In general, Japan is very welcoming to foreigners. Nevertheless, people who are not ethnically Japanese are regularly shut out of certain bars and restaurants here. Some are shady nightclubs connected to the Yakuza the Japanese Mafia. But others are completely legitimate establishments that just don’t feel like dealing with gaijin.
Note that this is a question of ethnicity, not nationality. When I say "foreigners", I mean "people who don't look Japanese". Even a Westerner who's immigrated to Japan, speaks fluent Japanese, and become a Japanese citizen will find himself shut out of such places. On the other hand, a Japanese-American who speaks only English could probably fake his way in.
It's shameful that such blatant racism is largely tolerated Japan, a nation that prides itself on being a modern, influential member of the global community. But I can understand, if not accept, that some bigoted Japanese proprietors want to keep their businesses Japanese-only.
What I can’t understand, however, is why a Western professor would defend their decision to do so.
That professor is Gregory Clark, a former Australian diplomat and the current vice-president of Akita International University, where he teaches global studies and Japanese studies. Clark is also a frequent op-ed columnist in the Japan Times.
Clark has consistently argued that Japanese storeowners are justified in banning all foreigners if they claim they've had a bad experience with particular foreigners in the past. (Or, presumably, if they suspect they might have trouble with foreigners in the future.)
In one high-profile case, a Hamamatsu jewelry store owner, allegedly troubled by Brazillian shoplifters, solved the problem by banning all foreigners from entering his store.
In a second, a bathhouse proprietor in the northern port town of Otaru, allegedy troubled by drunken Russian sailors, responded by banning all foreigners, just to be on the safe side.
In both cases, Clark argued the race-based bans were perfectly appropriate. At the time, in a 1999 op-ed, he wrote:
Nor is there much interest in the reasons why a Hamamatsu jeweler might want to keep out foreigners when even the Hamamatsu police are concerned over the problem of petty pilfering by local Brazilian workers.Just as a pothead's spaced-out rambling makes perfect sense if you yourself are high (or so I've heard), Clark's arguments are airtight, as long as you share his fundamental premise that racial discrimination is a good thing.
The critics are now focusing on an Otaru bathhouse keeper who sought to keep out visiting Russian seamen. Many of these people are delightful. Even so, the fact remains that people who have just arrived from Sakhalin on unsanitary, rust-bucket boats are bound to cause problems ("meiwaku") in Japanese bathhouses. In Japan's person-oriented value system, causing meiwaku is a major sin.
Those incidents took place a while ago, but Clark is still sticking to his same discredited racial rhetoric today. In an indignant February 13 reply to one of his critics, who had the gall to accuse Clark of defending racism, he simply reiterated his Jim Crow views:
Far from foreigners in Japan having their rights abused, the Otaru bathhouse and the Hamamatsu jewelry store events that underlie the "racial discrimination" claims...are both good examples of foreigners abusing their rights in Japan.Uh... no, Professor. They didn't bar the entry of those foreigners. They barred the entry of all foreigners, just because of their race.
In both cases, the proprietors had suffered severe damage or loss from the criminal actions of certain foreigners in Japan. They had resorted to what they saw as the only defense possible, namely to try to bar the entry of these foreigners.
To top it all off, Clark's also not much of a stickler for accuracy. His claim of "severe damage or loss" at the hands of foreigners is at least partially untrue; the Otaru bathhouse in question actually banned foreigners ever since it first opened for business.
Gregory Clark is an embarrassment to the Japan Times and to Akita International University. To preserve their reputations and credibility, they should disassociate themseleves from Clark and his odious views.