Hokkaido rewrites ‘condescending’ etiquette guide targeted at Chinese tourists

Kyodo, Staff Report

The Hokkaido Tourism Organization has revised a booklet on bad manners aimed at Chinese tourists after a local resident said it assumed Chinese lack common sense.

The new guide covers subjects ranging from shopping and hotel etiquette to how to use a toilet. It cautions against being late, breaking wind in public and stealing cutlery from restaurants.

An official at the Sapporo-based semi-public tourism promotion body said it came up with the idea of a do’s and don’ts guide last year after hoteliers expressed reluctance to host tourists from China. There have been cases in which Chinese tourists left hotel rooms dirty or made excessive noise.

As elsewhere in Japan recently, the number of tourists from China has surged in Hokkaido. Figures released by the prefecture show there were 218,600 travelers from China in the period from April to September last year, or nearly a quarter of all foreign travelers during the six months. They were the second-largest group by nationality after those from Taiwan, who numbered 260,500.

The official said the organization hopes the booklet would serve to resolve issues for innkeepers as well as making a stay in Hokkaido an enjoyable experience for Chinese tourists. It published the illustrated booklet in August.

But the booklet was titled “Hokkaido Ryoko Joshiki” (“Common Sense When Traveling Hokkaido”), with illustrations showing example after example of bad tourist behavior lined with big “X” marks.

A Chinese resident in Hokkaido saw it and complained, saying it gives a false impression to readers that all Chinese lack common sense and manners.

The tourism organization acknowledged that “its contents were one-sided,” and decided to revise it.

The title of the revised publication, which came out in March, is “Hokkaido Kokoroe” (“The Traveler’s Etiquette Guide to Hokkaido”). There are no patronizing “X” marks, and instead the guide explains what kind of behavior is considered bad manners.

For example, the old version indicated that ripping open packaging before purchasing a product, which is acceptable in China, is “a crime.” An illustration of it was marked with an “X.”

The new version says instead, “In Japan, you can buy products with a sense of security that they are good, without opening their packages.”

Phrasing has been softened, removing expressions that give the impression Chinese lack manners.

Moreover, the new booklet does not just target Chinese: It is available in English, too.

The revised version, however, still contains detailed descriptions that some might perceive as patronizing.

“Japanese etiquette is based on avoiding causing discomfort or nuisance to others,” the booklet says in its English version. “Accordingly, Japanese will avoid bodily functions such as belching or flatulence in public entirely, or perform bodily functions as discreetly as possible. Of course, these functions are a necessary part of human life, but please be modest and discreet when visiting Japan.”

Eighty-five thousand copies have been printed in Chinese and English each, and they are now being distributed at inns and other venues across the prefecture.