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Thursday, 1 February, 2001, 11:36 GMT
Bath house in hot water
The island of Hokkaido
Thirty thousand foreign sailors visit Otaru each year
By Charles Scanlon in Tokyo

Human rights activists in Japan are planning to sue a local authority in the north of the country for allowing a bath house to refuse entry to foreigners.


One hot spring is said to have charged foreigners seven times more than Japanese while a restaurant chain put up signs saying 'Japanese only' in Russian

The port of Otaru on the northern island of Hokkaido might appear at first sight to be one of Japan's more cosmopolitan cities. Thirty thousand foreign sailors come visiting each year.

But until recently a number of hot spring resorts displayed prominent signs barring entry to foreigners.

They said they took action after Russian soldiers ignored local etiquette by failing to wash before getting in the bath. Some are also said to have drunk vodka and become rowdy.

When locally-based foreigners kicked up a fuss most of the establishments changed their policies.

But one bath house persisted, even rejecting an American-born professor who had adopted Japanese nationality.

Legal action

He was told that he still looked like a foreigner. He is preparing to file a suit against the owners demanding an apology and compensation. A Tokyo-based civil rights group now says it will take legal action against the Otaru authorities for allowing the discrimination to continue.

The group, Isshok Ikaku, says Japan has signed international conventions to abolish racial discrimination but local and central governments have ignored the problem.

The group also submitted a list of complaints to the Justice Ministry detailing another twenty allegations of discrimination against foreigners.

One hot spring is said to have charged foreigners seven times more than Japanese while a restaurant chain put up signs saying 'Japanese only' in Russian.

A video game arcade in Tokyo had a sign saying it did not want Chinese customers.

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See also:

01 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan relaxes rules for foreigners
17 Sep 00 | Scotland
Lecturer's 'gagging' claim upheld
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