Mainichi: Tourism to Japan plunges by over 40% compared to last year

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Hi Blog. Quick tangent for today. We have tourism to Japan plunging, the second-highest drop in history. Of course, the high yen and less disposable income to go around worldwide doesn’t help, but the Yokoso Japan campaign to bring 10 million tourists to Japan is definitely not succeeding. Not helping are some inhospitable, even xenophobic Japanese hotels, or the fingerprinting campaign at the border (which does not only affect “tourists”) grounded upon anti-terror, anti-crime, and anti-contageous-disease policy goals. Sorry, Japan, must do better. Get rid of the NJ fingerprinting campaign, for starters. Debito in Okayama
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Number of foreign tourists visiting Japan plunges

http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20090326p2a00m0na002000c.html

(Mainichi Japan) March 26, 2009, Courtesy of Jeff K

The number of foreign tourists to Japan in February declined by more than 40 percent, the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) has announced.

The JNTO said Wednesday that 408,800 foreigners visited Japan in February, a 41.3 percent decrease from the same month the previous year. The rate of decline was the second largest since statistics were first kept in 1961, after a 41.8 percent reduction in August 1971, the year following the Osaka Expo.

The plunge in the number of foreign visitors to Japan is thought to have been caused mainly by the global recession. It is also believed attributable to last year’s leap year and the Lunar New Year holidays in January this year, which were in February last year.

ends

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訪日外国人:過去2番目の減少率 2月41.3%減

http://mainichi.jp/select/wadai/news/20090326k0000m040062000c.html

日本政府観光局(JNTO)が25日発表した2月の訪日外国人旅行者数は、前年同月比41.3%減の40万8800人と大きく落ち込んだ。大阪万博の反動で減少した1971年8月(41.8%減)に次いで、統計を取り始めた61年以降で2番目の減少率となった。

世界的な景気後退が主因で、昨年がうるう年だったことや、昨年は2月だったアジアの旧正月の休暇が今年は1月だったことも影響した。

主要12カ国・地域すべてで訪日客が減少した。ウォン安が続く韓国が54.5%減と大幅に減ったのをはじめ、旧正月の要因が大きい中国、台湾、香港もそれぞれ25.9%、48.0%、60.4%の減少だった。【位川一郎】

ends

47 comments on “Mainichi: Tourism to Japan plunges by over 40% compared to last year

  • Have they bothered to find out how many people have decided against visiting Japan because of the racist border fingerprinting?

  • Unfortunately the tourism statistics don’t back up your thesis. Japan instituted fingerprinting at the border in November of 2007, and the number of foreign tourists entering Japan in November and December of that year was up an average of almost 21% over the previous year (22.7% and 18.9% respectively). Tourism continued to grow through the first half of 2008, up 13.7% over the same period in 2007. In the second half of 2008 we see a decline that accelerates from month to month (from only 2.2% growth over 2007 in July to a 26.3% shrinkage in December as compared to December 2007), however the numbers for the whole period were still 10% higher than 2006. Things don’t go really bad until about November of 2008, which was 5% down as compared to 2006 (December was down over 12%). That downward spiral continued in January and February of this year, but so did the downward spiral in all sectors of the economy basically everywhere (well, according to an NHK documentary the other night, Dhaka is still doing OK, but I don’t think Bangladeshis make up a significant portion of the tourists coming to Japan).

    The fact is, most tourists couldn’t give a rat’s behind about being fingerprinted at the border, and most aren’t going to care about being asked to show their passport when checking into a hotel, nor are they likely to be staying at some small hotel out in the sticks where the staff cannot deal with English. They are going to be going where their Friendly Planet guide or tour agency tells them to go. Now, being laid off from work, or having their stock portfolio’s value drop into the single digits, that they care about. And that is why tourism is down, plain and simple.

  • “The plunge in the number of foreign visitors to Japan is thought to have been caused mainly by the global recession. It is also believed attributable to last year’s leap year and the Lunar New Year holidays in January this year, which were in February last year.”

