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September 29, 2004

Arudou Takes Case to Supreme Court

Naturalized Japanese citizen and university assistant professor Debito Arudou (39, aka David Aldwinckle) has appealed his racial discrimination case to the Supreme Court, after a lower court dismissed his suit seeking compensation from a Hokkaido city government for barring foreigners from a local onsen. Together with German Olaf Karthaus and American Ken Sutherland, he filed the suit with the Sapporo District Court seeking ¥6 million in damages against the Yunohana onsen and the Otaru city government in February 2001. In November 2002, the court ordered the onsen operator to pay ¥1 million each to the plaintiffs but dismissed the suit against the city.

In an appeal to the Sapporo High Court, it was argued that the ruling was in contravention of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which Japan signed in 1995, by not introducing an ordinance to ban racial discrimination. While recognizing that the onsen's policy was "unreasonable discrimination," the high court ruled that "the convention has only general, abstract provisions recommending appropriate measures to eliminate racial discrimination, and the Otaru city government does not have any obligation to institute ordinances to ban such discrimination." Former American citizen Arudou, also an occasional contributor to ELT News, has been the highest-profile Western campaigner against racial discrimination in Japan for several years.

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