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  • YouTube: Police NJ Passport Checkpoint at Shibuya March 3, 2014 (targeted NJ does not comply)

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on March 3rd, 2014

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    Hi Blog. Just got this one from RS, where he writes about something that happened last night in Shibuya:

    March 3, 2014:
    Debito-san, Thanks for your work. This incident happened tonight and we’ve already put it up on Youtube. Please have a look.

    Because I’ve read your articles, I knew that I did not have to comply, and did not. Thank you and keep up the good work.

    Well done. Although the video is a bit incomplete (it’s not clear how this started or how it ended), it’s clear that the police certainly do not want to be filmed, and it’s a good guess that BECAUSE it was filmed that the police showed restraint, if this video is any guide:

    Anyway, what RS is referring to is this section here on which says that the Japanese police cannot ask you personal questions (let alone passports, as in above) without probable cause. Except if you’re a NJ, under the Foreign Registry Law. But the NJ can also ask for the cop’s ID before showing his, so ask for it first, has been the point.

    However, with the abolition of the Foreign Registry Law in 2012, it remains unclear under what law in specific the Japanese police are empowered to ask NJ without probable cause. I have consulted informally with legal scholar Colin P.A. Jones (of Doshisha and The Japan Times), and he too has had trouble finding anything in specific codified in the laws that now empowers cops in this manner. Nevertheless the institutional practice is in place, encouraging racial profiling, as last night’s performance indicates. I’ll give Colin a nudge to see if he will cover this in a column, if he hasn’t already. ARUDOU, Debito

    UPDATE MARCH 5: has received word that there is at least one case of somebody in mufti flashing badges and asking select NJ (what appears to be visibly-NJ women, in Kichijouji, Tokyo) for their ID. In all cases, check the police badge (keisatsu techou o misete kudasai), as you are legally entitled to. What to look for:

    Courtesy of Reddit.
    The creep in question:

    37 Responses to “YouTube: Police NJ Passport Checkpoint at Shibuya March 3, 2014 (targeted NJ does not comply)”

    1. Jim di Griz Says:

      What with the supposed ‘record number of NJ visitors’, the police dept. of tourist popular Tokyo must be feeling under siege from the phantom menace they’ve created from their own distorted stats. Maybe they fear they are losing control! Tokyo Olympics should be ‘great fun’.

    2. Kirk Masden Says:

      I was curious about what Japanese people are saying in Japanese about such questioning (職務質問). This web page has a detailed response to a question about whether or not one must respond. As far as I can tell, the answer fits well with what Debito is saying:

    3. Manjiro Says:

      I was in Shibuya last night – at this exact spot, in front of the koban – around 7:30pm; passed through with no problems and unimpeded. Looks like this was around 9-9:30, judging by the quick shot of the clock on the plaza.
      I will probably pass by again tonight (it’s my transit route to and from work, actually), and will be on my guard just in case.

    4. Mumei Says:

      > However, with the abolition of the Foreign Registry Law in 2012, it remains unclear under what law in specific the Japanese police are empowered to ask NJ without probable cause.

      I have had the same question since then, too.
      Whenever I am stopped, I ask them under which law they are stopping me.
      Usually they’ll say 職務質問, and the smarter ones may even say 警察官職務[執行]法. At which point I bring out my sumaho with the full text with specific parts highlighted and we read it together. This usually ends the questioning.
      Sometimes they will say something vague like 外人法 or 外人登録法 (both more specifically 外国人登録法). And again, I bring out my sumaho with the latest update showing that it was abolished in mid 2012. Again, this generally ends the questions.
      There may or may not be a replacement law, but in either case I put the burden of explaining which law on the police office and comply completely with it, but no further.

    5. Anonymous Says:

      Ahem, the answer has been right in front of us the whole time.

      Even the old Foreign Registry Law stated that all of those “shokkumu shitsumon without probable cause” were always illegal, see:

      “Foreigners must carry, but ONLY have to show to officers who are following the Police Duties Law.” Grok that VITAL qualifier.

      “The Police Duties Law states officers can only stop individuals when they see Probable Cause the individual committed a crime.”

      Thus, every individual in Japan, regardless of nationality, can legally refuse illegal attempts to “stop without probable cause.”

      “Ihou Na Shokumu Shitsumon.”

      Google the phrase using quotes “違法な職務質問”
      Even former Japanese Police Officer explains “違法な職務質問”

      Are we done voluntarily giving up our rights, or is the Police Duties Law somehow too mysterious for us to read?

      The Police Duties Law states that police officers can’t stop individual without probable cause of an actual crime.
      If an officer stops you (an individual protected by the Police Duties Law), show the evidence to the Anzen Koan.

      And you CAN legally film police officers, they can’t touch you, your property, even your camera, without consent.
      If an officer touches you, your property, even your camera, without consent, show the evidence to the Anzen Koan.

