I have to say I’m rather surprised, but pleasantly so, by the result in the Otaru lawsuit in Sapporo (in the north of Japan). A brief history of the case runs as follows: a Japanese bathhouse put up signs excluding ’foreigners’ (apparently due to bad experiences with visiting Russian sailors). One particular man took a trip to the bathhouse, and was refused entry for being foreign. However, he is actually a Japanese citizen, although white and originally a US citizen by birth. He, along with a German and an American, sued the bathhouse.

They won.

So is racial discrimination now really illegal in Japan? Even if it is (and it is, at least according to the constitution (in Japanese here), I think that they have a long way to go. The concept of ’us’ (Japanese) and ’them’ (a quasi-homogenous group consisting of everyone else) is so deeply ingrained in the culture and language. Only in Japan can you be asked, “how do people do such-and-such in ’abroad’?” as if the entire rest of the world somehow behaves as one! But today’s ruling is a positive step in the right direction.

Maybe someone at DoCoMo will take note...