of putting forth step-by-step improvements, such as introducing a membership system for foreigners who have lived in Japan a long period of time. The architect of this plan, CEO Mr Oh-etsu Hidekatsu, says, "We bathing facilities want to show our earnestness, so we wanted to use this opportunity to think about this together with our patrons."

For its part, Otaru City, in its city journal "Kouhou Otaru" due out December 15, has plans to introduce both the details behind the entry-refusals issue and its attempts at resolving this situation in a positive direction. Director of the city's international division, Takeuchi Kazuho, says, "In order to eliminate prejudice against foreigners, we want people to understand the realities of the situation, and tie it in with resolving the problems."


Sounds good, doesn't it? Now let's read the fine print and look at the Survey. Inserted between the questions will be some comments from me. I should probably put them at the end, but I chose to intersplice to save readers the trouble of paging up and down or of getting an even fatter email due to repeated questions.


(gaikokujin ukeire ni tsuite no ankeeto chousa)

The following survey items are based upon details or opinions which have been reported to us up to now. They are not meant to reflect discrimination, prejudice, or other ulterior motives (sabetsu, henken ya tai ni yoru mono de wa arimasen no de okotowari sasete itadakimasu).

This onsen is thinking about letting in foreigners, so what do you think?
(Tick a box)
(tou onsen de wa gaikokujin no katagata o ukeirete mite wa dou ka to kangaete orimasu ga, minasama wa dono you ni okangae deshou ka?)
a) We should let them in. (ukeireru beki da)
b) It's a foregone conclusion that we have to let them in. (ukeireru no wa shikata ga nai)
c) I don't want to let them in. (uke iretakunai)
d) They should be refused entry. (ukeire wa kyohi subeki da)
[for items c) and d) here if you have reasons why not, then please tell us]
e) I can't say either way. (dochira to mo ienai)
f) An entirely different opinion. (sono ta) [sizable blank space to fill in here]

This question offers six items. a) is the only positive one, b) reflects resolution to fate (not approval), e) and f) are neutral, and c) and d) are clearly negative-leaning. c) and d) even enable the reader to load the questionnaire with more negative comments, whereas the positive-thinkers who might answer a) do not have that opportunity. RESULT: More weighting given negative-thinkers.

If we let them in, what might you worry about?

(ukeireta baai ni shinpai sareru no wa dono you na koto deshou ka?)
a) language problems (kotoba no mondai)
b) theft (tounan)
c) bringing in weapons (buki no mochikomi)
d) bringing in narcotics (mayaku no mochikomi)
e) manners within the establishment (shisetsu nai manaa)
f) hygiene and sanitation (eisei men)
g) putting out their smokes (hi no shimatsu)
h) bathing manners (nyuyoku manaa)
i) violent behavior (boryoku koui)
j) something else (sono ta) [sizable blank space to fill in here]

The question is a perfect example of the "So, why do you beat your wife?" genre. The assumption is that there is something to worry about when foreigners are around, and by giving the reader examples to tick, I'm sure that even if they couldn't think of anything, being tipped off like this helps get their worry warts aching.

And let's look at those examples. a), b), e), f), h), and i) I have heard about as problems before (and are hardly exclusive to foreigners). But I've never heard of c) or d) bringing in weapons/narcotics (What, you think people are going to park their guns or reefers in a street-clothes hamper while they bathe? And hell, we all know foreigners, not Japanese yakuza with their knives or high-heeled ganguro with their kakuseizai, are stoned or armed to the teeth at all times), or g) smokes (Japanese never leave their ashtrays smoldering, now, do they!). Assumption being also, if you really want to get in a lather about it, that Japanese never steal or have bad manners, either. I'm surprised they didn't throw in AIDS or some other contagious disease. Oh wait, that can fall under item f).

Pretty comprehensive indictment. If we were playing volleyball, this question is the set for the spike in the next question:

How do you feel about foreigners getting into the bath with you?

