Japanese netizens were more than ready to dunk on his logic. 

The new coronavirus, dubbed COVID-19 by the WHO, has seen a spike in the number of infected patients in Japan. With anxiety running high for Japanese residents, some business owners have taken extreme measures such as banning Chinese customers.

However, in the wake of last week’s announcement of Japan’s first fatality from the virus, one ramen shop owner has established an even more strict ban: Japanese only.

This new rule was put in place at Tokyo ramen shop Sanji, located within Ueno district. Owned by @sanji_kinchan, who we will refer to as Kinchan, their newest social media post has caused quite a stir among Japanese Twitter users.

▼ Click on the image to see the full sign.
(Translation below)

“Starting from today, as a countermeasure for the coronavirus, my shop will begin a ‘Japanese only’ policy. I am responsible for protecting my family, my employees, and Sanji customers. This isn’t discrimination, so please be understanding toward this new policy.”

While it’s normal for the average business owner to look out for their family members, employees, and customers, Kinchan’s particular take is ironic if not confusing considering how Japan has the second highest number of COVID-19 infections in the world.

On top of this, the majority of those infected are Japanese. A wave of dissenting Twitter users flooded the post’s comment section.

“Disease doesn’t care about nationality.”
“The only thing you’re communicating is an encouragement of discrimination.”
“Rather than discrimination, this is a show of ignorance.”
“Saying something isn’t discriminatory when it’s obviously discriminatory is like a swindler saying they’re not a swindler, or a liar saying they’re not a liar.”
“Do you even realize that in Japan most people infected with the coronavirus are Japanese?”
“If you really want to protect people, then wouldn’t closing down the store be the best way to do it?”
“In Japan, there are more infected Japanese people than Chinese nationals. So starting tomorrow, you’re going to ban Japanese people from entering your shop, right?”
“Well, if I ever get infected, I’m going to your shop for sure now. P.S. I’m Japanese.”
“It’s too bad viruses can’t read English.”

▼ One shop in the ramen biz took the chance to counter back. The sign on the left translates to “everyone is welcome here.”

Though a majority of the responses to Kinchan’s post were full of anger and sarcasm, given the nature of the Internet, a few netizens agreed with Kinchan’s sentiments. One Twitter user took a more leveled approach and went out of their way to give productive feedback on the signage, recommending different wording:

“Right now the disease is running its course and spreading among Japanese people. Because of that, if you really want to protect your employees, your family, and your restaurant patrons, your rule should be focused on targeting these groups instead:

– Folks who recently traveled to China
– Folks who have contact with Chinese nationals often
– Those showing symptoms such as coughing, fever, and shortness of breath
– Those with a fever 37.5 Celsius and above (99.5 Fahrenheit)”

With all the backlash from Twitter users and fellow businesses alike, one would think the store owner would wrap it up with an apology or let the controversy tide over. However, the story doesn’t end here.

In less than 24 hours of the original post which spiked the temper of Japanese netizens, Kinchan released a two-part video response:

“So there’s something that I’ve been troubled by recently. It’s come to my attention that people are taking photos of my shop and posting them online, but some of these photos show the faces of my customers, and I even found photos of my son.

“I understand that my shop is receiving this type of attention as I’m the one who made that previous post. However, I must ask that you don’t trouble and involve those around me. Since they’re not directly related [to the post], it might be better to target me, no? Also, all this slander isn’t productive. Time is precious as well as limited, and I would like you all to use your time more productively for yourselves. So for today, let’s do our best!”

Taking photos without someone’s permission is socially taboo in Japan as it’s seen as an invasion of privacy, so it’s understandable as to why Kinchan would call this out.

However, the video response only served to further irk netizens. Kinchan directly acknowledged his role as the creator of the controversial post, but his lack of explanation and apology incited a few more fiery comments:

“Then why don’t you explain how ‘Japanese only’ works as a deterrent for infection when it comes to your employees and your regular customers?”
“Well, well, well. If it isn’t the consequences of your own actions.”
“If time is so precious, isn’t it common sense to just stop at this point?”
“Your heartless message as well as your lack of understanding when it comes to the transmission of illness is Japan’s true shame. Please think about how this all started. Your message from your previous post is still wrong and discriminatory.” 

One interesting thing we found with this whole debacle was that some Twitter users went to the point of categorizing the ramen shop’s new policy as a form of hate speech, given its underlying xenophobic message.

It should be noted that Japan passed a law against hate speech in 2016, however, no parts of this law specifically detail a punishment for hate speech nor does it outline as to what may constitute as hate speech. Instead, some localities such as Kawasaki have stepped up to the plate to self-determine their own hate speech laws.

▼ The Ministry of Justice’s “Do not tolerate hate speech” poster certainly made its rounds.

Whether or not Kinchan’s new rule for his ramen shop constitutes as hate speech is another conversation altogether, but government officials are currently scrambling with medical professionals to establish proper countermeasures against COVID-19’s spread in Japan.

We can only hope from hereon that those affected by the recent epidemic have a safe recovery, and incidents stemming from hysteria and/or misunderstanding of how disease transmission works do not repeatedly occur, such as the very recent coughing-man train scare.

Source: Twitter/@sanji_kinchan via Kotaku
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