HAMAMATSU, Shizuoka Pref. — Letters, faxes and e-mail from across the country flood the office of Ana Bortz, encouraging her in her fight against discrimination.
The messages come in a variety of languages — mostly Portuguese, Spanish, English, Chinese and Japanese. “You are not alone! We are on your side!!” reads one cheering fax from Toyama Prefecture written in Japanese.
Bortz, a 34-year-old Brazilian reporter for the Tokyo-based International Press Corp. Television Network, filed a lawsuit last month against the Japanese owner of a jewelry shop in downtown Hamamatsu.
She claims that while browsing inside the shop June 16, the owner tried to evict her immediately after learning that she is Brazilian. “He was smiling at first and friendly, then asked me in English where I am from. So I smiled, too, and said I am from Brazil,” Bortz said. “The next moment, he came up to me with his arms wide open, saying that no foreigners are allowed to enter the store.”
Bortz said the owner showed her two posters inside the store: One written by a store staffer, reading “No foreigners allowed,” and another flier distributed by local police in the spring to warn local shop owners of unidentified groups of robbers.
Despite the owner’s insistence, Bortz refused to leave. Following a call from the owner, local police officers rushed to the shop. They left, however, soon after judging that the dispute was a personal matter between the shop and Bortz.
Through the lawsuit, Bortz is seeking a formal apology and 1.5 million yen in compensation from the shop owner.
According to Hideyo Ogawa, Bortz’s lawyer, the shop owner’s actions violate the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, a United Nations treaty ratified by Japan in 1995.
“Actually, my case was just one of many similar incidents that have occurred in this town. But I decided to take legal action because I thought somebody should stand up and let the public know that discrimination does exist in Japan,” said Bortz.
Brazilians accounted for 1.7 percent, about 10,030, of Hamamatsu’s 579,590 population as of July 31, according to the town hall. As the number of Brazilian residents increases, local police claim that more Brazilians are becoming involved in criminal acts.
Seventeen Brazilians were arrested in the first half of this year for violating laws, including criminal, minor offense and immigration control laws, up from eight in the same period last year, said Chikara Yoneda, deputy chief of the Hamamatsu Central Police Station.
Meanwhile, in the same jurisdiction, 411 Japanese were arrested in the first half of this year for violating the Criminal Law alone, according to Yoneda.
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