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  • SITYS: IC Chips in new NJ Gaijin Cards are remotely scannable, as witnessed in USG’s Faraday Envelopes to protect cardholders’ privacy

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on November 23rd, 2012

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    Hi Blog.  A little follow-up on something I have been reporting on for years now:

    As Readers of Debito.org know, Japan instituted its new Gaijin Cards (Zairyuu Kaado, or ZRK) from July 15, 2012, promising to promote the “convenience” of NJ residents by streamlining bureaucratic procedures.  But as I have argued, the Ministry of Justice’s main interest is not the convenience of NJ (or else it would have not left NJ in legal limbo when Japan’s Postal Authorities arbitrarily decided not to honor the old Gaijin Cards as a valid form of ID any longer — even though the MOJ acknowledged the old Gaijin Cards issued by them were still legal for at most three more years).  No, the MOJ’s interest is in policing NJ (well, “administering” (kanri) is how they benignly put it, as they explicitly noted in their Cabinet-level presentation last May about how to “co-exist” with NJ in future — essentially by cracking down on visa overstayers further).

    To that end, the ZRK has an embedded IC Chip with RFID technology, which, as I have argued for years now, is a means to remotely track NJ in a crowd and beef up racial profiling.  After all, if the NPA scans a crowd and sees somebody walking while visibly “foreign”, they now have probable cause to stop them for one of their patented ID checkpoints formerly permitted under the Foreign Registry Law.  Hey you, gaijin, why aren’t you showing up on our scanners?  Woe betide the naturalized citizen or Japanese of international roots, who now have the burden of proving somehow that they are not “foreign”…

    (As an aside, I have been told by at least one legal expert that spot checks are apparently no longer legally permitted, since the Foreign Registry Law has been abolished, but never mind — it’s still happening.  In fact, I just heard word the other day that somebody who got zapped for a Gaijin Card check in Tokyo wasn’t carrying it, had to be escorted home for proof of valid visa, and after showing it was still slapped with a 200,000 yen fine.  Waiting for final confirmation on that…)

    However, here’s where the SITYS (See I Told You So) comes in:  People who should know better have constantly argued that I’m donning a tinfoil hat for saying that embedded IC Chips are remotely trackable, and will be used not only for identity theft (for NJ only, since only they are legally required by law to carry ZRK at all times or face criminal penalty), but also for enhanced policing.  No amount of evidence presented (even “the scan-proof travel pouches” long on sale) has convinced them.  So let’s try again:

    Look, even the US Government acknowledges that their cards (in this case, my friends’ “Green Card” and Global Entry Card) need to be issued with Faraday Cage envelopes “to protect their privacy”.  If these cards were not remotely trackable, why would the USG bother issuing them with the following instructions?

    “Green Card” Faraday Envelope:

    Global Entry Card Faraday Envelope:

    Do you think the GOJ will ever issue a Faraday Envelope to NJ with their ZRKs?  Nosiree.  That would defeat the point of inserting the IC Chip in the first place.  (For the record, taking off the tinfoil hat and wrapping it around your card protects your privacy — until you get remotely racially profiled, of course…)

    Remember, protecting the privacy of NJ is not a priority of the MOJ.  As far as they’re concerned, NJ have no right to privacy, for who knows what they’ll get up to in Japan if they’re not properly “administrated”?

    So let’s face facts, everyone:  Embedded chips are there to track NJ and legally NJ only.  No more denialism please.  SITYS.  Arudou Debito

    66 Responses to “SITYS: IC Chips in new NJ Gaijin Cards are remotely scannable, as witnessed in USG’s Faraday Envelopes to protect cardholders’ privacy”

    1. TJL Says:

      You are going to love this! It seems that there was a small window (where a big SNAFU occurred) when NJ residents changed their old cards to the new ones in that the system was not running 100%…so instead of not issuing the cards, the “powers that be” decided to go ahead and push them through (this was soon after the July change was put into place). Well, I get a letter a while back stating that the electronic signature–“one of the anti-forgery measures”–was not properly recorded, and to remedy this situation I need to send the residence card in a special enevelope back to them, in which it could take up to two weeks to get it back (in the meantime, they recommend I carry the blue letter they sent, with me, at all times, along with my passport and a photocopy of the residence card.

      When I went to get the residence card initially, it was supposed to be able to be done while you wait. In my case, the system was down and they sent it to me a few days later. Another friend was able to get his card in a matter of minutes when he went to the immigration office. What I don’t understand is, why can’t this be remedied at the nearest immigration office while one waits, rather than the hassle of sending it to Tokyo and waiting for two weeks? Should a person need to return home for a family emergency, or merely for a trip, etc would the immigration officials at the airport accept a photocopy of the card, as well as the blue letter they are saying should be carried with you until the ammended card arrives back? This is a bit unclear.

      Here is the letter in its entirety (from the Immigration Bureau, Ministry of Justice):

      ========================
      “Regarding your Residency Card, due to an issue with our system, the electronic signature, one of the anti-forgery measures, has not been recorded.

      We deeply apologize for this inconvenience.

      If you would like to be issued with a Residency Card with an electronic signature, we will append an electronic signature if you will place your Residency Card into the envelope provided and mail it by December 28, 2012 (we intend to return it to you within 2 weeks of the date on which it was mailed). Please send the Residency card by way of the address provided on the enclosed envelope. When mailing the Residency Card, we would ask that you do not place the envelope into a post box, but take it to the Post office, and send it by registered mail. You will not be required to pay postage.

      Please note that even without a digital signature, your Residency Card is still legally valid, and there are a number of other advanced anti-forgery measures in place in addition to this, so you can continue to use the card as is, without fear of it being easily forged or altered.

      In addition, in the event that you do mail your Residency Card, please make a copy of it before sending it, and carry that copy along with your passport and this statement until your Residency Card is returned to you.

      If you have any questions, please contact the call center below.
      (1) Tel: 0120-830-887
      Use the following number when calling from a cell phone or from overseas
      03-5360-7673
      (2) Hours: 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM (except weekends and holidays)
      (3) Languages: Japanese, English

      ========================

      So, there you have it. I ignored it because like a dutiful little gaijin, I marched down to the Immigration Office to take care of getting the new Residency Card in July, and I am uncomfortable now not having a valid card with me in case I have to go overseas and do not want to risk the revised elctronic signature card not arriving before I have to leave, etc. And besides, from the wording of the missive above, it seems that it is completely voluntary to have this additional “anti-forgery signature” added at this point. I wonder how many people were affected by this…

      What do you make of all of this, ‘O Wise One?

      – Heh. Please scan and send me the blue card (as long as there is no personal information on it) and I’ll archive it here below your comment. This silly situation would not be tolerated if this were involving Japanese citizens. But it’s only disenfranchised NJ, so who cares — leave it up to the MOJ to sort it out (and hope you don’t get snagged, as you say, by the cops).

      After all, even before the MOJ had to update this system to the ZRK for their own convenience, back in the still-bad old days, when you were getting stuff sorted out by Immigration and you were waiting for your passport/Gaijin Card to be processed, you got no official proof that you were properly licensed then either. From the archives:

      =============================
      JAPAN TIMES, JUNE 29, 2004
      THE ZEIT GIST
      Visa villains
      Immigration law overdoes enforcement, penalties
      (excerpt)

      A university professor, who has worked in Japan for more than a
      decade, discovered his visa was three weeks overdue. He went to
      Immigration to own up — which, until recently, would have resulted
      in a lot of bowing and a letter of apology. But this time, after
      being questioned, photographed, and fingerprinted, he was told that
      he was now a criminal, warranting an indefinite period of background
      investigation.

      Problem is, officials refused to issue any evidence that his visa
      was being processed. Outside Immigration, he was still as illegal as
      when he walked in. Their advice? “Stay out of trouble. And remember
      your case number.”

      Contrast that with how Japan processes other forms of
      identification, such as driver licenses. The government mails all
      bearers a reminder before expiry. During processing, you get a
      temporary license to keep you out of jug in case you get stopped by
      the cops.

      But if the professor gets snagged for a random Gaijin Card Check, he
      might just disappear. With detentions short on legal advice or
      contact with the outside world, what’s to stop another summary
      deportation?

      Entire article at http://www.debito.org/japantimes062904.html
      =============================

      Hope that was wise enough a comment for you! :)

    2. TJL Says:

      I might add, the letter on blue paper came in 10 different languages, as well as in Japanese…

    3. Kevin Says:

      This is why I’m glad I have a drivers license. I went in on the expiration date on my alien registration card, and was told, I actually have until the end of my current visa because of the new changes and it is still valid. This was something my ward didn’t know anything about. Bluntly put, whenever I have to do anything legally concerning contracts these days, I don’t even acknowledge the existence of my ARC and use my drivers license, even had a few situations where I was actually asked if my use of my drivers license (while it was accepted) was because I wasn’t a foreigner. I pretty much demurred, stating only that I was 主民 and left it at that. No further questions were forthcoming. I’d advise nearly everyone who plans to be in Japan long term to go ahead and get a drivers license even if you won’t use it to actually drive. It almost always prevents uncomfortable questions about legal rights to services if presented immediately as the form of ID.

