#152: “The Onsen Discrimination case”

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"...although Japan's constitution forbids discrimination by race, there is no actual law on the books to enforce it...

...for years the problem was under carpet swept, allowing it to spread. Soon throughout Hokkaido--as well as Aomori, Tokyo, Shizuoka, and Okinawa--stores, restaurants, taxicabs, nightclubs, bars, and even a barbershop refused service to customers who did not "look Japanese". One bathhouse forced non-Japanese into segregated "foreigner baths", charging them six times the Japanese price. After the 2002 World Cup, establishments which sprouted "anti-hooligan" exclusionary signs simply left them up...

...[in 1996] Japan ratified the UN's Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 1996, meaning all levels of government are required to take immediate measures, including laws, to eliminate racial discrimination. To no avail. Nearly seven years later, Japan has not even introduced a bill into parliament on it....

...For generations, non-Japanese residents--even those born and raised in Japan--have been routinely refused simple credit lines, apartments (even in public housing), and civil service positions. They can also be deprived of health and unemployment insurance, pensions, and job security--expressly because they are foreign.

Moreover, foreigners are nowadays targeted as a social bane. Two years ago Tokyo Governor Ishihara called for foreigner roundups in the event of a natural disaster. Periodical media campaigns allege foreigner crime waves, with police issuing posters warning against "suspicious characters" (who happen to have darker skins and thick accents). The public have even been advised to notify police if foreigners are seen in groups speaking a foreign language. Racial profiling, local law enforcement officials glibly say, is merely part of crime prevention.

There is little that the million or so foreigners of racial distinction in Japan can do about this, except speak out (and face criticism for being "bad guests"), or quietly presume upon the eventual goodwill of the Japanese government..."

<FireFly_9> You may have heard stories over the years about the "Japanese-only" discriminatory policies that some places in Japan institute. The most famous case in recent years has centered around the conduct of an onsen (public bath house), who excluded not only foreigners, but their children who were born in Japan, and were, in some cases, Japanese citizens.
<FireFly_9> The case, whose background is described here, resulted in a landmark 1,000,000 yen judgment against the onsen owners. But there are complaints that the decision did not go far enough, so the verdict has been appealed. Updates to the case, along with a host of relevant background documents can be found here. I believe this case should be followed very closely-- its outcome could have a profound impact on Japanese society in the long run.
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