Nikkei Asian Review wrongly reports “Japanese law requires hotels to check and keep copies of foreigners’ passports”. Corrected after protest, but misreported text still proliferates

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Hi Blog. Check this article out, put out by the Nihon Keitai Shinbun (Japan’s WSJ):

/////////////////////////////////////////
Japan to allow fingerprint authorization for visitors
Nikkei Asian Review, July 24, 2016
http://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Companies/Japan-to-allow-fingerprint-authorization-for-visitors
(Original text below courtesy of http://www.anirudhsethireport.com/japan-allow-fingerprint-authorization-visitors/, and numerous other websites found by Googling the article title, demonstrating how reported misinformation proliferates across the media and becomes the narrative.)

Visitors to Japan will be able to use their fingerprints instead of passports to identify themselves at some hotels thanks to technology introduced by a Tokyo venture.

With financial help from the economy and industry ministry, Liquid will start offering a fingerprint-based authorization system by March in a bid to increase travel convenience. Some 80 hotels and Japanese-style inns in major tourist spots like Hakone and Atami, two hot spring resort areas not far from Tokyo, will be among the first to install the system. More inns and hotels will follow.

The ministry will cover part of the installation costs.

Visitors to Japan can register their fingerprints along with their passport information in their home countries or at registration spots at airports or elsewhere in Japan. Foreign travelers can then identify themselves at a hotel’s front desk by waving their fingers over a contactless device.

Japanese law requires hotels to check and keep copies of foreigners’ passports. But the economy ministry and the ministry of labor have decided to treat “digital passports” as legitimate alternatives.
/////////////////////////////////////////
ENDS

Debito.org Reader XY found this article and wrote to the Nikkei for a correction. Their response, and his original post, follow:

==================================
From: NAR Customer Support <nar-inquiry@nex.nikkei.co.jp>
Subject: 00004389 – Editorial
Date: August 4, 2016 at 15:23:58 GMT+9
To: XY, XXXX University

Dear Customer,

Thank you for your inquiry. This is Nikkei Asian Review (NAR) Customer Support.

Please find our editorial team’s answer as follows.
Thank you.

Best regards,

Nikkei Asian Review
Customer Support

————————————————————–
Thank you so much. We will check the Ryokan Law and see if we need to change the sentence.
—————————————————————

Your inquiry:
—————————————————————
This article contains an incorrect statement: “Japanese law requires hotels to check and keep copies of foreigners’ passports.” In fact, Japanese law requires hotels to check the passports of foreigners who don’t have an address in Japan:

For details, including a quote of the relevant Japanese law go to

https://www.facebook.com/Kumamotoi/posts/1091156614291103

The most important point is that the law does not apply to all foreigners but to foreign tourists who do not have an address in Japan. This is a matter of concern to many who live in Japan and occasionally are asked for passports based on a misunderstanding of the law. A second point is that keeping copies of passports is not mentioned in the law — it is a directive from the police. The law only calls for keeping records.

Would you consider correcting the article?

XY, XXXX University
==================================

COMMENT: As you can see by following this link to the new article, Nikkei corrected it to remove the last paragraph entirely — and that’s about as close as we’ll ever get to them admitting they made a mistake. But as we’ve written here many times before, the National Police Agency and its branches keep lying about their lawgiven powers regarding tracking foreign guests at Japanese hotels. XY wonders if somebody at the NPA wasn’t involved in creating this misinformed article. It wouldn’t be the first time, and a recent (and very funny) article came out over the weekend describing how the Japanese Police have historically stretched laws to outlaw public behavior they basically just personally disliked. Just another example of how Japan is actually a mild (or sometimes not) police state.  And that’s even before we get to the whole issue of re-fingerprinting NJ and the flawed reasoning behind it.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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26 comments on “Nikkei Asian Review wrongly reports “Japanese law requires hotels to check and keep copies of foreigners’ passports”. Corrected after protest, but misreported text still proliferates

  • First of, how long until this shifts from “optional” to “mandatory” is my concern; Japanese would never stand for being part of a nationwide fingerprint database (that was the whole thing with the fingerprinting everyone at airports fiasco, no?) so why should nonresident foreigners?

    Especially given how often major Japanese government organizations get hacked, infected by viruses, or otherwise disclose and/or lose personal information (how many times has the pension service flat out lost records now?), there are serious questions that can be raised about how this information is stored and may be used down the line.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Nice catch there from XY!

    Knowing the institutional racism of the J-police, and the subjective manner in which they decide which laws to enforce, and how to ‘re-interpret’ the meaning of those laws, I would suggest that any NJ who would volunteer to go leaving their finger prints around Japan with any O-yaji is asking to be framed for a crime that they didn’t commit!

