A man, wearing a shirt with the Japanese national flag and Rising Sun flag printed on it, takes part in an anti-China rally in Tokyo September 22, 2012. A flare-up in a diplomatic row over the uninhabited islands, called Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan, has triggered mass protests in China and heightened maritime tension as Chinese boats approached waters claimed by Japan.
CALGARY - Signage suggesting Japanese customers were not welcome at a Calgary karaoke joint caused quite the stir on the weekend. But a manager at the bar insists the sign was simply a prank influenced by booze that was never meant to offend anyone.
Thomas, who requested his last name be withheld, said he was shocked to find the sign at the entrance of LIPS karaoke bar when he and his friends went there Saturday night.
Translated from Chinese, the sign declared the Diaoyu Islands belong to China and that the bar would temporarily not be serving Japanese patrons.
The islands, known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan, have long been a source of contention between the two countries, with both claiming possession.
“I was shocked - Calgary is a place of multiculturalism,” said the 20-year-old Thomas, who is also Chinese.
“It was more sad than anything.”
He said he and his friends quickly left to find a different bar.
“There was no way I was going to sit there and promote their establishment if they’re going to support something like that,” he said.
A manager at the bar, who declined to give her name, said she was not working that night, but was instead enjoying drinks at LIPS with a friend of hers who happens to be Japanese.
She said joking back and forth between her and her friend, plus the influence of alcohol, led her to put up the sign as a prank.
“We drank a little bit and we didn’t think about it being an issue,” she said, adding the message was later removed.
“I apologize ... for the confusion.
“We didn’t mean anything to Japanese people. They are more than welcome.”
Ald. John Mar, who is of Chinese descent and whose ward includes the bar, called the sign “completely unacceptable.”
He said he would be surprised to see “geopolitical turmoil” from overseas land here in Calgary or in Canada.
“It has nothing to do with us as a country or a community,” he said.
Rocky Oishi, past-president of the Calgary Japanese Community Association, also questioned why an issue from so far away would impact Calgarians going to a bar.
“It is too bad people would feel compelled to use that as an issue here, so far, so remote from the place of dispute,” he said.
“If it was my wish to enter the premises, I would be a little offended.”