    6. Blue Says:

      There is a spot in Nagoya station where police regularly stop foreigners it is a bit of a bottleneck near the only train that goes to immigration.

      usually it is a young policeman/woman with other police using foreigners as training. Then I heard from a friend who taught a policeman that this is the case.

      I myself avoid the certain area having been stopped twice already.

    7. Loverilakkuma Says:

      My goodness. These young J-cops really need to be re-educated at police academy before they get back on duty again. They do not really understand proper interrogation procedure which is written in police manual.

      This is very demeaning and despicable tactic. Foreign Registration Law mainly focuses on those who have new resident cards for its ‘nominal’ crime-prevention purpose. Many of those
      tourists don’t have New Resident Cards, and the police can’t stop them because there’s no other way to distinguish them from resident aliens. So, why not going for stop-and-frisk those who have foreign-looking faces? At Shibuya!? Horrifying.

    8. scarecrow Says:

      Section 23 of the Immigration Control Act was amended to include language almost identical to the now abolished Foreign Registry law but referring instead to the zairyu card:

      第二十三条  …
      2  中長期在留者は、法務大臣が交付し、又は市町村の長が返還する在留カードを受領し、常にこれを携帯していなければならない。
      3  前二項の外国人は、入国審査官、入国警備官、警察官、海上保安官その他法務省令で定める国又は地方公共団体の職員が、その職務の執行に当たり、これらの規定に規定する旅券、乗員手帳、許可書又は在留カード(以下この条において「旅券等」という。)の提示を求めたときは、これを提示しなければならない。
      4  前項に規定する職員は、旅券等の提示を求める場合には、その身分を示す証票を携帯し、請求があるときは、これを提示しなければならない。

      So I don’t think anything has changed much in that respect.

      — Thanks for this!

    9. Anonymous Says:

      職務の執行に当たり is the VITAL qualifier (thank goodness Police Duties Law is, again, clearly mentioned in this new section 23.) :-)

      職務の執行 Police Duties Law states officers can stop you ONLY with reasonable grounds to suspect that a person committed a CRIME.

      Say it in English or say it Japanese, but it is important for everyone who goes outside in Japan to be able to say one sentence:


      しょくむ しつもん ほう に よる
      まず、 つみ を おかし した こと を うたがう に たりる そうとう な りゆう が ない ばあい
      いほう な しょくむ しつもん です。

      Shokumu Shitsumon Hou ni yoru,
      mazu, tsumi o okoshi shita koto o utagau ni tariru soutou na riyuu ga nai baai,
      ihou na shokumu shitsumon desu.

      According to “Police Duties” Questioning Law,
      first, without having reasonable grounds to suspect that a person committed a crime,
      this is an ILLEGAL “Police Duties” Questioning.

      As Mumei intelligently explained before, the FIRST thing, right at the beginning, is get the officer to say, “Shokumu Shitsumon.”

      So at the beginning, say “Shokumu Shitsumon?” while nodding your head up and down in a positive way as if you’re fine with it,
      smiling as if you’re totally fine and agreeable to Shokumu Shitsumon, everything’s cool, so they reply “Hai, Shokumu Shitsumon.”

      Then BOOM, reality time, since they’ve admitted this is Shokumu Shitsumon, you state the magic Shokumu Shitsumon summary above.
      You calmly state the magic sentence above (from your prepared business card) “According to ‘Police Duties’ questioning Law…”

      The magic sentence above is the best summary of the PROBABLE CAUSE limiter (thank you law makers) because it says the word CRIME.
      See, in the past we mistakenly focused on the weak “suspicious” word, well anyone who looks different is suspicious, that’s weak.
      The strong limiter you want to state is the entire phrase “having reasonable grounds to suspect that a person committed a CRIME.”

      Also, it is important to remember that they need to have seen this crime clue BEFORE they initiate the stop. Not after. BEFORE.
      So you must be prepared to remind them of this essential order, when they try to imply that your words now give them suspicion.

      The magic sentence above starts with the name of the law, so that everyone around you understands you are simply stating the LAW,
      and that the law requires that FIRST they must have reasonable grounds to suspect that an individual committed a CRIME, and then
      the big finish of this magic sentence is that without FIRST having seen any CRIME clue the initial stop itself was an ILLEGAL act.

      Then go into calm repeat mode if needed, just remember: the magic sentence above contains the right words, in the right order. :-)

      Then the police officer, who is being filmed of course (right, right, you are filming this illegal act, right) will “let you go.”
      But don’t let him off the hook, this public servant just committed an illegal act, he now hopes you (the victim) will slink away.
      You need to record him showing his I.D. (make him show it either before or after reading the magic sentence, before is better.)
      You need to give a copy to the Anzen Koan (the only group officers fear, the only group which can punish officers) Anzen Koan.

