TJ on “Doing a Debito”: Gaijin Carded at Nagoya Airport and Airport Comfort Inn

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Hi Blog.  Every now and again I hear from people how Debito.org has been helpful in dealing with daily life in Japan.  Here’s one such example.  After more than twenty years of the Debito.org Archive, and ten years of the Debito.org Blog, things like this make it all worth it.  Thanks for writing in, TJ.  Dr. Debito Arudou

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To: debito@debito.org
From: TJ
Date: August 12, 2018
Subject: Well, I put on my Debito hat today!

I’m an American married to a Japanese, and we’re on an adventure doing standby flights from Japan to overseas. However, unluckily we got bumped at Nagoya Airport. So we checked into a Comfort Inn at the airport in my (Japanese) spouse’s name.

He filled out the card for our twin room. But the receptionist looked at me and said that she needed to photocopy my passport. But I know from Debito.org that she doesn’t have the legal obligation to photocopy my passport, or even see any ID, when I have a Japanese address as a Japanese resident, and I told her so. So she said she needed to copy my “Gaijin Card”, or Zairyuu Residence Card.

I gave her a chotto matte kudasai… and dug out that nifty Japanese paper you posted on Debito.org years ago and I held it up to her to read, showing her the letter of the law that says that ID is only required for tourists, not for residents of Japan, including foreign residents.

(http://www.debito.org/whatif-id-check.doc
from http://www.debito.org/residentspage.html#checkpoints)

Another receptionist came over to investigate, and I repeated that I live in Japan permanently. Basically, the other woman’s attitude was since my Japanese spouse was with me, I didn’t have to hand any ID to be photocopied. Because I’m “one of the good ones”. Not a win, but I don’t think she expected me to stand my ground the way I did.

I cannot understand why they need my most intimate and personal information photocopied. What is done with it later? How is it disposed of? It seems like a waste of paper, toner, etc., and because of identity theft, it makes me really nervous.

So… fresh off this experience, we went out to dinner at Nagoya Airport. The hotel is connected so we went back over. My spouse popped into a shop to get toiletries and I sat down in a public chair to wait.

A security guard — I wasn’t sure if he was a police officer, but my spouse later thinks he was — came up and said he was randomly checking passengers’ passports.

Well, I answered in fluent Japanese, which I think he did not expect and threw him off. I explained I am staying at a hotel at the airport and am with a friend who is in the shop over there and we are having dinner. I didn’t have a passport, so I flashed my Zairyuu Residence Card.

But that wasn’t enough. He said he needed me to remove it from my wallet so he could make a written “memo”.

Now, I’m a pretty easygoing person. But at this point my aggressive alter ego, I call him “Pinky”, came out and refused to comply. Pinky told him he was targeting only foreigners, and that wasn’t right, even from a legal standpoint. And at that point my spouse walked up, but could see Pinky had taken over and stepped back to let us handle it.

The security guard eventually backed down, but again, I know it’s because a Japanese was with me. He tried to compliment my Japanese but Pinky wasn’t having it. Pinky told him that I have lived in Japan longer than he has. He was some 20 year old kid who has a tin badge and hat, and thinks he can boss people around and invade their privacy without just cause.

So, I went over to a comment box for Nagoya Airport and wrote a lengthy complaint. It probably won’t even get read, but it made me feel better. The point is, thousands of other people, including foreigners were in the vestibule, and I was basically getting targeted for “sitting while being a foreigner.” So much for kokusaika ahead of the Olympics. Geez. Not very welcoming.

These instances immediately took me back to the time some years ago when we invited you to speak at our university, and how you handled that hotel clerk who Gaijin-carded you. You knew the law and your ground. So did I. And Pinky.

Debito-sensei, arigato! — TJ.

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19 comments on “TJ on “Doing a Debito”: Gaijin Carded at Nagoya Airport and Airport Comfort Inn

  • I have the same experience at hotels (especially in Kyoto) often. I flatly refuse to even show my residence card. So far hotel staff didn’t escalate this, but I wonder what I can do if they call my bluff and refuse to let me stay. Can I call the police on them? Any advice?

    And I give hotels, who ask for my ID after I tell them I live in Japan, a bad review on all platforms. I hope you all do the same!

    Reply
    • if police are deputizing hotels to do this (as hotels sometimes claim) then certainly calling the police would be an excellent way to “clear up any cultural misunderstandings)”.

      Next time a manager cites this, I would say, without irony or anger, “OK lets call the police just to check (確認、念のため)。.

      Reply
      • Mark in Yayoi says:

        Baud, don’t do this. If you do, the police will demand to see your alien card and ask you some more questions. The police are the ones behind these illegal demands.

        What you want to do is check in to the hotel during business hours and invite the hotel to call the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare and have them confirm the law then and there.

