Japanese Only

A link to this video showed up on BoingBoing today. In the 18 years I’ve lived here, the only establishment I’ve seen that refused foreigners and wasn’t a shady pub or run-down love hotel in a neighborhood full of foreign prostitutes or massage parlor-type place was a pachinko parlor on the outskirts of my hometown. Anyone who thinks that normal places in Japan–restaurants, hotels, public baths, shops, whatever–are in the habit of prohibiting foreigners from entering is mistaken. Since I don’t try to go into sleazy bars and such I’ve never, not even once, been refused service anywhere. The fact that there are a few businesses out there run by organized crime syndicates that don’t want my money doesn’t bother me in the least.

Rich Pav

Richard has been living in Japan since 1990 with his wife and two teenage sons, Tony and Andy.

8 thoughts to “Japanese Only”

  1. I Only saw a few places with the “Japanese only” sign, but I always hoped it was because none of the staff spoke no other languages apart from japanese. So it was to help avoid confusion and thats why some places accepted foreigners who came in with a Japanese friend (who could act as a translator).

  2. I came across one place, it was an open house. They were selling houses, and these were show homes in Kobe. The main reason, of course, is not discrimination, but rather the fact that foreigners, (well more specifically, Americans) don’t take their shoes off in the house and they don’t want to deal with explaining that to them in English… In addition to the fact that most foreigners won’t know to take their slippers off on the tatami mats… which are easily wrecked.

    I had no problems when I entered (albeit with Japanese escorts…lol)

    Rich… you’re not really a foreigner, as far as I’m concerned.

  3. Oliver, your hotel in Ueno was next to the red light district.

    Atom, I will always be seen as a foreigner, no matter how many years I live here.

  4. The only “Japanese only” signs I’ve seen are the same ones you’re talking about, in sleezy places you probably shouldn’t go anyway. However, once, my friend from America came to visit and wanted to go to a hostess bar, he is Japanese, but born in the U.S. and doesn’t speak the language so I went with him to help. Although I asked/answered all the questions and did all the translating they said that my friend could go in, but I couldn’t. Fine by me, but I thought it was a little funny.
    I’ve heard that it has less to do with the language (because money is language free!), and more to do with the customs of the people coming. Japanese tend to expect to pay the ridiculous prices and rarely complain if they are grossly overcharged, whereas “Gaijin” tend to protest the insane bills they receive. This is what I’ve heard from hostesses and customers (in my capacity as a teacher, no other research here!).
    The only other “Japanese Only” places I’ve heard about are those up in Hokkaido, mostly at Onsens or Sentos. This is mostly because of the Russian mafia from, again, what I hear.
    Foreigners are always foreigners, but it’s not always bad. Generally I am treated different than a Japanese customer but often it’s in a positive way. Old ladies on the train want to touch my hands and comment on how “white” and “beautiful” my skin is, or they like to touch my hair and say how it’s “like a sheep” and of course restaurant owners often will remember my order, or try to talk to me much more often than a regular Japanese customer. There are many times that it drives me crazy too, when they flip the menu to the English side when I walk into a restaurant, or say “How can I help you?”, but who can fault them? 90% of the foreigners that come here don’t bother to learn the language (just a rough estimate). The one time that it really gets to me is when I am with a Japanese person, and I am speaking Japanese to the sales staff and they answer to my friend instead of talking to me… that I won’t ever understand.
    Sorry, rant, this could be a whole post on my blog, sorry for taking up so much space. I LOVE HERRO FLOM JAPAN!

    butt?’s last blog post..I am a “Dick”

  5. Yes I know about the red light district of Ueno and it made getting back to my hotel each night, just that little bit more interesting.
    On nights with not much happening I would start play a game called hooker dodging.
    You start at one end of the red light district and have to make your way to the other side being accosted by as few hookers as posable
    and if you are approached you have to say something weird or gross to confuse them, like “Can i pay you in linden dollars?” or “No thank you Im about to go to my hotel room and do to myself what your offering to do to me for free.”

  6. A friend and I both study Japanese at Michigan State University. Once she was explaining to me that every Japanese language student feels a certain hidden pain regarding the knowledge that no matter how many years you’ve studies Japanese or lived in Japan you will never be accepted. She explained that truly learning Japanese language and being accepted is an unobtainable goal.

    Garrek’s last blog post..Episode 4: It’s Goin’

  7. In over 15 years spent in Japan, I too encountered the aspect that there was no way to truly ‘fit in’ into the society there. Not all societies are open. Japan is a classic example of this.

    I was turned away from some pretty decent places when I wanted to have a beer, though I was very warmly welcomed at others. Oh well, their loss…. ; )


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