Monday, March 05, 2007

Not Entirely Sure This is Legal...



First, some background:

Hiroshima has seen its share of suspicious behavior from the police in recent months; dance clubs were shut down in violation of a never-enforced dancing permit. Almost all clubs in Hiroshima have dancing, but only one club holds such a permit.

When these raids were conducted, "gaijin bars" and clubs were a particular target. The police often sorted the club patrons into three groups: Japanese, military, and foreigner. The Japanese were "released" immediately, the others often required to stay for questioning.

Barco Raided
Cover Raided
Continuing Story
Barco Videos
Owner's Statement

Being so close to Hiroshima, US military soldiers often come from their base at Iwakuni into the city on Fridays and Saturdays to the less reputable parts of town. I will be the first to admit I find their presence a little intimidating at times:

- They don't speak Japanese or bother to learn the customs
- Often they only come to have one-night stands with whatever member of the feminine persuasion they can find
- Many are agressive when drunk - a foreigner was assaulted this weekend by a member of the military while talking on his keitai to his mother (just standing on the side of the street)

El Barco, an advertised "international bar", was probably most affected by these raids. Its clientele consisting mostly of eastern European girls and US military forces, it was an easily identifiable target for the koban in these raids.

I will be the first to admit I find this area a little seedy, and the military personnel out of control at times; I wonder if this is the case in other areas of Japan supporting a military base like Aomori or Okinawa.

I don't know when it was posted, but I discovered this sign (above) on a club, Sumatra Tiger, adjacent to El Barco.

Approximate location of the club

Wouldn't such a sign demand that all foreigners (at least, "American-looking" foreigners) present their gaijin cards as proof that they are civilians working in Japan, and not affiliated with the US military? And of course, I assume no private club has the right to make such a demand, only the koban or government officials.

I know this is a different situation, but I couldn't help draw some parallels between this situation and the Otaru Onsen Lawsuit. After all, the main reason Yunohana excluded foreigners in Otaru (despite their logic that "we're discriminating against everyone equally"), was the presence of Russian sailors.

Look at the individual, not the group. True, sailors can be unruly, just as soldiers can, but to say it's a case of nationality is pushing the envelope a little far. I'm sure there are members of the US military stationed at Iwakuni who conduct themselves with a little more restraint than their rowdy, uncontrollable counterparts.

I'd like to hear from others regarding this sign. Has anyone had any negative experiences from members of the military stationed in Japan? Do you believe this sign is necessary?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it's perfectly legal because there are no laws against this in Japan. In the US, it'd be a different story.

Skippy-san said...

No the sign is not necessary. Iwakuni has some unique dynamics that make the folks go a little crazy on liberty.

First most of the folks assigned there are on 6 month rotations away from stateside bases.

Second, they have a pretty restrictive regime when they are at Iwakuni-curfews and such

Third they are young men in the prime of life and want to meet women. Now in my experience most guys stay with in the boundaries for behavior. Those that don't get caught and get punished.

The problem is that this is a minority of personnel stationed in Japan. Most folks here have their families here with them, they live their lives quietly and go about their business. That part of the story never seems to get told.

ターナー said...

That's true - there are no laws against racial discrimination in Japan. However, Japan is still duty-bound to enforce such laws according to the UN code. It's a paradox, really.