      And note: Anzen Koan can only take action IF you have successfully recorded 3 things: his name, number, and… official STATION.
      All 3 things are on his I.D. (“Techou”) and that is why illegal officers will cleverly try to merely point to their “nameplate.”
      “My name is here, my number is here, that’s all you need.” Nope, you NEED to record their I.D. which shows the official station.

      And yes, they need to pull out their I.D., yes you can record it, yes you can record their face, and no they can’t touch your cam.
      The goal: you are going to show Anzen Koan video evidence of the first crime (stopping you without FIRST seeing any CRIME clue.)
      Your video will also prove the officer committed other crimes (i.e. touching your camera, initially refusing to show I.D., etc.)

      To summarize: get them to say Shokumu Shitsumon, say the magic summary sentence, film the whole thing plus I.D., show Anzen Koan.

    10. Anonymous Says:

      PS – Thank you Scarecrow, for sharing the fact that even the current Immigration Control Act includes the 職務の執行 qualifier. :-)

      We were keeping ourselves in a mental cage for decades focusing on the “have to show” part, we didn’t notice the 職務の執行 limiter.

      So, as Bob Marley said, “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery.” Now we know, 職務の執行 protects even foreigners, so walk free.

      Yes, we always had to carry our ARC cards before, and we always have to carry our Zairyu cards now, but… the SHOWING is limited.

      The SHOWING is limited to the rare rare (not gonna’ happen) case of a police officer FIRST seeing you commit some crime, get it?

      According to 職務の執行 it is illegal to randomly stop any individual (even if “there has been lots of crime in this area recently.”)
      According to 職務の執行 it is illegal to randomly stop even foreign individuals (both the old ARC laws and the new Zairyu laws agree.)

      Now you know, and knowing is half the battle. The other half of the battle is filming illegal police stops and showing Anzen Koan. :-)

    11. Adonama Says:

      So reading in Scarecrow’s quote, I don’t see anything related to “probably cause”.
      You could conclude that item (3) depends on the 「その職務の執行にあたり」 and as such is governed by for example the 警察職務執行法 however then item (4) seems to say unequivocally that there is a requirement to carry and show the 旅券等(including zairyu card) when any of the agents defined in 2 (including police officers) demand that – and in this item there is no mention of 仕組むの執行.
      Do you agree? (I’d love to be wrong:))

    12. Brian Says:

      Please be aware that there are reports of a guy in plainclothes at Kichijoji station who is stopping some foreigners and asking for ID. He may or may not even be a policeman, according to those who have encountered him. Source:

      — Now that is genuinely creepy, and something I have suspected would happen all along. From the same link, a photo of this Kichijouji creep:
      and a comparison of fake and real police badges:


      The creep in question:

    13. Irezumi_Aniki Says:

      @9 & 10

      “職務の執行 Police Duties Law states officers can stop you ONLY with reasonable grounds to suspect that a person committed a CRIME.”

      Not really disagreeing with what you posted overall, but there’s slightly more to the Police Duties Law Section 2 than what you mentioned. Regardless of having committed a crime or not, the police can stop you for questioning if there’s reason to suspect that you may attempt/are attempting to commit a crime. Maybe it’s just me, but that kind of feels like an important part.

      第二条 警察官は、異常な挙動その他周囲の事情から合理的に判断して何らかの犯罪を犯し、若しくは犯そうとしていると疑うに足りる相当な理由のある者又は既に行われた犯罪について、若しくは犯罪が行われようとしていることについて知つていると認められる者を停止させて質問することができる。
      2 その場で前項の質問をすることが本人に対して不利であり、又は交通の妨害になると認められる場合においては、質問するため、その者に附近の警察署、派出所又は駐在所に同行することを求めることができる。
      3 前二項に規定する者は、刑事訴訟に関する法律の規定によらない限り、身柄を拘束され、又はその意に反して警察署、派出所若しくは駐在所に連行され、若しくは答弁を強要されることはない。
      4 警察官は、刑事訴訟に関する法律により逮捕されている者については、その身体について凶器を所持しているかどうかを調べることができる。

    14. Ba Says:

      I can’t say how angry it makes me to see videos like this. I’ve run into this recently myself, and the situation was actually quite scary when the police not only demanded ID, but when I requested theirs, one patted their gun as proof that they were police.

      This really needs to be addressed in some manner. I honestly worry about my safety more in regards to dealing with the police (in regards to unjustified detention or violation of rights) than I do criminal activity in Japan.

      Huge thanks to people taking these videos and posting them.

      Debito, I know there are various laws and interpretations, but I really wonder if there can be some action or some sort of guidance for how to even handle situations like this AFTER such behavior by the police. Behavior I really feel is illegal, and downright harassment.

