I was looking for an old, cheap wideangle lens for my camera last week, and decided to give Yahoo! auctions a go. They don't have eBay here, so it's the de facto auction site of Japan. I made it through most of the registration, but when I put in my credit card, it rejected it, telling me I should confirm the number and enter it again. I tried the same one a few more times, then a different card, and then another. No matter whether I used Visa or Mastercard, a check card or a credit card, it wouldn't go through.
I sent an email off to support, asking them what was going on. I had called my credit card companies and checked my online statements, so I knew there wasn't any sort of lock or sketchy activity on my card. About a week later, I got an email back from them:
"As a precaution against any trouble (phonetically spelling out to-ra-bu-ru in katakana), we have forbidden customers with foreign credit cards from registering with the site." They go on to suggest that I should try paying with a Japanese credit card, as if they give them out without twelve guarantors and a blood sacrifice. It may be doable if you're here long-term, but it's near-impossible for an exchange student.
That's awful thoughtful of them; I certainly see how they'd like to protect innocent little Japanese auctioneers from big, scary gaijin credit cards, but I hope they're ready for me to show up at the Yahoo! headquarters in Roppongi tomorrow, pretending to speak no English and represent the Japanese Foreigner Anti-Defamation League. Anyone want to come with me to film?
I submitted this to JapanSoc subtitled "Racism at Yahoo! Japan," opening up a big can of protest. I think racism may be a little strong of a term, but I'm not convinced that it's 100% incorrect, either. Unfortunately, with a country as homogeneous as Japan, in terms of nationality, race, employment, and lifestyle, the lines between racism, nationalism, and plain inflexibility blur. Coming from a country that likes to at least frame itself as open and accepting (despite plenty of places that doesn't quite apply), the unapologetic way Japan treats its foreign residents irks me, though it may be overstating it to call it blatant racial discrimination. I expect that reaching a conclusion about what accommodations I expect Japan to make for foreigners may take a bit of time.