    Ultimately, this fingerprint scanning initiative is a scam on the Japanese tax-payer dressed up as ‘omotenashi’ for NJ tourists, and accepted by the hotel industry since it reduces the amount of interaction staff have to have with ‘meiwaku gaijin’ (it’s so ‘mendokusai’ to take their money).

    Ultimately, this is a government sponsored (and paid for!) scheme to pass tax ¥ to whoever is manufacturing the fingerprint scanners (minus the brown paper envelope stuffed full of cash that the manufacturer has to hand over). And of course, it’s all shrouded in J-police controlling NJ ‘safety’ mumbo-jumbo, with a smattering of arrogant telling NJ tourists what they what superiority complex, so the J-taxpayer will be oblivious to the pork-barrel that it really is.

  • I’ve been following this idea of the Police for some time now. To demand identification is one thing, but in the form of photocopies of passports in this day and age, with identity fraud (largely based on photocopies of passports) rampant and groups like IS known to use ID fraud to finance their activities, is a blunder of biblical proportions. As expert Bruce Schneier aptly puts it: Demanding an easy-to-forge copy of a hard-to-forge document isn’t a good solution. (https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2016/07/hijacking_someo.html)

    There is one important piece of advise here to everyone, everywhere, for every reason, who is asked for a copy of any form of ID:

    1. Insist on having the ID number and other data written down in a form instead.

    2. If for whatever reason that does not help, follow the advice that some European governments now give out, and write the name of the organisation, the purpose of the copy and the date right across the photocopy (for a few clear images, see https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/binaries/rijksoverheid/documenten/brochures/2012/12/21/flyer-voor-gemeenten-om-inwoners-te-informeren-over-identiteitsfraude/bzk-toolkit-a5-flyer-15-jan-2013.pdf, sorry the explanation is in Dutch, but the images will be clear).

  • Jim di Griz says:

    @ GS #3

    I’m not surprised that Japan hasn’t got a clue about basic measures to protect against modern crimes such as hacking, ATM fraud, and now identity theft.

    After all, this is a country that still relies on the Fax machine as essential office equipment!
    I’m guessing that the guys who were blown away by the fax concept 35+ years ago are now the ones running everything.

    In another 35 years or so, I look forward to Japanese offices accepting the concepts of electronic invoicing and electronic signatures.

  • #4 JDG

    The reason for the fax m/c and many other examples of “old technology” in a country that desperately tries to give the impression it is modern and high-tech is the make up of the companies in the whole country. The number of companies in Japan are dominated by SMEs and accounts for 99.7%. That leaves just 0.3% of the entire number of companies in Japan that makes up the likes of Honda/Toyota etc.

    “…These SMEs are often conservative, if not downright Luddite, says Mr Otokozawa.
    “They usually use postal mail, or fax for their communications. We sometimes receive a fax, written by hand which means such firms don’t even use word processing software like Word…..”Eventually you accept that a company whose pride is its cutting-edge tech image makes employees use an email service that looks circa 1997,” goes a recent anonymous tweet from an employee of a well-known blue chip Japanese technology firm…”

    And noting other reasons:

    “…Burning data onto discs and delivering them through the post, accompanied by a data submission form “filled out by hand,” was encouraged by managers. And when software updates or the adoption of collaborative tools like Basecamp and Dropbox were suggested, management spurned them, he maintains. An “overzealous approach to problem prevention was typically to forbid new software from being installed,” he adds….” **

    ** http://www.bbc.com/news/business-34667380

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    NAR’s feigned politeness(deleting misinformation half an hour after initial report without correction notice at the end, assuming no one will find the error) indicates their flighty attitude toward cultural ignorance of laws on registered foreigners in Japan. Including such information as government rationale for digital fingerprinting(especially when it is under METI and MHLW) is quite misleading. Lousy editorial policy, Nikkei Asian Review.

  • How about universities in Japan that require applicants to submit postal mail paper applications and, in some cases, ask applicants to handwrite certain forms? I have only seen one university, Tokyo Denki University, that allowed applicants to upload all of their application materials to their server in a ZIP format.

    I use Dropbox and Google Drive and have showed some Japanese colleagues in my humanities department how they work and they have no idea. Yes, they are older colleagues in their 40s and 50s, but they have no idea. I mean, these are teachers who voted to get rid of white boards in classrooms and to use the budget to install more chalkboards! Yes, I am not kidding. And you even see a lack of basic computer skills in Japanese young people of university age, who cannot operate Word or Excel or PowerPoint.