    Lame excuses, the recession has its toll but there are other factors in play.
    The media and some agencies in Japan show a lack of neutrality which is unbelievable.
    40% is not a small number and cannot be justified just by the worsening of the economy.

    But we know that nobody can contradict the good GoJ, since its policy is CERTAINLY
    unfailable =) We all have no doubt. Dream on.

    Sometimes I have the impression that the majority of Japanese do NOT live in the
    real world but in a world inside their mind created by society.
    So if they think (or are taught) that a red apple is blue
    then it must be blue. Repeat with me, this apple is BLUE =)
    Ah btw only Japan has 4 seasons…….

  • The yen is definitely a major reason for Australians- when I was in Japan last June/July the exchange rate was around AUS$1 = 100 yen, the worst it has gotten in the last few months has been around AUS$1 = 55 yen… so everything has literally doubled in price!

  • Serves Japan right. As much as I love Japan, there are too many major problems. I can not in good conscious recommend to any friends or family to visit.

    However, I seriously doubt that Japan will understand this. Surely it will just be attributed to the poor economy, which is probably is the major factor though.

  • There are problems with the border for sure. And more problems with hotels. But I think these numbers describe something completely different.

    Cities like Yufuin, Beppu and Fukuoka in Kyushu are in dire straits. After domestic tourism dried up, they turned to Asian countries like South Korea and were very successful. This pre-dates the Yokoso Japan campaign. A lot of the Korean tourists in Kyushu go for a weekend of golf or onsen and while they don’t stay long, their numbers are very high. These numbers make up a large part of the new foreign visitors to Japan. However, with the won reaching historic lows, these casual visitors have been forced to stay home.

    The point is, these cities have been very accommodating to foreigners and very successful. But even they can’t stand up to the collapse of value of the won. I imagine a similar thing is going on in Hokkaido with the Australians. Between those two groups and other similar situations, a large part of this 40% figure is explained.

  • The 2008 stats help support Murphy’s argument to some degree. But I believe the number of foreign visitors wouldve been much higher had the government not insituted the police state measure of fingerprinting visitors. I for one would have made two or three trips since November 2007. I know I am not alone in my thinking and that there are hundreds of thousands or millions of people who do give a “rat’s behind” about being treated like a criminal as they enter the country. Murphy may not mind submitting to tyranny, but we do.

  • Since all foreigners, except the priviledged Special PRs, are subject to this stupid fingerprinting at the port of entry, are these “tourist” figures including all the PRs and other flavors of visa holders too I wonder? How do they separate them? I mean even PRs are described as “visitors” aren’t they? In reality, the true tourists numbers must be far worse than the issued figures.

  • “Sometimes I have the impression that the majority of Japanese do NOT live in the
    real world but in a world inside their mind created by society.
    So if they think (or are taught) that a red apple is blue
    then it must be blue. Repeat with me, this apple is BLUE =)”

    Can’t stop myself: Sometimes I think people’s concerns about racist treatment would be a whole lot more credible if they themselves didn’t resort to racially biased generalizations. How can you complain about being treated like “all Gaijin are this,” and then turnaround and say “all Japanese are that”?

    — Well said. And I urge respondents to heed Iago’s advice and avoid this tendency.

  • To answer Snowman’s question, and in the interests of disclosure as to where the numbers came from, aside from the 2009 figures the numbers of entrants coming into Japan, as given by JNTO, do clearly list the total number of entries (and departures) as well as the number of tourists. How do they separate them? Well, surely it is not too difficult for immigration to keep track of how many tourist visas they issued on any given day. As a matter of fact, I would really hope they are keeping track, and not just standing there for show.

