Complaints that Japanese hotels are treating quake victims from Fukushima prefecture as radioactive lepers and refusing them board have surfaced.
Japan’s ministry of health reports receiving a number of complaints from people forced from their homes in Fukushima prefecture, saying they were refused rooms at hotels and inns, apparently on the grounds that they came from the same prefecture as the crippled nuclear reactors and must therefore be considered dangerous.
The ministry is instructing local governments to tell their hoteliers that they should not refuse lodgings to people just because they have visited Fukushima prefecture, pointing out that the radiation levels involved are tiny and pose no risk to human health.
Such discrimination may be illegal under Japanese law, which only allows hotels refusals based on infectious diseases, suspicion of criminality and, of course, lack of room.
However, in practice hotels and landlords happily discriminate against potential patrons with no real legal repercussion, and for those affected is exceptionally difficult to demonstrate mysteriously disappearing vacancies are the result of such practices.
Further complicating matters is the fact that after the quake one large hotel chain has actually begun forcing those who wish to stay in its premises into signing a contract saying they will not sue the hotel for any reason, despite such provisions themselves being illegal.
There are now concerns that Japan may start seeing widespread discrimination against those from Fukushima prefecture, with some evacuation centres now insisting refugees submit to radiation screenings.
Discrimination against Japanese overseas also seems another unpleasant possibility – a number of nations have apparently been subjecting people leaving Japan to radiation tests with the intent of refusing them entry if sufficient radiation is detected.
The case has particular resonance in Japan – “hibakusha,” survivors of the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, have at times been the subject of discrimination due to the hysterical superstitions the public frequently attaches to radiation.
Online, the reaction has largely been one of disgust, but with the public unable to comprehend the notion that minuscule amounts of radiation are harmless, it does not seem likely the hardships of quake victims will be end with recovery from the earthquake itself.