      Again, so glad things like this get out.

    15. Jim di Griz Says:

      Re #12

      Fake police officers. Japan has had those before.
      Does anyone remember that Japan Probe carried a story maybe 6(?) years ago about a ‘policeman’ in Tokyo who was uniformed, and stopping people on the subway and taking their personal information? When the season changed to autumn, but he was still wearing summer uniform, people got suspicious, and he was caught.

      — No, I don’t remember that case. Anyone want to dig that one up for us?

    16. Al Says:


      The procedure to make a FORMAL complaint against the police is outlined here, courtesy of the Tokyo Public Safety Commission’s homepage:

      Their homepage is in Japanese, but the process is this:

      1. Write down the police officer’s badge number, worn on the LEFT chest. It will be in a format such as: AB345. If the officer is in plainclothes, ask for his police ID, in which case the number you want is a 6-digit number right under his photo. IF you use his BADGE number, you must also ask which police station he works at (e.g. Shibuya, Shinjuku, etc.) because the badge number worn is only used internally within that specific station, rather than all of Tokyo Metropolitan Police. HOWEVER, his police ID, which has the 6-digit number, is issued by Tokyo Metropolitan Police and can be used to identify him regardless of what station he works at. Again, get the badge number and station name for uniformed officers, and police ID with 6-digit number under photo for plainclothes officers.

      2. Note the date, time, and location of the encounter. Be as accurate and precise as possible.

      3. Write your complaint in English if you are a native English speaker. They will use a translator when they receive your complaint. In your complaint, write your address and phone number so they can contact you. Don’t worry about retaliation, because this is a formal complaint process, not just a complaint to the officer’s supervisor. Send your complaint to the following address:

      Tokyo Public Safety Commission
      2-1-1 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku
      Tokyo 100-8929

      If the encounter happened outside of Tokyo, for example Chiba Prefecture, you must send your complaint to the public safety commission in that prefecture. I stress that this is a FORMAL complaint and not just a complaint to the officer’s supervisor. Though the Public Safety Commission may not side with you, they definitely will question the police officers involved and will not just brush you off. You will get a response from them stating whether they have found inappropriate conduct by the police officers or not.

    17. Al Says:

      I also want to stress that you have the right to video record the police because they are public officials doing a public act. If they won’t let you record, such as the police in the above video, that’s grounds itself for complaining to the Public Safety Commission. And if they try to hide their badge number, or prevent you from writing down their badge number or police ID number, that’s grounds for complaint as well. Remember, they are public officials who wear badges displayed to the public and who carry IDs with numbers for the purpose of identifying them. Any police officer who prevents you from recording him, hides his badge or ID number, or prevents you from writing those numbers down is hiding from the public as well as his own employer.

    18. Adonama Says:

      Al, that makes sense, although I don’t believe you would have the right to publish it on Facebook or any other public medium without approval, is that correct?

    19. Anonymous Says:

      @Al, thank you for posting the procedure, beautiful. But remember, a Todai law grad who fights police illegal actions shared before that there is a relatively unknown catch (which I think is the reason Debito’s previous Koan report produced nothing) and the catch is YOU GOTTA’ GET THE LOCATION FROM THEIR TECHOU for the Koan to be able to dish out real punishment. Crazy right? I mean, you know the name, you know the number, you know where it happened, right? That should be enough. But we’re not dealing with a land of logic, so just go ahead and make the officer show his Techou and grab that supposedly-essential LOCATION as well (I suspect the crooked cops system here even goes as far as having police patrol OUTSIDE of their official Techou location, to prevent the “LOCATION-less” or “wrong LOCATION” Koan reports from going all the way to the penalty stage, see?) Record the Techou.

      @Aniki, for the purposes of this discussion – we’re talking about people simply walking from A to B and being ‘randomly’ stopped, the police aren’t claiming they “saw a clue of a crime before they stopped you”, so I don’t bother to mention the other ultra-rare situations. Yes, “about to commit a crime” means you’re putting on the ski mask and pulling reaching into your trenchcoat as you run into a bank, that’s not a concern we have, and if one really wants to get technical there’s another ultra-rare situation of “having admitted that you know about a crime committed by someone else) which means you would be walking around saying, “I know about a crime committed by someone else, I know about a crime committed by someone else.” So yeah, I just write about the main thing, the “I seen a clue that you just committed a crime” thing. OK, you’re helping me correct my statement, I appreciate that. How about, “Seen a clue of a crime.” No tenses needed. Hey folks, from now on, that’s really what we’re saying here. “Was a clue of a crime (past/present/future) seen here? No? No clue of a crime seen? Then this stop was illegal, the Anzen Koan punishes 違法職務質問, pull out that Techou, I’m creating a better Japan for my Japanese children by having the Anzen Koan take illegally-acting officers like you off the streets of Japan. Anzen Koan wa 違法職務質問 yurusanai, soshite にっぽん wa 違法職務質問 yurusanai, saiban wa 違法職務質問 yurusanai.”

