Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on November 21st, 2008
Hi Blog. It’s already been a year since Japan reinstituted fingerprinting for most NJ (after abolishing it in 2000 due to what was deemed back then to be human rights concerns) on November 20, 2007.
There are still concerns about its application (a friend of mine who lived in Kobe actually LEFT Japan for good after more than a decade here, because he was so browned off about the unfulfilled promise of automatic gates at airports other than Narita; more later), its efficacy (we still don’t know many people were caught through fingerprints per se, as opposed to passport irregularities), the sweetheart GOJ deal to quasi-American company Accenture to make these machines, the long lines at the border due to faulty machines, the lumping in of Permanent Residents with tourists, the official justifications in the name of preventing terrorism, infectious diseases, and foreign crime, you name it.
The shockwaves and indignations were so palpable that people banded together to form FRANCA (Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association), a lobbying and interest group to represent the interests of the “Newcomer” immigrants to Japan (we are in the process of formally registering as an NPO with the GOJ).
There’s a whole heading on fingerprinting on this blog at
but see special issues of the DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER on the subject here:
http://www.debito.org/?p=676 and http://www.debito.org/?p=788
There’s also a special section on Debito.org for people to add their personal experiences with Immigration upon entering or returning to Japan, with 57 responses as of today:
Anyway, time for a brief retrospective:
Here’s an article from Maclean’s Magazine (Canada) from last March which I think puts it all pretty well. Courtesy of Jon Dujmovich:
As for how people are being treated now that it’s been open season on NJ in the name of security, here’s an excerpt from a friend about how his wife (a Japanese) is being treated by police just because she doesn’t “look Japanese”:
I would like to relate to you an anecdote related to me by my wife concerning passport checks at Nagoya’s Centrair airport (at least, she didn’t indicate if she’d had the same experience at Kansai international airport or not). My wife has been an airline employee for quite some time, and started her current position as cabin crew for a major international carrier after a brief period of unemployment once the contract period for her previous position was completed. Her current working conditions are far from ideal, but she’s going to stick with it for the time being.
You have posted a number of entries on your blog about how NJ are regularly subjected to passport checks in major airports even after passing through immigrations. Apparently it also happens to my wife quite regularly.
As she works for an international carrier, there are crew members from various countries and regions (Philippines, Hong Kong, the U.S., etc.) in addition to the Japanese crew. For short stays, they are provided with a shore pass that allows them to enter Japan. My wife has told me that it is very common for the ever helpful security drones to accost her and demand “Shore pass!” in heavily accented English. I don’t know if they approach her because they think she doesn’t look “Japanese enough” (much to her perpetual consternation, a large number of people apparently tell her she looks Korean, and she’s not Zainichi), or because they see that her name plate is written in katakana (I am grateful that she took my name when we married, but it has caused some difficulties that I am sure you are familiar with), but they apparently don’t accept her statement that she is Japanese and make her show her passport anyway.
Now, of course, because she IS Japanese, not to mention typically tired after a flight, she is not at all inclined to raise a fuss about this. It’s certainly despicable, but nothing that I’m about to suggest filing a lawsuit over. Of course, if I even suggested something as straightforward as writing a letter of complaint to her, she I am sure that she would flat-out reject the idea on the grounds that it would be a bother (面倒くさい) and would cause too much trouble (迷惑をかける). But this makes it clear to me that it’s not just definitely foreign-looking people who are being targeted, it’s anyone that evinces even the slightest indication of the possibility of being a foreigner. Unless it’s a new(er? she never mentioned this happening at KIX when she was employed as crew for her previous job) policy to screen all airline employees regardless of the fact that they go through immigration just like everyone else.
Sorry to have taken so much of your time, but if you’ve bothered to read this far, thank you kindly. Feel free to use this anecdote on your blog and garner comments, although if so I’d appreciate it being scrubbed of any remotely personally identifying information.
As always, keep fighting the good fight, and I am always looking forward to reading the new entries and comments on your blog.
Thanks. Let’s get some more from Debito.org readers about their experiences and feelings of being fingerprinted. Comment away. Arudou Debito in Sapporo