Israeli Guest: Hotel in Japan Cancelled My Reservation, Citing “War Crimes”

by SharonKurheg

Over the past few days, several news outlets have reported on a story about workers at Türkiye’s Antalya Airport refusing to refuel an Israeli plane after it was diverted due to a medical emergency.

Although the flight crew received permission at first to de-board and refuel, Turkish officials then delayed the decision, claiming permits were required to fuel the plane, Israeli broadcaster KAN reported. When officials finally said that the plane couldn’t get fuel in Turkey, the EL AL Boeing 737-800 eventually flew to Greece to refuel.

Türkiye and Israel are, of course, not the best of friends, in no part due to the current geopolitical situation in the region, including the war in Gaza.

a plane with text belowHowever, another incident recently happened that was on a much smaller scale.

“You can’t stay here”

CNN reported about a week ago that a hotel in Japan was said to cancel an Israeli tourist’s reservation because of “war crimes.”

According to the Israeli Embassy in Tokyo, the tourist said they received a message on Whatsapp from an employee at Kyoto’s Hotel Material. It had a message that the reservation they had scheduled for later that month had been canceled in response to the conflict in Gaza.

a building with lights on the side“We are sorry to inform you that, due to war crimes being committed by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) members in the conflict taking place in Gaza between Israel and Palestine, we are not able to accept reservations from persons we believe might have ties to the Israeli army,” was one of the messages they received.

The traveler in question made an initial complaint to the Israeli embassy in Tokyo, after which the embassy accused the hotel of “a clear case of discrimination that is not in line with Japan’s business law.”

No one knows why the hotel employee thought the potential guest had ties to the Israeli army.

The hotel got into trouble

After the traveler’s visit to the Embassy, Kyoto’s city government strongly reprimanded the hotel. The city has instructed Hotel Material, located in Higashiyama Ward, that such an act “violates a law prohibiting hotels and other facilities from refusing to accommodate visitors except under special circumstances.”

Article 5 of Japan’s Inns and Hotels Act specifies that business operators must not refuse accommodation except in specific cases. These include when the person seeking accommodation is a patient with a specified infectious disease; is likely to engage in gambling, other illegal activities or actions that may disrupt public morals; has repeatedly made excessively burdensome demands as deemed by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, significantly impeding service to other guests; or when the accommodation facility is fully booked or there are other reasons specified by prefectural ordinances.

“Our position is to provide safe, secure, and high-quality accommodation for citizens and travelers, and we will respond strictly to situations that do not conform to this, such as this one,” said a representative for the Kyoto city government to CNN. They added that a city representative visited the hotel in person to inform them of the legal violation.

Apparently (unlike the incident in Türkiye mentioned above), the person who was believed to have sent the WhatsApp messages was a low-level employee at the Hotel Material. They were not, for example, a general manager, owner or director.

Ido Bromberg, a political counselor at the Israeli Embassy, emphasized that Israel and Japan have no animosity.

“We know that this is not a characteristic of Japan in general or the hotel industry in Japan,” said Bromberg. “We know that the hospitality of Japanese hotels is excellent and extremely nice, so we hope that the hotel will take necessary measures to make sure this will not happen again, and with the specific employee.”

“We see this as a very singular incident, and we hope it doesn’t happen again,” Bromberg concluded.

“This serious incident appears to be due to an employee’s personal political views and is unacceptable by any measure,” the embassy said in a statement issued a few days after the event allegedly happened. “It is crucial that the hotel takes this issue seriously to prevent further harm and to uphold the values of respect and equality.”

The rest of Japan was outraged

“Who is this nut?” a Japanese journalist wrote. Japanese lawmakers also condemned the hotel’s actions as unacceptable, with one saying that the hotel’s conduct was a disgrace to Japan.

Israeli Envoy Gilad Cohen reported that the incident at the Hotel Material was not a reflection of Japan’s overall attitude, which has been welcoming and appreciative of Israeli tourists. “There is no antisemitism in Japan,” said Cohen. “There is a strong desire to host Israelis, and the El Al flights to Tokyo are full. This incident is an outlier.”

The traveler was able to make a new reservation at a different hotel in Kyoto and continued their trip as planned.

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Sayer of Thingz July 5, 2024 - 4:34 pm

While I’m glad this was just the actions of 1 zealous person, since Israel has compulsory military service, most Israeli citizens probably have ties to the military in some way. Just guessing here.

David Arnett July 6, 2024 - 12:34 am

Very true. Nearly every Israeli citizen is active duty, reserve, or former armed forces with the ability to be recalled. Even dual citizens born in the U.S. have to serve or apply for an exemption. Most Israelis support the military.
(Comment edited by YMMV to remove sections that were against commenting rules)

Mark litt July 6, 2024 - 7:24 am

Not zealous.

Someone who cares about human rights

(Comment edited by YMMV to remove section that was against commenting rules)

Boraxo July 5, 2024 - 4:53 pm

Pot kettle black

Christian July 5, 2024 - 8:24 pm

I just got the fake McAfee popup on this page. Just thought you should know. Other BA sites have had problems as well.

SharonKurheg July 5, 2024 - 9:07 pm

Thank-you, Christian. I’ll let them know.

almost local July 6, 2024 - 10:07 am

I looked at the hotel website/location on map. This is one of those “hotels” that popped up in response to Japan tourism craze, especially to accommodate the tourists that flock to the Gion/Pontocho areas in Kyoto. It’s basically a hastily renovated mixed use building with 6 rooms. I wouldn’t stay there anyways.


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