      It won’t help prevent random police checks, but it should avoid the necessity of pulling out your ARC/ZRK in most circumstances.

    4. sendaiben Says:

      @Kevin

      Completely agree. I haven’t shown my ARC to anyone for about five years now thanks thanks to aggressive use of the driving license :)

    5. Zerk Says:

      Please allow me to provide some more concrete information on the ZRK, based on the specification, and my own interpretation as a developer of smart card technology – though obviously not on this project, or I wouldn’t be talking about it.

      You can download the specification here: http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/info/pdf/120424/data_01.pdf

      The ZRK is an ISO 14443 Type B JICSAP 2.0 compliant card. The Japanese driving license (DL) and Basic Resident Registration Card (Juki Card – JC) also follow these specifications.

      The Japanese passport is also ISO 14443 Type B, but it follows the ICAO specifications, as do all passports with the e-passport logo.

      According to the ISO standard, these types of cards are designed to be read at a range of up to 10 cm. With a powerful antenna, it is possible to go up to 50 cm. Please draw your own conclusions from that based on your own level of paranoia. You should also remember that if you’re carrying a Japanese driver’s license, you’ve already got one of these cards, and your registered domicile is on the chip (registered domicile = country of nationality for non-Japanese). Although you need a 4-digit PIN to read this file, the police probably have other ways of getting that data.

      Reading the specification, we can see *some* of the information that is stored on the card. This doesn’t mean that we know about all of the information, because the specification is just the ‘open to the public’ version. There may be additional data stored on the card that can be accessed using commands other than what is in the specification. The only way to find out is to dump the memory of a card and see if it is hiding other secrets, but this would require the destruction of the card, together with a large amount of time and money for the process, depending on how secure the particular smart card IC happens to be.

      Readable by everyone who can get close enough:

      – The card specification version
      – The card type (ZRK / SPRK) – SPRK = special permanent resident

      Readable by anyone who knows the card number (this is the number printed on the card):

      – DF1, which contains EF01 – the image of the front of the card (which does not include the photo), and EF02, which is your photograph.

      – DF2, which contains EF01 – your address change history (what is written on the back of the card), EF02 and EF03, which relate to permission to engage in activities outside your status of residence, and EF04, which indicates whether you have an application for renewal/change of status of residence pending (again, stamped on the back of the card).

      – DF3, which contains the ‘electronic signature’ people are talking about above, and some kind of X509 certificate. It’s likely that the certificate belongs to the signer (MOJ). It could be a personal certificate for the ZRK holder, but I believe not, because JC is coming for non-Japanese next year, and JC is for personal identification (file your taxes online, etc).

      The signature only protects DF1 EF01 and DF1 EF02 (the image of the card and the photo) against modifications. The data in DF2 is not protected.

      Readable by the police/immigration:

      – All of the above, and possibly more.

      **

      Here are some conclusions:

      – Tracking is possible but only within 50 cm.

      – The ZRK allows anyone in range to know that you’re a foreign national/SPR. Bad.

      – The ZRK provides the holder a privacy level comparable to the Japanese passport, as the requirement to know the number is equivalent to the Basic Access Control (BAC) standard that this, and many other passports, follow. You can’t guess unless you have a serious amount of time and the card is in range the whole time. You are fairly safe from random stalkers who want to swipe your data as you pass by, provided that they don’t work for the government.

      – Interestingly, unlike the e-passport, there is no attempt to store the data on the card in a form that is easily processable by computer (compare with the ICAO’s Logical Data Structure). The ZRK is essentially an image of the front of the card and a digital signature to protect that image against unauthorized modification.

      – You can’t modify the data on a real ZRK. The card operating system will prevent you from doing it.

      – You can clone the ZRK onto your own smart card if you know what you’re doing, just like you can clone a BAC passport, but you would have to reproduce the physical card to pass any kind of inspection, and there are special printing features and holograms to make your life difficult if you want to do this. When cloning the ZRK, you cannot change the data (substitute the photo, give yourself a different status of residence etc) as the signature will not verify correctly. Except..

      – MOJ issued cards without electronic signatures (sounds like doing things properly fell victim to deadline pressure), so those cards are protected only by the physical security measures. This is a serious weakness if the physical security is ever compromised, because you can claim that your fake card is one issued to a permanent resident in July 2012, which is why the signature is missing. This problem will persist until July 2019 (PR cards valid for 7 years). There should have been a compulsory recall of those cards.

      – Fake ZRKs will happen if there is demand for it. The white/cream alien registration card was cloned by professional printers in China, and the clones were good enough that the police couldn’t tell the difference and had to verify with Immigration. Banks, phone companies, etc., don’t have this option, and will get taken in. The signature helps a lot to reduce this kind of fraud, but not with those bad cards out there.

      – All of the privacy issues that apply to ZRK also apply to Japanese driving licenses, so keep them caged.

      **

      – Thanks very much for giving us the current specs. I still say, and have argued before, that given the advance of technology, it’s only a matter of time before we get read-capability beyond 50 cms. When that happens, probably another SITYS entry.

    6. Becky Says:

      @Kevin#3: My job involves a lot of domestic travel, so I often get asked to show either my passport or my gaijin card when I check into hotels, and they always take it away to make a copy (I don’t like it, but I’m usually too tired to make a fuss, and I’m pretty sure the hotel clerks don’t like it very much either). Have you had the experience of showing your DL instead?

      – If you are a resident of Japan, with a Japanese address, even as a non-citizen you are required to show no proof of ID whatsoever, including DL. That’s the law. Have it enforced.

    7. Becky Says:

      @DebitoReply#6
      Yeah yeah I know all that, but as a hard working tax paying resident of this land, by the end of the day I really am too tired to argue about their petty rules. It’s that simple: I am just too tired to argue … pretty much like the average Japanese citizen.

      By the way, certain of my European friends aren’t in the least bit fazed by the ID rules. In fact, when they travel overseas they carry their passports everywhere in anticipation of being asked to produce them on demand. You’ve been spoilt, my friend.

      – You’re not getting it, my friend. If your European friends are traveling overseas, they are not residents of the land, so it’s not the same situation. It’s clear you don’t “know all that”, so read up. And if you can’t be bothered to enforce the law on your own behalf, don’t grumble here, lazybones. Now let’s get back on topic.

    8. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      @Becky #7 –

      To tie this back to the main issue being discussed: I’m not too worried about remote scans and skims, but I am worried about hotels and low-tech photocopies.

      If humanity magically acquires the computing ability to break the encryption systems used today (namely, the ability to find the prime factorizations of insanely large numbers with only two prime factors), using some beyond-science-fiction-ish quantum computing or some such, the resulting gains to society would be so great that the sudden lack of security in identification cards would be a minor pothole.

      What I am worried about is the low-tech dangers that come from the existence of these cards. You don’t mind carrying it and letting people copy it? When you hand that card over to the hotel to make a copy, you have no idea who’s going to see it in the future. You have no way of stopping some 19-year-old “freeter” working behind the desk from taking that copy, hand-writing in some new address, making a second copy, and opening a trading account with an online broker or bank, then having account statements sent to “you” at the address of his choosing. He then makes some trades, makes money, and when the government comes to take the taxes, there’s no one around to pay them. (Or worse, the tax office finds you at your “old” address and dings you for “earnings” that you never earned.)

      (I work in this field and though my experience with copies of ID was back in 1999-2000, I’ve processed account-opening forms before. There are safeguards such as tiny inkan from municipal mayors, and hologram-embossed stickers placed over sensitive info, but we basically have no way to tell if someone has very carefully modified the handwritten portion of their cards themselves. And this includes health insurance cards and driver’s licenses.)

      And just by having to carry the card, you run the risk of losing or misplacing it, and with that, the risk of identity theft. That risk on any given day is very small, and of course the glib response is that you shouldn’t lose your wallet, but it’s a fact of life that hundreds of wallets are lost and stolen every day, and all of the risk is placed on the card holder, with all the benefit (such that it is) going to Immigration and (particularly) the NPA.

      Forget about skimming machines and magical encryption-breaking quantum computers. It’s the cards themselves, and the fact that various organizations are demanding to see and copy them, that’s the problem. Do not hand over such sensitive personal info casually. This goes double when the demander is trying to pretend that it’s some kind of legal requirement when it isn’t.

    9. Joe Says:

      @Becky
      You’d be surprised how unwilling the hotel staff are to argue, too. Whenever I’ve been asked for my card, I’ve just said that I don’t have one. Whether they believe me or not is another issue, but nobody’s ever called me on it.
      Though some places might be more up for a fight….