      @Adonama, you are so close to being in Love with the Law:

      You realize that “item (3) depends on the 「その職務の執行にあたり」 and as such is governed by for example the 警察職務執行法”

      Wonderful, I’ve almost helped set another foreigner free from the fear of illegal stops, I’m so happy, here’s the final step:

      Realize the following, and you’ll realize why the lying Shibuya officers above could NOT arrest the honorable courageous Mr. RS:

      「前項に規定する」 な 職員 =
      「その職務の執行にあたり」 な 職員 =
      「職務質問の前に罪を犯ししたことを疑うに足りる相当な理由がある場合」 な 「職務の執行にあたり」 な 職員

      The officers in item 3 =
      The officers who are obeying the Police Duties law =
      The officers who are obeying the Police Duties questioning law which says that they can only stop individuals when they have reasonable grounds to suspect that a person committed a CRIME.

      Those are the only officers which you have to show to, officers obeying the laws. Not officers on illegal fishing expeditions.

      Are you finally realizing why freedom-loving, illegal-police-action refusing, people (both Japanese-citizens – ample video evidence on youtube, if you search for 違法職務質問 in quotes) and non-Japanese-citizens now as well (the evidence above provided directly to Debito by the intelligent righteous Mr. RS) these people are NOT arrested for refusing. They are not tazed. They are not beaten. This is great. This is so much better than L.A.

      So, nothing has changed from the ARC law to the Immigration Control Act new amendment, the protection was+is always right there.

      Police officers who have reasonable grounds to suspect that you committed a CRIME (meaning they saw you do something illegal) are the ONLY officers who can initiate a Legal Shokumu Shitsumon.

      That applies to everyone, both citizens and non-citizens alike. If an officer sees a clue you did something illegal, he can stop you and begin Legal Shokumu Shitsumon.

      And if he begins Legal Shokumu Shitsumon, THEN IN THAT CASE, AND ONLY IN THAT CASE, HE IS ONE OF THE OFFICERS MENTIONED ABOVE, AN OFFICER ACTING WITHIN THE LAW, YOU HAD BETTER SHOW YOUR CARD IF HE SAW A CLUE OF A CRIME, because showing is required in this rare rare case of LEGAL Shokumu Shitsumon, according to both the old ARC law and the newly Amended Immigration Control Act.

      Conversely, if he begins ILLEGAL Shokumu Shitsumon, then in that case he is NOT one of officers mentioned above, he is an officer acting outside of the law, you don’t have to show him I.D., he is on an illegal fishing adventure and as soon as you make it clear that YOU KNOW that random Shokumu Shitsumon is Illegal Shokumu Shitsumon, they “let you go”, but again, don’t just “let them go”, because they just violated your rights as an indivdual. In individual protected by the Police Duties law, and the Police Duties law is even there protecting you in both the old ARC law and the newly Amended Immigration Control Act.

      The funny thing is, even if in the rare, rare, rare case where they actually claim they saw a clue of illegality, even in that rare, rare unrelated to this topic case but even if the officer saw some actual clue that you might be crime-doing: The Legal Shokumu Shitsumon situation is itself totally weak like tissue paper, because both citizens and non-citizens can quickly end it with, “Shokumu Shitsumon is voluntary, can I go now?” :-)

      Because even if he saw a clue, even if he then initiated Legal Shokumu Shitsumon, he STILL can’t prevent you from leaving unless he arrests you, but he CAN’T arrest you so easily.

      Next, your mind is going to explode at how limited the police are when you learn that even if he wants to arrest you, he still can’t perform an arrest unless one of the following things happen:
      A) he gets a warrant from a judge based on the initial clue he saw, good luck with that project, meanwhile you are free to go.
      B) he gets a warrant from a judge based on the initial clue he saw PLUS more clues collected by you stupidly voluntarily answering his crafty loaded questions (why are you helping him increase the chance of getting that warrant, shut up.)
      C) he actually saw you commit the crime red-handed (in which case he’s going to arrest you without a warrant, get ready for the cuffs regardless of what you say, so in this case as well, shut up.)
      D) you stupidly voluntarily admit the crime you committed (in which case, you really didn’t follow the shut up rules mentioned above, which means maybe you are so stupid that you SHOULD be taken off the streets, ha ha, just kidding, but yeah, it’s stupid to ignore the shut up advice all intelligent lawyers give people.)

      To review, “職務の執行にあたり officers” are limited to the set of “officers who first have 罪を犯ししたことを疑うに足りる相当な理由がある.”

      “職務の執行にあたり officers” are the ONLY officers you have to show your I.D. to (i.e. you done got seen doing somethin’ illegal.)

