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  • Japanese also to get fingerprinted, at Narita, voluntarily, for “convenience” (not terrorism or crime)

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on March 19th, 2009

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    Hi Blog.  A new development on the border fingerprinting front.

    As many of you know (or have experienced, pardon the pun, firsthand), Japan reinstituted its fingerprinting for most non-Japanese, be they tourist or Regular Permanent Resident, at the border from November 2007.  The policy justification was telling:  prevention of terrorism, crime, and infectious diseases.  As if these are a matter of nationality.

    Wellup, it isn’t, as it’s now clear what the justification really is for.  It’s for the GOJ to increase its database of fingerprints, period, for everyone.  Except they knew they couldn’t sell it to the Japanese public (what with all the public outrage over the Juuki-Net system) as is.  So Immigration is trying to sell automatic fingerprinting machines at Narita to the public (via a handout, courtesy of  Getchan) as a matter of “simplicity, speed and convenience” (tansoka, jinsokuka, ribensei).  

    I’m not sure how “convenient” it is, or how much speedier or simpler it can get as things are right now.  As a citizen, I don’t have to fill out a card to leave the country, nor do I really have to wait all that long in line (if at all) to be processed.  Just hand over my passport, get it stamped by an official, and head off to inhale Duty-Free perfumes.  Funny that, really — having to track people going out as well as coming in.  

    Japan’s not alone in trying to get everyone coming and going, but that’s what control-freak police will do if they have enough mandate.  In Japan, they do.  They even get budgets to invest in these elaborate automatic fingerprint machines, lookie here:


    (illustration courtesy of pdf document link below).  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    Original text follows.  Not sure of the date:


    (広報用資料) 【日本人用】



    1 はじめに


    2 利用希望者登録







     再入国申請カウンター(2階)9時~16時(土日・祝日,12 月29 日~ 1 月3 日を除く。)

















    3 利用方法






    8 Responses to “Japanese also to get fingerprinted, at Narita, voluntarily, for “convenience” (not terrorism or crime)”

    1. snowman Says:

      Debito, you’ve got to laugh haven’t you? Why would anyone give their fingerprints if they don’t have to? Fingerprinting is just for criminals and of course foreigners, which for the GOJ seems to mean the same thing. Having a bad day at work today, this article gave me a laugh so thanks for that!

    2. TJJ Says:

      In light of the recent uproar caused when the HS teacher fingerprinted his students, I don’t think this machine will be so popular.

    3. Odorikakeru Says:

      Can someone enlighten me as to the story TJJ is referencing? It sounds interesting but I haven’t heard of it.

      — Sure. He’s referring to January 30, 2009.

    4. topaz Says:

      Sorry if I’m spoiling all the fun, Debito, but I think you accidentally found an old page at the MOJ web site. I’m pretty sure this is not news. is a page clearly dated November 2007, and it has a link to the PDF file you are quoting from.

      The automated gates have clearly turned out to be a huge waste of taxpayer money, though as a registered foreigner, I’m thrilled to be benefiting from it. The automated gates were created in response to an outcry from the community about potentially increased wait times for foreign residents when the new fingerprint system was proposed. But in reality, I think these gates have turned out to have very little impact, based on my observations at Narita.

      For arrival, the gate is completely unnecessary; the regular “manual” line for foreigners with reentry permits is incredibly fast, so it’s not even worth bothering to walk all the way to the automatic lane.

      For departure from Japan, the automated gate is a ridiculous joke. I’d be mad if I were a Japanese taxpayer, and actually I’d want to use it myself if I weren’t concerned about privacy. Remember that Japanese and foreigners are all mixed together at departure, and all have to wait in the same long line. There’s one exception: foreigners who have pre-registered can pass everybody, including Japanese, and zip through the automated gate. This can easily save 20-30 minutes of waiting in line!

      Here’s what’s really funny: due to disuse, they don’t even bother to staff the gate anymore. I read that registration topped off around 3000 foreigners, so it’s not surprising. I noticed this starting around Summer 2008. When you walk over to the gate, it’s unstaffed. But remember that this “automated” gate always needed an officer to supervise anyway (quite some automation!) One of the staff will usually spot you from the window in the office, and an officer will run over to the booth to handle your case individually, returning to the office when you’re finished.

      I’ve only seen one other person use the automated gate during my 7-8 trips out of Narita since they introduced the system. I remember clearly – the customer had native-level Japanese language skills, and I could have sworn I saw her holding a Japanese passport. I assumed I was mistaken. But now that I read this document you posted, I realize it was one of the handful of Japanese people that did pre-register in order to avoid those departure lines.

      — Thanks for the correction. Sorry to be so late with this “news”.

    5. Mumei Says:


      As you commented, the gate is often unstaffed. I have only used it once. Every other time I have had to go through the regular lines. Whenever I ask, they tell me that it is closed for the day. If as you say they can staff it when needed, then perhaps next time I will be more persistent.

      If I remember correctly, that one time I was asked if I wanted a departure stamp in my passport. I was told that it was not needed. Fewer useless stamps to fill up the passport pages with is a nice bonus IMO.

    6. Sean Says:

      I heard this kind of system is quite common in Hong Kong…

    7. AWK Says:

      Debito, your website is great to show outside world where not to come. I always refer to your website and articles in it. Great source of information for those who consider to come and live here as GoJ wants to increase foreign visitors (population?) by 10mln. and at the other hand try to do everything to control them like dogs. The best would be to get some kind of necklaces with RFID to all NJ residents and make real Police State toward foreigners. We wouldn`t need IDs then. Police wouldn`t stop us because passing through they would already know who we are and whether we are wanted or not.

    8. DM Says:

      Obviously this is still in the early development stage because there isn’t a kawaii mascot promoting it yet. I’d guess mandatory fingerprinting will have its pretext (and mascot) within five years.

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