      – Becky’s too tired to argue, and this has gotten off track. Somebody please answer her question about using a driver license as ID (even though as a resident you don’t have to), and let’s move along.

    10. Becky Says:

      @DebitoReply #7
      Actually I meant EU citizens, but yeah I agree, enough already. Thank you Debito.
      http://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/travel/entry-exit/eu-citizen/index_en.htm

      Mark #7
      Excellent post. And I don’t want to sound like I’m labouring the point, but I have had the startling experience of having my personal information sold to direct marketers via a hotel, and it was obvious to me that they DIDN’T obtain my info from the copy of my passport/gaijin card that the clerk insisted on taking. How do I know this? Because when I checked in to that hotel (a small one in a rural area) and wrote down my name, address and phone number, I made a mistake with the kanji and couldn’t be bothered to correct it. A few months later, tons and tons of obnoxious DM started showing up in my mailbox, all addressed with precisely the same mistaken kanji. So I guess this proves your point Mark, it’s low-tech, not hi-tech stuff that we need to worry about. However, how am I supposed to avoid writing my details in the register whenever I check in? How is anyone?

      – Write an incomplete address.

    11. sendaiben Says:

      @becky
      I have never shown ID to a hotel. Have been asked half a dozen times. Only once did someone push the issue when I refused, I asked to speak to the manager, end of story. You can bet those clerks might think about it before asking the next customer.

      Don’t give up your right to privacy and equal treatment willingly :)

    12. Netherlander Says:

      Sorry Debito, I know you want us to keep to the issue, but since some are talking about the hotels, and their racist policies, I wanted to also add my experience. When reading the experiences of some people here, it seems you guys simply refused to hand over your personal info to some パート, without giving any reasons. A few months ago when checking in to a hotel, I was already prepared for it, so when the clerk said; “the police require it”. I responded: “Fine, call the police, and let them check it, but I’m not giving you my personal info.” He then backed off. What do you guys think I should have said? Do you have any good ideas for responding to this in the future? Also I had booked the hotel in advance so I was prepared to demand a full refund right then and there.

    13. Becky Says:

      @SendaiBen #11

      I agree, but these days just going outside seems to be an exercise in giving up ones rights to privacy and equal treatment. Don’t you think so?

      When I check into a hotel, the chances are that I’ve already made the booking on a site like Rakuten (meaning that the hotel already knows my vital statistics, such as whether I prefer a non-smoking room or not, etc). I have to write my details on the registry. I’m usually expected to let the clerk swipe my card too, even if I offer to pay cash in advance. And in a big city you can be certain that cameras have been watching my every move since I disembarked from the train.

      After all that, it’s a bit petty to refuse to let them copy my gaijin card.

      – Becky, Becky, Becky, this is getting tedious. If it’s getting to the point where you think our suggestions are “petty”, then live your life as you choose and stop grumbling to us. But you’re commenting on a human-rights site, and this is how we choose to live our lives.

      Enough with the dismissiveness, already. You have our suggestions. Use them or don’t. Bye for now.

    14. Eric C Says:

      @Becky: Every time I read one of your puerile comments about Japan, my overwhelming instinct is to say, “Well isn’t that special” a la the Church Lady. So what if you want to wear blinders and think that Japan is hunky dory. Japan lives off of people like you who go along to get along.

      But, changing the topic, my main point is this: Why on earth would anyone in their right mind live in a country where they are subjected to a form of apartheid? Why should NJ have to carry ID cards and be regularly asked to show them when Japanese suffer no such indignity? I recall reading on this forum how one guy had to carry his ARC with him all the time, even when he did laundry, because he was stopped and asked to show it no fewer than 60 times.

      NJ out there, I’m speaking to you: It’s time to get out while the getting’s good. Just wait until the real stagnation, economic collapse and fascism sets in. In fact, let me phrase this a little more strongly: What the f*ck are you thinking by hanging around on that sinking ship? And, if you’ve got haafu kids, just what sort of future do you see for them? They don’t speak English well enough or think like gaijin well enough to compete outside Japan, so you’ve consigned them to a fate in some dismal Japanese company. NICE GOING you selfish b*stard! I hope a few decades of cushy English teaching work for you was worth sacrificing your children’s future.

    15. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      @Becky #13

      The other dangers you mention have built-in safeguards: you’re not liable for bogus charges with your credit card (which is one reason why their use has exploded in recent years). The ubiquitous public cameras don’t know that it’s you they’re seeing, unless they’ve got them networked from your front door all the way to the train station.

      Where the rights violation, and un-defendable danger, begin are with the alien card photocopying. The default (and the extent of the law) is to write your name and address. Every customer does this, and those who are truly worried about their private information are free to write false or incomplete addresses, or even fake names (as celebrities have often done when checking in).

      A few years ago, the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare started asking for the passport numbers of guests having no address in Japan. Some hotels then enforced this (perhaps at the National Police Agency’s request) on an additional class of guests, namely those living in Japan but with foreign nationality. Having to write a passport number in the guest register is a slightly greater imposition, but not much identity theft can be done with just a passport number (and you can always write a fake or outdated number).

      We’re moving upwards on the danger scale, and there are two more levels to go.

      Next is having your passport photocopied. In Europe, outside their home countries, travellers routinely submit to this. But there, it’s everyone. Here, it’s only one small class of customers. So if a hotel employee is determined to pull some kind of scam with photocopied guest IDs, the chance of him or her picking you is a little higher than it would be in Poland or Austria.

      Now we get to where you really are in measurable danger: the demands to see and copy alien cards. Mere possession of an alien card unequivocally indicates that the MHLW’s new law doesn’t apply to you: people without addresses in Japan can’t have alien cards, and people who have alien cards definitely have domestic addresses. So it’s not like the hotels are “confused”. And the alien cards have a lot more personal info on them than any other form of identification. The ZRK improves on this, thankfully, particularly because it no longer reveals the holder’s employer and address where employed. (Imagine you live alone. A thief calls your workplace and asks to speak to you. While on his mobile phone with you, the thief visits your vacant home — the address to which he also has — and steals from you. Probable? No. Possible? Sure. More possible than if you only had to write your address by hand, and could fudge details if you felt unsafe? Absolutely.)

      And a photocopy of this card, as I described in my post #8, really is something that an identity thief can make use of. Will this realistically happen to you? Probably not. But the more times you stay in a hotel and let a copy be made, the more the probability increases. And because it’s only a tiny subset of guests that are handing over this much info, the probability that a potential fraudster will choose you and not one of the other guests suddenly gets a lot higher.

      Somebody encouraged hotels to enforce a nonexistent law. That “somebody” put you in a little more danger than you should be in. I know how you feel about being tired after a long trip, and not being willing to spend the night on the street just to make a stand on principle. The same thing happened to me at a youth hostel, and with a conference presentation the very next morning, I conceded. But the next time I wanted to stay there, I called the MHLW in advance, got a name and telephone number, and when making my reservation I informed the hostel of the correct law and invited them to confirm it with the contact at the Ministry. You should do this. It will keep you that little bit safer, and will remind hotels that laws cannot be arbitrarily extended.

      – That somebody who encouraged hotels to enforce a nonexistent law was the NPA. And they started doing it months before the official revisions to require ID from non-citizen tourists came into effect. Sources:

      Japan Times article: “CREATING LAWS OUT OF THIN AIR: Revisions to hotel laws stretched by police to target foreigners” (March 8, 2005)

      Japan Times article: “MINISTRY MISSIVE WRECKS RECEPTION: MHLW asks hotels to enforce nonexistent law” (October 18, 2005)

      Of course, other ministries, such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, then piled on to expand and justify it in terms of protections against “infectious diseases and terrorism” (which only “foreign nationals who visit Japan”, as the MOFA put it, naturally are agents of — Japanese citizens could never spread disease or be domestic terrorists, after all).

      Anyway, this is old hat, and shouldn’t be necessary to repeat if only Becky could manage to be less tired and do her homework.

    16. Loverilakkuma Says:

      It’s been a while since the GOJ mandated all hotels and travel resorts nationwide to have foreign travelers and those who don’t have an address in Japan as of April 2005. I wonder how our (or hotels) perceptions of identification requirement have changed in these seven years. I mean, what does “ID” refer to you/us/them, when a front desk clerk says, “May I see your ID, please?” If I were a NJ traveler, I would probably produce a driver’s license or state ID, since it contains general information including an address, DOB, gender, age, etc. I’m not gonna show my passport or ARC/RFID whatsoever because my DL/State ID will suffice it. They are NOT notary public or authorized personnel–like a police or immigration officer. Why do I need bother to provide classified records (i.e., immigration status, D/S) to unknown hotel staff!? It doesn’t make sense when a clerk says it’s not valid ID and keeps asking me to show my passport or ARC/RFID instead.

