(Otaru-Shi Jinshu Sabetsu Soshou Bengodan)

(NEWS FLASH Feb 5 and Mar 5, 2003: WHAT ELSE YOU CAN DO:
SUBMIT YOUR EXPERIENCES OF REFUSALS ON THE BASIS OF RACE OR NATIONALITY TO THE SAPPORO HIGH COURT in what is becoming Japan's first class-action lawsuit on behalf of non-Japanese and racially-diverse Japanese. Please help out if you can.)

(full Japanese text, submitted to Sapporo High Court March 5, 2003)

(To be filed in late Winter 2005. Anyone who has been discriminated against in Japan under the definition of "Racial Discrimination " under UN Treaty can join. Information site in Japanese here.)

By Arudou Debito (debito@debito.org)
Original version dated January 9, 2003, revised many times since.

"Bengodan", or "Legal Team", is a group of volunteer lawyers, advisors, and supporters (very common for human rights cases in Japan) who work collectively and pro bono to help clients or groups which need court representation.

Arudou Debito, the sole Plaintiff in the Court Appeal against Defendant Otaru City (http://www.debito.org/otarulawsuit.html) for refusing to take effective measures against racial discrimination within its jurisdiction, is disputing the Sapporo District Court's November 11, 2002 ruling that, inter alia, Otaru is "under no clear and absolute obligation to prohibit or bring to an end concrete examples of racial discrimination by establishing local laws". On January 7, 2003, three lawyers joined to represent the case, expanding to more than twenty since.

A brief summary of the Bengodan's structure, goals, and membership follows. A list of related information links comes near the bottom of this URL.

Anyone, anywhere, is welcome to lend their name in public support of the Bengodan (there are no membership fees, although contributions are of course welcome from anywhere in the world via details below). The more, the merrier. Contact Plaintiff Arudou Debito at debito@debito.org.

Let me stress here that while financial contributions are of course very welcome, the most important form of support you can give us is keeping people around you informed of the issues and raising awareness. So if people speak ill of our efforts in public using arguments running on fumes or misinformation, please speak up and offer a correction or your opinion. That's fine. Really.

Final thanks: I am very grateful to the civic-minded lawyers who have stepped up to the plate, and that so many people out there have made great financial contributions. Thank you all very, very much.

Arudou Debito, Plaintiff
Sapporo, Japan


(Otaru-Shi Jinshu Sabetsu Soshou Bengodan)

1) Name: (in Japanese) 「小樽市人種差別訴訟弁護団」
2) Foundation: January 7, 2003
3) Office: Lawyer SHIBA-IKE Toshiaki
Hokkaido Goudou Houritsu Jimusho
Odori Nishi 12 Chome, Chuo-ku, Sapporo
4) Plaintiff: Arudou Debito
5) Defendant: The City of Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan
6) Site of litigation: Sapporo High Court

7) Membership:
a) LAWYERS (those both offering in-court representation and their name in support of this case)

Mr HIGASHIZAWA Yasushi, Tokyo
Mr NISHIMURA Takehiko, Sapporo
Mr SHIBA-IKE Toshiaki, Sapporo
Mr NIWA Masao, Osaka

Plus 21 other lawyers around Japan (as of Sept 9, 2003)

b) ADVISORS (those offering expertise, but not in-court representation)

The Japan Civil Liberties Union. (http://www.jclu.org)
MATSUMOTO Shoji, Professor, Faculty of Law, Sapporo Gakuin University
Jonathan Rankine, International Law (treaties), Miyazaki
Richard Ormsby, US Constitutional Law, Chicago, Illinois
Joshua Graubart, International Law, Duke University, North Carolina
More being invited.

c) SUPPORTERS (open to anyone, anywhere, who wishes to lend their name to the Appeal. Financial contributions welcome but not mandatory for membership)

