Video of "Japanese Only" signs in Japan

Picture 5-64
Here's a video of signs in Japan forbidding non-Japanese from entering businesses.

This one is my favorite.


Entering in the foreigner will hold back while holding the World Cup for the following reasons.

• In the hall because there is no staff who understands English

• The card, the traveler's check, and the foreign currency: because it cannot use it at all.

Taking a picture in the hall outside the building are prohibited.



  1. Taking a picture in the hall outside the building are prohibited?! An outrage it are! Many are posts to be about carry list of rights of photographers in publics places. Cory Doctorow: it shall hear about this.

  2. this was because of soccer hooligan horror stories being given wide press before hand. The local businesses figured the Vikings were coming.

  3. Non-Japanese loves to take photographs of themselves posing outside the building with peace signs. :)

  4. Whites-only parking lots in Florida? Could you point out or recall an example (for a real business, not some sign a random redneck put up in his driveway)?

  5. By “foreigner” they mean “white people that like soccer”. I’ve seen the videos. You people are crazy.

  6. @ #6 – Gia, it’s not that I don’t believe you, but even in the deep back woods of Mississippi you won’t see this. Could you post a picture please?

  7. these signs are creations of an even worse translating system: Official English Education in Japan

  8. Um, hi. That video is almost two years old. The YouTube page has a news story from the BBC from the same time, indicating that the problem was known to the UN, and that the UN was asking for change.

    I am not sure, but I believe I heard that the Japanese government did something about this.

    Followup, please?


  9. Could someone explain why there is blatant racism like this? Maybe I’m misunderstanding something…

    @Gia I kinda find that hard to believe, could you post a picture please?

  10. Dear Jesanders:

    Why is there racism? Because we are a micron away from our monkey ancestors. Give it time. A few more millenia might do it.

    Why is there racism in Japan? Because Japanese are humans, like you and I.

    Why is there blatant racism in Japan. Ah, now that one takes a lot of explaining.

  11. @14

    Never a simple explanation, but the country is an island with a long history of complete isolation. They were a military dictatorship with a god-emperor figurehead up until the end of WWII, and ultranationalism has remained an extremely powerful force in Japanese politics. Not that history ever truly excuses.

  12. #6 Gia: taking pictures of the signage in supremacist’s parking lots is very dangerous. Ignore all of these users clamoring for pictures.

  13. Yeah, I’ve seen this coming for a while.

    Blame the sailors/soldiers (not the professional ones who actually CARE about how the behave on shore leave), I’m talking about the American and Russian ones who act like they Japan owes them a free run at the sake bar and their first-born daughter. They can make a bad name for other visitors.

    There’s some racism to be sure, but most Japanese just aren’t that fluent in English (despite it being required) and are probably fascinated by friendly gaijin but don’t want to make it seem like their imposing. Please, impose! Most of us like to talk about ourselves.

    Oddly enough, when gaijin are spoken badly of, it’s often behind the back by some authority figure who should know better. Yes, this includes some of the guards at Meiji-jingu.

    I shake my head…but this behavior is not unexpected.

  14. No matter how much I disagree with it, I respect their right as a sovereign nation to apply whatever rules they wish within the boundaries of their own land.

    The way I see it is “Their country, their rules. Don’t like it? Don’t go!”.

  15. My last trip to Japan in 2007 marks a similar experience to this. From 2004 to 2005 I studied at Waseda University in Tokyo and never had any trouble using my American or New Zealand based credit cards. The only problem I encountered were that many ATMs won’t take ATM cards from other countries, you’ve got to hunt out special ones at Citibank and certain Post Office Banks.

    When we returned for a 2 week long visit to Japan we were shocked to find out that our credit cards and debit cards (which everywhere else in the world have always functioned as regular credit cards) no longer worked there. We couldn’t rent a mobile phone and we couldn’t pay for our hotel rooms. We felt stuck and what should have been a fun trip back to a country that I spent years learning to speak the language was a painful ordeal full of worry.

    When we spoke to some officials at Japanese banks and the Japanese Visa Customer Service line we were told that there had been too many counterfeit foreign credit cards in the country recently and therefore none could be used. I hope that this situation has been resolved but I’m hesitant to go back to visit Japan for short periods of time, whereas before I would go out of my way to fly through Narita and spend a few days in Tokyo exploring before heading where ever else we would go but I’m not sure I’m up for it again. Add on top of that the fingerprinting at the border and I’m not sure how I feel about a country that I once loved.