      I’m not surprised that some NJ residents are still being bothered with this kind of ID request at a check-in counter. Many Japanese hotels have young front desk staff, and their understanding of Hotel Management Law is dependent on the quality of job training prior to their employment. The inability to discern the terms ‘all foreigners’ from ‘tourists or those who don’t have an address in Japan’–in Japanese, English, or any other foreign languages, cannot be used an excuse for unnecessary practice of customer harassment or racial profiling, anymore. Now it’s time to set clear accountability on hotel/accommodation regarding their ID requirement procedure to NJ customers. It’s long overdue.

      – Yep. As I’ve said for years. Now it’s up to customers themselves to have it enforced, not beg off and whine to us here.

    17. Becky Says:

      @DebitoReply #13
      Please do not kick me off. I’m sorry if I’m coming across as a dick. I have not had the opportunity to debate or discuss any topic in years (heck, I don’t think I’ve even had a normal discussion with a normal – read non-Japanese – person in years) so naturally I’m a bit rusty. Since I joined this thread I can feel my neurons pulsing and realigning. It’s a good feeling, and I don’t to lose it. Please let me stay.

      @MarkinYayoi #15
      Thank you for your always intelligent and well-considered responses. And yes, I do feel tired after a long trip. Sometimes it feels like I’ve spend half the day making train connections in unfamiliar locations (not always successfully). When I check into the hotel, I’m tired and disoriented. All I want to do is get into the room, peel my clothes off and take a nice long bath. What I do not want to do is tangle with some stony-faced Chinese clerk about my imaginary ‘rights.’ In my execrable Japanese, no less. I’m sure you get the picture.

      – Not to worry, Becky. I wasn’t kicking you off for good. I was just saying “bye for now” regarding this thread.

    18. Steve in Tokyo Says:

      @ Eric C. #14

      I am happy that you are happy with your decision to leave Japan. I`m even happy for you to make the case why others should do likewise. But do you have to say the same thing in every comment you make under any and every every thread?

    19. orientexpress Says:

      Let me share some “new” experience related to the ARC. Nov. 15 I checked in at Narita Airport at the Thai Airways counter. As usual, the staff checked my visa status in my passport (do they get a premium when they catch a visa overstayer?) and then asked me for an ID card. Which card, I replied. Your alien registration card, please. I answered, that airline staff is not entitled to request an ARC. She thanked politely and continued the check in process.

      Is this a singular event or does it happen frequently? For me, it was the first time in 20+ years.

    20. Kevin Says:

      To answer Becky’s question directly, from the source here… I try to demur when asked for photo identification. Again, I point out that I’m 主民 and pretty much keep repeating that until the person gets frustrated. It works most of the time, but it’s not always a pleasant experience. If I start getting too many むり comments, I usually just up and leave. One business hotel is very much like another, and I rarely ever stay in nicer acommodation–and they never ask me to produce ID as soon as I tell them where I live.

      The only time I have ever given in is when I had very specific plans to meet some friends, and I spent a good hour or two arguing with the innkeeper (pretty much it was a modified house like ryokan in Akasaka). He kept insisting that I had to be a Japanese citizen to avoid an ID check. I told him he was full of crap. He did not budge. I was cranky, tired, and my friends were already unpacked and I finally let him copy my passport. Yes, I knew I could have gotten the police involved, and yes, I even told him that, but I really didn’t want to fight a battle which might end up escalating to me being refused accommodation and then having to report him for that all while lugging tons of luggage (I’d just flown in from the States) around Tokyo. It was a battle I had every right to fight, and maybe I should have, but I just didn’t have the energy that night.

      Heck, if Debito wants to put the place on some sort of wall of shame, I’ll be happy to hunt down the details. I did vow never to stay there again, and I never have.

      – FYI I think the word you’re looking for is 住民. As for a wall of shame, I’ve done quite a few of those now, so I think I’ll let someone else do the honors for hotels (I’ll gladly link Debito.org to it).

    21. Joe Says:

      @Eric C
      You’re so over-the-top it’s almost pitiful. You seriously believe Japanese society is a form of “apartheid”? All I can suggest is that you go away and read Frank Welsh’s book “A History of South Africa” (HarperCollins), and then come back here and repeat what you said. My country, the UK, has “biometric residence permits” for foreigners. Would you urge all “gaijin” to leave the UK right now, and accuse those who don’t of being “selfish bastards” (I don’t share your fear of swear-words).
      And as for your comment that my kids don’t “think like gaijin”, don’t you see the irony? Are you suggesting that there’s a “gaijin” way of thinking? If you are, then there’s a recently-established political party (run by Messrs. Ishihara and Hiranuma) who would probably be very interested in recruiting you as a member.
      Gaijin this way, Japanese the other way. Some of us don’t perceive any difference. And we’re all the happier for it.

    22. Bob in Chiba Says:

      @Eric C

      As Steve (#18) points out, this is getting a bit repetitive. I think we all understand that you had a bad experience in Japan as a lot of people do. And if you are happy to have left that is great as well. Recommending that others do the same is fine too as that is your opinion. However, saying that any parent that has haafu kids and is still living here is somehow jeopardizing the future of their children… (quite frankly, even though you did not use the exact words, your expletive filled rant felt to me like you were comparing keeping one’s kids in Japan with child abuse) I find this a little more than a bit hyperbolic, and offensive to people like myself that DO have haafu kids and still stay while doing what we can when the situation arises. I’m sure that I’m not alone in asking for a little sensitivity with other people that are on the same side.

    23. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ Steve in Tokyo, Joe

      Eric C is a bit of a straight talker who shoots from the hip, but I actually appreciate his honesty. Even if we think he is wrong (and it is ok to say that), I wouldn’t want to see him barred.

      @Becky

      Yep, sometimes it’s too much of a hassle to make a fight out of these little things. That’s one of the things I won’t miss when I leave, because my J-wife knows that I will jump down the throat of anyone who tries to give me grief. One of the best things about Debito.org is that it reminds me that I am not alone, and that I have a responsibility to all the other NJ too. Even when I am ‘knackered’. I hope that the others ‘have got my back’, and are standing up for our rights in their daily lives too. However, with the coming election, I fear that things are shifting up a gear, and the game is changing.

    24. Kevin Says:

      Debito,

      So I am. I’m afraid my kanji skills are not what I’d like. I forgot I needed the “person” radical.

    25. Mike Says:

      I dont feel Eric C is making any false statements when it comes to Japan. He is just telling it how it is, and now that the monkey is off his back, he can express what he always wanted to, but was previously forbidden by all the cultural restraints and mind control tatics used in Japan. I found his post refreshing, and for once, I didnt get that disgusting feeling from reading the how hum crap I always get to read when it comes to Japan. Id like to see more of Eric and what he has to say, and less of all the neutral or apologist crap that is the norm these days.

    26. DeBourca Says:

      This is going off topic, but seeing as so many have come down on Eric C, I think his comments deserve teasing out.

      Basically, Eric is saying that by bringing your kids up in Japan (when it is viable for you to do so elsewhere especially, but not exclusively, in the developed world)is setting them at a disadvantage. Well, if you look at this rationally, you’d be hard pressed to deny it.

      For starters: Can anyone deny that Japan is still overwhelmingly sexist? There is almost no area of work where women make up even a fraction of the senior level. This is a country where women are still routinely fired from their jobs upon becoming pregnant. And so on. So if you have daughters, you are absolutely doing them a disservice keeping them in a society that discriminates against them so badly.

      So that’s half the kids accounted for.

      But what if you have boys? And they encounter no problems at all in their adult lives? Can anyone here present comparative data showing the incomes, hours worked, overtime, holidays taken, quality of life, feelings of satisfaction and happiness etc between workers in Japan and their counterperts elsewhere in the developed world? For example, between civil servants in Canada and in Japan? Or doctors in Australia and Japan? Or teachers in Britain and Japan? University lecturers in Germany and Japan? Company employees in the US and Japan? Does anyone here really argue with a straight face that people in compartive work outside of Japan work longer hours for less money in a less pressuriesd,hierarchical environment than the Japanese? Seriously?

      And I haven”t even taken into account the potential effects of discrimination against “haffus”(is anyone denying this exists?)

      And can anyone seriously say that this trend is improving in Japan? Despite the skyrocketing work related sucides/stress/depression and the mass layoffs by bankrupt Japanese companies, coupled with a toothless trade union movement?

      So, taken rationally,Eric C indeed has a point about doing kids a disservice by bringing them up in Japan if you can do it in the developed world. You guys mightn’t like it, but that”s what your kids are up against, so don’t shoot the messenger. I will not reply to this topic any longer, so as not to derail the thread.

      Apologies

      – Sigh. I guess we’re going to have to let this conversation run its course. Keep on within this thread — I’ll convert this blog post to the category of “Discussions”. We can open a new post if somebody wants to write a guest column on Debito.org.

    27. giles Says:

      I think your example of scanning a crowd is misleading and likely to cause hysteria.
      The technology is possible today to scan from larger distances but as someone mentioned the spec on these cards is not capable of being used in that situation. It is about cost, to put in those long distance tags in every card costs too much even if the government wanted to.
      Yes it is possible in the future but ONLY IF the cards change again, until that happens we should not mislead people.

    28. Mike S Says:

      Just to comment further on Eric Cs statements there is obviously more than a bit of truth in what he says. However, there is also more than a lot to be said about ones own individual experiences, and Eric Cs may well not reflect your own. No one is the holder of the ultimate truth when it comes to understanding ones place in Japan. That is why people will continue to write books about the issue, comment on sites such as Debitos etc etc. I have to say that, although Eric Cs comments often do appear to stink of an awful truth, they do not always fit in with what i have have experienced. No one can tell me that “Japanese people do this”, or “Japanese society is like that” when i may have experienced the opposite. Im not an apologist by any stretch but for me the jury is still out.

    29. Eric C Says:

      Debito, if you would be so kind as to allow me one reply, since so many posters have addressed me.

      First, @Joe: Look, I understand that you don’t like what I write. My guess is because it hits a little too close to home. You keep insisting that raising your kids in Japan did them no harm. Well, that’s easy to say, but impossible to prove. Why? Because there’s no control group. Who knows how much better they would have done if raised elsewhere? How much more independently they would have thought. Also, my guess is that your kids long ago figured out that Dad is an apologist for Japan and they hide certain realities from you. Finally, if I were you, I’d not rush to judgement. I’d wait until they have to enter the Japanese job market before making any final conclusions about just how wise it was to raise them in Japan.

      Next, @Steve in Tokyo: See below regarding the fact that I most certainly do not say the same thing in every post.

      Next, @Bob in Chiba: You might be surprised to learn that I had a very positive experience in Japan for the most part. But, finally, there were just too many things I could not accept, and, once I had kids, I knew I had to go. You may accuse me of being repetitive, but if a message is important, it’s worth repeating. Also, if you had taken the time to read my posts carefully, you would have seen that I cover a wide variety of topics in my posts. The final conclusion might be the same (leave Japan), but the routes taken to get there are very different. Rather than engaging in random and groundless sniping at posters like me, I’d suggest you try to engage me on actual issues. Any time you want to have a go at that, I’m more than ready to take you on. Finally, your accusation that my post was “expletive filled” was totally baseless. You’re letting your anger at the content of my message cloud your judgement. But, most importantly, Bob, I totally stick by my position that raising haafu kids in Japan is a form of child abuse. No, let me correct that: I believe that putting any child through the Japanese “education” and socialization system is a form of child abuse, whether they be Japanese or non-Japanese.

      Finally, @JDG, Mike and DeBourca: Thanks for the support. I think that DeBourca put my feelings into words much more eloquently than I could have done. He’s exactly right: whether your child is male or female, raising them in Japan is going to do them harm. Or, at the very least, by raising them in Japan, you will be denying many opportunities that they would have had if they had been raised elsewhere. I don’t mean in just economic terms (because of Japan’s crashing economy); I mean in terms of being able to develop a full and integrated personality.

      I repeat what I’ve said before: Parents of haafu children: When you see your children enter the maw of some massive Japanese corporation, come back and tell me that you’re happy you raised them in Japan. Or, parents of female haafu children: When you see them marry some spoiled man child who comes home drunk every night, come back and tell me how delighted you are that you raised her in Japan. The fact is: You’re sacrificing your children’s future for your own present comfort because in your heart of hearts you know that no one back in your home country is going to pay you US$50 to sit on your backside and pontificate about English. You’re just angry because you haven’t used your time in Japan to develop a marketable skill that you could export to another country.

      So, kill the messenger if you want to, but I’m not the guy you should be mad at: You should be mad at yourselves.

    30. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ Giles #27

      ‘likely to cause hysteria’? Really? Well, to be honest, anything that breaks the apathy of the ‘go-along-to-get-along’ crowd would be welcomed, don’t you think?

      As for this;
      ‘The technology is possible today to scan from larger distances but as someone mentioned the spec on these cards is not capable of being used in that situation. It is about cost, to put in those long distance tags in every card costs too much even if the government wanted to.
      Yes it is possible in the future but ONLY IF the cards change again, until that happens we should not mislead people.’

      You can rest assured that the capabilities and applications of the current technology is being pushed to it’s limits in search of other ‘useful’ applications that the originators had not intended, and this in turn will spur further developments that will assist in making those applications more practical for those with ulterior motives. And all the while the idea of a card with a chip for NJ will go unchallenged and become normalized.

      Some hysteria would be much preferred to the blind passive surrender of freedoms.
      Enjoy your butter (while it lasts), butter will only make you fat. I’m with Eric ‘The Voice of Freedom’ C.

    31. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ Mike #25

      ‘now that the monkey is off his back, he can express what he always wanted to, but was previously forbidden by all the cultural restraints and mind control tatics used in Japan’

      I agree completely.
      I will be leaving at the end of the academic year, and good riddance to all the BS of the micro-aggressions, myths of Japanese uniqueness, and the narrow minded hostility to anything different. But most of all, good riddance to the constant anxiety of what will happen to the economy, politics, and society of Japan, and how that will affect my old age, and my daughters futures, all the while knowing that when it all goes down the toilet, NJ will be scapegoated and victimized ever more. It’s like watching a car crash in slow motion (Abe and his monetary policy, the NPA and immigration policy, Blinky and the SDF and nukes, and the Napoleon of Osaka).
      Now that I am escaping from the prison camp-cum-kindergarden I still feel like I am still watching a car crash in slow motion, but it’s not my car!

    32. Steve in Tokyo Says:

      @ Eric C. # 29

      When the time comes for me to leave, I will buy my tickets, pay the tax and go and that will be it. I will not be posting daily on this site or any others in an ongoing attempt to convert people to my way of thinking. Because as @ Mike S wrote at 28. above, everybody`s circumstances are different. Enjoy your new life in your new country.

    33. debito Says:

      FYI: Related to biometric surveillance of foreign migrant workers: the UK example:

      Managing Surveillance? The Impact of Biometric Residence Permits on UK Migrants
      Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
      Volume 37, Issue 9, 2011

      Free access at:
      http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/1369183X.2011.623624

      Abstract
      On 27 May 2010, the newly formed UK Coalition government announced the cancellation of national identity cards for UK citizens. Yet, foreign nationals remain subject to a separate biometric identity card scheme—renamed ‘Biometric Residence Permits’ (BRPs)—currently being rolled out to various categories of migrant. To date, over 300,000 such cards have been issued to various foreign-national groups, including international students, visiting scholars, entrepreneurs, investors and domestic workers. Although research has been conducted on UK immigration policy, there has been little investigation into how foreign nationals view, experience and negotiate BRPs. In this paper, we draw on our own empirical work to examine the impact of BRPs on migrants. From March to December 2010, interviews and participative research were conducted with the Home Office, the UK Border Agency, advocacy and civil society groups, Higher Education Institutions and individual migrants. We consider the extent to which this scheme acts as a means of exercising surveillance and control over foreign nationals, and the ability of these migrants to negotiate around such constraints.

      Concluding paragraph:
      Our research suggests that we need to recognise that the impacts of surveillance on migrant populations are not necessarily negative but are often nuanced, messy and complex. One way of analysing such impacts is through the voices and opinions of those affected. In this paper, we have focused on how migrants perceive surveillance in detailed ways. Surveillance can, and often is, seen as problematic, resulting in migrants feeling singled out, discriminated against and ‘different’. Yet, migrants can also be seen as actively managing surveillance as they go about their daily lives, resulting in subtle, situated and flexible responses to this form of monitoring.

    34. Eric C Says:

      @Steve in Tokyo: Thanks for your kind wishes. Please understand that I write my posts as a service to others who are still stuck in Japan, many of whom may not be fully aware of the problems with the place. Most importantly, I write my posts as a service to their children. If my posts result in one child being raised outside Japan instead of inside Japan, I will feel that my work has been worthwhile.

    35. Anton Says:

      @ Eric C,
      Give it a break mate. You risk driving people away from what is an interesting, helpful and thought provoking forum.
      I’m sick of the cut and paste rant you keep slipping into threads. Seems like everywhere I look on Debito recently I get told I’m a bad father. Go and read your kids a book or something.

    36. Kaerimasu Says:

      @ Anton
      If that’s what you feel you’re being told by his posts, sounds like you may want to think about that…

      As far as EricC’s message, I got it. I’m leaving this Sunday. I was able to see it for what it is after being stopped by the police randomly over a handful of times in a single year. I was one still with the old card so they couldn’t scan me at my most recent harassment this past week. I didn’t even want to wait for December 16th, even if I could since my job got burned by a partnership deal with a Japan Inc. company. It all just isn’t worth it. Seeing and meeting miserable people with fake smiles. To those apologists…have fun living your temporary fantasy world and best of luck.

      The fact that they need to scan us just shows their flawed priorities as they continue to piss off their neighbors and collapse the economy for even their own.

