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Embedded Racism: Japan's Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination

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  • Nov 20 NGO Public gathering: 1-year anniversary of the NJ fingerprinting program

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on November 17th, 2008

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
    Public gathering marking the 1-year anniversary of the new fingerprinting program

    NGOs raise concerns about the government’s new plan to abolish the ‘Gaikokujin
    Torokusho (alien registration card) ‘and to introduce a ‘Zairyu Kaado (resident card)’
    and ‘Gaikokujin Daicho Seido (alien register system)


    Date: Thursday, 20 November 2008
    Time: 12:45 – 14:15
    Venue: Conference room No.1,
    Diet Members’ No. 2 Office Building of the Lower House
    3 minutes walk from Kokkai Gijido Mae station or Nagatacho station of
    Tokyo Metro
    * Please collect a pass on 1st floor of the building
    Admission: Free
    Language: Japanese (If you wish to make a speech in English, we will interpret into
    Japanese for you)

    – From the abolition of fingerprinting in 2002 to its re-introdution in 2007
    – Review plan of the Immigration Control Law in 2009: Abolish the ‘Gaikokujin
    Torokusho’and introduce a ‘Zairyu Kaado’ and ‘Gaikokujin Daicho Seido’
    – Concerns raised by civil society: What would happen to those who are unable to
    apply for a ‘Zairyu Kaado (resident card)’, such as overstayers, including asylum
    seekers and children? We will examine issues of education and medical provision, etc..

    Comments or appeals from participants are welcomed.

    Organized by: Amnesty International Japan, Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan,
    Network for Human Rights Legislation for Foreigners and Ethnic Minorities, National
    Christian Liaison Conference to struggle with Issues of Alien Registration Law,


    The Ministry of Justice is currently pressing forward measures aiming at integrating
    personal information of foreign residents in Japan. It is anticipated that a revised bill of
    the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act will be discussed during the
    ordinary diet session in 2009 to abolish the current ‘Gaikokujin Torokusho (alien
    registration card)’ and introduce a ‘Zairyu Kaado (resident card)’ which will be issued
    directly from the Ministry of Justice. However, we NGOs are concerned about that
    once a ‘Zairyu Kaado’ is introduced, control over foreigners would be more tightened.
    We particularly fear that the certain foreign residents such as overstayers may lose
    access to most of basic public service including education and medical care by
    excluding them from registering for the ‘Gaikokujin Daicho Seido’. Thus would make
    these people more socially invisible.

    At the public meeting, we will discuss the framework of the plan (abolishing the
    ‘Gaikokujin Torokusho’and introducing a ‘Zairyu Kaado’) and issues that might occur
    when the new system is introduced. Also we again express our strong opposition
    toward the obligation to provide the biological information.

    For further information:
    Sonoko Kawakami
    Amnesty International Japan
    2-2-4F Kanda-NIshiki-cho, Chiyoda-ku Tokyo 101-0054 JAPAN
    TEL:+81-3-3518-6777 FAX:+81-3-3518-6778

    * The US government launched ‘the United States Visitor and Immigration Status
    Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) in 2004. Japan was the second country that
    introduced the similar program.

    Sonoko Kawakami
    Campaign Coordinator
    Amnesty International Japan
    2-2-4F Kanda-NIshiki-cho, Chiyoda-ku
    Tokyo 101-0054 JAPAN
    TEL:+81-3-3518-6777 FAX:+81-3-3518-6778
    E-mail:ksonoko AT

    4 Responses to “Nov 20 NGO Public gathering: 1-year anniversary of the NJ fingerprinting program”

    1. Mark Mino-Thompson Says:

      I unfortunately cannot attend this meeting. But I would hope that someone would make the suggestion that while this sort of registration is important, it is also important to:

      – revise the current laws requiring carrying of one’s card at all times.
      – limiting what information is written on the face of the card (privacy concerns).

