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Monday, 11 November, 2002, 14:46 GMT
Racist Japanese bathhouse fined
Men splash themselves with icy water in Japan
Splashing icy water shows virility but is taboo at baths
Operators of a bathhouse in northern Japan have been ordered to pay three million yen ($25,000) in damages to three men barred from entry because they looked foreign.


The company's behaviour amounts to racism - refusing entry to the baths goes beyond socially acceptable limits

Sapporo District Court ruling
The Sapporo District Court said stopping the men from using the facilities was unacceptable and amounted to racism.

The case against the Yunohana bathhouse in Otaru, on the northern island of Hokkaido, had been brought by an American-born Japanese man and two foreigners - one German and one American.

Correspondents say the court ruling was unusual and potentially important in a country where there is the perception of widespread racism but no penalties are specified for those violating the constitutional ban on such discrimination.

'Setting example'

The court judgement said: "The company's behaviour amounts to racism. Refusing entry to the baths goes beyond socially acceptable limits."

The case was brought by 37-year-old Debito Arudo, who changed his name from David Aldwinckle when he took on Japanese citizenship, Olaf Karthaus, 39, and Kenneth Lee Sutherland, 39, after they were refused entry to the baths two years ago.

Mr Karthaus said: "This has made clear that discrimination against foreigners is illegal.

"It will discourage other businesses from doing the same, so discrimination should decrease."

The men had also tried to sue the city of Otaru, 800 kilometres (500 miles) north of Tokyo, but the court ruled it could not be held responsible for failing to prevent racial discrimination in its jurisdiction.

Etiquette

Japan's public bathhouses have a strict etiquette which expects bathers to wash thoroughly before stepping into a communal hot tub for a soak.

Alcohol is taboo as well as unruly behaviour such as splashing.

No-one at Yunohana was available to comment on the verdict but a spokesman has previously said the ban on foreigners was introduced after visiting Russian sailors angered local customers by stealing their belongings and failing to obey the rules.

Japan's Jiji news agency said Yunohana began admitting foreigners in January 2001.

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Debito Aruduo
"We have a ruling which says yes racial discrimination is bad, it's illegal"
See also:

01 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
29 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
04 Sep 02 | Country profiles
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