      – Eric C. also posted a separate response to commenters here in specific, but as I felt it was getting too personally-directed at them, moreover based upon speculation about their lives, lifestyles, and employment qualifications, I did not let it through. I am stepping in now to say that I will be filtering posts more strongly regarding this thread.

      Moderator note: Play the ball, not the person, everyone. People should not be impugning the motives of private individuals in specific based upon generalities and speculation, because it’s basically the same dynamic that happened during the Flyjin Phenomenon. Except instead of people impugning private individuals for leaving Japan, we’re getting commenters here impugning private individuals for staying. Neither is helpful, and above all Debito.org is devoted to trying to be helpful to people, be it understanding situations or giving advice.

      Once I believe the discourse is becoming unconstructive, into the bin it goes. That’s how Debito.org has always been run, so adjust your content and tone accordingly.

    37. Markus Says:

      I would like to thank Eric C. for his comments. He is one of the few people I have found anywhere who have grasped the full extent of Japan’s dark side.

      In fact, when I read his somewhat famous first rant that was featured by Debito in its own post, I had an epiphany, because he poignantly summarised all the suppressed negative feelings towards this society that had accumulated in me.

      Some people seem to be offended by extreme things he says, like, “(once) fascism sets in”, which of course is a long shot, and hopefully unlikely scenario. But it accurately describes the horror that a Western person, at least one brought up in Europe, feels once they realise the many parallels of this society’s psyche with that of the pre-WWII Germans.

      I don’t think Eric C.’s comments should become more factual, academic, or carefully worded. They are undeniable powerful, and they are true in the sense that they express the feelings that a sensible (some would say, overly sensitive, he he) foreigner is likely to experience here. He should be given a book deal. In any case, Eric, I would like you to write more – if you have the time and resources, why not start a site on your own?

    38. dosanko Says:

      Well said, @Debito #36.

      I would be the first to say that Japan isn’t for everybody, but I have a young, haafu daughter here and I have to admit that I don’t really see myself as a “selfish bastard”, as Eric asserts. He says that haafu kids “don’t speak English well enough” or “think like gaijin well enough” and that therefore they are doomed to work at a “dismal Japanese company”. Yet I work with Japan-raised haafu kids on a daily basis in the big banks, consultancies, accounting firms, law firms, etc. that do just fine with English and think very well (whether that’s thinking like a gaijin or not, I can’t say). I also advise a number of Japanese companies that are anything but “dismal”.

      I realize that every situation is different, but my wife and I think this is generally a great place for us to live and raise kids. My daughter’s public daycare is just a short walk away from home; there are other haafu and foreign kids in her class with wide economic diversity; the streets are incredibly safe (at least compared to my time living in NYC); nearby parks are plentiful and clean; my daughter gets great healthcare; etc. In the end, I’m lucky enough to have a job where I could freely relocate to just about any major financial center (New York, Hong Kong, Singapore, etc.), but we choose to stay here.

      Does any of this mean that Japan is for everybody? Of course not. Is there a lot not to like? Of course there is–that’s one of the reasons I follow Debito and don’t begrudge Eric at all for leaving. However, his insistence that “raising haafu kids in Japan is a form of child abuse” is just way off-base and offensive.

    39. Anton Says:

      @Kaerimasu
      “…sounds like you may want to think about that…”

      Thought about it and it appears I’m not as smart as some. Care to enlighten us as to how I should feel?

      Anton (My real name)

    40. Fight Back Says:

      I agree with Eric C because some of us do have something important to say, and if takes a little repeating to be heard then so be it. 

      Apologists are our enemy but so so is complacency and it sounds like Eric C has been able to jar some people out of that state to help them make critical decisions. 

      Also we need to be careful of the apologist meme that “everyone’s experience in Japan is different”. Careful analysis of this trope shows it to be scientifically and statistically nonsense. For some foreigners to have ‘never’ experienced racism in Japan would have to mean that thousands of discriminatory Japanese have chosen not to discriminate against a select number of foreigners totally at random. What are the odds of that?

    41. trustbutverify Says:

      @#40

      What are the odds of that? A “thousands” in 127,800,000 chance, I suppose. Statistically.

      With logic so convoluted, I can form only one (unscientific) hypothesis: You’re going to have to troll harder than that, I think.

    42. Flyjin Says:

      @ Fight Back, yeah. I have never been carded, even when the police stopped me for a very obvious traffic offense.

      But that does not mean I say “Its never happened to me so there is no discrimination”.

      It could very well happen to me, teachers at our school were, in 2011, late or not showing up for class because the police had decided to card them on the way to class.

      Hows that for business? “Sorry I am late, the Japanese police wanted to check my ID card”. It just means the (Japanese) students got a poor service, or no service at all.

    43. DeBourca Says:

      Fightback has a point. I gave real examples illustrating the correctness of Eric C’s argument, and so far, NO-ONE has refuted these points. Instead, we have post such as “Well, I work in international finance and Japan is fine by me.”

      Debito, if you are going to censure Eric C for highlighting personal points, then you should censure others for using their personal experience to refute the general comments made by Eric C. IMO

      – Giving their own personal experience is not speculation. If they are applying it to others who have not divulged their own, then it is speculation. Eric C. was speculating about individuals in specific (Steve and Bob), applying a stereotype based on little to no evidence about them as individuals, saying inter alia that they would return home and “try to gain a foothold in the burger industry”. That’s not just ad hominem, it’s mean, and I won’t have it, sorry. I know from experience Eric can make his points better than that.

    44. DeBourca Says:

      Fair enough.

    45. Eric C Says:

      I would like to sincerely thank those readers who came to my defense, like DeBourca, Markus, JDG, Fight Back, Kaerimasu, and Mike. I’d also like to thank Debito for giving me a place to air my views.

      What I find puzzling is that guys like Anton, Bob and Joe can make random ad hominem attacks on me – attacks that do not even touch on the actual points I raise in my posts – but when I try to defend myself, in at least one instance my reply is cut. Debito, by the way, the “foothold in the burger industry” was in inside joke (a sly wink to the movie “Repo Man,” in wich a character talks about his dreams of becoming manager of his fast food outlet). I was trying to inject some humor into a somewhat vitriolic discussion. But, my point was real: I strongly believe that the guys who stay in Japan and raise their haafu kids there are doing it not because it’s the best place for their children, but because it’s the only place they can imagine finding lucrative work. And, to me, that is the essence of selfishness.

      As for Markus’s kind comments re a blog or a book deal. Well, as you can guess, I post here under a pseudonym. I’ve actually written professionally a lot about Japan. I’ve given a lot of thought to writing a book about Japan. Not just an outright attack on Japan, but a book on some things Japan could do to vastly improve its society and its future economic competitiveness. The thing is, due to the nature of my work in Japan, I came into contact with a lot of corporate types, government types and general “powers that be.” And, I know for a fact that the book would fall on deaf ears. The powers that be in Japan just don’t want to hear input from the outside. It’s not that they don’t want to, but they can’t, for both linguistic and cultural reasons. So, as you can guess, Japan still occupies a lot of my mental space, but I don’t want to spend the two years it would take to write a book about Japan only to have it die on the shelves. As I”ve said before: Japan is an echo chamber. Good ideas don’t come in from the outside. Life is too short for me to spend a big chunk of it writing for the odd disaffected Japanese intellectual. No matter how eloquently I made my case, it would have no effect. I mean, look at Alex Kerr’s “Dogs and Demons.” He laid bare the mis-workings of the system and it didn’t change things one bit.

      The fact is this: Japan is now firmly set on a course that is going to lead to – at best – economic and cultural stagnation, and – at worst – war with a much stronger foe. And there is nothing anyone can do to change it.

      For all those on this site who want to attack me for suggesting that it’s high time to leave the sinking ship, I’d say, don’t kill the messenger. If you want to engage me on the issues, I’m here and waiting. If you just want to say stuff like, “Give it a rest mate,” then I’d say you should consider giving it a rest. And, I don’t want to sound like a psychoanalyst, but you might ask yourself why my posts provoke such anger in you. Maybe in your heart of hearts you know that what I’m saying is right. Namely, you’re sacrificing your children’s happiness, mental wellbeing and economic prospects for your own present comfort. Think about it.

      And, finally, I think my comments have some value. As someone who lived for a long time in Japan, then left the place and is very glad he did, I believe that it is my duty to share this experience with others who are considering the same course of action.

      Thanks, Debito, for letting me go on at such length.

    46. Steve in Tokyo Says:

      All the recent to-ing and fro-ing on whether to stay in Japan has at least made me focus my thoughts in this direction

      I was a frequent visitor from 1989, but only moved here in 2000. The initial impetus was a job, so like most I initially came here for work. There was a clear difference in how I saw life, depending on whether I was in the office or outside. In the office I was continually amazed at the politicking, back-biting, and general sloth. Outside I was as happy as one could be – loved the life in Japan, the food, the carousing, smoke-anywhere general lack of political correctness. Time went on and with a certain amount of inevitability I got married to a Japanese woman. Time went on some more and we had childen. We are still together and pretty happy thus far.