        Reply
        • and you can also notify your local 消費生活センター (shouhi seikatsu senta-) . They will contact the 全国旅館ホテル生活衛生同業組合連合会 (Zenkoku Ryoukan Hotel Seikatsu Eisei Dougyou Kumiai Rengoukai) which is in charge of supervising hotels.

          Reply
  • i respect for TJ for the work he put in, but I don’t think I wouldve had the energy. I d probably just fire off my fave one liner in Japanese, which is the wonderful “Lose the racism and complete the transaction” (subtext, I Am The Customer (and I am your elder and better)).

    Reply
  • I’ve had the hotel thing happen half a dozen times (always when I’m on my own, never when I’m with my wife) and I just tell them I live here and don’t have to show them anything. If that doesn’t work immediately on the front desk clerk I ask to talk to the manager (the clerk can’t change the policy, even if they are misunderstanding it). So far I have always gotten my room and never shown or had ID photocopied.

    Been ID’d by the police three times (twice at Narita, which is apparently where the police from all over Japan come to practice checking foreigners’ IDs, and once in Sendai Airport, which was unexpected and pissed me off). I think I’d push it a bit more now than I did then.

    Reply
    • spot on “Narita, which is apparently where the police from all over Japan come to practice checking foreigners’ IDs” the wrost possible place they could use to practice this! Lets piss off as many people as possible, so they leave as detractors.

      I for one never use Narita now. I am not going to be the J police”s “teachable moment”. I am a custormer. (was).

      Reply
      • Jim Di Griz says:

        Everything about Narita is just plain wrong;
        The history of the land appropriation, the undemocratic heavy handed riot police responded to protests during construction, its decades of being the most densely policed piece of real-estate in Japan, its inconvenient location and lack of facilities, its NJ extra-judicial/territorial detention facilities and policies, its use as a national ‘NJ harassment’ training ground by the police, huge immigration checks in a ‘treat NJ as terrorists’ segregation mode. I’m sure you can think of more.
        I read today that they are going to hire NJ English speakers on special visas to work at Narita due to expected influx of visitors for the Olympics. I wonder if these NJ will be sent home after the event? It says a lot that the Japanese transport authorities think ALL foreigners speak English! Also noteworthy is that these English speakers for Japanese immigration are going to be recruited from Fiji under special agreement.
        Yes! Fiji! Dirt poor, low investment in schools and education, no robots or AI, yet they speak better English than the Japanese.

        https://japantoday.com/category/national/japan's-narita-airport-hiring-more-foreigners-as-inbound-visitors-grow

        Wouldn’t it be nice if there were actually enough ‘native English speakers with Japanese nationality’ that they could advertise and recruit for these jobs without it turning into some huge government international carry-on requiring meetings, diplomatic talks, making new legal statuses, J-inc middlemen, and a merry go round of tax payers money being creamed off the top to pass under the table in brown paper envelopes? Japan is such a kleptocracy that corruption is now being exposed has having been the norm all along.

        Reply
        • Fiji? Oh, of course! They’ve almost run out of Asian countries to get a cheap, disposable workforce from, but there are always lots of pacific islands! The Greater East Asia Co Prosperity Sphere lives on…….

          Reply
        • I bet they were rubbing their hands with glee, oh goody a new place to exploit! “After learning that the English-speaking country has many educated but unemployed people, the airport operator held interviews locally and offered positions to three out of the 181 who applied, according to its officials.”

          but..3 hired. Hardly the change this Japan Today article is fluffing, I mean trumpeting as “progress”.

          Laden with irony, that article. Like, how Japanese are such hard workers…(another cliche dies). But 3K work has been handed to foreign labor since the 80s.

          Reply
    • I have been living 20 years in Japan. I of course got show-card’ed at hotels many many times (travelling for business and leisure as well often alone)…
      But I have been randomly gaijin-id’ed only once in 20 years.
      Anyway, the sad thing is that my 19 year old (half) son is “arrested” very often in the street, and asked to show the gaijing card he doesn’t have, then looks like a suspect…

      Reply
      • LB,

        I have young kids of my own and thats what Im worried about. If you look “Foreign” but a J-citizen, How do you prove to the police that you are Japanese ? As per my understanding with just a random street stop (please correct me if I am wrong), Japanese do not have to show ID

        Reply
  • I just show my Japanese drivers license – the same as would be expected of any Japanese national. I’ve not had any problems with that. If someone asked to see my residence card, I would simply tell them I naturalized. They have no way to verify, and I’ve got a drivers license.

    Reply
  • Sorry for your experiences, but good that you stood your ground.
    Concenring security gard/police, even if you don’t recognize the uniform, there is one thing you can use to distinguish. Gun: yes/no.

    A security guard has aboslutely no right to see your ID.

    If he is a police officer, he is waering a batch with a number, by which he can be identified, if necessary, if you file a complaint.

    Reply

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