Someone I know just obtained Japanese citizenship, but is originally European.

Various establishments state that they only cater to Japanese, is that strictly limited to ethnic Japanese or does it also include naturalised Japanese?

The person in question speaks perfect Japanese.

Would it be worth carrying their Japanese passport as proof of their citizenship?

  • 17
    Can you name some of such establishments, possibly with links? As far as I know most of these are run by racists/ultranationalists.
    – Blaszard
    Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 11:08

1 Answer 1


Depends entirely on the establishment. Those businesses set their own policies and get to choose who's allowed in and who's not based entirely on their own whims. Some allow people who speak Japanese, some won't let anybody who looks foreign. And prejudice doesn't have to make any sense: a while back, in the Otaru onsen case that ended up in court, one naturalized Japanese citizen was told that his Japanese-looking daughter would be allowed in but his more white-looking one would not.

And FWIW, "Japanese only" signs are a thing nearly exclusively in the adult nightlife/sex industry. I've never run into a single one in years of living in and traveling all around Japan, and the few times people have been hesitant about letting blond & blue-eyed me in, speaking Japanese has always assuaged their concerns.

  • I did run into this at a bar when I was in Japan. Of course that was about 20 years ago. A few friends and I were out for the evening and came upon it. We started talking to the bouncer outside and after several minutes of friendly conversation in Japanese, started to go inside. He politely stopped us and pointed to the No Gaijin sign. That he knew we were cool and not "ugly American" tourists made no difference.
    – Kevin
    Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 16:41
  • IANAL, but it's worth noting also that with citizenship such refusal may be unconstitutional and from what I've heard you may even have a case in court, though it's probably not best to follow up on it. As per article 14, "All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin."; on a personal note I have found that demonstrating ability to speak Japanese will be enough, and it's certainly worth trying if such an establishment is encountered.
    – q3d
    Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 20:03
  • I have a seen a number of "Japanese only" signs on regular bars and restaurants, even a couple in Narita (the city, not the airport). That said, you are right that they mostly appear on the adult nightlife/sex oriented establishments.
    – Aleks G
    Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 20:39
  • How did the court case turn out in the end?
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Jul 15, 2017 at 5:14
  • @JonathanReez It's pretty complicated: basically, the onsen was found to have engaged in unlawful discrimination, but the court simultaneously concluded that there is no real right not to be discriminated against... debito.org/otarulawsuit.html Commented Jul 15, 2017 at 10:18

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .