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  • Kyodo: MOJ says GOJ to scrap NJ registration system and Gaijin Cards

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on January 25th, 2008

    Hi Blog: Could the rumors have been true after all?

    Gov’t plans to scrap registration system on foreign nationals
    Courtesy Martyn Williams

    The government plans to scrap the current registration system for foreign nationals living in Japan and introduce a new resident registry system similar to that for Japanese residents, Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama said Friday.

    ”We are moving in the direction of deciding to abolish it,” Hatoyama told a press conference, indicating the Justice Ministry and the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry are working to craft a bill to that end to submit in next year’s ordinary parliamentary session.

    Under the current registration system, the personal data of foreign nationals living in Japan, including their address and marital status, are registered only on an individual basis and not on a household basis, hampering local municipalities from grasping the situation of foreign residents in Japan.

    Since foreign residents are not obliged to report to municipalities a change of address, it has also been difficult for the authorities to provide foreign nationals with information in areas such as school enrollment, health insurance, and residence tax procedures.

    The move to scrap the system comes amid mounting calls for action from local municipalities with growing populations of foreign nationals such as Brazilians of Japanese descent. Some of the children of such residents are failing to enroll in local schools at the appropriate times.

    ”We are unable to properly notify families having school-age children of necessary information on school enrollment,” an official from the town of Oizumi, Gunma Prefecture, where foreign nationals account for about 16 percent of the overall population.

    A social insurance consultant from the town, Shuichi Ono, said, ”Some foreign residents frequently move from one place to another. Once they return to their home countries, it is not easy to send them residence tax notifications.”

    Under the envisioned registration system, information on foreign residents will be handled on a household basis as well.

    The government is also considering replacing the current alien registration cards, which foreign residents are required to carry at all times, with a new certificate card.

    COMMENT: Pinch me. Let’s keep an eye on this one, people, as it’s fundamental to our lives in Japan–and getting rid of the Gaijin Card could be the best news we’ve had all decade. It all depends on what goes in its place. What’s with this “certificate card”, and will not carrying it 24-7 still be a criminal offense?

    As commenters below put well, it’s not like any government to give up a means of control over people, especially when you consider that practically all governments to some degree control information about their foreigners (not to mention their citizens). But imagine if the Gaijin Card Checks actually became somehow less nasty (or even nonexistent–but that’s sky pie at this point), and NJ were actually formally registered as “residents” with some kind of juuminhyou?

    In sum, will the new system be a way to ensure all people regardless of nationality are informed of and guaranteed the fruits of Japanese society? Or will it still just be a means to police them?

    If you see any more articles before I do, please add them to the Comments section in full text with links. Thanks. Arudou Debito in Tokyo

    31 Responses to “Kyodo: MOJ says GOJ to scrap NJ registration system and Gaijin Cards”

    1. Jake Says:

      Wow… Yes, I’d love to see any other news sources regarding this. I’m curious as to what measures they’re planning on implementing instead of alien registration, though. Could a more widespread use of biometrics be waiting in the wings? Very interesting.

    2. Ben Says:

      Other resources (all Japanese):

    3. nofj16 Says:

      Whoa-there! I just found this on

      Seems that there will be a system akin to the koseki-shohon or jyu-min-hyo for SPECIAL PERMANENT RESIDENTS. Others will have a form of gaijin-card given to them at the airport on re(?)/arrival. Presumably(?) this will be required to be carried 24/7, and make it easier to collect residency taxes than it is now. I see this as a tightening of the net on non-special permanent residents and other international residents, not a loosening, all enabled by this criminal fingerprinting process.
      I don’t trust Hatoyama as far as I can throw him Yokoso!

    4. Jake Says:

      Here’s an article in Japanese:

      1月25日13時2分配信 時事通信


      No time for a translation now, but it basically says that the authority will be transferred to the national government, and the card will be replaced with an alien registry system that utilizes an “alien card” (zairyuu ka-do). Since there is currently no obligation to notify immigration of changes in the info on one’s ARC, the new card would require that (i.e. immigration, not local authorities, need to be notified when, say, you move to a new apartment). PRs and zainichi will have to register but won’t need to carry the cards.

      It actually sounds like a step in the direction of more control than anything.

    5. Jason Topaz Says:

      I try not to be cynical, but I feel like this can’t be the whole story.

      This does not sound like it’s just about carrying cards – it’s about abolishing the registration itself. National and local government offices wouldn’t know what foreigners are living in their areas. Police would have no way to check on a foreigner’s visa validity. Sounds great to me! But is there any way in heck that Kunio Hatoyama is going to preside over this massive voluntary relinquishment of government control over foreigners?