      Additionally, since it would seem that they are doing away with local government registrations of NJ, the government should ammend the law to allow NJ to have juuminhyou. There is no reason these days to treat people as different at the local level, especially since we all pay the same taxes.

    2. Justin Says:

      Debito, could you post a summary of how the new system would differ from the current system, and in what ways NJ could be affected? (Or, if you’ve already done this, could you post a link to it?)

      — What I’ve got is this, from the Newsletter last May 11:


      12) Asahi, Mainichi, and Yomiuri on replacement “Gaijin Card” system, increasing police powers

      Asahi on new “Gaijin Cards” with greater policing powers over “NJ overstayers”

      “An advisory group to Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama has proposed changes to the alien registration card system to crack down on people overstaying their visas. The new registration card would make it easier for the authorities to keep track of foreign nationals staying in Japan.” Read more:

      Mainichi: MOJ delays decision on requiring Zainichi to carry ID, with abolition of old NJ Registry System

      “The Justice Ministry will postpone until next fiscal year a decision on whether to require special permanent residents such as Koreans to carry identification cards after the government abolishes the alien registration system, ministry sources said. Ministry officials have deemed that they need more time to carefully consider the matter as the human rights of permanent foreign residents are involved, according to the sources. An advisory council to the government on immigration policies will submit its final report to the justice minister by the end of this month, recommending that the alien registration system be abolished and a system similar to the basic resident register system for Japanese nationals be introduced for permanent residents.” Read more:

      Yomiuri: GOJ revising NJ registry and Gaijin Card system: More policing powers, yet no clear NJ “resident” status

      Yomiuri reports the change in the old “Gaijin Card” system, extending its validity for up to five years and somehow registering NJ with their J families. The bad news is that this measure, despite claims that it will make life “more convenient” for NJ living in Japan, is mainly a further policing measure. Registration will be centralized in the police forces (not the local municipalities any more), the replacement Cards will have more biometric data and tracking capability (RFID, anyone?), and the “zairyuu” (not “zaijuu”) cards, as labelled, are rhetorically old wine in new bottles. We still have to get beyond seeing NJ in Japan as “not really residents”, and all our protestations thus far clearly have not sunk yet in with policymakers at the national level. Read more:

      Also see
      but try the search engines yourself, that’s why we have ’em!

    3. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      “The Justice Ministry will postpone until next fiscal year a decision on whether to require special permanent residents such as Koreans to carry identification cards after the government abolishes the alien registration system, ministry sources said.”

      This quote would seem to presuppose that non-special-PRs will still have to carry cards at all times.

      I agree wholeheartedly with Mark Mino-Thompson; there’s no reason at all for people to have to carry cards on their persons. Not only are the cards practically an open invitation to identity theft (mugger accosts foreign-looking person, takes the card from you, and sells it to yakuza), but they’re not even necessary in this age of PDAs and cell phones. Simply stating your name and birthdate should be enough for a police officer to look up your status in his own records instantly.

      (For reference, a typical alien card contains less than 500 bytes of data on the front and has room for perhaps a thousand more on the back. At 1 kilobyte per person, even a 4 GB iPod could thus hold approximately four million records; more than enough for the non-citizen population of the entire country! Sure, a police officer might lose his GaijinPod, but then again we all run the risk of losing our cards every single day.)

      But to be honest I think the police are thinking about mroe than just tracking people. They want non-citizens to be conscious of their alien-ness at all times; to be reminded of it every time they leave their homes as they make sure that all-important card is in their possession. Like a tiny ball and chain, only with the prisoner bearing the responsiblity of shackling it to himself.

      With the introduction of fingerprinting, which ostensibly identifies criminals and illegal entrants before they can even get into Japan, the alien card is just salt in the wounds.

    4. Mark Says:

      I just wanted to post the address to a Facebook cause that has been created to try and petition against the fingerprinting system. Granted, it probably won’t work – but for those of you on Facebook who are interested in joining up, the address is :

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