  16. This is just a business owner getting fed up with the Ugly American (pardon the term, it’s just rude people that travel and expect the locals to humor their rudeness) expecting what the owner cannot provide.
    Doesn’t mean I condone it, but I do understand it.

  17. Since some of the signs in the video were in Spanish and Russian (or some language that uses Cyrillic) I doubt it was only Ugly Americans.

  18. I see signs like this a lot in the US. Except foreigner is alien and English is changed to Spanish.

  19. I’ve been in Japan for a bit over a year now, and I have yet to see a sign like this. I have yet to be barred from entering any place I wanted to enter.

    It looks like some of these are at rather seedy places to begin with, and you wouldn’t want to go in anyway.

    Not to defend Japanese racism. The honest truth is that Japanese people do harbor all kinds of subtle prejudices. Japanese people know in an abstract way that “racism=bad”, but they wouldn’t know racism if it bit them on the ass. They certainly wouldn’t recognize their own racism.

  20. Check out David Aldwinckle’s (now a Japanese citizen known as Arudou Debito) website that serves as a gallery used “for the sanction of public shame by putting up photos of those exclusionary enterprises”
    He’s an interesting character living in Sapporo that is fighting a little known human/foreigner rights campaign.

    As a foreigner living in Tokyo, I’ve only really seen these signs on seedy Hostess Bars where foreign tourists have gone not knowing how the system works, rack up a huge bill and then refuse to pay. The owners then decide that banning all foreigners is the easiest way to avoid the problem happening in the future. Not exactly fair, but understandable. But what really irks me as a legal resident in Japan is not being denied for credit cards (the practically hands these out to any Japanese person), having to have a Japanese co-signer for my cell phone contract and not being able to get a bank loan. Japan gives me the feeling of being welcomed as a guest but systematically discouraged from staying long term.

    That being said, every country has it’s challenges (and benefits) as a ex-pat. Japan is not exactly unique in this regard. So does our home country for that matter.

  21. I speak and read Japanese. My friend speaks and reads Japanese. We are both about 140 lbs soaking wet, so there’s no way either of us looks like a “soldier.” We were hanging out in Hiroshima one evening and we decided to go to a darts bar. A good idea to play some darts and meet some people we thought. There were no foreboding signs or anything like that, we simply walked into the bar and were immediately turned away on sight. The bar was about half full. At first we asked if we’d interrupted something (a private party, etc…because we didn’t understand the abrupt treatment), but no, the guy just told us “no foreigners” and sent us back to the exit.

    I mean whatever…I’m sure a private business is entitled to set the rules they want (I could regale you for hours on my theory about how Japanese business owners hate making money, or at least they seem to from their bizarre hours, treatment of customers, etc), but this blanket “no foreigner” policy reflects an inability to see any sense of scale or to compromise. Clearly my friend and I were no threat and spoke near perfect Japanese…but they still turned away two sources of income for the evening simply because of how we looked. Not cool.

  22. Japanese business owners hate making money

    I get that impression from reading the Japanese news every day. Okinawa is in a constant uproar about American soldiers, so they end up keeping the soldiers on base for a couple weeks. But the soldiers are the customers for half the businesses in the area. It seems like they just shoot themselves in the foot with this anti-gaijin hysteria. There was a big kerfuffle last week because a military jeep used a school parking lot to make a U-turn. Meanwhile, hacking your children to death and strangling your aged parents remains the national pastime.

  23. Debito is a malcontent who wishes upon a star that he could just wake up one day and be a Japanese in Japan.

    The fact that he complains about this not happening proves he never will be. The irony is he doesn’t realize this.

  24. someguy needs to change his name to someidiot. we have whites only parking all over southern virginia too.

  25. Meek Geek @26: I was over there in August/September last year, and I didn’t have any trouble with my Visa cards. And nobody took my fingerprints, at the border (?) or anywhere else. They did check my shoes — very apologetically — when I hopped over to Korea, but that seemed to be an ad hoc arrangement for the American airline I was flying with.

  26. @ Gia & Mikelotus, ss or it didn’t happen.
    I am really reluctant to believe that something like this could still exist in the US and not make national news. Googling “white only parking lot” brought up one guys art project wherein he put up a sign only allowing white cars to park. The image search brings up no signs. I’d be pretty astonished if these signs were as common as you were implying and no one had ever snapped a pic. Please try and give us some more info, or better yet send an email to cnn, this would be a big story.

  27. there are plenty of “white only” parking lots in America. They are not signed, but they do exist.