      Hatoyama himself has as much as admitted (if I recall) that the new immigration fingerprinting system exists in part to fight domestic crime by foreigners. If they stop keeping track of where foreigners live, how can they track down culprits? This is also the guy (with Al Qaeda buddies from his basket weaving class) who “knows” there are terrorists actively moving about in Japan.

      I can’t believe it. I fear we might not be hearing the second half of the story: the alien registration system is going to be replaced with something far more intrusive and controversial. (boy, do I hope I’m wrong)

    6. Mark Says:

      Here’s another link to the news in Japanese.

      Sorry, my reading’s not up to snuff, but it looks like their merely going to take the registration out the hands of local governments and make it a more steamlined national registration handled directly by the Justice ministry?

    7. coulditbe? Says:

      Japan of the future?

      – Every resident (Japanese and NJ) and visitor to have biometric data registered
      – Every resident (Japanese and NJ) to be issued a card
      – Every permanent resident eligible to vote
      – Japanese language requirements for those wishing to emigrate
      – A proper Japanese language education infrastructure
      – Promotion of immigration to Japan as a viable place to live and work (not just as an expat working for a foreign company)
      – Equality for NJ under the law, with all UN mandates met

      A country I think everyone could live with!

    8. Ke5in Says:

      Beyond baffling … just … incredible *shakes head*

    9. Bob Says:

      Here’s a longer article in Japanese

      外国人登録制度を廃止へ 政府、台帳管理に再編
      2008.1.25 14:01
       ■外国人登録制度 日本に在留する外国人の婚姻関係や住所などを明らかにするために、住んでいる市町村に届け出て登録する制度。登録すると市町村から外国人登録証明書が交付される。登録時の指紋押捺(おうなつ)に人権侵害との批判が強まり、平成5年から在日韓国・朝鮮人らの押捺を廃止。12年からすべての外国人の押捺が廃止された。

      Though a step in the right direction, as it seems they’re aiming to make it more like the Japanese Jyuminhyou (possibly adding a little visibility to us married to Japanese),the’s one comment in the middle that hints it will still be buisiness as usual:
      “Consideration is being given to abolish the current ‘Gaikokujin touryoku shoumeisho’ (gaijin card)system for a new ‘zairyu kaado’ (resident card)”. I’d sure like to know what that is going to be!

    10. David Says:

      There’s an article on Yahoo Japan about it.

      It looks like they plan on eliminating registration at local offices and switching to a national registration system. (Juku-net for foreigners?)

    11. esmiff Says:

      This has got to be fake. Every nation in the world has some sort of registration system for foreign nationals. You can’t just scrap it, unless it means carrying around your passport at all times. In which case it is an even deeper dive towards wrist tattoos and special armbands.

    12. Jake Says:

      An Mainichi has it in English:

      Sorry for the comment flood.

      Japan to adopt new register system for foreigners

      The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications and the Ministry of Justice have decided to abolish the Alien Registration Act’s system of residence administration, and adopt a register system similar to the basic resident register system for Japanese, it has been learned.

      Registration of foreigners under the act, which formerly involved fingerprinting, will end and certificates of alien registration for special permanent residents such as North and South Koreans residing in Japan will be done away with, though it is yet undecided whether new certificates will be issued in their place.

      Both ministries plan to establish a framework plan for the new system by the end of March, and submit related bills to regular Diet sessions next year.

      Ministry officials said that registration certificates, which are issued by local bodies and which foreigners are required to carry at all times, will be abolished, and the Immigration Bureau will issue resident cards to mid- and long-term foreign residents containing their names, addresses and photographs. The cards will be handed to newly arriving foreigners at airports and to residents at local immigration offices. Local bodies that are shown the cards will record the relevant information in new registers.

      Registration administration for non-Japanese is currently carried out separately for each foreigner rather than by household. Under the register system, the idea of classing foreigners by household in the same way as Japanese and reflecting this in notification of change of address, births, deaths, marriages and other details is being considered. Officials say this will prevent people from being left out of national health insurance, nursing insurance and child welfare benefit systems.

      The most significant feature of the register system is that foreigners living in Japan would go from a state of simply being administered to being regarded as “residents,” thereby making it easier for them receive administrative services.

      There is a high possibility that the registers for foreigners would be special ones separate from those of Japanese. While special permanent residents such as North and South Koreans residing in Japan will be added to the register system, they will be exempt from the resident card system. Because of this, debate is likely to emerge over whether it is necessary to create new, separate cards or identification for such residents.

      (Mainichi Japan) January 25, 2008

    13. Paul Says:

      I agree that it is premature to be too elated over this…. It could turn out that we will need to have fingerprints taken at the station wickets each time we transit a train station….

