Golf in Japan

Danny Choo is a guestblogger on Boing Boing. Danny resides in Tokyo, and blogs about life in Japan and Japanese subculture - he also works part time for the empire.
dannychoo_golf.jpg Photo of a netted golf practice ground discovered in yet another uncharted evening after-dinner walk. Golf is a popular and yet expensive sport to play in Japan - I'm guessing that its due to popular demand that one has to pay a bladder and a spleen to get membership to a golf club. Meiji Golf is a site dedicated to the buying and selling of golf club memberships. They list a price of 65,000,000 yen (about 698,586 USD ) to be a member of the Koganei Country golf club. Folks who have just laughed at the piffling 65,000,000 yen should check the requirements before laughing - no women or foreigners allowed - only Japanese males over the age of 35. Folks here are so keen on the sport that you often see them practicing in public. dannychoo_golf.jpg You may want to read the rest of this article which has more photos and shows how balls get back to the vending machine in my Golf in Japan article.


  1. Photo of a netted golf practice ground discovered in yet another uncharted evening after-dinner walk.

    So it turns out you don’t even have to be playing, for golf to spoil a good walk..

  2. Here’s something you’ll be puzzled at-

    In Japan, they sell (and many people buy) “hole-in-one insurance”. I shit you not.

    I have a good friend here, and he’s a professional insurance dealer. He explained to me that, upon scoring a hole-in-one, Japanese are expected to hold a celebration party by societal custom, and it’s supposed to be very extravagant. Think an order below a wedding. Well, a lot of people don’t have the money to cover such an extravagance, so they actually sell insurance AGAINST getting a hole-in-one to keep you from bankrupting yourself if you get LUCKY. If you get one and are covered, they pay insurance for covering your celebration party!

    Of course I thought he was joking, but his company has brochures on the plan- I have one in front of me. There are a lot of strange types of insurance in Japan, and that is one of them.

  3. @DUNCAN

    Japan is a notoriously xenophobic and misogynistic society. I had thought things were changing there, but obviously not at a fast pace if this club policy is any indication.

  4. “You may want to read the rest of this article which has more photos and shows how balls get back to the vending machine”

    The mental picture from this sentence did not involve the game of golf….

  5. There’s a Golf practice range like this in NYC – it’s on the chelsea piers, and you basically do your best to hit NJ across the Hudson. Again, it’s in a giant cage / net. It’s also 4 stories tall, not just 2.

  6. Are there no public courses? I know there are a few golf courses and country clubs in the US that don’t accept female or minority members still to this day. Augusta being the first one to come to mind. Members can bring whomever they want in as a guest. So when you say no foreigners and no women allowed does that mean allowed as members or into the club at all?

  7. @flosofl
    You wrote: “Japan is a notoriously xenophobic and misogynistic society. I had thought things were changing there, but obviously not at a fast pace if this club policy is any indication.”

    You need to back up a statement like that, because it’s a jerk-off over-generalization and you demonstrated you don’t know what you’re talking about. You paint a bad picture through deception. Having actual experience there multiple times for extended time with many families, you’ll find that mysogeny (hatred of women) is in no way a good description of Japan or its people as a whole.

    This is ONE golf club, which isn’t even a good place to golf. You can golf all over on real courses, including mountain courses that are amazing. This is just a shitty discount club in my opinion, but what you find is that some places of business don’t want to deal with the overhead of foreigners (needing to spend extra energy of services) to them language and otherwise.

    Also a lot of the places women aren’t allowed, women don’t really give a shit to go, not enough to demand or complain at least. There are plenty of clubs, hot springs, and everything else where all are welcome. If you start dunking into the hot spring without washing off first, they get pissed because you don’t understand the system and you dirty the water for everyone. Not because they’re a foreigner, but because they’re a dumbass. Much of this is just protecting a cultural expectation for their clientele.

    One guy was complaining on the net about foreigners not allowed in a hot spring, so he brought a lawsuit. I understand his position, but I also understand that a private business should be able to turn away anyone they want. It’s their business, their building, their loss or reputation anyway.