    Anyway, the numbers for 2007, 2008 and 2009 can be found here, and since we know the numbers for 2007 and the % increase over 2006 it is simple enough to calculate the 2006 numbers for those so inclined: http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/ttp/sta/index.html

    Jon, if being fingerprinted bugs you, fine. I can see how it would bug some people. I can see it bugging PRs especially, since one group of PRs is “special” and gets to just walk through while every other PR gets fingerprinted. That is unacceptable. And perhaps there even are a significant number of like-minded people out there, who say they won’t travel anywhere that fingerprints at the border. But the facts are that prior to the global economic downturn/collapse/whatever, tourism was booming in Japan, it was booming in the US, it was booming almost everywhere. Would it have boomed more, if there were no fingerprinting? Perhaps, but there is no way to prove that beyond a few anecdotes like Jon’s that “I would have gone but…” However, the fact that tourist numbers went up, way up, even after fingerprinting was introduced, and were still going up right up until people ran out of money is statistical proof that for most tourists the fingerprinting issue was at most something they grumbled about amongst themselves but put up with anyway. In other words, it was not a deal-breaker.

  • Ok Debito you got me, I came back. But just to make one comment.

    I just had to reply to Murphys idiodic comment.

    I apologize about before but I do not take back the part about this place being full of whiney white people who have never experienced being underneath someone just because of the colour of their skin before. It is unacceptable but it cannot be helped for the moment. (I guess I would be part of the しょうがない派?)

    `I can see it bugging PRs especially, since one group of PRs is “special” and gets to just walk through while every other PR gets fingerprinted.That is unacceptable.`

    Even if you have PR you ARE NOT AND WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AS someone with Special PR.

    They are either.

    1. Somone who was born in the Japanese empire, given Japanese citizenship from the moment they were born and treated their whole lives as a Japanese and expected to give their lives to the emperor (under a Japanese name mind you. Their family name passed through from generations now has NO meaning. Anyone who is familiar with any confucian society knows the importance of the family name) and then all of a sudden Japan loses the war, takes this persons citzenship and tells them to go back to their country and when they don`t has the friggin nerve to say they entered the country illegally when Chosen and Japan were once part of the SAME COUNTRY. While at the same time those Japanese were bowing their heads in shame every time they see an `American face` (peco peco). This trend still exists today because although Japan lost to America, Korea never actually `won` their territory back. It was handed back to them by the US of A.

    2. The Children or grandchildren of that person who chose not to `go back` (I use quotations because although not all, but `some` Japanese tend to think your home country is inherent in your DNA and has no relation to where you were born and culturally raised.)I.e. people who have been born in Japan for generations and choose not to have japanese citizenship.

    These people are called zainichi. Even if they naturalize they are called zainichi (stastically they are Japanese but Japanese will refer to these people as 帰化人 or 日本の国籍を持ってる在日) they were born here, their parents were born here and their grandparents were either born here, brought here forcefully (from the chosen peninsula, not from a different country because they were inherently the same country) or came here because of rice shortages on the peninsula (because thats what a colony is for, to exploit the resources and bring it back to the `homeland`. Despite this Japanese (not all but ALOT) despise them. They can usually speak only Japanese and until the 80`s they were not even granted basic human rights(kokumin hoken and kokumin nenkin also not given). Today zainichi face problems getting into careers and even part-time jobs. Marriage to Japanese is also sometimes difficult because of opposition of either sides parents. The right-wing tells them to either go home or naturalize. For generations they were born and raised in Japan and spoke nothing but Japanese. Why would they go out of their way to go through the humiliation of changing their nationality because the SAME government that took it away from them in the first place is telling them to? (keep in mind that people born in the empire had ONLY japanese citzenship as Chousen didnt exist as two countries like it does today, or exist as even one country as it did before the annexation.)

    Being zainichi is not fun. And no zainichi considers themselves `special`. It is incredibly difficult for some zainichi to deal with the history behind their very existence.

    Although I do not agree with fingerprinting anyone, zainichi are for all intensive purposes no different than any other Japanese born and rasied in Japan. If it is unacceptable for Japanese to have Japanese fingerprinted, it should be unacceptable for them to also have zainichi fingerprinted. The only difference is they have a passport to a country they have never been to (South Korea) or they don`t have a passport because (a they associate with north korea which doesn`t issue passports or b) they associate with `chosen` because they can identifity with neither north or south korea, only a unified korea. In case b) the person is state-less and can never leave the country ever until they aquire citizenship somewhere.

