• Kyodo


The Liberal Democratic Party appears to be against new legislation that would ban discrimination against foreigners, while some opposition parties back such laws, according to a survey released Thursday by a civic group.

The LDP and the Liberal Party believe antidiscrimination laws for foreigners are unnecessary or would be difficult to enforce, but the Democratic Party of Japan and the Social Democratic Party are considering submitting bills banning discrimination based on race or nationality, according to the survey conducted by Issho Kikaku, a nonprofit organization formed by foreigners living in Japan.

The poll asked political parties where they stand on the issue of foreigners being turned away at private-sector businesses such as public baths, bars and restaurants.

It was prompted by recent incidents in which several privately operated baths in Otaru, Hokkaido, turned away foreigners, Issho Kikaku said.

According to the survey, the DPJ said it is considering compiling and submitting an antidiscrimination bill to the Diet, while the SDP said it is aiming for quick enactment of a similar bill.

New Komeito and the Japanese Communist Party said they would consider an antidiscrimination law.

According to the poll, all of the parties said refusing foreigners entry to businesses violates the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which Japan ratified in 1996.

But the Liberal Party said that in some cases, such refusals may be warranted if the businesses suffered damages caused by foreigners.

Olaf Karthaus, 37, a member of Issho Kikaku and an assistant professor at Chitose Institute of Science and Technology in Hokkaido, said the survey clearly shows each party’s stance on the issue.

“We foreign residents do not have voting rights, but we would like the Japanese people to think about why such discrimination occurs here in Japan as the general election is nearing,” he said.

Because the U.N. convention does not designate any punishment for discriminatory acts, the Otaru Municipal Government has only filed a request with the public-bath operators to end their ban on foreigners, city officials said.

The bathhouses in Otaru imposed the ban after Russian sailors reportedly drank alcohol while bathing and using saunas. The establishments are maintaining the ban, saying they must respect their Japanese guest’s requests.

Upon imposing the ban, the bathhouses cited the results of a questionnaire that suggested about 30 percent of their Japanese customers would not use their facilities if foreigners were allowed in.

Analysts said some of the questionnaire results were probably a reflection of the recollection some Otaru citizens have of the Soviets driving the Japanese from Sakhalin after World War II and of local concerns about increasing Russian crime in the area.