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'Japanese Only' banner sparks intolerance debate

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By Antoni Slodkowski

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Good article I must say...

17 ( +18 / -1 )

“The very fact that those who put up the banner thought they would get away with it, shows how people here don’t understand what racial discrimination means,”

A concise and intelligent statement.

17 ( +18 / -1 )

My only critique of the article comes with this statement:

"Some human rights lawyers say Abe’s December visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan’s wartime leaders,"

Yasukuni Shrine was set up prior to World War 2. It in fact enshrines "souls" from the Meiji period onwards. It was set up to enshrine any Japanese war dead. Originally, it could be said it was the Japanese equivalent of America's Arlington National Cemetery, or the various war memorial cemeteries in Europe. It would be better if the article was more clear on this point.

That being said, the controversial (and honestly foolish) posthumous enshrining of war criminals in the 1970's has pretty much forever soiled the intent and purpose of Yasukuni.

9 ( +15 / -6 )

An interesting article. It is at least heartening to know that such a strong line is being taken against this type of behavior.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

David Varnes

It's not exlusively meant for military personnel either since they have monuments and memorials for any and all that contributed and died during the war.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

“By quietly standing by, we gave them a platform to voice such views. So it’s fair enough that now we have to pay for this.”

It's nice to hear the teacher say this cause I always remember the words "Silence like a cancer grows." We may not be racist in our own beliefs and actions, but if we quietly sit by and let it happen around us, it sends a message that it's okay to continue with this kind of behavior. Glad to hear people speaking out.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

So, a few people SEEM to get it. When racial discrimination becomes a national debate then maybe I'll start to believe the rest of the country understands. Until then, I see this as just another incident where the parties involved are surprised that this got publicity. Their main aim is to keep it as low profile as possible and sweep it under the rug at the first opportunity.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

There are numerous "Japanese Only" signs hanging on the doors of establishments around the country and nothing is ever reported about it. This "Japanese Only" crap is par for the course and since it is rarely challenged by anyone aside from expats, it`s a good indication of the inexcusable ignorance around the country. This story got some airtime simply because it was on the tele.

6 ( +12 / -5 )

Racism was rife and acceptable here 20 years ago, the open discrimination has been put in the cupboard more recently although it is just under the surface in a lot of cases.

Most Japanese are not openly racist but there are still some who despise foreigners and hate the thought of immigration. To have those thoughts is a lot different from openly allowing racist banners or signs to be displayed though.

C'mon Japan get with the times soon will you please.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

As a visitor from South East Asia I have attended J league matches at Saitama Stadium and the Nissan Stadium in Yokohama. I understand how some home fans will want to restrict others from the congested area behind the goal as that's where the die-hard home fans gather with their flags and banners. Perhaps the J league authority or the stadium people might want to designate this area with special tickets for home fans only. In England I know that strict segregation is followed for Premier League matches. Maybe this is already done, so the 'Japanese only' banner was a reaction to the over-crowdedness from some frustrated home fans. This episode reflects badly on the Urawa Red Diamond Football Club/stadium officials for not removing the banner the moment they came across it. The punishment will make them more alert next time.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

There are numerous "Japanese Only" signs hanging on the doors of establishments around the country and nothing is ever reported about it.

There are some 'Japanese Only' signs at a few places in some red light districts throughout the country. And very few at that. There's plenty of racism in Japan (as there is in any large country) but this is a particularly pointless example of it. Do you want to fight for the right to enter an overpriced clip joint? Be my guest.

It's good to see J-League, players, and many fans take a strong stand against discrimination. This shows exactly that there is a national discussion ongoing regarding discrimination. I see lots reported on the racist protestors as of late - why so little press on the massive COUNTER demonstrations at the same protests?

2 ( +5 / -3 )

sometimes I prefer not to use the train seats, specially when it's half empty and I know it will be full after few stations, can't stand the humiliation.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

This "Japanese Only" crap is par for the course and since it is rarely challenged by anyone aside from expats

even when it is challenged by expats, other expats tell them to go home if they dont like it

5 ( +8 / -3 )

@m6bob

Perhaps the J league authority or the stadium people might want to designate this area with special tickets for home fans

(As you suspected) the area behind goal is designated for home fans, the area behind the opposite goal, approximately half the size is for away fans and everything else is for neutrals. This being the Reds, there are very few neutrals though. Season ticket holders have to enter a lottery to get tickets in the 'home' seats.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Thunderbird. What do you mean? That no one will sit with you?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

“By quietly standing by, we gave them a platform to voice such views. So it’s fair enough that now we have to pay for this.”