    These people are Special PR`s. They aren`t special because they are given some random preference by the government.

    It might not be your fault though that you do not know this because the japanese government insists on translating 在日韓国・朝鮮人 to `Koreans living in Japan` which is not a proper translation at all. Although to properly translate it and have whitey understand what it means would require the government you go into what I just did above. They never will.

    Young people don`t know any of this and treat zainichi as foreigners due to ignorance.(I actually had a classmate in one of my classes who was convinced that the 3rd generation zainichi who appeared in a documentary we watched had a `foreign` accent. You can imagine their embarassment when the teacher went through explaining that they are 3rd generation korean and a native of the Japanese language and that that accent was `kansai-ben`)

    Old people have a sort of silent agreement where the zainichi issue is not to be discussed. To the older generation Zainichi/Chosen people are nothing but an inferior race whose only purpose is to exist miserably under the Japanese. Young peoples attitudes are somewhat different but you can really REALLY tell whos granmother/grandfather really had it in for the chosen people just by seeing their reaction when the word zainichi comes up.

    can you imagine being that person murphy? Being born and rasied in Japan for generations yet being treated as though you are contaminating Japanese society. You are nothing but a pollutant and as is the case we will exempt you from fingerprinting even though secretely wishing you never come back.

    That is why Special PR`s are exempt from fingerprinting. If you want to argue anyone with PR is even remotely in the same position then go ahead. They still, mind you, need to apply for a re-entry permit. INTO THEIR COUNTRY OF BIRTH. ..And I though I was given a rough time when the lady at canadian immigration asked `why` I went back to Canada.

    If you already knew this, shame on you for making the comment above.

    If you didn`t I apologize for sounding like I am attacking you for being ignorant.

    I read quite frequently on the subject (books, not the internet) and I have a specialist degree in east asian studies at the university of toronto so it would be no surprise that I know this and other people who are say engineers, don`t. My best friend is 3rd generation Zainichi who went through the 朝鮮民族学校 system so I do have the chance to verify information that is questionable. (Anything written in Japanese is questionable either by Japanese or Zainichi authors because even IF sources are listed they are extremely questionable. This stems somewhat from the tendancy for Japanese authors to not go into detail and zainichi authors tendancy to incredibly exagerate.)

    heres a fun fact. The term `zainichi` was actually created by a `zainichi` poet named 金時鐘 (Kim Shijong) who was born in 済州道 during the colonial rule. He now resides in Osaka living in a district where zainichi settled due to having no money. I think he teaches a writing/poetry class. I am actually thinking of signing up once I move back to Osaka…

    Too bad being this well-read on Japanese colonial history can`t get me a job in the 大手メーカー
    I know it can`t get me a job in acedemia because there is still the slight tendancy for people to feel(at least in this area of study) that a white person can`t `really` understand and teach east asian history. They can only study it under an east-asian who really knows what he/she is talking about. You would be surprised but there are many Koreans/Chinese (Japanese are fairly scarce) who study at UofT and actually still have this attitude to some degree.

    aah,when will the 不況 end…
    教養とやる気あんのに不況のせいか誰も雇うてくれへんまんまやあ。:( それかgaijinであるせいで?まさか。。。

    Murphy just curious, you ARE white, right?

  • Murphy, tourism to the USA fell by six million after the USA introduced border fingerprinting. Your “boom” is relative.

  • I think the same way as Murphy on this subject.

    First, many tourists don’t even know about Japan’s fingerprinting until they get to Narita airport and the display tells them to place their index fingers on the pads. I’m sure some do, but most don’t.

    Second, tourists aren’t likely to walk into a hotel that refuses foreigners. Tourists generally made reservations in advance over the internet or with a travel agency. In fact, the immigration card asks that specific question of the visitor’s address in Japan. I don’t think immigration officers of any country would feel comfortable with a person entering the country with no idea where they will stay.

    Third, European countries have long demanded and photocopied tourists’ passports. Overseas travelers often, and should, expect it. In fact in Europe every hotel is required to have their guests fill out an information card that is forwarded directly to the police, separate from the hotels own records. Again, this isn’t and shouldn’t be a surprise.