  28. @ Takuan
    Hmm. Well Gia said she still “sees” them, indicating that they were marked in some way, not just by having intimidating white guys mulling about. And for the record, I’m from the south, and I have never heard of overt racism of this sort by anyone in the public sphere, store or whatever. It is certainly possible but three anecdotes != a picture.

  29. just want to separate the issue of racism from the issue of the existence or not of certain signage.

  30. This is funny, the Japanese is telling US not to take pictures.

    Reverse it and the Japanese tourists here will have nothing to do!

  31. Just say: “I’d love to obey your sign, Mr.
    Xenophobic businessman, but I can’t understand

  32. Could someone explain why there is blatant racism like this? Maybe I’m misunderstanding something…

    I got into several heated debates in the past over whether these types of signs actually existed. I was accused of racism several times (why its racist to point out racism I’ve yet to find out) as well as told by several Japanese that I misunderstood, that there were actually very good reasons for this. My litmus test for such things is to simply reverse roles…how would I feel if i were the one who felt offended?

    BTW, I’d like to hear from the Japanese woman who browbeat a restaurant owner in Providence RI into removing a picture of an Asian woman he had in one of his ads for his grand opening. She felt it was sexist and promoted the subservient Asian whore stereotype (looking at the pic it was quite a stretch but, hey, who am I to judge?). The story was posted here several weeks ago.

  33. (ack, lost a long comment and writing again)

    The xenophobia in japan has been getting worse, from what I can tell.

    There was the recent raping of a 14 year old girl by a US Marine in Okinawa that they’re pissed about. I remember reading enraged articles in Japanese complaining about Condeleeza’s lame attempts to smooth things over. There was a huge rally protesting the US military presence last month with around 6,000 people.

    And now there is news of a stabbing and theft of a taxi driver in Okinawa by a Marine.

    There was also a gang rape case with the military at fault last year, and countless other things.

    Japan is pissed. The US military has plenty of fault in the current anti-foreigner atmosphere.

    The fingerprinting is a very new thing, I think it started earlier this year.

  34. The US military has plenty of fault in the current anti-foreigner atmosphere.

    Americans commit a minuscule fraction of the crimes in Japan. Despite claims that there’s very little violent crime by Japanese, the newspapers are full of it all the time. I’m all for getting the US military out of Japan. I think Kim Jong-il is in favor of it, too.

  35. #23 – Actually, English isn’t required. A foreign language is required, and most schools choose English, but a slim minority have Korean, Chinese, French, Spanish, etc…

    #26 – How odd, the local konbini, and I’m living kinda inaka, recently changed ATMs and the new one allows my CC. If anything, my sense living here is that the CC culture is [slowly] expanding.

    #32 – Lotsa 140lb soaking wet folks in the military. Even in the Marines, where I served.

  36. Ok, this is long, but I gotta set shit straight on
    this ZOMG! JAPANESE HATE FOREIGNERS! shit, once and for all. I see a lot of strange shit on Japan on BB enough that this article, the 2nd time it’s run on the Debito site, to register and comment.

    Fact is- these signs are very rare. I have lived in Sapporo, Hokkaido now for over 7 months, and have never seen one. I have traveled all over Japan, and I have seen many signs with directions for foreigners in various languages, about all kinds of strange things, but never an outright “no foreigners” sign, or anything that could be construed as such.

    I speak and read Japanese, and I work here, so I’d know right fairly quick if these were around. Sapporo is actually a great city for foreigners, there’s plenty of bars that CATER to them here! Hell, I myself have partied in clubs most Japanese can’t find, BECAUSE I am a foreigner, with incredible Japanese friends.

    It really is the lone assholes that come here to drink and pick up call girls, while not even trying to use Japanese, or ALWAYS DEMANDING an English menu, etc., that ruin it for the rest of us. Nice, and even plain dumb foreigners are treated fairly well here.

    Several people have commented on the recent events here- yes, recently, there have been schoolgirls raped down in Okinawa, and the shit has hit the fan there for Americans, and spread to all over Japan. People just last night in Tokyo were commenting on the news about that, saying they were concerned about the foreign presence there, and want the bases closed. I can’t say I blame them.

    The other BIG thing is a mentally ill guy from America has brutally stabbed to death a cab driver down there too, the news here says he claimed to be “hearing voices, telling him anyone would do, he just had to stab someone”. This has GREATLY exascerbated matters.