      Thus, bottom line, “officers who first have 罪を犯ししたことを疑うに足りる相当な理由がある.” are the only officers you have to show your I.D. to. :-)

      The proof is in the video above. If those Law-breaking camera-touching lying-officers were able to arrest foreigners for refusing, RS would be in jail.

      RS is walking free, because he knows the law. The fact that he walked home freely, and sent this evidence to the number one information sharer about human rights in japan, is a wonderful thing.

      Now every single human in Japan who reads this has seen for themselves that this crazy poster using an anonymous handle has been telling you the truth: showing is voluntary (unless you were seen with a clue of a crime) carrying is mandatory, showing is voluntary.

      But why simply play the “it’s voluntary” card and slink away? Film the illegally-acting officer’s techou, and get him penalized by the Anzen Koan.

      And back to Mumei, I give much respect to you brother for helping me see that first you gotta’ get the officer to admit that this stop is Shokumu Shitsumon, right at that start (by asking with a positive demeanor as if you’re a cooperator) and when he says yes, start filming with a positive demeanor, ask again, Shokumu Shitsumon desu ka?

      He’ll start to get pissed that you’re filming now, but “Hai, saki yutta darou, Shokumu Shitsumon!” and now you’ve got that admittance on film, he can’t back-pedal now, now you continue to:

      You: “Kore wa futsuu na ‘randamu’ na Shokumu Shitsumon desu ka?”

      Him: “Hai hai, sou da yo, ‘randamu’ desu, minna-san ni yaru.”

      You: “Kore wa jinshuu-sabetsu de wa nai yo ne?”

      Him: “Sou da yo, zen zen sonna koto shi nai, minna-san ni yaru yo.”

      You: “De wa, 罪を犯ししたことを疑うに足りる相当な理由が arimasu ka?”

      Him: … (oh shit)

      You: “Nai yo ne, de wa, kore wa 違法職務質問 deshita. Anzen Koan wa 違法職務質問 yurusanai. Techou dashite kudasai.”

      Him: … (d’oh, I’m caught now, this is not good, but, oh well, in the end I’ll plead to the Anzen Koan the real root reason this probalem is occuring: the Shibuya police boss forced us to do this illegal act. So even if I go down, I’m taking him down with me.)

      You: OK, this video is going to the Anzen Koan. Am I free to go now? I am free to go now. Goodbye. Hello Anzen Koan!

    20. Al Says:


      Why not? That’s what the “public” in public official means. They are public officials, subject to public scrutiny, in a public medium.

    21. B Says:

      Al, thank you so much for that information. I deeply appreciate it and will file my own complaint.

    22. Adonama Says:

      Anonymous&everyone, thanks for the clarifications.
      I was misreading Article 23.4 but realize now that that is about the police officer having to show his ID and now the NJ in question.
      The only article relevant is 23.3 which does explicitly say その職務の執行に当たり.

      Interesting by the way how the fines are different for the different scenarios (see Articles 75, 76)
      – Not receiving (受領) the residence card in violation of 23.2 => up to 1 year inprisonment or up to 200kJPY fine
      – Refusing to present the residence card when asked as part of duty in violation of 23.3 => => up to 1 year inprisonment or up to 200kJPY fine
      – Not carrying the residence card in violation of 23.3 => up to 200kJPY fine
      – Not carrying passport or other document as defined in 23.1, in violation of 23.1 => up to 100kJPY fine
      – Refusing to present passport or 乗乗員手帳又は許可書 in violation of 23.3 => up to 100kJPY fine

    23. Dogginabox Says:

      How, or rather does, the 職務質問 law apply to being foreign while cycling?
      Both times it has happened to me I got some nonsense reason for being approached, (we’re out warning people to be safe because it’s snowing/ hey, is there a lock on the back of your bike?) followed by them eventually telling me to wait while they checked the registration.

      My understanding is that it’s theoretically ok to leave even if they tell you not to if they haven’t arrested you. Should this be accurate? I asked both times if it was ok to leave and was told no but that was as far as they went. Even if that’s the case, would it be reasonable to assume that they’d then make up a reason to suspect/arrest me? I guess I should film it next time?

    24. B Says:

      What if the police don’t even GIVE their ID or information other than their name. I assume that techou could refer to a koban or area? What if I downright have the video of the police actions?

    25. AT Says:

      Thank you for posting the video and thanks for all of the great comments. I hoped it would spark interest in the subject and awareness of the lack of clarity in the law.