    Plus they may have a genuine rational reason, such as the time(s) that foreigners continuously come, ruined the tatami mats, dinner buffet, shit all over the bathroom and didn’t bother to listen to any instruction, while ogling the women and making them uncomfortable. All countries have people that have had it with foreigners mucking up an otherwise typical workday for them.

    I totally get it and I get the no-women thing if it’s a place where the business is created specifically to discuss business, smoke, act like assholes without worry of women around to insult or offend. Do you have a workshop or your personal space at home? Well imagine squeezing yourself into a 12ft apartment with your wife and tell me you wouldn’t like to have a men-only club to go to. We have them in the U.S. too. We also have women-only clubs. And places that just work that way without a policy to speak of, such as knitting clubs, or a mustache society.

    It’s a dynamic of being able to work efficiently. No foreigners might mean helping more of everyone else. It’s the same as having #2 set meals at restaurants. Try ordering off the menu there. Good luck. It’s a similar rationale. If you want to eat here, you order from the menu, so that others are served efficiently too. In other words, the culture favors non-douchiness and care of everyone, as opposed to just yourself.

    Unlike what you said, this club isn’t any indication of any general Japanese feelings, it’s club specific, not evidentiary of the country feelings or policies.

  8. I’ll support his statement about sexism, #10.

    Whether or not it’s explicit, Japanese institutions are set up in such a way as to discriminate. What did you do in Japan? Were you working? Wasn’t it clear as day to you that women are commonly pushed around, given crappy work or menial tasks, that they have no way to advance in companies, and that even their annual evaluations aren’t even taken seriously? How could you miss this?

    Regarding xenophobia, this statement says it all:

    “Plus they may have a genuine rational reason, such as the time(s) that foreigners continuously come, ruined the tatami mats, dinner buffet, shit all over the bathroom and didn’t bother to listen to any instruction, while ogling the women and making them uncomfortable.”

    Nice. If I owned an apartment in the US, by your logic I would be justified not renting to black people because they play their damn stereos too loud.

    “One guy was complaining on the net about foreigners not allowed in a hot spring, so he brought a lawsuit.”

    Here’s the one guy. Judge for yourself:

    Meanwhile, no lesser organization than the UN claimed Japan has “deep and profound” racism:

  9. An Inspirational Story
    Recently I was asked to play in a golf tournament.
    At first I said, “Naaahhh!”
    Then they said to me, “Come on, it’s for handicapped and blind kids.”
    And I thought…

    “WOW – I could win this!”

  10. “Japan is A xenophobic SOCIETY / THE JAPANESE are profound racists”
    “xenophobia / racism is deep and profound in Japan”.

    See the difference?

    Claim “a people” racist, then what are you?

  11. You can certainly claim a SOCIETY is racist.

    The US is racist, that’s for sure. But we recognize it, we have a dialog about it, and most importantly of all, we have anti-discrimination laws.

    Japan has none of these. This is reality. You can accuse the accuser all you like, but that doesn’t change it. Are you denying that Japan doesn’t have a problem with racist and sexist discrimination?

    A (Japanese) English teacher, to her credit, showed a video at my high school about the famous Jane Elliot blue eye/brown eye experiment. My job was to correct and respond to students’ opinion essays they wrote afterwards. Several students expressed relief that there is no discrimination in Japan.

  12. @ JTEGNELL

    Since boingboing seems to have banned me, I post anonymous. I had left a comment on your mentioned thread.

    To the contrary, I wholeheartedly agree with you on the prevalence of racism and sexism in Japan.

    As a Japanese female having worked to accomodate newcomers into Japan, I recognize sexism and racism here as in every place that I have lived so far (US suburbs, African villages and parts of Europe). I fight it and discuss it with my friends all the time.

    When you discuss discrimination you would simultaneously be questioning the notion of the society as a whole — what it is that creates an image of a totality in the presence of various internal dynamics that breaks it up.

    Treating Japanese SOCIETY as a homogeneous whole tends to let the dynamics overlooked, the voice of the suppressed unheard. Assuming things don’t exist because you don’t hear it further shuts down the channel.

