A Tokyo hotel has apologised and removed signs on its elevators that said, “Japanese only” and “foreigner only” as an influx of foreign athletes are arriving in the city, ahead of the Tokyo Olympics which begin on 23 July.
The Akaska Excel Hotel Tokyu in downtown Tokyo had put the signs up on Friday in efforts to prevent Covid-19 spreading within the hotel.
Photos of one of the signs shared on social media said: “This elevator is also available to foreign customers. Please avoid traveling with Japanese customers” and included a Japanese translation.
A hotel official who preferred to remain anonymous told The Strait Times on Monday that the signs were intended to ensure that hotel guests related to the Olympic Games would be kept separate from others staying at the hotel, not to discriminate against foreigners.
“We tried to make it easy to understand but ended up causing misunderstanding,” the official said.
He added that the hotel removed the signs on Sunday and was now determining which expressions to use instead.
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The signs drew sharp criticism on social media, with Twitter users and redditors referring to the phrasing of the signs as “apartheid”.
Others compared the signs with the US’s harmful Jim Crow laws that were designed to prevent Black people from voting in the deep south.
“Got some Jim Crow-style vibes,” one Twitter user said.
Another tweeted: “I’m no expert but I’ve heard viruses don’t check passports”.
A statement from the hotel’s management said: “We would like to express our sincere apologies for the inappropriate wording in the information posted in the building on 9 July.
“The postings you pointed out were already removed on 11 July. We will strengthen our internal system for checking postings to prevent such incidents from occurring in the future.
“We sincerely apologise for this incident.”
On Monday, twitter users shared photos that appeared to show similar signs that had been altered slightly to say “Foreigner Priority” rather than foreigners only.
The hotel did not respond immediately when contacted for a comment.
As of Monday, the city of Tokyo and its surrounding areas are currently under a state of emergency that is set to last until 22 August, as Covid cases have been climbing for 22 days straight, with the city registering 614 new cases on Sunday. Amid the rising cases it was also announced that spectators would be banned from nearly all Olympic events.
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