Hakone in Kanagawa Prefecture is a town always bustling with tourists and one of the most popular day-trip destinations for travelers staying in the Tokyo area. Some visitors to Hakone will notice a candy shop and rest spot decorated with "Star Wars" imagery.
Unfortunately, the shop is now in the spotlight for a very different reason.
According to a report by Asahi News, the owner put out a sign on Friday, Jan 17, which explicitly bans Chinese nationals from entering its premises, citing the Wuhan virus outbreak. The sign says: "Chinese are banned from entering" and "I'd hate to have the virus scattered about (here)."
Explaining his actions, the owner said: "I want to take measures to defend my shop against the Wuhan virus, so I don't want Chinese nationals to enter." He apparently drafted the message, then used a machine translation app to write the sign in Mandarin. He may have intended to say "Chinese nationals" but the sign says "Ethnic Chinese" (中国人种). Moreover, the sign also urges visitors from Hong Kong and Taiwan to "not misunderstand."
As an additional reason for the ban, the owner said: "Ill-mannered Chinese nationals have caused havoc in my shop before." While it's unclear what "havoc" this refers to, it seems to be clear that the owner chose to ban an entire ethnicity rather than targeting specific behaviors and outlining rules of conduct in his shop.
With nine people already confirmed dead, one infection case in Japan, and as reported by CNN, confirmation that the new strain of coronavirus can be transmitted between humans, many Japanese are understandably concerned, especially at a time when an influx of Chinese tourists is expected for the lunar New Year. At the same time, banning all Chinese visitors outright is quite extreme.
After calls for an apology, the owner promised to change the sign, using less discriminatory language, but he did not back down from his ban on Chinese visitors.
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