    So I concur with you, racism and sexism are deep and profound in Japan. Look around and I am sure you will find many groups and individuals fighting for their rights, people you could really talk with. Dismissing the whole SOCIETY as racist and sexist just won’t make this happen.

    I cringe when I see posts about particular aspects of this place sliding too easily into discussions about THE JAPANESE, or JAPAN as a whole. Aspects that I often do not identify with creating generalizing, totalizing images of the place. Either I’m not Japanese as boingboingland tells me or boingboingland is not my place or both. No wonder I am banned. And you see, that’s why I talk of BOINGBOINGLAND ;-)

    1. Anonymous @ right on top of me,

      I don’t know why you think that you’re banned, but feel free to e-mail me to clarify the situation.

  13. Those are very interesting points you raise, and it’s a difficult problem to approach.

    Just to raise a provocative example, though, would you say the American south discriminated against black people, or was it a large number of individuals with the consent/assistance of the law? Is the southern society to blame, or should each individual be blamed?

  14. I’m a registered member, in good standing, but I don’t want to get caught up in this shitstorm.

    I live in Japan, I’ve studied Japan most of my life. I work here. I drink here, and go to hot springs here.

    There is discrimination in Japan. Someone above mentioned Debito about the lawsuit in Otaru over foreigners in hot springs. A lot of people love him up here, because he did that, and a lot don’t see his reasoning, and thus disagree with him. He blew things out of proportion a bit, and the result I can’t comment on, but it brought the issue into the limelight in Japan- foreigners banned from places just for being foreign, due to assumptions about them. The man is a professor at a major Japanese university, and he started as a foreigner- now a naturalized Japanese. So what do you make of that?

    Japan has the Burakumin, an entire “class” of people who don’t speak about it in conversation, they are no different than others, and are thought of below humans by some, why? Because of the jobs their ancestors once held. It’s like the pariah caste in India. Absurd. THAT’S discrimination.

    But to everyone here on BB, and elsewhere, who love to take any example at all, usually without knowing much about Japan except from BB and heresay from others or what they “think” they know about Japan, just please, if you speak, speak of what you know. BB is a wonderful site, and gives accurate views on Japan, but they aren’t of ALL Japan- BB deals in niches of wonder. So to you, who see a few tenticle rape simulator games, or a men only club, and start thinking “everyone there is misogynistic! omg!”, just stop it. Intelligent discussion is one thing, but if your only viewpoint is one thing, and you tirade against society for one thing, or even a handful, and you don’t know the rest well, stop it.

    There are people who constantly troll and apologize for Japan too, and they are almost as bad. Why? Because only things that ire others need to be apologized for. Japan is what it is, if you want to help it, explain the CONTEXT of what ires people, instead of apologizing for it. Context lets people decide their own opinions with facts, and not mask reality with fluffy forgivenesses.

    Yes, there are still Burakumin. They have people in office, though, as politicians. Yes, there is some misogynistic stuff, like the rape game earler, and SOME of the adult manga that is in plain view in any conbini 7/11 store. Japan has different attitudes toward nudity, and what is exceptable- so without that context, you’d frame everything with your own moral view.

    This club, no women? Remember the origins of your hallowed golf itself was supposedly “Gentelmen Only Ladies Forbidden”. And yes, we have men only clubs in the West, and yes, this club’s policy is not normal for Japan. Women love golf here as much as men.

    Basically, I won’t apologize for what Japan is, no matter what “view” any of you have on it. I won’t damn it either, at least not here. Context is what everyone here needs, and to get that- GO TO JAPAN. Actually study it at University, where you can be sure you’re getting facts. Talk with a number of people who know Japan well, not someone who’s even been there a few times as a tourist. Make an effort to make a Japanese friend or two, enjoy their company, and decide from them what Japanese are like. Ask them about Japan, as they know.

    Read, learn, and then comment before you broadly call an entire society of people ANYTHING. Discuss always, but don’t posit things as statements if you DON”T KNOW ENOUGH. Never be afraid to ask questions, just don’t state things that you can’t back up, based on a few incindiary items that call your attention!

    Whew. I never type long stuff, but this was needed.