Olaf Karthaus, Sapporo; Ken Sutherland, Sapporo; Hatayama Masako, Otaru; Douglas and Noriko Black, Yokohama; Lois Hashimoto, Canada; John Edward Philips, Aomori; Steven van Dresser, Yokohama, Reverend James Mylet and Makishita Noriko, WELCOME HOUSE, Sapporo; Ishimaru Shutaro, Sapporo; Colin Cummins, Sapporo; Gesa Oldehaver, Sapporo; Bern Mulvey, United States; Simon Jackson, Sapporo; Nishimura Daisuke, Mito, Dr Shawn Clankie, Sapporo; Kataoka Maiko, Kushiro; Jon Letman, Hawaii; Charles McLarty, Sapporo; Miura Mami, Sapporo; Nueno Yuki, Tokyo; Yvan Chartrand, Sapporo; Daniel Walsh, Osaka; Tim Greer, Sapporo; Kayano Shiro, Nibutani, Hokkaido; Dr Steve Emmet, United States; Satou Shojin, Otaru; Mikasa Shuuji, Otaru; Gwen Gallagher, Asahikawa, Hokkaido; Herb and Bernadine Aldwinckle, United States; Harry Sweeney, Hokkaido; Michael H. Fox, Hyogo;Joseph Tomei , Kumamoto; Charles B. Wordell, Nagoya;, Brigitte Moser-Hori, Sapporo; Chip Bozek, Iwamizawa, Hokkaido; Messrs Ivanova and Shvedkov, Sapporo; Norman Diamond, Japan; Morgan C. Benton, United States, Yamazaki Shunji, OASIS; Kashiwaki Yumiko and Miyamura Masanori; JEFP; Chris Pitts, Japan; Amanda Harlow, Sapporo; Paul Creager, Sapporo; Wako, Irene and Lillian Ono, United Kingdom; Mr Kuwabara, Sapporo; Kyonja Hwang, Sapporo; Mr Kishimoto, Sapporo; Joe Park, Japan; Ms Kuroki, Sapporo; Dr Keiko Yamanaka, United States, Mary Sutherland, United States, ,宮村 正則 さん, 工藤 Miekoさん, 佐々木 亮さん, 佐藤神父さん, 山上順子さん, 大塚先生, 中和泉さん, 柏木 由美子さん, 鈴木Tomoさん, Alana Schneider, United States; Joy Sutherland, United States; Lorena Fanti, United States; Marilynn Sutherland, United States; Kobayashi Tomohiko, Japan; Kevin Dobbs, Tochigi, Japan; Richard Thieme, Tokyo; Edward Haig, Nagoya; Paul Marshall, Aomori; Professor Mushakoji, Tokyo, Saitou Fumie, Tokyo; Ono Mitsuaki, Tokyo; Nancy Earth, Kagoshima; Chris McHarg, Sapporo; Colin Restall, Tokyo; Dr Christoph Neumann, Shinjuku, Tokyo: David Schneer, Hugues Richard, Germany; Scott Hards, Tochigi; Dean Garfield, London; 武藤久資さん JCLU, Tokyo; 上野さとしさん JCLU, Tokyo; 鈴木美愛子さん, Tokyo; 杉下奈央子さん, Kanagawa; 阿部浩己さん,Kanagawa; 弘中惇一郎さん, Tokyo; 坂本孝夫さん JCLU, Tokyo; 旗手明さん、外国人研修生問題ネットワーク, Tokyo; Lee Sunfun, whereabouts unknown; Kim Minjung, Tokyo; 天野 理 , 神奈川大学大学院法学研究科; Rich Ormsby and Suzuki Yumiko, Chicago, USA; Vladimir Marinov, Bulgaria, Hiroshima; Mark Schreiber, Tokyo; 旭川市の湯川界氏, Jools Collis, Osaka, (...plus many who chose to remain anonymous). Wish to join? Contact Plaintiff Arudou Debito at debito@debito.org.


