HAMAMATSU, Shizuoka Pref. — Japanese should not discriminate against foreigners just because they’re different, a Brazilian woman suing a jewelry store owner here for alleged racial bias told reporters Tuesday.”Japanese society will have to coexist with an even greater variety of people in the future. Japanese need to solve conflicts that arise from others being different from them,” Ana Bortz, a 34-year-old journalist, said after the first hearing on her lawsuit before the Hamamatsu branch of the Shizuoka District Court.The lawsuit alleges that the owner of the jewelry store, in the city’s downtown area, tried to eject Bortz from his shop on June 16 after learning of her nationality. The shopkeeper, who was not named, claimed some of Bortz’s actions were suspicious, such as looking directly into his eyes and walking around the store in a different direction than most Japanese customers would.Bortz’s lawyer, Hideyo Ogawa, argued that his claims are far-fetched. “It is unnatural to be suspicious of a person just for that. Moreover, (the shopkeeper) cannot be justified for discriminating (against someone) for such small actions.”Bortz’s suit seeks a formal apology and 1.5 million yen in compensation from the shopkeeper. “Ana’s case reflects just one of the many acts of discrimination Brazilians in Hamamatsu face in their daily lives. I want the Japanese public to be more aware of the fact that such discrimination exists and must be dealt with,” Ogawa said.The court’s decision on the case, he added, will determine whether the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination — a U.N. treaty ratified by Japan in 1995 — can be applied to conflicts that arise on an individual level.The Rev. Roberto Kuriyama, a 56-year-old Brazilian priest who observed the hearing, said the result of the lawsuit is not as important as the precedent it sets. “The fact that she filed a suit itself is significant. People who were discriminated against began to speak out following her suit. We have to show that discrimination is unjust,” he said.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.