      The video doesn’t show these points:
      1 – We didn’t greet them until after they approached us. In fact, I’d already walked past the police and was approached from behind.
      2 – After we left the crossing (where the vid stops) the two younger policemen approached us again, and we continued the discussion. I asked them what their suspicion of us was and offered to cooperate in their investigation. I even went as far to respectfully ask if there was someone fitting my description who they were after because the dragnet they had set up at Shibuya Crossing could’ve been for a reason other than racial profiling and I didn’t want to screw up an actual criminal investigation. But they admitted that they had no suspicions. I strongly believe that their investigation was simply to stop and question non-Japanese people. In the end I did not identify because I was confident that by law I’m entitled to my privacy unless I’m under suspicion.
      3 – Sadly, after speaking with these guys, I was left with the impression that they’re unsure of what their goal was and whether or not what they were doing was morally or legally right.

    26. john k Says:

      So, this begs the obvious question, if taken to its logical conclusion.

      If you consider that there is no crime and your are sure you have not committed any crime (unless of course you have), is it reasonable to simply ignore them and walk away. Since as noted above, if you are 100% sure you have committed no crime, why bother stopping, since they have no “legal” right to stop you?

      — Because legality isn’t an issue with no evidence. In a “he-said, she-said” situation, the cops almost always win, especially in Japan (they’ll simply say that you were “acting suspiciously” by not stopping, once again justifying their action to stop you). That’s why you have to film or audio record it.

    27. Al Says:

      @John K

      To answer your question of whether you should just walk away: No. Instead, get their badge number and station name, or police ID with 6-digit number (techou) as I have stated. Then, file a complaint. Here’s why:

      1. Whether you’re 100% sure that you committed no crime is irrelevant. The decision to stop you is their decision, not yours. Otherwise nobody would stop for the police, criminals and non-criminals alike. Whether they had a legal reason to stop you is something to discuss AFTERWARDS, in your complaint. You can, however, refuse to answer any questions and refuse to let them search you without a warrant. Refuse anything that requires your permission. And tell them that you want to leave and that they are holding you against your will.

      2. By not stopping, you forfeit your chance to file a proper complaint. Nobody will know that the police tried to stop you for no reason. The low-ranking police officers who tried to stop you will simply think that they might need to get more physical with the next foreigner in order to stop him. The high-ranking officers won’t even know about it. Your fight is with the high-ranking officers and officials that allow this crap to take place, not with the low-ranking morons. So stop, get their information, and file your complaint.

    28. john k Says:

      Debito, Al

      Thanks, you confirmed my suspicions.
      I just thought it is worth spelling out….

    29. Dave Says:

      Debito et al,

      Thanks to Debito and everyone for all the informative comments and discussion. However, I tried reading through all the comments, and in the end I’m left a little bit confused.

      I was stopped by the police in Roppongi this December or January, as they were walking down the main street and checking everyone who looked non-Japanese. Many years ago I had a piece of paper with the law that said that they could not ask for my ID without probably cause, which I got from this very site (or via Debito in some way or another). But I lost my walled a couple years ago and didn’t replace that paper. Wouldn’t you know it, the whole time I carried that paper, I was never stopped, and then this one time I really wanted that paper, of course I didn’t have it. Instead, I argued with the cops and gave them the most hard time I could muster, but in the end, I knew I was going to show my gaikokujin card because without the letter of the law on hand for reference, I didn’t feel confident enough drawing a harder line.

      So, anyway, what I realized is that I should keep a copy of the relevant law as some kind of document in electronic form on my phone. I always have my phone, and if I lose it, I can just restore the document from backup. Maybe keep it on Google Drive or something like that.

      But after reading the comments here, I’m a little lost as to what exactly would be the correct text to keep on hand to show the police when the time comes. Can someone with more knowledge than me perhaps break it down to exactly what text I should carry with me in light of all that is discussed here?

      Or maybe have a public document that anyone can access from their smartphone? Perhaps already has a web page, but it would be good to have something without the whole website template, for quicker access and broader compatibility, so we can easily whip it out and show the cops.


      — The old version of the laws paper is linked from here. I am planning on updating it ASAP with the new laws. The “probable cause” section is still the same, as is the requirement of the cop showing ID on request. Details of the new laws are all here within this blog entry, just not collated yet. You can collate it for yourself now if you want to be forearmed for the next time.

    30. Mark R Says:

      A basic question. Why try to make trouble for the police? As the whole world over, the best advice is surely to be polite and cooperative. It doesn’t cost anything and certainly gets you on your way again more quickly. Embassy websites are clear with advice if arrested, but I doubt they would recommend antaganising police officers on the street.

      — Who’s antagonizing whom?

    31. Al Says:

      @Mark R

      Because the police are breaking the law by stopping you without any grounds for suspicion. And because they’re breaking the law by not letting you refuse a wallet search. Do you want the police to break the law? Don’t you think the police should be held to a higher standard?

    32. Jim di Griz Says:

      @ Mark R #30,

      You lose all credibility when you start blaming the victim.

