Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Shocking levels of racism in Japanese hotels

From Debito, here is an utterly jaw-dropping level of officially-sanctioned racism.

The Fukushima prefectural tourist information website list of hotels has an explicit categorisation according to whether foreigners are permitted or not. And 318 of the hotels say "no gaijin" or "外国人の受入:不可"! This is about 15% of all lodgings. Another 15% allow foreigners, and the majority don't say one way or the other.

This discrimination is actually illegal, despite Japan (uniquely in the "developed" world, though in the context of human rights it is not clear that the term should apply here anyway) having no laws against racial discrimination. As Debito mentions in the post, there are some laws concerning hotel management that strictly limit the ability of a hotel to turn away customers - and these reasons do not include their nationality or race.

What's worse, this is more than a year after the Fukushima Tourist Information Agency agreed that the discrimination was clearly illegal and said they would get it removed from the web site. In fact the number of explicitly racist hotels has increased about 10-fold in this time.

Remember that the JGovt has not so long ago stated that it was inconceivable that they could take any more action to reduce racial discrimination. Obviously even enforcing their own laws is beyond their wit and imagination.

[I'm not sure if I have told this story before, but we were once turned away from a hotel in the Fuji Five Lakes area. However this was early enough in our time here, and my Japanese was sufficiently poor, that I cannot be quite sure that the hotel really was refusing us illegally for being foreign. It does seem somewhat implausible, however, that the hotel was really closed for business since it had an open front door and someone on reception. At the time we were a bit tired and wet and went next door rather than trying to argue the point.]


Anna Haynes said...

James, a heads-up if you don't already know of fellow gaijin Robert Brady's blog Pure Land Mountain. (Do you have monkey problems too? )

(also: firewood)

David B. Benson said...

Maybe that hotel had a policy against


James Annan said...

Anna, thanks for the link. It's all rather urban round these parts, but rural parts of Japan have a very different lifestyle.


Brutally mangling Anatole France, the law in its majestic equality allows even the wet as well as the dry to sleep in hotels in Japan :-)

matt andrews said...

A friend who has spent a long time in Japan said that this practice seems to have started a while back in Hokkaido as a reaction to highly inebriated and deeply embarrassing Russian seamen ruining the (domestic tourism) reputation of local hotels.

(Not to excuse the "no gaijin" practice at all - it's a huge overreaction - but to explain its apparent origin.)

James Annan said...

I believe the particular speciality in Hokkaido is racist onsens, not hotels. However "no foreigners" signs crop up in random places across Japan (they are near-ubiquitous in property rental), and sakoku can hardly be attributed to the Russians! The simple fact is that many Japanese simply don't see there being anything wrong with such discrimination, and (with a few rare exceptions) there is no law against it. In surveys, only about half of them consider foreigners to be deserving of human rights.

dhogaza said...

Well, a bilingual American friend of mine lived there from, oh, the mid-80s until the mid-90s and left in large part because he just got totally burned out on being treated like, well, a gaijin. He married a korean woman whose family has lived in Japan for three generations (they speak Japanese at home, even now that they've moved to the states), and of course that just made things worse.

James Annan said...

A common enough story, I think - if I'd made a real effort to settle in culturally and socially, I'd find it pretty depressing. However the language barrier, coupled to the lack of any possibility of a secure job, is a good enough excuse for us to stick at being the perennial gaijin, and this also seems to suit the institute, for the time being at least.

Anonymous said...

I understand it may feel offensive when you see those signs up but its because Japanese people know that foreigners do mess up things. Manners, and etc. Just like foreigners in the USA they may seem rude to YOU but thats because that's their manners in their country. so thats when foreigners have to think. Japan isn't racist. Many some people yes but they just want to protect their privacy and area. Of course if you show them your Japanese manners and stuff most likely they will let you in ^^. I'm Japanese but also part european so I dont look full Japanese (my nose is pretty tall like many americans or europeans) but I can speak Japanese fluently and I know the culture and manners very well so they will easily let you in.

Its just how you look at it an d how you behave. They aren't trying to be racist.
but of course this may not work for everyone...

James Annan said...

I think you need to look up "racial discrimination" in a dictionary, and not in some special Japanese one that defines it as "discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity or nationality except when a Japanese person does it, because then it's only because they know foreigners cause trouble".