    14. colin Says:

    15. Mark Says:

      More news here:









       ▽外国人登録制度 1952年施行の外国人登録法で規定。80年代から、登録時の指紋押なつに人権侵害との批判が強まった。91年海部俊樹首相(当時)が訪韓時に押なつ廃止で合意。93年から一般の永住者と特別永住者の押なつが廃止された。00年からすべての外国人の押なつが廃止され、本人確認は署名と家族事項の登録になった。一方、改正入管法で昨年11月から来日外国人の指紋を採取する制度が始まった。








      毎日新聞 2008年1月25日 2時30分

      Sounds like they’re just planning a new, centralized juminhyo system for foreigners. Still separate though. International families still will get the shaft.

    16. Sean Says:

      I really do hope this turns out to be good news. I somehow feel though that the next time I check on this blog I’m going to be hit around the face with a wet fish for being optimistic.

    17. adam w Says:

      jake -thanks for the translations and posts,but in your post number 4 you say that zainichis and prs wouldnt have to carry the card.
      the japanese version doesnt say that
      it says that special permanent residents like the zainichis
      dont have to.
      permanent residents are not mentioned as being exempt at all.

    18. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      I’ll retract all my complaints about the fingerprinting if this new system means that we no longer have to carry cards on our person at all times.

      Give us the same system that Japanese have — juminhyo administered at city hall; copies available on request. Forcing people to carry alien cards just turns ordinary people who accidentally leave their wallets in their desks or at home into “criminals”.

    19. Jake Says:

      Adam W — right you are. Sorry about that. I missed the “tokubetsu” part when I skimmed the article.

    20. Jeff Says:

      I would like to apologize in advance for being completely pessimistic. No one EVER gives up power or control voluntarily. This article or series of articles is simply an attempt to make news, with a positive spin, out of some vague press statement made to a press club. There have been no details put forth that have any meaning. Anybody who thinks that this change will benefit the fair treatment of NJ is kidding themselves. All this change in the law will produce is stricter control and monitoring of foreign nationals. Now all of the information on foreign nationals will be held in a single location unlike now where some of that info is kept at the local level. It will probably streamline everything and save the govt some money, but there is no way that NJ will be in a better situation than they are now. Nothing good will come of this. As NJ increase toward 3% of the population, the govt just simply needs to find a more effective way to monitor us. In my 10 years in Japan, I have never seen the xenophobia worse than it is now. Mark my words, things are going to get worse before they get better.

    21. debito Says:


      FOCUS: Municipalities want to set up register of foreign residents
      By Yugo Hirano
      January 25, 2008 15:38:50 Kyodo News Link unknown.
      Courtesy Martyn Williams

      MAEBASHI, GUNMA Municipalities facing a surge in the number of non-Japanese in their midst are calling for the establishment of a ”basic register of foreign residents” to make up for flaws in the existing alien registration system.

      Some city and town officials say the current alien registration system is ineffective as a reference for municipalities to provide non-Japanese residents with administrative services such as education and health insurance.

      They also point out that the system focuses on the registration of foreign residents on an individual basis and does not reflect their household circumstances. It also does not require them to notify municipalities of a change of abode when they move to another town or city.

      Officials of the town office of Oizumi, Gunma Prefecture conducted a survey of children not attending elementary and junior high schools in 2002 and found out that 160 of 622 children registered as foreign residents had already left for other places or returned home. The town, where Japanese-Brazilians and other foreigners account for about 16 percent of the population, carried out the survey ahead of others in the country.

      Emiko Yamada, assistant principal of Oizumi Kita Elementary School, said, ”Some children suddenly stopped coming to school. When we went to their homes they had already moved out. It is hard to trace them. We cannot send our counseling information to the schools in which they are newly enrolled.”

      Hiroe Kato, chief of public relations in the international division of the town office, said, ”Even if we know the new address of a foreign resident, the local government cannot change his or her registration unless he or she applies for change.”

      On Friday, Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama said at a news conference that the government plans to scrap the current alien registration system and introduce a new resident registry system similar to that for Japanese residents.

      Hatoyama indicated that the Justice Ministry and the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry are working to craft a bill to that end to submit in next year’s ordinary parliamentary session.

      He made the remarks against the backdrop of an increase in the number of non-Japanese residents in the country to more than two million, including Brazilians of Japanese descent.

      The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology learned in its 2005-2006 survey of 12 municipalities with many children registered as foreign residents that 1,732 out of 9,889 such children did not actually reside in the municipalities.

      The 12 municipalities include Ota in Gunma Prefecture, Kakegawa and Fuji in Shizuoka Prefecture, Toyota and Okazaki in Aichi Prefecture, Toyonaka in Osaka Prefecture and the city of Kobe.

