Lincoln Tan

Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

Japanese told to avoid Queen St

The antics of young people in the city have sparked action from the council. Photo / Dean Purcell.
The antics of young people in the city have sparked action from the council. Photo / Dean Purcell.

Japanese citizens have been warned to avoid Auckland's Queen St and its drunken denizens amid reports of sex attacks and violence against tourists.

Yesterday the New Zealand Japanese Society issued an advisory asking Japanese citizens to avoid the main thoroughfare.

"Avoid unnecessary visits to the city ... if you are approached by drunks, try to get away and head for a well-lit area where there are more people," it said.

"If you are threatened with a knife or other objects, do not resist but just give them what they want. Most important, you don't get drunk."

Society president Masa Sekikawa said the decision to issue the warning followed reports about excessive drinking in the central city and attacks on students and tourists.

A Japanese visitor on a working holiday visa claimed she was sexually attacked by a drunk assailant in Queen St while walking home after work to her central city apartment in March.

"I was totally shocked when this man grabbed my breasts and tried to lift my skirt as I passed him," said the 24-year-old.

"After the incident happened, I just cried and ran and ran as fast as I could until I got home."

The woman said she still has nightmares about the attack, but did not report it to the authorities for fear it would cause her to lose face.

The same month, Kiyoshi Inagaki, a 58-year-old Japanese tourist, was knocked out and his bag stolen during an attack at a bus stop on the corner of Albert and Wyndham Sts.

Mr Sekikawa said he also knew of a second Japanese woman who had been attacked twice in the city but was yesterday still too traumatised to be interviewed.

"To a lot of Japanese people, New Zealand is just a country that's green, blue skies and sheep where crime doesn't happen, so they let their guard down," he said.

"When they encounter trouble, many also choose not to report to the authorities because of language or cultural differences."

He said the advisory was not meant to paint Queen St as "off limits because it is a dangerous place", but an advice on what individuals can do to keep themselves safe.

New Zealand Working Holiday Centre director Nobu Terakado said he had also started to provide safety advice to his clients since the media coverage about badly behaved drunken youths in the central city.

About 650 mainly female Japanese students a year in their mid-20s come to New Zealand through the centre.

Last month, visitors from Japan rose 20 per cent to 3000, which was still below the May 2010 level of 5300 visitors before the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March last year.

Mr Sekikawa, who is also a member of the Auckland police Asian advisory panel, is asking police to issue a similar warning in other languages.

Police Asian liaison officer Jessica Phuang confirmed that a "central city crime prevention safety advice" was being drafted and would be distributed through panel members for ethnic communities.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown said alcohol consumption and its effect on community safety was an important issue for the city, but would not support a call for Queen St to be avoided.

"The mayor wants Queen St to be a place where Aucklanders and visitors feel safe while enjoying its entertainment and hospitality," a spokeswoman for Mr Brown said.

"A recently formed mayoral taskforce is working through an action plan to tackle alcohol-related anti-social behaviour in the central city."

The taskforce met for the second time on Wednesday, and among new initiatives were a plan to introduce one-way doors for bars, clubs and pubs after 3am and increasing the City Watch team numbers.

The spokeswoman said: "The implementation of the Alcohol Reform Bill will be the single most important factor in the council's ability to curb alcohol-related anti-social behaviour."

- NZ Herald

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