  15. After my whining here, I don’t want anyone to have the impression I don’t like Japan.

    My wife is Japanese, and she and her family are among the sweetest people I have ever met. If I hated it here, I wouldn’t be renewing my contract for a fourth year. I just adore the children I teach, though, and I also really enjoy the ample opportunities I have to play with really good jazz musicians.

    I whine about the US all the time. Do I hate the US? Under no circumstances. It’s my birthplace. It has its fair share of faults, though. And Japan does, too. But they both have substantial good points, just like every country.

    But I will say this: in her last job, a coworker of my wife’s made lewd comments. She complained to her male boss, and was taken to task for sullying his reputation. She quit the job, but that shouldn’t have been necessary — and wouldn’t have been in most other developed countries.

  16. Anonymous is right in so many respects.

    Japan, to many foreigners, remains an enigma wrapped in a riddle and a lot doesn’t seem to have changed much since the days I lived there from 1970 to 1984, except that the price of membership in Koganei CC has more than doubled since I played some rounds there as a guest and still comes with the same restrictions as at that time!

    You don’t have to be an apologist for Japan or condone everything that is wrong by recommending the “When in Rome…..” rule to foreigners living there. Of course, some people, or businesses for that matter, can’t seem to resist the temptation to try and change the behavior or customs of their freely chosen host country rather than trying to figure out and follow the local rules of society and try to follow them.

    Personally that philosophy served me well and during all my years in Japan and travels all across the country, I was never refused service at a restaurant or entry to any Onsen and at 6’3″ with brown hair and blue eyes, certainly not because I was taken for a Japanese.

    To Danny: Keep those posts coming, they are always interesting, informative and often instructive.

  17. I was the previous commmenter #10 and I’m glad to have seen as I’ve returned a good dialogue ensued.

    We all have plenty to work on. Things are too damn complicated to make blanket statements about entire countries or even cities. And every time I think that laws shouldn’t inhibit our freedom to create or maintain a certain state of our property (like if we don’t like foreigners, or white people or black people or asians) I am able to see ways that laws might help prevent violence occurring. That is to say, I think you *should* be free to refuse anyone to rent for loud stereos or just being black (if that’s your opinion) but it likely won’t end well and maybe the laws in place help kill the monster while it is little.

    I think a UN inspector would find a deep and profound racism here in the U.S. based on statistics of salary or real estate, or country club memberships alone. And I think it’s tough to explain and we don’t deserve generalizations since many of us try to be inclusive to good people. The human brain does appear to have tendencies to generalization for protective purposes. If a redheaded guy mugged me, without reasoning, my brain wants me to avoid redheads now. There’s gotta be evidence of that.

    I still believe that if it isn’t causing problems or violence, and alternatives exist, then ‘Japanese men only’ businesses will continue. A new club could open up for everyone next door and maybe they will do better. Or maybe a new owner will realize that it’s worth it to loosen restrictions now so not to look like xenophobic women haters. Still, I like the idea of exclusive clubs if you’re the one benefiting and the atmosphere is somehow better for it. (I don’t know how, but I’m just saying). Unfortunately, if you can’t bring your best foreigner friend along, that sucks, but does it suck bad enough to take your megaphone into the streets in protest? Seemingly not. But we shall see.

  18. Regarding all the comments about racism, misogeny etc. Folks, it is overt in almost all countries and deep and profound in every country. Heck, America’s most famous golf club for corporate fat cats, Agusta is also exclusive. And the Royal St. Andrews Golf Club…same thing. My greatest past time is experiencing different cultures and food. But labeling an entire society because of the decisions of a few only leads to destroying the remaining beauty of that society. Westerners so often feel that they are ctting edge in everything. In a lot, yes, but not everything. As a westerner, I am the only non-japanese member of several Japanese golf clubs here in California. Sure there are some quirky things…but I don’t become prejudice over it….I rather live and love the enjoyment I have with them competing in golf….and my favorite….the 19th hole. Live and let live and let’s stop trying to make the whole world a damn Walmart. and while you’re at it…find a club you like and join it. For me…it’s my quirky, sake-drinking, Shashimi eating and most courteous of all people japanese clubs. Who knows…maybe next year I may find another vice to keep on enjoying life!

Comments are closed.