Japan effected the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) on January 14, 1996. As the treaty explicitly states in Article 2: "1. States Parties... undertake to pursue... without delay a policy of eliminating racial discrimination in all its forms", (d): "Each State Party shall prohibit and bring to an end, by all appropriate means, including legislation as required by circumstances, racial discrimination by any persons, group or organization", at all levels of government. Unfortunately, seven years later, Japan still has no law against racial discrimination.

Consequently, Japan has public places and business establishments enforcing (often with signs out front) "Japanese Only" policies, refusing entry and service to all "foreigners" (judged by physical appearance). This behavior has been called "discrimination" by Japanese administrative, legislative, and judicial bodies, deemed unconstitutional under Japan's Constitution Article 14--yet is not "illegal", which means that no governing body has the authority to bring it to an end.

Japan remains the only OECD country without any law against racial discrimination. In March 20, 2001, the UN CERD Committee issued a press release on Japan's inability to follow the Treaty in its courts and in legislatures (excerpt):

"The Committee was concerned that the only provision in the legislation of Japan relevant to the Convention was article 14 of the Constitution. Taking into account the fact that the Convention was not self-executory, the Committee believed it necessary to adopt specific legislation to outlaw racial discrimination.

"Regarding the prohibition of racial discrimination in general, the Committee was further concerned that racial discrimination as such was not explicitly and adequately penalised in criminal law."


On February 1, 2001, three Plaintiffs (one German, one American, one naturalized Japanese) launched the "Otaru Onsen Lawsuit", suing a bathhouse (onsen) in Otaru, Japan, for refusing them entry in 1999 and 2000 solely on the basis of their race. They also sued the City of Otaru for taking ineffective measures against discrimination in their jurisdiction since 1993. On November 11, 2002, The Sapporo District Court ruled against the bathhouse, calling their refusals "racial discrimination", and "illegal" (as it went "beyond permissable societal limits" into "unrational discrimination" (fugouri na sabetsu)).

However, the Court also ruled against the Plaintiffs: "Defendant Otaru City, as it is a regional public organization playing a part in public administration, has the same duty as the national government to prohibit and bring an end to racial discrimination. However, this duty is no more than a political one, and concerning matters between individual citizens, this is interpreted to mean that the [city government] is under no clear and absolute (ichigiteki) obligation to prohibit or bring to an end concrete examples of racial discrimination by establishing local laws (jourei)."

This contradiction is the main basis of the Otaru City Appeal, and why we formed and joined this Bengodan. We believe all levels of Japan's legislative, administrative, and judicial branches have a responsibility to keep their public promises--both those enshrined in the Japanese Constitution and affirmed under international treaty--in order to create a society where everyone, regardless of race, nationality, or appearance, can have their legal, civil, and human rights protected.

To create this society, we, the undersigned, express our support for the "THE OTARU CITY RACIAL DISCRIMINATION LAWSUIT LEGAL TEAM", in hopes that the case that it pursues, the Otaru City Appeal, will help underscore and illustrate the need for anti-discrimination laws in Japan.


NOTE 1) This Bengodan has been formed to support Plaintiff Arudou Debito's Appeal against Defendant Otaru City. The other appeal, Defendant Onsen Yunohana's Appeal against Plaintiffs Karthaus, Sutherland, and Arudou, is unaffiliated with this Bengodan, as it is being represented independently and for-profit by original lawyer Itou Hideko.

NOTE 2) We ask that people assisting this Bengodan do so on a volunteer basis (legal representation is all pro bono), due to the financial straits of the Plaintiff. On November 11, 2002, the Sapporo District Court ordered Defendant Onsen Yunohana to pay each Plaintiff one million yen in damages; however, Yunohana took out a court order to avoid paying anything until the outcome of the abovementioned Yunohana Appeal. Otaru's largest bathhouse (and growing; yet still refusing foreigners who do not "understand Japanese"), Onsen Yunohana has thus frozen the legal fund indefinitely. This is why we ask for support in any way possible (just moral support is fine) from a public concerned about human rights and, more concretely, about Japan's future as an accepting home for people of differing backgrounds.

