I am a visitor from Singapore and was with my family visiting the information center of Hokkaido University (Sapporo) on the afternoon of June 13. We were there to browse through some brochures and check out some of the university products on sale.

As collectors of stamps from places of interest across Japan, we went to up the counter at the front to ink the stamp on our notebooks.

It was there that we met an unfriendly staff member manning the booth. While stamping on our notebooks, I observed her glaring at us as if our presence was unwelcome. She did not even greet us, which was unusual as throughout my experience in Japan, all front-line staff have always been friendly and greeted everyone with a smile. I tried saying a friendly hello to her, but she maintained her deadpan face.

I thought it was her character and was about to forget about it when I saw subsequent visitors — who were all Japanese — enter the center and were greeted by her. I found this shocking. Was this a deliberate discrimination against us Singaporeans and favorable disposition toward her own Japanese people? I don’t think we deserved such a treatment just because we are non-Japanese. Moreover, we were polite and respectful during the visit and did not engage in any rowdy behavior, unlike tourists from some other Asian countries.

I have always found Japanese to be exceptionally courteous, but this afternoon’s experience was a bolt out of the blue and indeed disappointing, especially since the visit to the university was one that I had looked forward to, given its prestigious reputation.


The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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