      Aside from that, we should stand up to unlawful stop and search by the police because it’s UNLAWFUL according to Japanese law!

      The fact that some cops don’t know this should be a national embarrassment.
      The fact (as stated on before) that the majority of Japanese, when surveyed, replied that they didn’t think NJ in Japan should have the same human rights as Japanese, should be a national embarrassment.
      The fact (as covered on before) that Chief Prosecutors instruct police recruits that ‘foreigners have no rights’, should be a national embarrassment.

      If I stand up for my legal rights when stopped, and you do the same, it will lead to an increased awareness that this is a problem, and the J-police will be forced to (illegally) give us trouble (which will eventually become an international embarrassment with all the NJ stories of mistreatment by J-police), or the J-police will realize that stopping NJ (who know their rights!) is more trouble than it’s worth, could lead to a complaint, and therefore could lead to a temporary loss of salary, transfer, or being fired.

      Which approach do you think is best?
      I don’t think that NJ should ‘go along to get along’ with illegal police activities, it’ll only normalize the discrimination, and encourage them to do worse.

    33. Adam Says:

      @Mark R

      “As the whole world over, the best advice is surely to be polite and cooperative. It doesn’t cost anything and certainly gets you on your way again more quickly.”

      Do you know anything about the history of Treblinka? The Nazis were relatively benign acting toward their victims all the way to the gas chambers, the easier to get them there in mass without hassle.

      Yes Nazi comparisons are generally bad form, but your comment is so incredibly short-sighted and/or naive I had to drag that one out. If any government official is abusing their power with a citizen they should be held to account and not cooperated with, then cooperating with them aiding and abetting oppression. This right of the inhabitants of any democracy to be free from arbitrary harassment is a keystone of said democracies.

      Not that Japan’s a democracy, but since they claim to be and have most of the laws and practices in place to make the claim (with notable, and to me, democracy-disqualifying exceptions) holding the police, for one, to account, is win for democracy.

      I am of course assuming that you value democracy over a police state. If the latter, point taken.

    34. Dean Says:

      Not trying to be an apologist here, just keeping it real. Today I witnessed 2 Japanese policeman scoping out an area in Shibuya. One of them was scoping hard. They came to a crossing, then the agressive one tapped his partner and was like “mitsuketa” they had found a target. It was a J dude, sitting down, doing nothing. An interogation went on for about 30 minutes, bag invasion etc. Pretty aggressive stuff, and when I left it was getting more intense. Point is, this is the second time I have seen this; J cops profiling J dudes. Its not only gaijin.

    35. Anonymous Says:

      Nobody here said “Japanese police do illegal Shokumu Shitsumon to foreign-looking-people ONLY.”

      Japanese police do illegal Shokumu Shitsumon to foreign-looking-people and to people in general.

      So pointing out, “But I saw a non-foreign-looking person being stopped” disproves nothing, see?

      The point being made here is “All humans living in Japan need to know Keisatsu-Hou Dai-Ni-Jou.” :-)

    36. AA Says:

      Thanks Mr. Debito for your work and this site. Really interesting stuff, to say the least.

      Regarding the second video, I would be very curious to know the circumstances that led up to what is captured. While it must be infuriating to be viewed with suspicion just for being NJ but it doesn’t help the gentleman’s cause by antagonizing cops. From what I can see the cops are trying to do their best to be polite, trying to reason with him, ‘just doing their job’ as one suggested a few times, asking for permission in their very Japanese way. The guy carries on like some drunk chimpira wanting a fight.

      Not 100% sure but it looks like the NJ taking the video is Caucasian? Japanese are often deferential to Westerners (white folks to be exact) as they know that roughing up one of them may lead to a diplomatic row. If the guy shooting the video was from Cameroon I suspect it would have ended very differently (or maybe we would have never seen a video at all). Definitely ‘racial privilege’ is a factor here. If you were a black man in the US and you spoke to cops like that you will likely end up dead.

    37. jS Says:

      Yesterday, I was stopped for second time in less than a month by a policemen in the same area (Not the same guys)

      After reading him in Japanese what I read in this blog, 「しょくむ しつもん」
      he did not let me record by video or photograph his police badge or ID number.

      He said that he didn’t want to see his badge picture online and this issue affect his police career

      So I had to make a voice recording.

      In the recording I read his name in his badge, number and the police station he belongs to and his voice agreeing what I read.

      He tried to put his badge in my face making me step backwards
      so I was unable to take the picture of his badge.

      I told him that was unnecessary
      and was “Power Harrasment”

      Later he wrote my name in his notebook and my address, telling me he will call his supeior since I mention that I’ll go to 「Anzen Koan」

      And also requested my phone number
      which I denied to

      I am sending my complaint to the Tokyo Public Safety Commission

      If any of you Readers of this blog have some feedback it would be appreciate it!

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