It's up to fans to police themselves. That's the way to end this. It's up to fans.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

On March 8, a banner with "Japanese Only" scrawled on it was hoisted on a stadium gate behind one goal, an area packed with thousands of the club's hardcore fans.

Who hoisted the banner? Why does not the article report the person who did this? Does the reporter think it is not important? What are his journalistic standards?

Last year, hundreds of nationalists marched through the streets of Tokyo’s Korean district, Shin Okubo, with signs labelling Koreans as "cockroaches" and saying "Sink Koreans in the Tokyo Bay".

Some human rights lawyers say Abe's December visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan's wartime leaders, and controversial statements about history by those in his circle have created a climate that encourages far right sentiment.

The demonstrations in Shin Ohkubo took place BEFORE PM Abe visited Yasukuni at the end of December, last year. This is just a preposterous analysis. Cannot the reporter see the influence going the other way around? Saying Yasukuni honors Japanese soldiers lacks depth in understanding of the religion. More correct understanding is something like that Yasukuni is there to prevent the souls of dead soldiers from cursing present Japanese.

-12 ( +1 / -13 )

@Pandabelle,

Nah. There are numerous signs in many places. Don`t be silly now.

@80393,

Not sure what you mean. The "Go home" remark by people is quite dumb and is a cop out.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

A US friend says "Japanese only" signs are far fewer than even 5 years ago, but does not know why. He appreciated the signs because they were a kind of filter saying I have nothing in common with the people who go to this place, so there is no need to enter. The customers have monkey brains. No offence to monkeys, of courese.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Nah. There are numerous signs in many places. Don`t be silly now.

Nonsense. I've traveled all over the country and lived here for the better part of a decade, and I have not once seen one outside of a red light district, and precious few there.

@CH3CHO

Who hoisted the banner? Why does not the article report the person who did this?

From the article:

UB Snake, the group responsible for the banner

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Pandabelle I have never seen 'Japanese Only' signs, but in January when I was trying to find an out of town friend a reasonable hotel to stay at while in Tokyo, we were declined at two places because he was a 'foreigner'. This was over the telephone, sight unseen and not seedy joints. I remember my Japanese wife experiencing the same thing 12 years ago when she was trying to find me a hotel before we got married. I'd say most of my bad experiences have been more related to xenophobia.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

In three and a half decades here, I have never seen a 'Japanese only/No foreigners' sign in the flesh, as it were. Then again I don't frequent red-light districts. I've never been turned away from or refused a booking at a hotel/ryokan on account of not being Japanese, though a few places have refused to accommodate a vegetarian, whether Japanese or non-Japanese.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Last week, more than a quarter of the 20,000 Reds fans who turned up for the first open-door home match since the incident signed a declaration condemning discrimination.

Is "more than a quarter" really a lot? I wonder why more didn't sign.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

****Pandabelle

just google"japanese only"

Apart from red light places there are bars,onsen,clubs and some ryokan that won t admit foreigners.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

There are plenty of the Japanese only signs. Yes most of them are to do with activities that people would associate with a "red-light" district, but in Tokyo almost every major station has, on one side of it, this kinda stuff. I see one often, not because I frequent a red-light district, its just on my way home.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Onniyama

what I meant Onniyama is that coincidence or not, the last seats to be occupied will be those next to a foreigner (IF occupied by a brave or careless japanese) and this "phenomenon" is not seen only in the crowded trains of Tokyo. Wouldn't you feel strange seeing the whole carriage full of people standing where there is just a seat available next to you? Shame on Japan! Seeing police programs I feel like saying to anyone to hear: better off near a "gaijin" than the hordes of chikan that infest the trains on a daily basis. That's exactly why 90% of my travels are by motorcycle, people don't shun you because they can't see your FACE.

Never EVER got shunned in South Korea by the said "racist" koreans. Shame on these sociopathic societies!!

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Like it or not, J. League had to drop the hammer in terms of punishment over this unfortunate banner.

The reason is simple: precedence of serious issues with very vile harassment of certain ethnic and racial groups in European soccer. This is a particularly bad problem in Spain's La Liga and Italy's Serie A, especially from the Ultra fans of the soccer team. J. League does not want to end up with a situation anything close to that, hence the severe punishment.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Apart from red light places there are bars,onsen,clubs and some ryokan that won t admit foreigners.