    In all fairness, I think the strong yen and relatively weak Euro has encouraged tourists to visit Europe and the UK while it’s still affordable. Furthermore, like the article itself mentions, in the current economy who can honestly afford an expensive overseas vacation?

    — Fair enough with your arguments regarding tourists. However, just taking up one point, I would suggest you avoid comparisons with tourists and hotels and passports in Europe. Japan is quite different in enforcement.

  • Also on the ‘not helping’ list specifically regarding HK tourist I would add the customs guys at Narita stashing the cannabis on the HK tourists luggage and now with Jill Vidal & Kelvin Kwan being held for over a month for well no-one really knows as he has been released without charge although had admitted possession and she is still in detention due to controlled substances being found in her luggage (which could be over the counter cold medicine)… folk in Hk are used to such simple things as basic law and access to lawyers etc,,,

    Fingerprinting is used in HK in the swift channels so that I do not think is an issue and we had SARS so neither really is being blamed for contagious diseases. The dearth of inexpensive or even reasonably affordable English speaking hotels however is an issue. Oh and anything the J-government does to bait China – mislabeling food/gyoza scares, territorial issues and now the suicide in immigration detention…

    Regarding the rest of the world… if you are not an anime or concrete fan then there is not much reason to visit Japan. It is hard work and transport/hotels just too expensive when compared to say HK…

    — Try proofreading, please. I have trouble understanding your first paragraph.

  • And it can also well be that not that many people are interested in Japan enough to visit. This website preaches to the choir (those that like Japan and stay). We have to assume that there are legions that frankly don’t care about Japan at all.

  • “Murphy, tourism to the USA fell by six million after the USA introduced border fingerprinting. Your “boom” is relative.”

    USVISIT program was implemented in Jan. of 2004. The total arrivals to U.S. in 2004 was 46 million. In 2005 and 2006, the figure increases to 49 million and 51 million, respectively. World Tourism Organization estimates that in 2007, the total jumped to 56 million.

    — Links please.

  • The worldwide economic decline and the strong yen probably are the main reasons for the decline in tourism. However, there is no question that the police state measure of fingerprinting also accounts for a certain percent. What percent is indeed unknown. Yet, even if it is only 5 or 10 percent (I suspect it is higher), that is still a large number of people and consequently a large amount of tourism dollars staying away from Japan.

    Here’s another anecdote. In my small circle of friends and acquaintances alone, there are 5 people who changed their plans about going to Japan. Now multiply that by X. Also many unsuspecting tourists were unlikely aware of the the measure in 2008 but word has spread since then.

    It is true, unfortunately, that at this point the majority of people either don’t care about submitting to Orwellian measures or simply believe the myth abut the need for it. Nevertheless, don’t discount the growing number of us who do care and who don’t believe the myth and, therefore, refuse to travel to Japan.

    Incidentally, this article from Switzerland in November 2008 predicts a 3% decline in tourism for 2009. Now, while the Swiss Franc has not appreciated as much relatively as the Yen, it has still outperformed the Euro and many other currencies over the last year.

    http://www.worldradio.ch/wrs/news/switzerland/tourism-sector-braces-for-downturn.shtml?11894

  • STP may be right in his numbers, but let’s not forget that by far the largest number of visitors to the US are Canadians. They are exempted from being fingerprinted. The second largest number of vistors to the US are Mexicans. Based on the link below, visa-carrying Mexicans are also exempted for short trips near the border. And once again, how many more international visitors would have visited the US had these measures not been implemented?

    http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=37434

  • “What percent is indeed unknown. Yet, even if it is only 5 or 10 percent (I suspect it is higher), ”

    Sorry Jon. I suspect the percentage are so minimal that the only ones that are having second thoughts about going to Japan are those with prior immigration violations or are wanted in the INTERPOL.

    And if I may use my anecdote, I have yet to encounter any friends, acquaintances, co-workers, neighbors, or whomever decided not to visit Japan because of their immigration procedures. That’s ZERO. If you multiply that by X, you still get ZERO.

