The owners of a Tokyo hotel have been forced to apologise for signs on elevators reading "Japanese only" and "foreigners only".
The hotel has since removed the signs which were put in place after the anti-Covid-19 precaution sparked outrage on social media ahead of the Olympics.
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Tokyo entered a state of emergency on Monday amid concerns that an influx of tens of thousands of athletes and officials during the Games (set to run from July 23-August 8) will spread coronavirus.
Covid-19 cases are already rising in the Japanese capital.
Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu in downtown Tokyo put up the signs on Friday in response to guidance from Tokyo 2020 organisers.
A hotel official told Reuters the signs were aimed at ensuring the movements of guests related to the Olympics were separated from others staying at the hotel.
The official, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject, said there was no intention to discriminate against foreigners.
"We tried to make it easy to understand but ended up causing misunderstanding," the official said.
Outrage at 'disgusting' signs at Tokyo hotel
He said the signs were removed on Sunday morning and the hotel was now discussing with its headquarters what expression to use instead.
The signs triggered harsh criticism on social media, with one Twitter user tweeting: "Apartheid has been revived in Japan".
Another likened the signs to US "Jim Crow" measures, since struck down by courts, designed to keep Black people from voting in the US Deep South.
"The virus has nothing to do with nationality," tweeted Twitter user Anna.
Others labelled the signs "disgusting" and "appalling".
In a racist, xenophobic, and clueless move, #Tokyo’s Akasaka Excel Tokyu hotel has established separate elevators for “foreigners” and “Japanese” #COVID19 measures should be based on public health, not race,nationality, or ignorance. #Japan pic.twitter.com/PIGiUrDY3A
— Marc Yanofsky (@MarcYanofsky) July 11, 2021
The hotel "had no intention to discriminate"? Yet, that is exactly what they did.
— Michæl Lyons (@michaellyons) July 11, 2021
Just using appropriate wording like “elevator exclusive for Olympic delegation members” would have saved them
— toJapan+ (@chillininjapan) July 11, 2021
Japan has not seen the explosive coronavirus outbreak seen elsewhere around the world, but has recorded more than 815,440 cases and nearly 15,000 deaths.
Tokyo alone recorded 614 new cases on Sunday, the 22nd straight day of week-on-week gains.
Japan's vaccination rollout got off to a slow start and although it later accelerated, supply glitches are causing it to stumble.
Only about 28 per cent of the population have received at least one vaccine shot.
Spectators from abroad were already banned months ago, and officials are now asking residents to watch the Games on TV to keep the movement of people to a minimum.
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