      I never came to Japan with any aspirations about staying long-term or about finding a place in society here – indeed, I have enormous respect for Debito and others who have done so. And yet I find myself past the 12 year mark. I am genuinely conflicted about whether we should stay longer or leave, but I do not think things are anywhere near as clear-cut for me as others seem to believe. The negatives of staying have been very well laid out by various posters, to whch I could add (being a closet greenie) my sneaking suspicion that the Government and civil servants continue to lie and generally mismanage the fallout from March 2011. However the main difficulty I have is that my wifes parents would miss their daughter and their grandchildren tremendously if we moved overseas – and vice versa. That covers a whole gambit of things, from the Japanese side of their culture through to the family`s long term aspiration for the grandchildren to be part of the family business. This is a dilemma I am not close to solving, and indeed there is clearly no pat answer.

      Everybody will decide their own path, and I am not going to disrespect anybody who elected to leave. All I would ask is that people extend the same respect to those who are as yet undecided, or who have decided to stay.

    47. Anton Says:

      I’m sure Debito wouldn’t allow
      “random ad hominem attacks” on this blog.
      That is why I used to find it interesting and informative. I used to, and mostly still do, read well reasoned and informative discourse. I’d like it kept that way.

      Anton

    48. Fight Back Says:

      Perhaps I should explain myself more clearly. What I meant was that discriminatory practices in Japan are so common that it statistically unlikely for any NJ to reside here for ten years or longer and not to experience any form of them. 

      Knowing that NJ’s are subject to ID checks and bicycle harassment by the police, for example, it seems totally unlikely that they would co-ordinate to let certain NJ only escape the ‘dragnet’, especially considering the incompetence we have seen from the authorities post-Fukushima. 

      I can conclude that this idea of an idyllic Japanese existence for ‘certain’ NJ is only an apologist ploy or smokescreen to the outside world, for their own personal sanity, or hope of reward for being the so-called ‘good gaijin’ that they believe will bring them increased status at the expense of the rest of us. 

      That’s why sites like these are so important. It’s hard for the truth to get out without people like Debito dedicating so much of their own time to take on the prevailing establishment view. 

    49. Mike S. Says:

      @Steve in Tokyo
      and @Fightback re “Apologists are our enemy but so so is complacency and it sounds like Eric C has been able to jar some people out of that state to help them make critical decisions.”

      I sincerely hope that no one is making any life decisions based on the opinions of anonymous bloggers. I’m not going to question Eric Cs motives for writing what he does, (I’m sure that they are just as he has said), but to base life decisions on what he, or others write here seems to be absolutely Ludacris to me. I would have thought that the kinds of people who use this site are just the kinds of people to hold strong, not easily swayed convictions. Most of you are already in the place being opinioned about, working among the people that are being discussed. There is no better place in which to form your own opinions based on your own real experiences. I realize that sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what to make of the empty train seat next to you or the staff who refuse to speak to you in Japanese, and we all benefit from others perspectives and opinions. But more importantly we have to use our own brains and come to our own conclusions.

      Of course, when discussing hard facts there is only one answer, and that’s not open to interpretation but when it comes to opinion that has to be treated differently. I don’t see that it’s helpful to put yourself in a position where you are the one who holds the truth and all others, who do not do, or think as you do, are wrong. That is exactly what religionists do.

    50. Chand Says:

      Sorry, I know this post is almost commented out, but I just wanted to address what Sendaiben said,

      Sendaiben says: You’d be surprised how unwilling the hotel staff are to argue, too. Whenever I’ve been asked for my card, I’ve just said that I don’t have one. Whether they believe me or not is another issue, but nobody’s ever called me on it.
      Though some places might be more up for a fight….

      I don’t think having to resort to lying about not having a gaijin card is the appropriate way to deal with discrimination. Although convenient it teaches the discriminator nothing and you still got discriminated against as much as if you had handed over the card.
      Having said that though it’s not actually entirely the hotel staffs’ fault. They’re told by the police it’s the law and I can understand why’d they’d believe it rather than trawl through reading the Ryoukan rules and laws.
      The responsibility lies with the police here. If I remember correctly they sent hotels a kind of notice asking them to copy gaijin cards. I think Netherlander’s comment on asking the staff to call the police to have it clarified is the way to go here.

      Netherlander says:
      A few months ago when checking in to a hotel, I was already prepared for it, so when the clerk said; “the police require it”. I responded: “Fine, call the police, and let them check it, but I’m not giving you my personal info.” He then backed off.

      If you have the time to spare and can articulate in Japanese I think it would be good to have the police come and have to explain themselves to the staff why it’s not the law.

    51. trustbutverify Says:

      @#48 — I have to believe the intelligent discourse has moved beyond the it does/doesn’t happen stage by now. It happens. OK.

      “What I meant was that discriminatory practices in Japan are so common that it statistically unlikely for any NJ to reside here for ten years or longer and not to experience any form of them.”

      Probably. Though some forms of discrimination are subtle, and some people are less sensitive to slights, so it’s entirely possible not to notice, or not to care.

      “…it seems totally unlikely that they would co-ordinate to let certain NJ only escape the ‘dragnet’…”

      Indeed. That would be unlikely. However, it is statistically probable that there are people who have never in the “right” place at the “right” time to be stopped on the street. Me for instance. Over ten years residence. Don’t ride a bike, so the bike checks are out. Have never, yet, been stopped on the street. Probability says it’s only a matter of time, but so far it hasn’t happened to me. I’ve seen it happen to others though, often, the majority of them, as it happens, Japanese (or Japanese looking). Not that that leads me to believe foreigners “never” get stopped. The only thing I can conclude is that I haven’t been stopped, yet, and this reality is inarguable.

      Frankly, some of your arguments seem the antithesis of the Debito.org stance. Your position appears little different from the “if you don’t like it, go home” brigade. Fact is, you didn’t like, you went home, and you are urging others to do the same.

      Moreover, you consistently turn it up to eleven. That doesn’t lead me to believe you’re more earnest. It makes me feel I am being trolled by someone playing a game. If that is your intent, well played, sir. If not, dial it back to reality.

      The truth doesn’t need to be augmented to make it more true.

    52. sendaiben Says:

      @Chand sorry, that wasn’t me… please go back and re-read my post :D

      Actually I had an interesting experience the other day: a clerk asked me for ID, _in order to check how my name was spelt_. Seems like she didn’t want to ask me the spelling. I just told her the first three letters and she managed to find my reservation.

    53. sendaiben Says:

      @FightBack seriously, your experience or paranoia is not universal. I’ve been here twelve years, and I have never been stopped on a bicycle. I have been ‘carded’ twice (at Sendai airport in the boarding area, and Narita in the public area). I really think it depends on where you live and on your lifestyle.

      Nor am I living in dreamland: I’ve had problems in the past with estate agents, property owners, banks, employers, and civil servants that I found unacceptable. Doesn’t change the fact that I find Japan a comfortable and rewarding place to live in ;)

      I’m sorry you aren’t having a good time, but that doesn’t mean everyone is in the same bad place.

    54. Curious Says:

      I’ve had the pleasure of perusing this blog for the past six years or so. However, the most annoying argument that keeps circling around is, “I’ve never experienced that, so therefore it’s not an issue/not happening.”

      Or, “Too bad you were discriminated against. I’m making great money at my job, and have a comfortable life here. Therefore Japan is a great place for anyone to raise their kids!” Completely oblivious that you are enjoying a life reserved for a select few NJ’s in Japan.

      I know that Debito has dealt with this phenomena in the past, but I could not find it in the archives.

    55. Chand Says:

      @ Sendaiben
      Sendaiben Says:
      @Chand sorry, that wasn’t me… please go back and re-read my post

      Sorry If I miss quoted you.

    56. Becky Says:

      (I know I’m supposed to stay off this thread, but please let me post at least once more.)

      Please, please, don’t pick on Eric C. I get the feeling that he could stay in Japan and suffer the indignities if he were single and childless, but being a father he REALLY doesn’t want his kids to have the same experiences. Who would? I feel exactly the same way.

      In fact, nothing I’ve ever read or heard about marriage and parenthood in Japan has tempted me to want to do either. Marriage just seems to involve endless compromise and various forms of deprivation. Ditto parenthood.

      Having said that, I think that in many ways Japan is a great place to raise bicultural kids, especially if their mother is Japanese, and especially if both parents are willing to make superhuman efforts to ensure that their kids are both bilingual and biliterate (and I do mean superhuman). Japan is extremely safe – at least as far as street crime is concerned – and has very high educational standards, at least at the elementary school level, especially in maths and science. Traditionally Japan has had very positive attitudes towards second language ability (especially English, and to a lesser extent French). Bilingual children are often the object of very positive attention. So are male children in general. But because Japan is a place that doesn’t force women to give birth to children that they don’t want, almost all children born in Japan are wanted children, and these days girls are valued as much as boys. Don’t be frightened of raising kids in Japan! You’ll be fine, and so will they.