(gaikokujin no kata to tomo ni nyuuyoku suru koto ni tsuite dono you na kimochi desu ka?)
a) I have absolutely no worries (mattaku ki ni shinai)
b) I would care about it a little (tashou ki ni suru)
c) I would care (ki ni suru)
d) It would be objectionable (iya da)
e) I couldn't relax (ochitsukanai)
f) I wouldn't want to get in the same bath (issho ni nyuuyoku shitakunai)
g) I would want to leave the bathhouse (yokujou kara detai)

Well, is it any wonder the reader would "ki ni suru" after reading the previous question and learning of the potential for drugs and weapons and theft and disease and violence in their pools if foreigners get let in? Seven questions, six degrees of "ick"--the bottom four with the thrust of disgust. No neutral question necessary here this time, I guess.

I would not be surprised if the results of this question enpowered Osupa to justify closing its doors, citing "the vast majority of respondents found foreigners objectionable in some way".

But wait. There's more:

If you have some other opinion or requests about letting in foreigners, do tell us.
(sono ta gaikokujin ukeire ni tsuite goiken, goyoubou ga arimashitara okikasete kudasai)
[sizable blank space to fill in here]

NO ACIDULOUS COMMENT from me here. As written, there is little leading of the witness.

If we did let in foreigners here, what would you do?
(tou onsen de gaikokujin o ukeireta baai ni dono you ni saremasu ka?
a) I would not care and would use Osupa in future. (kongo tomo kawarinaku osupa o riyou suru)
b) I would not use Osupa. (riyou shinai)
c) I can't say either way. (dochira to mo ienai)
d) Something else. (sono ta) [sizable blank space to fill in here]

This question is fair. Yes, no, don't know, N/A--the spectrum of possible opinions evenly distributed this time.

If you have an opinion about Osupa or something you would like us to do, do tell us.

(kongo no osupa ni taishi goiken, goyoubou ga arimashitara, okikasete kudasai)

This is just a question for Osupa's demand-side determining use and does not reflect the foreign-refusal problem (unless the reader requests that foreigners be kept kicked out, but as written that is not implied).

The Survey finishes with a box for those who want to to fill out their name, gender, age, address, and member number, and instructions on where to put the completed survey.


After reading this, I am reminded of a number of these "kokusai events", when I didn't play ball by only saying nice things about Japan, and got the perfunctory comment: "Don't you have anything nice to say about Japan?" It almost makes me want to say the same thing to Osupa about their feelings towards foreigners. I saw none of the "zehi" (pros and cons) mentioned in the Doshin article. Mainly cons.

Granted, I may be taking this too far. My objections notwithstanding, my wife and my native-speaker friends are glad that Osupa is not just ignoring the problem anymore--instead bowing to public pressure to send out a survey (at their own expense, mind). And as readers, they don't see themselves being brainwashed by the wording and checking negative things out of fear. (I'm equally glad that my wife doesn't show any fear of sharing my enclosed spaces, but she might bias the sample a bit.)

But remember from whom this survey is coming from. Osupa is the place that not only wouldn't give us at BENCI the time of day when we went to ask them to take down their sign, but even spread unfounded rumors to Panorama that Russians carried contagious disease (without bothering to get any hard evidence linking either the existence of any disease or any link to the Russians--see http://www.issho.gol.com/BENCI/onsenreport.html).

I agree that this is a good turnaround, especially with the promise of the doors getting opened. But this survey is skewed, deliberately or not, towards the negative re foreign bathers, and may in fact give "statistical justification" for not only Osupa to use, but also the rest of the negatively-predisposed bathing industry, when deciding on a new-and-improved exclusionary policy.

Be wary of "lies, damned lies, and statistics", as you all well know. In my honest opinion, if a survey is done this badly it is better off not being done at all. For who knows to what end the data might be used?

Waiting and seeing,

Dave Aldwinckle