      The administrative offices of 23 municipalities that are home to many non-Japanese have been requesting the central government to improve the alien registration system since they founded a council of cities with foreign residents in 2001.

      Among the 23 municipalities are the town of Oizumi and Ota in Gunma Prefecture, Ueda and Iida in Nagano Prefecture, Yokkaichi, Suzuka and Iga in Mie Prefecture and Nagahama and Konan in Shiga Prefecture.

      At a meeting it held in Minokamo, Gifu Prefecture, last November, the council asked the government to establish a foreign residents’ registry system to record information on non-Japanese inhabitants just as it does for Japanese citizens.

      Hiroshi Tanaka, a professor of Ryukoku University in Kyoto who has studied issues involving foreign residents, said non-Japanese have been excluded from the basic residents’ register aimed at offering administrative services to Japanese residents.

      He said that the Alien Registration Law is strictly designed to oversee foreigners, adding that he will be interested to see how the government will put services and control together in creating a foreign residents’ register. ==Kyodo

      January 25, 2008 15:38:50 Kyodo News

    22. Willie Says:

      You need pinching. Hatoyama wants control, and for every effort that gets made to help folks get health insurance, there’ll be 10 times as much put into collecting taxes.

    23. Simon Says:

      I’m married to a Japanese woman but we don’t have children, so I’m wondering about this: what “administrative services” are we prevented from accessing now, right now?

      Are people being refused service (medical, educational, whatever) simply by dint of not being listed on a family register?

    24. Paulo Motoyama Says:

      Link in portuguese , for the brazilians.
      Link em portugues , para os brasileiros.

      for me is one victory!

    25. adam w Says:

      these comments just show you can fool most of the people all of the time.

      do you really think they are gonna abolish the gaijin card and not
      replace it with something more restrictive??
      do you really think the government is doing this for the good of foreigners??
      this is about more control not less-people need to wake up and stop dreaming

    26. Willie Says:


      Cynically speaking, the government may want to provide the service of having a central database with your biometrics, tax details, and travel history.The current system may be too decentralized and liberal for the likes of Hatoyama.

    27. Kimpatsu Says:

      This would be a great move, but we still have to undergo the humiliating and unjust fingerprinting at the border.
      I’m looking forward to the day we can commit all the LDP bigwigs to trial at the Hague for race hate crimes.

    28. ben shearon Says:

      Did everyone notice the bit that alludes to Special Permanent Residents not having to carry the new cards?

      Like the fingerprinting, this tells me that once again the government is playing divide and conquer, and neutralizing the well-polished political machinery the zainichis can put into play.

      I predict the new system will be a centralized database on all foreign residents, including biometric information. The new cards will include RFID (radio frequency ID) chips, readable from a distance by anyone with the right equipment, from bored policemen to hi-tech stalkers. Anyone foreign looking who doesn’t show up on the scan then gets the third degree (Debito?).

      Or am I just being paranoid?

    29. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      Simon, they’re not being *refused* at all; it’s just slightly less smooth than it would be with Japanese-style jūminhyō. The government is using the “service” angle as a cover for the increased control that comes with what they’re planning.

    30. Willie Says:

      No, you’re being optimistic. This government is ruthless, but somewhat unorganized.

    31. Adam K Says:

      As many writes above, this is not going to be better for us. As long as that paranoid man called Hatoyama is in the office it will be worse and worse. International families like mine will be screwed more. We have already separations at Narita and in registrations too. We are treated like a sh** and cannot help. What I concern about is being forced to get JNHI which is expensive and doesn`t cover almost anything, but still have to pay 30%. Hospital stay cost fortune for people. All medical system sucks in this country. Local Taxes…well this is next issue it concerns me. I don`t know if I will be able to afford to pay them, it takes my one month salary, and it means I earn 11months a year, not 12, the last one goes for local oyajis. Help? Hmm…is there any social service in Japan? Single mothers have no help, they get little bit for children, still have to pay extraordinary maternity fees and delivery, schools are are not free as in Europe (at least compulsory education) stupid juku system which takes from parent`s pockets etc. What Hatoyama wants is control us, he knows we have no rights in this country. Japanese never go out to the streets to protest, but they show TV Programs about stuff which sometimes changes, but in our case what TV shows is always good for us. Bear in mind that Japan is central driven as in China, but showing us that citizens have votes. Regarding fingerprinting at Narita, it will happen in EU to all non-EU arrivals, so hope finally J people will get their fingers on to machine wherever they go for sightseeing and I`m with it. EU citizens will be excepted as J people here.

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