      (It seems that this whole thread has sprouted legs and run off in a different direction, I feel partially responsible. I want to apologise for that.)

    57. Jim Di Griz Says:

      In support of Eric C, and to be fair, a number of other readers of Debito.org, I would like to link this interview with Michael Woodford, remember him? He’s the guy that got fired from Olympus for ‘not understanding Japan’s culture’ or some such nonsense, yet, please read the interview. He shows a superb understanding of Japan (with exception to his analysis of Hashimoto/Ishihara as solutions rather than symptoms of Japans political handicaps).

      http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20121202x1.html

    58. Markus Says:

      @EricC I had a hunch that your profession has to do with writing. I would really like to read your published work, but I also understand it isn’t possible to reveal your identity, at least not here.
      I still think writing a book (or at least a longer Essay) would be worthwhile. You are right that it is highly unlikely that it would “change Japan”, but I doubt if that should be your ambition in the first place. Why not write something because it is right and needs to be said? Your word needs to get out, even if it is just to save a couple of people from betting their future on living in Japan.
      But beyond that, I think a very interesting to explore is the huge gap between the general image of Japan and the Japanese in the Western world, and the reality here. How did Japan pull this off, and how much of the blame do we, i.e. the Western world, have to face in deluding ourselves?

    59. giantpanda Says:

      @JimDiGriz I read this too and thought the same thing! Mr. Woodford, despite apparently not speaking Japanese, has amazing insights. Good on the Japan Times for publishing this – I somehow doubt that it will reach the Japanese language media.

    60. Eric C Says:

      @Markus:
      Thanks for the kind words. I wish I could reveal my true identity and also give links to some of my other writing. But, I think you understand why I cannot.

      I take your point about writing a book. Changing the country should not be the goal (or the only goal) of writing a book. Simply writing to make the truth (or a truth) known is a great reason to write a book. And, as you rightly note, correcting the West’s often inaccurate view of Japan and warning off those who plan on betting their futures on Japan are both also good reasons to write a book or a longer essay.

      I still might do it – if only because I’ve spent so much time thinking about the issue, researching it and even writing about it – but a book is such a commitment. And, to tell the truth, there are two or three other topics (unrelated to Japan) that are occupying my mind more these days and I’m probably going to try to write a book about one of them in the next year.

      During the whole time I was in Japan, I often thought to myself: When I leave this place, I want to leave it completely. I mean, I wanted to forget about it. I felt like I had given the place enough of my time, energy and thought. Obviously, even after having left, I’m nowhere near the goal of forgetting the place, but it does sort of remain a goal.

      Japan looms so large in the mind when you’re in Japan, but it’s really a very small part of the world and there are issues that are more important. And, I believe there are things I can write about that might lead to real change, whereas my suspicion is that no matter what I wrote about Japan, it would be largely ignored by the Japanese (at least the Japanese elites) and would only be “preaching to the choir” for those of us NJ who know that Japan ain’t the Oriental fantasy land it’s so often portrayed as in the media.

      All that said, as you can tell, I don’t mind typing and I’m a stubborn bastard, so I might just write that book anyway. So, thanks for the encouragement!

    61. Kaoru Says:

      ‘Woe betide the naturalized citizen or Japanese of international roots, who now have the burden of proving somehow that they are not “foreign”…’

      Have the laws actually been changed in this regard? It has always been my understanding that if the police decide arbitrarily that I’m not a citizen and wish to pursue it at my inconvenience, the burden of proof is on them, as is the embarrassment they cause their superiors when I publicly bring formal charges against their entire department.

      – I”m looking forward to you doing that, Kaoru! Somebody has to, eventually.

    62. De Bourca Says:

      @Jim De Griz post 57:

      That’s a great interview. personally, I don’t agree with Woodford’s politics at all, but his analysis of the problems are spot on.

      For example;

      “JT-Japan isn’t Greece or Spain.

      Woodford- It’s much worse.”

      He also points out that you people enjoying the good life in Japan are living in a bubble. Sound familiar?

      So, shall we dismiss Woodford with patronising comments about being sorry that it didn’t work out for him? Is he just another disgruntled foreigner who did’t play the game?

      Interestingly, I read an interview with Woodford in the British Sunday Times a few weeks back, and he was a lot more sanguine about Japan, saying he still loves the place, he wants to work to make it better etc. I think what has happened is that the more he has thought about it, the angrier he has got about being treated so outrageously. He gave his working life to the company/country.

      I hope he keeps blowing the lid off the place, like that guy (on whom “the informer” was based)did with the tobacco industry.

    63. Joe Says:

      ‘Woe betide the naturalized citizen or Japanese of international roots, who now have the burden of proving somehow that they are not “foreign”…’

      This could work out very badly for all naturalised foreigners. How about the following scenario:

      1) The police get embarrassed (possibly sued) in multiple cases after demanding ID from naturalised foreigners.
      2) The police complain to the politicians.
      3) The politicians pass a new law by which all citizens must carry ID to be produced on demand from the police.
      4) The police stop every white, black, hispanic, arabic etc.-looking person they come across, never bothering to stop “Japanese-looking people”, and in the face of complaints claim that “Everyone has to carry ID now, it’s not discrimination.

      The fact that everyone would have to have ID would seem fairer on the surface, but in practice the situation would be worse than now.

      Don’t see a solution, though.

    64. Baudrillard Says:

      @ Joe

      Lets not forget the case of the police harassing a Japanese national in Kawaguchi, Saitama a couple of years ago of Yamato ethnicity “because she looked Brazilian” and refused to talk to them in Japanese as her family said “she is unaccustomed to talking to strangers”- a case of Japanese xenophobia backfiring on the police!

      (partly the fault of the whole Tokugawa “don’t talk to strangers” mentality- but then again, maybe that was just the tatemae”/Nihonjinron dogmatically acceptable excuse, and she really did not want to compromise her privacy to the cops, “western”/individualist/human rights honne ).

    65. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ Baudrillard & Joe

      To be honest, never mind the illegal spontaneous card checks, recently I have seen some strange cops that I would challenge if I saw them talking to a Japanese person! The first pair were walking around town two weeks ago at lunchtime patrolling in short-sleeved shirts. In November? Surely the J-cop regulations state that they all should be in winter uniform by now? The only reason I know such a regulation exists is because I remember a guy impersonating a cop was picked up in Tokyo a few years ago because his uniform didn’t match the seasonal regulations.

      A couple of days after that incident, in the early afternoon, I saw a pair of cops patrolling, both with hair so long it was touching their shoulders. There has got to be a reg against that. So either cop cosplay is the underground trend of the moment, or discipline is slipping.

    66. DeBourca Says:

      Yet more evidence supporting Eric C’s (and others’) assertions that the young in Japan are getting royally screwed and bringing them up here is doing them a serious disservice:

      http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20121214a2.html

      Don’t blame the messengers guys.

      The Japan Times Friday, Dec. 14, 2012
      ELECTION 2012
      Older voter glut helps politicians avoid long-range problems

      By REIJI YOSHIDA
      Staff writer
      Japan faces structural problems that threaten future generations, including snowballing government debt, swelling social security costs, a low birthrate and a rapidly aging population.

      But politicians just sidestep vital decisions and shelve necessary reforms, allowing the state to keep spending rampantly by issuing vast government bonds that will make the burden on future generations even heavier.

      One figure might explain why these problems aren’t being addressed: the high average age of people who actually vote.

      With the society turning gray and the turnout of young voters remaining low, apparently due to apathy, the average age of those who voted in the 2010 Upper House poll was 56, a research paper published in July by the National Institute for Research Advancement think tank shows.

      Internal affairs ministry data show that in the 2010 election, the 20-29 age group accounted for only 7.6 percent of all people who cast ballots.

      Hiroshi Yoshida, a Tohoku University professor and expert on fiscal science, pointed out that the turnout rate was only 33.68 percent for eligible voters aged 20 to 24. In contrast, among those aged between 65 and 69, 78.45 percent cast ballots.

      “For political parties, discussing issues elderly people find unpleasant would just bring disadvantages in an election,” Yoshida said during a recent interview.

      The situation is predicted to get even worse for young generations. If the turnout trends continue unchanged, the average age of adults who vote will keep rising to 60 years old in 2030, according to the NIRA paper.

      “Elderly people have greater impact on election results, so politicians just push for policies preferred by elderly people,” Manabu Shimasawa, an NIRA researcher and one of the coauthors of the paper, told The Japan Times. “Actual election policies advocated by parties are exact reflections of this.”

      Indeed, the future for younger generations — including those not yet born — is already bleak.

      Rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20121214a2.html

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