    Honestly, with the Japanese, it’s tattoos. There is a long social and religious history shunning them here, despite once rich tattooing tradtion, because of the recent Yakuza influence. I HAVE seen a sign before banning anyone with tattoos from entering a major onsen (hot spring) resort in Hakone, an awesome place called Yunesun, with coffee, wine, and sake baths.

    Visible tattoos can keep you out of the more popular, public bathing spots. That’s about it.
    That was, of course, written in English, as well as Japanese, if I remember correctly, as a warning to foreign guests. You could still wear a bathing shirt inside the resort to hide them if you had them though. It was more of a courtesy.
    I did know a girl once, an American, who had her Japanese gym membership revoked for having a visible tattoo down near Kobe, and that was quite a shock, but EXPECTED. I also know you can get away with tattoos the more remote the place you go- they need the business! Ask American tattoo artists studying in Osaka, down in Shinsaibashi’s America Mura (huge counterculture spot) for a good idea of what you can get away with. Specifically one famous place, Chopstick Tattoo.

    Xenophobia, racism, call it what you will, yes, it exists here, but not how you imagine. I am sure there are some remote places still left up here in Hokkaido that still have “no foreigners” signs, but I haven’t seen them yet. You will sense Xenophobia more in general comments about you here, like people are utterly surprised you can do simple things any Japanese can that they don’t expect you to, like use chopsticks well, carry business cards, know polite language, speak at ALL for that matter, and know, basically, anything of detail about social or religious customs.

    It will come across as such blatent shock so often so as to seem xenophobic framed as condiscendingly suprised towards your ability, if anything. You get used to it. You learn to make it your secret weapon for conversation. You become a small god when you start speaking good Japanese, and even more when you can drop some classical Japanese into your speech. Friends will find YOU!

    REMEMBER- Japan has nationalistic biases just like anywhere else, if not less. Can you name any country in the world that has all road signs in English besides the national language?? I don’t know any. The fingerprinting scheme is a fucking joke though. Thank some dude in the government for that shit, on the advice of his terrorist friend!

    Most Japanese would like you without knowing you, and would just be secretly wondering where you are from and if you are indeed another English teacher here! OVERWHELMINGLY, MOST JAPANESE love foreign culture, and meeting foreigners who show interest in them.

    LAST- Debito’s site needs updated, most of those signs have been removed or fixed amid the uproar, I believe. His site WORKS for what it is- an information source. He merely shows what was there. In fact, he openly promotes the other side, where they welcome foreigners! I might meet him someday here in Sapporo, but I can’t say whether he is one of those creepy folk who genuinely WISHES he could BECOME Japanese, down to the DNA. His site is like a public service announcement, and a social wake up call. THAT IS ALL.


  37. A few observations:

    – There may be a few places in the South that still have the “Whites Only” signs up, but that’s probably because they’re ratty, run-down places that no one cares about. Never underestimate the power of passive-agression.

    – I find BastardNamban’s apologia interesting, particularly how any foreigner with any tattoo might be banned from certain places, supposedly because of an association with the yakuza; reminds me of how some bars will ban anyone wearing a wide variety of fashions primarily associated with African-American youth because they’re supposedly “gang colors”. Nu-Jim Crow, anyone?

    – “Entering in the foreigner”, hurr hurr.

  38. #53 BastardNamban

    Can you name any country in the world that has all road signs in English besides the national language?? I don’t know any.

    Scotland (selected)
    Netherlands (selected)
    Canada (New Brunswick/Ontario/Manitoba)

    ..yes I can.

  39. Saint Augustine, Florida, Small parking lot.
    Bit too pissed at the time to whip out my camera for a picture.

    @18- Calm down spaze

  40. I’ve been denied entry to a bar in Sapporo BastardNamban, so this kind of thing does exist, even if the signs are less common than they used to be. As for Gaijin bars etc. they are a perfect example of the general Japanese response to foreigners, which is to keep them seperate. You are seen as a guest in the country, not an immigrant, no matter how long you live there. Japan has an incredibly restrictive and low level of immigration.

    And remember, Arudou Debito sued the onsen that was denying all foreigners entry and LOST in the Japanese Supreme court, on the grounds that denying foreigners wasn’t discrimination.

    So yes, Racism is alive and well in Japan, just as it is in many countries.

    But it’s a complex subject, especially when you consider Japan’s view of the rest of Asia. Really, if you are a white english speaker in Japan, (ie not Russian) you are generally looked upon VERY generously. (ie. the “Gaijin-san” stereotype) especially in the smaller towns.

    People of Chinese and Korean descent experience far far more racism and discrimination in Japan than white foreigners do; you just never hear about it.

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