TOKYO - A top notch Michelin-starred sushi restaurant in Tokyo on Monday defended its special reservation rules for foreigners after a report in Japan it had refused to accept a booking from a Chinese customer.
Sushi Mizutani, which has two of the coveted Michelin stars, told AFP it has an "across-the-board policy" of not accepting bookings by non-Japanese customers - unless they are made through a hotel concierge or a credit card company.
"(Non-Japanese) customers may not show up for their reservations," a member of staff at the restaurant said, adding employees do not have the foreign language proficiency to explain requirements to patrons.
"We prepare fish for the number of expected customers and have to turn down other requests for booking sometimes. We simply cannot afford it if people don't show up.
"We don't think it is anything discriminatory," he said.
The confirmation came after a report that the restaurant, located in Tokyo's glitzy Ginza district, had refused to take a reservation for Chinese journalist Mo Bangfu.
Mo, a resident of Japan for 30 years who is fluent in Japanese, intended to host three guests at the high-end restaurant, where prices start at 20,000 yen ($168) per person, the Nikkan Gendai tabloid reported.
The magazine said that as soon as his secretary - a Japanese woman - told the restaurant Mo's name and contact number, the person taking the booking suddenly changed his attitude and said "some arrangements were necessary" - indicating the reservation was not acceptable.
"We have an increasing number of cases in which people are abandoning their reservations," a restaurant worker told AFP, adding Japanese-speaking customers are called for reconfirmation a few days before their reservation.
The number of foreign tourists coming to Japan has rocketed in recent years as the value of the yen has fallen and as tensions have eased between Beijing and Tokyo.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he wants to attract 20 million foreign visitors a year by 2020, when Tokyo hosts the Olympics.
Despite decades of exposure to non-Japanese tourists, many facilities, even in cosmopolitan Tokyo, have difficulties dealing with people who they assume cannot speak the language.
Tokyo has a huge selection of top-class eateries, and regularly tops the global list for Michelin-starred restaurants.
No one from the Michelin Guide was available for comment.