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Credit Discrimination Against Foreigners Surfaces at AEON

By: Jena Maddalino

Date Posted: 2000-01-28

The word xenophobic has often been used to describe Japan. Modern day Japan has seen a great deal of western influence as more foreigners work and reside in the country. Many foreigners have decided to stay for long years and work in Japan, thereby doing their best to integrate the society and its economy. Many of these foreigners are legal long-term residents - or resident aliens as they are usually referred to - and under normal legal circumstances, would be accorded the same rights as Japanese citizens except the right to vote. Legal residents are also subject to the same taxes as citizens, in the same way that they are subject to all Japanese laws.

Oddly enough, as Okinawa prepares for this year’s G-8 summit, an international event, it seems that foreign residents are also subject to obvious discriminatory practices. One company in particular, Aeon Credit Service, based out of Mainland Japan, seems to have committed a fault in this regard by refusing service to a legal resident simply based on the fact that she is, indeed, a foreigner.

The resident, an Australian lady who wishes to remain anonymous, applied for a Jusco Card, which is issued by Aeon Credit, and serves as a discount card (customers enjoy discounts of 5-15% off of select items) as well as a credit card for transactions at the Jusco department chain. A frequent shopper at the Jusco store in Chatan, she decided to apply for the card, as did her husband (a Japanese citizen). Although her husband received the card roughly two weeks after filling out the application, the resident was denied a card.

“When Aeon called me and said that I would not receive a card, I was told that my husband would be issued a card and I would not,” said the resident. “The reason given to my husband was that I was a foreigner and that foreigners were trouble.”

While it is understandable that a credit card company would deny giving a card to a short-term resident or even a student, it is puzzling that they would refuse a card to a legal resident, married to a Japanese citizen. This resident also maintains an established work history (5 years) as an employee of the Japanese government, and is fluent in both spoken and written Japanese.

Upon further research, it was found that the Aeon Jusco Card booth in Chatan posts signs in both English and Japanese that state the criteria for application: that you must either be a Japanese citizen or a legal resident with a Japanese bank account. It says nothing about being a foreigner.

When Japan Update phoned the Okinawa Branch of Aeon Credit, the office declined to comment at the time, stating that it would take a few weeks to formulate a response to our questions. The office was asked about Aeon’s policy on issuing legal residents a credit card, as well as whether or not their policy was simply to refuse a foreign applicant period.

In protest, the resident’s husband decided to cancel his Jusco Card with Aeon Credit Services, as they offered no real reason for denying his wife one. The final answer given to him was that “perhaps your wife wasn’t given a card because she cannot speak Japanese…"

Japan does have an anti-discrimination law and any legal residents who have experienced discrimination by any company are encouraged to voice their experience with the Human Rights Board located in Naha at (098) 854-7950 or the Tokyo Bar Association Center for Foreigners’ Rights at (03) 3581-2302.

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