    And who cares if in the U.S., Mexicans and Canadians are exempted. It still doesn’t explain the FACT that the number of visitors to U.S. INCREASED after the implementation of USVISIT and very large % at that 2007 versus 2004.

  • Well, we’re getting well away from the topic to hand, but Alex seems to have some serious misconceptions which I hope I will be allowed to address.

    SPRs are either former Japanese citizens (not too may of those left nowadays) or the descendants of such. True. They are not all Koreans, let’s get that straight. The Koreans are the most vocal, but there are Zainichi Chinese and Taiwanese as well. The “name issue” was probably pertinent 60-odd years ago, but everyone involved took back their proper family names after the war. Japan has never said the Zainichi were “illegal immigrants”. I don’t even know where that came from. The argument about “home country being inherent in your DNA” could just as easily apply to the Zainichi Koreans – in fact, more so. These are people, as Alex says, born and raised in Japan to parents and grandparents also born and raised in Japan, who often went to Japanese schools (now more than ever), speak Japanese (and increasingly do not speak Korean well, if at all), are culturally Japanese, and yet insist they are “Korean” and refuse to become Japanese citizens.

    “Even if they naturalize they are called zainichi (stastically they are Japanese but Japanese will refer to these people as 帰化人 or 日本の国籍を持ってる在日)”
    Do you actually live in Japan and talk to Japanese? I do. I have never heard a Japanese call a naturalized Korean either of those cumbersome phrases. Perhaps a few old folks do, but most people nowadays refer to such people as “Nihonjin”. When confronted with a Japanese with the name “Pak” they might call him Zainichi, but if corrected do not even blink, and will apologize for the error.

    their grandparents were either born here, brought here forcefully”
    OK, let’s get this urban legend out of the way: Yes, Koreans were forcibly brought to the home islands during the war. Those Koreans were also given priority repatriation after the war by GHQ and Japan. Almost no Zainichi are descended from those people, or if they are it is because they returned to Japan after being repatriated to the Korean peninsula. The old myth about “Zainichi being descendants of slave labor” is just that, a myth.

    “or came here because of rice shortages on the peninsula”
    Again some did, yes. But there was a sizable ethnic Korean population in Japan well before the war and well before rice shortages. Many Koreans came to the home islands by choice. They established businesses, became successful, and were elected to public office in some cases. Yes, they suffered discrimination and all was not rosy, but they came voluntarily and established themselves intheir communities.

    “Despite this Japanese (not all but ALOT) despise them.”
    Again, you are stuck in the distant past.

    “Today zainichi face problems getting into careers and even part-time jobs.”
    Wrong. Perhaps the occasional bigot won’t hire a Zainichi for his little company, but for the vast majority of Japanese it is not even an issue.

    “Marriage to Japanese is also sometimes difficult because of opposition of either sides parents.”
    As you yourself said, “either side” may object. Such cases are quite rare now, but yes, sometimes conservative Zainichi don’t want their kids marrying Japanese, or vice-versa.

    “The right-wing tells them to either go home or naturalize. For generations they were born and raised in Japan and spoke nothing but Japanese. Why would they go out of their way to go through the humiliation of changing their nationality because the SAME government that took it away from them in the first place is telling them to?”
    Um, because it is their home? Don’t forget that there are Zainichi who do want to naturalize, and who face ostracism from their own family if they do. That is hardly Japan’s fault, now is it?

    “Although I do not agree with fingerprinting anyone, zainichi are for all intensive purposes no different than any other Japanese born and rasied in Japan. If it is unacceptable for Japanese to have Japanese fingerprinted, it should be unacceptable for them to also have zainichi fingerprinted.”
    Wrong, Japanese are citizens and as such “citizen’s rights” or “citizen’s rules” apply. Zainichi are foreigners, just like other PRs, and they are foreigners by choice. They don’t have to be foreigners, they choose to be so. With choices come consequences.