I've never had a bar, onsen, or ryokan refuse my custom because I was a foreigner, and I go out and travel a lot.

One time - only one - I had a bar say to me "Sorry, Japanese only" (in english). I said "I speak Japanese" (in Japanese) and they said, "Oh, OK. We just don't speak english here." and let me in. No problems.

I'm sure there are plenty of dodgy clip joints that will refuse service, though. But again, who wants to go to those places anyway?

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Why would you be upset that you dont have someone squishing up next to you? Why is that shameful?

I would be ecstatic if people kept the seat open next to me, but no, on my train the seats next to me are usually taken straight away (maybe i smell nice, maybe i just sit in the desirable seats)

Great article and i hope the members in UB Snake are hanging their heads in shame.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Those of you who have said they never see discriminatory signs have never looked at some real estate apartments ads or you can't read no pets no gaikougin.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

Thunderbird. I live in Hyogo and I experience what you are referring to everyday. I take the train to and from work and no one ever sits with me. Don't feel bad about it. Develop some thick skin. My view is that they are probably just afraid we might talk to them and they don't have the confidence to answer. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe they would like to run us through with a bamboo spear. My point is, just deal with it. Exult in your uniqueness.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I think this was the last straw for me, I've changed my studies from Japanese language to German. It seems like every couple of months I have to deal with this side of Japan. Having been to Germany and Ireland, I was welcomed like part of the family. I hear all the time that the Japanese people won't spit on me or throw rocks at me, and that's very nice of them, but it sure doesn't make me want to go there....sorry Japan but the feelings gone and I just can't get it back.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

I see some naive comments here. Being in Japan for more than 6 months and never seen a "Japanese Only" sign?? I lived in Nagoya, a fairly peaceful city, and I know of lots of places out of red light districts that have such signs. Not many, but enough to a not so big city as Nagoya. In restaurants, izakayas and the likes. And there's also the unwritten "Japanese Only" sign, the one when you're singled out in stores, trains. Or are simply denied service by staff.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Matthew,

it sure doesn't make me want to go there....sorry Japan but the feelings gone and I just can't get it back

You're reading WAY too much on the internet if you are basing your negative opinion about a country based solely on the whining of a loud minority. Come with your eyes and ears open and form your own opinions.

LostinNagoya

In restaurants, izakayas and the likes

I challenge you to show a single example of a restaurant anywhere that has a "Japanese only" sign. Not "Sorry, our menu is in Japanese only", but an actual sign stating that only Japanese people are allowed entry.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

@pandabelle: there's a chic, upscale restaurant between Sakae and Marunouchi subway stations, on a street parallel to Sakuradori, on the left side if you walk from downtown to Nagoya JR Station. I can't pinpoint it, but it's somewhere along 5 or 6 blocks, if I recall correctly. It's quite famous among the foreign community in Nagoya. Don't be so blind. Or silly. Will you?

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

People not sitting next to you on the train is nothing to get upset about. The people are shy? They are afraid you'll speak English? They dislike foreigners? Who cares. I'm not particularly interested in the feelings of overgrown children or bigots. Why would anyone?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Thunderbird, I envy you. I never have this "problem"... whats your secret? Do you have your legs apart making it obviously too tight of a fit for anyone to sit next to you? I try this technique and it works sometimes... I often have my legs out wide when I see a guy looking for a seat, on the flip side when a female is looking for a seat I make it as inviting as possible and (my knees magically close in together offering plenty of room) and wallah, the seat become occupied. For me its nothing personal just simple logistics, women are smaller and so are welcome to sit beside me. I've often seen an empty seat next to a foreigner or a heavy set Japanese commuter and its often for good reason, and the same reason I wouldn't sit next them, frame of most foreign guys are larger and its just too tight in a Japanese train to sit down, shoulder to shoulder, knee to knee... more comfortable to stand. I often think its more of a logistical choice than one about any racial prejudices.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I have never seen a "Japanese Only" sign at a restaurant. But I have see them at bars near U.S. military bases and been refused entry. ( I am not in the military, by the way. ) I have also had one ryokan in Kyoto refuse to take my reservation over the phone after I gave them my foreign name, even though we had spoken in Japanese. Oh...and I've had an empty beer can thrown at me on two separate occasions from a car with someone yelling "something gaijin." lol

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I've only seen a "Japanese Only" sign once, outside a bar, and below that, humorously enough, "taking pictures of this sign is forbidden!" was written. I wish the cellphones of the time had cameras!