  • I stayed at the Kanda Capsule Hotel last week. In the past when I have stayed there, they always photocopy my residence card. Last week, I decided to refuse to allow them to photocopy my card. However, the guy working the front counter demanded to see my card and read it as I filled out the guest form. I was surprised, because it looked like he was going to turn me away for not allowing him to photocopy my residence card, but he did not.So maybe hotel staff are slowly learning that it is in fact not a legal requirement to photocopy residence cards and passports for legal residents of Japan.

  • Baudrillard says:

    re technology in Japan, The 80 year old president at the company I worked at couldnt read email as the screen hurt his eyes, so everything was still written down or by fax. I d say thats quite often the reason for the backward technology at most Japanese SMEs.

    Berlitz (not an SME) still use this awful, buggy LCMS software from the 90s that is really in a tiny font and cannot be changed- my eyesight has become a lot worse after working for them, so perhaps he is on to something.

    About the Kanda Capsule Hotel, Sebastian, perhaps you could say next time “you still have my photocopied details from last time,dont you- I am a regular customer” and see how they respond.

    They should be destroying the records, but I suspect not…

    Handing them over to the police who deputized them to take NJ, any opinions?

  • Baudrillard,

    I don’t know what they did with previous photocopies of my residence card. I suspect they keep them or pass them on to the police who collect them. I also have had my residence card copied at the Shibuya Capsule Hotel, but a few weeks ago when I stayed there, they did not copy my card. The Siesta Capsule hotel in Ebisu never copies my card when I stay there. It seems to be inconsistent, but I suspect that hotels are slowly learning that it is in fact not a legal requirement to photocopy non-Japanese residents’ passports or residence cards.

  • @Sebastian

    If you have an address in Japan there is no need for you to even show your card, let alone allow them to photocopy it. If possible, it would be better if you refused as hopefully that would make things better for the next person.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    Here’s a recent news update on the Toyoko Inn. Love the Japanese title “非常識の塊”だった.” It includes the incident about previous president Nishida(who was accused of illegal retrofitting in 2007 and an arrest for illegal dumping of industrial waste in 2008). Surprisingly, they are once again becoming one of the biggest hotel chains(256 branches, 50,000 rooms in total) since they had a new president Ms. Maiko Kuroda, a daughter of Mr. Nishida. I wonder how much their service to NJ clients has improved since then.

    http://zasshi.news.yahoo.co.jp/article?a=20160813-00131537-toyo-bus_all&p=1

  • Baudrillard says:

    @Sebastian, #11. So presumably the police are just asking hotels to do their (NJ surveillance) job for them.

    Just like Communist China, again.

  • Onceagaijin,alwaysagaijin says:

    One of the most interesting subtexts of this story is the fact that in the media the idea of foreigners wanting to protect their privacy and be treated normally is completely sidestepped. Of course as gaijin we are different, we are guests, and we should accept being treated differently, and that our basic rights to equal treatment are obviated by our very non-kokumin status. This means that we can expected to be treated better or worse because of our very “othered” status. Sometimes this works to our temporary advantage, but the deeper tide is that such policies are exclusionary, distancing and discriminatory.

    Take the following article by the Nikkei about fingerprinting of gaijin guests, for their convenience. The whole thing is floated as a great idea and for everyones’s convenience:

    Japan to allow fingerprint authorization for visitors (http://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Companies/Japan-to-allow-fingerprint-authorization-for-visitors)

    TOKYO — Visitors to Japan will be able to use their fingerprints instead of passports to identify themselves at some hotels thanks to technology introduced by a Tokyo venture.
    With financial help from the economy and industry ministry, Liquid will start offering a fingerprint-based authorization system by March in a bid to increase travel convenience. Some 80 hotels and Japanese-style inns in major tourist spots like Hakone and Atami, two hot spring resort areas not far from Tokyo, will be among the first to install the system. More inns and hotels will follow.
    The ministry will cover part of the installation costs.
    Visitors to Japan can register their fingerprints along with their passport information in their home countries or at registration spots at airports or elsewhere in Japan. Foreign travelers can then identify themselves at a hotel’s front desk by waving their fingers over a contactless device.

    Then you have breathless idiot trade hacks touting how brilliant it is:
    http://loyaltylobby.com/2016/07/26/hotel-check-in-by-fingerprint-to-avoid-passport-registration-formalities-in-japan-beginning-in-march-2017/

    The whole thing sticks.
    Allowing gaijin to give private companies and the cops and immigration authorities not only to take our biometric data but then to track us within Japan.
    The spin is that we are going to be forming lines because the kindly technologically advanced Japanese are doing us a favor. Fuck off.

