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'No foreigners allowed': Survey shows heavy discrimination in Japan

40% are refused housing because they are not Japanese

TOKYO -- Nearly 40% of foreign residents seeking housing in Japan are turned down because they are not Japanese, according to a new government survey. Roughly the same percentage also report being refused housing due to the lack of a Japanese guarantor.

Nearly 27% of the 2,044 foreign respondents who had sought new housing within the past five years reported giving up on a potential residence after discovering a notice saying "no foreigners allowed."

"The landlord told [me and my husband] that the house is not for foreigners," a Filipino woman in her forties was quoted as saying in the survey, which was commissioned by the Ministry of Justice.

"We visited a different real estate agent, but they said a Japanese guarantor was required," she said. "We explained that we were both permanent residents, only to be declined because we did not meet the conditions."

These rejections, however, are not necessarily motivated by racism. Many landlords fear they may not be able to communicate easily with foreign tenants. Other reasons for refusal to rent include worries that foreign tenants will not follow Japanese customs, such as taking off their shoes inside the house.

The survey, the first of its kind conducted by the government, was aimed at obtaining a detailed understanding of human-rights abuses faced by foreigners as Japan at a time when the country is preparing from a dramatic influx in foreign visitors due to the coming of 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

The number of foreign residents reached an all-time high of 2.38 million at the end of 2016, up 6.7% on the year, according to the ministry.

The survey was conducted by the Center for Human Rights Education and Training across 37 areas nationwide between November and December last year. The organization mailed surveys to 18,500 foreign residents and received 4,252 responses.

Chinese and South Koreans combined accounted for over half of the adult respondents, followed by Filipinos, at 6.7%, Brazilians, 5.2%, and Vietnamese, 4.8%.

Of the 2,788 respondents who either worked in Japan or were looking for work here, 25% said they were denied employment because they were not Japanese. The report suggested that language ability did not appear to be the problem, as nearly 95% of those respondents said they spoke conversational, professional-level or fluent Japanese.

About 20% of those working in Japan said they received lower pay than their Japanese counterparts in the same job.

Nearly 30% of all respondents said they had been the target of derogatory remarks or insults due to their ethnic background in the past five years. Of those respondents, about 80% called the experience "unpleasant" or "unacceptable." However, only 11% had sought help or consultation in response.

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