That said, I have experienced racism, though only once violent, a number of times, and a couple of them being refused entry to bars. Japan has a LONG way to go yet, but it's nice to know most are against the banner and its message (the club should have had to play its next ten games with no fans for the 'regret we didn't take it down sooner', after the problem caught up with them). Japan at present does not deserve the Olympics, but Osaka changed a bit after the failed 2008 bid, and hopefully the 2020 Games will change things further. We, yes, 'we', have six years, so let's make it more than just lip-service.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

LostinNagoya

It's quite famous among the foreign community in Nagoya. Don't be so blind. Or silly.

I don't want to say "I don't believe you," but I don't believe you. These sorts of "Oh, everybody knows about it!" sorts of rumors are how misconceptions get spread.

Proof, please. A quick google search shows nothing of the sort for such a "famous" establishment.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

People not only sit next to me on trains and buses, but they often want to chat too, and even young teenagers offer me their seats. Guess my old and gentle age and white hair is a plus? Only ever seen one "Japanese only" sign in my 20+ years here, and that was some seedy bar in Tokyo and I wouldn't have gone in even without the sign? Last night on the street I was stopped by some young school girls who wanted to practice their "English chat" which we did for about 10 minutes before I moved off.

If I see a person in greater need than me, I will always give up my seat too!

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Sadly, intolerance is alive and well here. There's a tempura place in Asakusa which has a Japanese Only sign on the door. They don't serve non-Japanese "for hygiene reasons".

http://www.debito.org/?p=12256

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

People that don't mind sitting next to a gaijin (Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto, Nara:

Small children Elder men Crazy people Pregnants Careless dudes (you can see the "shock" they get after some time, but it's too late, never got somebody who stand up after they notice me)

But in general, as soon as the door opens you can see all the ols and salarymen filling the other seats, the chances are 50% somebody finally sits x a humiliating travel. But as I said on previous articles, I have the best experiences with people whom I know, friends, coworkers, university colleagues, or with somebody who's "serving" me, be in the Ward Office or a Restaurant. The only problem is in the trains.. WHY? A magical place where japanese show their true colors?

My guess is that the same "collective thinking" that makes Japan as great as it is, is also put in use to do bad things like ijime and discrimination. Students bullying a colleague not because they want, but because everybody else is doing. Japaneses avoiding sitting next to you, not because they are afraid or don't want, simply because nobody else is doing, so it must be "the norm". Japaneses lack independent critical thinking.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Sadly, intolerance is alive and well here. There's a tempura place in Asakusa which has a Japanese Only sign on the door.

One place in a nation of 127million. Overgeneralize much?

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

just because an apartment building doesnt have a sign up doesnt mean theyll rent to you. signs get too much attention these days. its easier for a restaurant to give you the crossed arm X and for apartments to tell real estate agents that they wont rent to foreigners. the number of signs you can still find today has nothing to do with peoples attitudes towards foreigners.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

the number of signs you can still find today has nothing to do with peoples attitudes towards foreigners

In other words, despite their being little evidence to support them, you're going to stick with your prejudices?

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

im going to stick with my experiences

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I find the comments about Japanese people not sitting next to you on the train ironic, as I am reading them while being sandwiched between two particularly large, heavyset Japanese-looking fellows who sat on either side of me at the last station. It's times like this that I wish they would avoid me. That said, back when I lived in the countryside, avoidance of the seats next to me was a regular occurance. But that's a decade ago and things may have changed. As for 'Japanese only' signs, I've only ever seen them on sex places and the occasional hostess bar or snack bar. And some of these places will let you in if you speak Japanese (or maybe I just have a nice smile). I wouldn't be surprised if there was a restaurant or two and a ryokan or two who deny non-Japanese - this is Japan after all - but lets be realistic, these places are extremely few and far between. In over a decade and a half here, I've never seen any non-girly place with these signs, and very few girly places with them. They are the exception, not the rule. Contrast this with the places that go that extra step, that make that extra effort to make foreigners feel welcome. I went to a shop out in the countryside the other day, and upon telling them where I was from, was told I could have a 10% discount for being foreign. This type of thing happens all the time to me in Japan. Free drinks, special discounts, special service, and more. There is no doubt that there is discrimination in Japan. Anyone who has ever rented a place to live knows that. But some people, having always been the majority their life get way too hung up on it, and miss out on all the good stuff that comes from being a foreigner in Japan. The good stuff is way more prevalent than the bad stuff.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Pandabelle: "Overgeneralize much?"