Otaru Soshou Enjoukai bank info
("Otaru Lawsuit Support Group" bank info)

otarusoshouenjokai arudou debito daihyou
(will all appear in the ATM in katakana at time of transfer:)

Tenbangou 151, Hokkaido Ginkou Sapporo Ekimae Shiten
Futsuu Kouza 1489924

The Hokkaido Bank LTD
Sapporo Ekimae Branch
Account name: (just found out that this, not the English, has to be used, sorry)

otaru soshou enjokai arudou debito daihyou

Account Particulars: 0116-151-90-1489924
Swiftcode: HKDBJPJT
ABA # 0116



Background to the case, including media and legal documentation:
More on legal costs and account details for contributions:
The Sapporo District Court Decision (Japanese text)
The UN Convention on Racial Discrimination (CERD)
UN CERD Committee Recommendations for Japan, March 2001
(March 20, 2001 UN press release) DEE30E727A90CAA9C1256A160033255E?opendocument
More on Plaintiff Arudou Debito:


SUBMIT YOUR EXPERIENCES OF REFUSALS ON THE BASIS OF RACE OR NATIONALITY TO THE SAPPORO HIGH COURT in what is becoming Japan's first class-action lawsuit on behalf of non-Japanese and racially-diverse Japanese. Please help out if you can.

(Sept 4, 2003)


For the record:
How this Bengodan came about:

(Made public as part of a larger Update on January 6, 2003)


December was a real rotten month. One reason was because the Otaru Lawsuit, which has effectively split into two lawsuits, found itself with only half the representation. First, about the split:

Suit 1) Defendant Onsen Yunohana, feeling misunderstood by the Sapporo District Court for having their policy of refusing entry to all "foreigners" (including Japanese who look foreign) judged as "illegal" and "racial discrimination", appealed against us three Plaintiffs.

Suit 2) is My Appeal (alone) against Otaru City (reasons why outlined at http://www.debito.org/appealwriteup.html, but essentially because if left unappealed, the ruling sets a bad legal precedent).

For Appeal One above, our lawyer, Itou Hideko, agreed to represent us, and charged us each 100,000 yen for the job.

However, for Appeal Two above, due to workload (and despite encouraging me to appeal against the City), Lawyer Itou declined to represent me. "File the case yourself as an individual," she told me on December 20, days after I received communication from the Sapporo High Court that my first legal arguments were due in court on January 13. Fat chance of me getting things in properly when I am neither a native speaker nor a lawyer.

In one of those moments of clarity brought on by extreme duress, I wrote an emergency letter to my email list of human rights organizations asking for help finding legal representation. Within hours, an important organization wrote back with advice on how to take a route used by many human rights litigants in Japan: Form a "Lawyers' Group" (Bengodan), with a "core" group of representatives, legal advisors, and supporters--all working pro bono.

(Interesting in lending your name to it? It costs nothing, and you don't need to be a lawyer. The more "Supporters", the merrier. I'll give you more information as it firms up.)

Meanwhile, I've got a week to get a response to the court. I feel like I'm in the middle of a John Grisham novel, albeit a character that hasn't even passed the bar. Nothing like flying by the seat of your pants, huh?


One last, very important thing: HELP!

I mentioned this before, but the million yen awarded us by the Sapporo District Court has been frozen indefinitely, thanks to Defendant Onsen Yunohana (which has made enough money out of the free publicity from this case to open a second franchise in Asari, at a time when many bathhouses up here are closing) appealing the case and taking out a court order. Hence we Plaintiffs (especially this one) are in dire financial straits, facing a rich and powerful business (which still refuses entry to foreigners who do not "understand Japanese") for who knows how long.

THOSE WHO WOULD LIKE TO HELP OUT FINANCIALLY can do so by seeing bank account details and court costs at:


Thanks. Sorry to keep canvassing.

Arudou Debito
January 6, 2003

Go to the Otaru Onsen Lawsuit Site