    It goes back to my talks with younger Japanese who just have no conception of privacy and rights. One person I talked to wants, when he becomes an executive of one of Japan’s largest premises security companies, to propose chipping gaijin for their safety and convenience- i.e. actually surgically implant chips in us so we can be tracked. Basically we are dogs (but, not, perhaps, itinerant seals)

    Others I have talked to that have entered top U.S. public policy programs and want to be politicians think of setting up gilded ghettos for us.
    You couldn’t make this up. And I’m not.

  • @HJ
    No, I did not. My poor excuse is that it was mid-night and we were getting up at 4.30am the next morning. And the lady at the reception never asked for it.

  • Jim di Griz says:

    @ Onceagaijin,alwaysagaijin #17

    Shocked, but no surprised.
    Just another example of Japan trying to implement racist policies towards NJ and suffering cognitive dissonance when they have to rationalize it;

    We want gaijin to be constantly monitored and have no privacy- for their enjoyment!

    Sure.
    Just how to do it, without looking like nazis stitching stars to Jews?
    Ahh…its for ‘your convenience’.

  • @ #17 & #19

    The thing that bothers me the most about it is when it inevitably goes from “optional for your convenience” to “this is the mandatory system for all foreign travelers” to “all non-citizens are subject.” And of course, along that road, the presumably increasing difficulty minority citizens and non-citizen residents will face when adjudged based on looks alone to be foreign tourists. I feel like our only hope will be Japanese businesses’ fierce aversion to implementing any technological updates. I can’t decide if it’s hilarious or extremely depressing.

  • @ #18 Blimp

    Don’t beat yourself up over it, I’ve let stuff slip sometimes too out of just exhaustion. I just hope to remind everyone to do our best to point out these things when we encounter them, so hopefully others will realize it’s a problem.

  • Toyoko Inn is inconsistent and I don’t stay with them because of this. Many properties display or write on their websites that foreigners must show their passport.

    Though interestingly on their own website terms it says this:
    https://www.toyoko-inn.com/eng/info/terms.html

    >>Registration

    Article 8. The Guest shall register the following particulars at the front desk of the Hotel on the day of accommodation;
    i.Name, age, sex, address occupation of Guest(s);

    ii.Nationality, passport number, port and date of entry in Japan or foreign nationals who don’t have resident registration in Japan.(A copy of the passport will be made for confirmation.)

    日本国内に住所登録地のない外国人にあっては、国籍、旅券番号、入国地及び入国年月日。
    (確認の為、パスポートのコピーをとらせていただきます)
    <<

    Though it's not clear about a copy of passport will be made for confirmation only applies to those who don't have an address or to all foreigners.

    Another item is that the article implies that this hotel system (fingerprints) is voluntary not mandatory.

    — No, it’s clear in the Japanese version that foreigners without an address in Japan get subjected to the passport check.

  • “— No, it’s clear in the Japanese version that foreigners without an address in Japan get subjected to the passport check. ”

    I said, it’s not clear if the confirmation only applies to does who don’t have an address or to ALL foreigners (even those who live in Japan).
    It’s clear YES it applies to those who don’t have an address, but the English and Japanese leave it ambiguous if they (Toyoko-inn) still want to copy the passports of those who live in Japan. It simply just says a copy of a passport would be made for confirmation, it doesn’t say a copy of the passport of those only without addresses in Japan.

    Which is stupid because those living in Japan wouldn’t be carrying passports with them in the first place.

    Their policy should clarified to say, those without an address will also have their passports copied in addition to having their information registered.

  • Think Debito is right in context even with respect to the confirmation because the parenthetical follows a sentence that is specific to those without a registered address in Japan. Also, the parenthetical says they take a copy to confirm the citizenship, passport number, date of entry and port of entry from the passport. Long-term residents would not have all that information in their passport.

  • Jim di Griz says:

    @ Guest #23

    Re; ‘Their policy should clarified to say, those without an address will also have their passports copied in addition to having their information registered.’

    Their policy should be changed to noting down passport details of non-resident NJ by hand since most governments explicitly precaution against allowing others to take passport photocopies due to identity theft related crimes these days.

    Please, the whole thing is illegal and should be stopped.
    Police advising hoteliers to do so should be prosecuted.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    @Guest, #23

    Please. Hotel business has no reason to require photocopying that goes way beyond the purpose of verification. It’s the nonsense of century, and is none other than bullying practice disguised in the name of of gaijin watch.

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