Under-generalize much? Even if there were only one sign in the nation, it's a shame that you stick up for one sign too many. In fact, you seem to be going out of your way to verbally attack foreign posters who talk about such signs and experiences of racism. That is the point of this article, BTW. Do you not realize your indifference or defiance against those who berate racism really isn't all that different from the racist signs or telling people who are 'different' that they are wrong?

1 ( +4 / -3 )

There is the famous case that in Shinjuku's gay area (2-chome) about 10 years ago lots of bars suddenly put up "Japanese only" signs. When foreigners checked, they found that the owners of the bars thought the signs meant "Japanese language only" spoken here, not that foreigners are excluded. The signs disappeared from everywhere in a few days when word got around.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Seriously folks, this is an incident regarding a sporting event. It's been highly publicized and dealt with.

Plenty of other nations in the world where these sort of things happen both subtle and not so subtle.

Why is Japan, as per usual, being held to a different standard than other nations? Even just one incident like this is enough to indict the entire nation and people of Japan as being collectively 'racist,' 'xenophobic,' ignorant, etc.

Yet this viewpoint is not held towards other nationalities. For others, such examples of intolerance are just isolated incidents. Absolute double standards unfairly applied against Japan.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

Pandabelle - I post evidence of racism, and you leap into action to say everything's peachy.

Defend the indefensible much?

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Racism may be indefensible, but broadly painting the entire country as racist based on the racism is in itself racism. By that standard every country in the world would be considered racist.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

Harold, I checked out the shop (I live in the area). They let me in. They have an English menu.

http://tabelog.com/tokyo/A1311/A131102/13010522/dtlrvwlst/4748505/

0 ( +1 / -1 )

So why do they have that sign on the door, then?

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Kickboard - did you see the sign on the door? Did they make any comments to you about no foreigners?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Putting up xenophobic/racist signs in a homogeneous country is much different than putting them up in ethnically diverse countries.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I'm not too sure what the ethnic homogeneity really has to do with it - if it's wrong it's wrong.

Anyways, I phoned the restaurant in Debito's post that Harald linked to, and they said foreigners are fine. I even mentioned that I would be going with a group of non-Japanese speaking foreigners, and they said this was fine.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

One time - only one - I had a bar say to me "Sorry, Japanese only" (in english). I said "I speak Japanese" (in Japanese) and they said, "Oh, OK. We just don't speak english here." and let me in. No problems.

most of the times (this Urawa incident was clearly a different case), when they put a sign that says Japanese only on the door, that actually means JAPANESE LANGUAGE ONLY (they do not speak foreign language/english). They don't necessarily mean Japanese people only. Maybe they should start saying "We do not speak English" instead of just saying Japanese only.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

The onsen that Debito sued barred Debito from entering, who is a Japanese national and can speak Japanese.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I have never seen a "Japanese Only" sign at a restaurant. But I have see them at bars near U.S. military bases and been refused entry. ( I am not in the military, by the way. ) I have also had one ryokan in Kyoto refuse to take my reservation over the phone after I gave them my foreign name, even though we had spoken in Japanese. Oh...and I've had an empty beer can thrown at me on two separate occasions from a car with someone yelling "something gaijin." lol

The Japanese only thing at bars near US bases is especially prevalent in Okinawa. However, they don't explicitly say "no foreigners" or anything like that - that would be too openly discriminatory. They just simply put up a little sign that says "members only" and in Okinawa, that basically means "Japanese only". Everyone in Okinawa knows it.

There is actually a case of a very pro-American Japanese restaurant owner who made his own "members only" restaurant in protest. His definition of "members only" was "US military and their families". As far as I know, the restaurant is doing very successfully.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Strangerland,

Of course its wrong. But throwing up these signs in Canada or Australia for ex. would most likely put you out of business and get you on the evening news. In Japan, its less of a worry. If it was an issue the signs wouldn`t be up. Very simple.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Why is this still in 'Hot Topics' ?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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