    “It might not be your fault though that you do not know this because the japanese government insists on translating 在日韓国・朝鮮人 to `Koreans living in Japan` which is not a proper translation at all.”
    I think you are right, a proper translation would be “South Koreans/North Koreans living in Japan”, which is what they are.

    “Although to properly translate it and have whitey understand what it means”
    What’s with the racial epithet? “Whitey”? How 1970s…

    “Young people don`t know any of this and treat zainichi as foreigners due to ignorance.”
    Actually, they do know it, they have these things called “history classes” and they are far more open then you appear to believe. If any Japanese kids treat Zainichi as foreigners, well that would probably be because legally they are.

    “Old people have a sort of silent agreement where the zainichi issue is not to be discussed. To the older generation Zainichi/Chosen people are nothing but an inferior race whose only purpose is to exist miserably under the Japanese.”
    Yes, and old white people had a similar feeling towards blacks, but the world has moved on, leaving people like that stuck in the past. And soon they will be gone, pushing up daisies somewhere.

    “If you want to argue anyone with PR is even remotely in the same position then go ahead.”
    Fine. Legally, PRs are PRs. Or should be.

    “They still, mind you, need to apply for a re-entry permit. INTO THEIR COUNTRY OF BIRTH.”
    And PRs need to apply for one into their country of habitual residence, even though they may be married to a Japanese, with kids, own a house and property, run a business, whatever. If someone has been granted PR they should be free to come and go as they please, IMHO. But they aren’t, and again, they could choose to solve this “problem”. If they do not, then that is not Japan’s fault.

    “I read quite frequently on the subject (books, not the internet)”
    You might want to choose your sources better.

    “and I have a specialist degree in east asian studies at the university of toronto”
    Degrees and book knowledge are no replacement for actual experience. They may help you understand what you are experiencing, but only experience will tell you what is really going on. And from what you write, you seem to have very limited, if any, real-world experience with what Japan and Japanese are really like, or the realities of the Zainichi issue.

    “My best friend is 3rd generation Zainichi who went through the 朝鮮民族学校 system”
    I hate to say this, but if he went through that education system he may have a very big chip on his shoulder. That is the North Korean-run school system, and let’s just say they have some “interesting” ideas.

    “Anything written in Japanese is questionable”
    Your bias is showing. So, your going to doubt anything written in the language of the people affected, even if written by the Zainichi themselves? Nice.

    “Murphy just curious, you ARE white, right?”
    I don’t see how that is relevant to the discussion at hand in the least.

  • I have to respectfully disagree with the conclusions drawn in this post. Without a doubt, the strengthening of the yen against the won is the #1 factor contributing to the decline in foreign tourists to Japan. Of course, the yen’s strength against the US dollar, the Aussie dollar and other currencies comes into play, but South Korea send the largest number of tourists to Japan.

    Plotting exchange rates for various countries against numbers of visitors from those countries shows this trend pretty clearly, and shows a very strong correlation. The fingerprint program, while misguided and a waste of money, seems to have no statistical significance on the number of tourists who visit Japan.

    While the state of the global economy is also relevant, it is worth noting that in January, the number of visitors from China increased 31.4% to 110,400, while the numbers from Hong Kong and Singapore increased by 34.1% and 35.8%, respectively.

    — Thanks Ken.

  • Apologies all…

    I was attempting to articulate that in regard to tourists from HK the two incidents that have caused concern are:

    The WTF case of the Japanese customs official losing the stash of cannabis (later recovered in HK tourists luggage/hotel room) and currently the detention of Canto singers Jill Vidal & Kelvin Kwan

    http://www.thestandard.com.hk/news_detail.asp?pp_cat=11&art_id=80236&sid=23281812&con_type=3

    Kelvin Kwan admitted ‘possession’ was released (without charge) after just over a month of detention. Jill Videl denied ‘possession’ and is still being detained due to an unnamed ‘controlled substance’ subsequently being found in her luggage.

    I do not think anyone really has much sympathy for the pair (especially considering that they were poster talent for a anti-drug campaign in HK) but it has highlighted Japans 23(+)day ‘initial interrogation’. HK has basic/common law and thus Japans system beggars belief per se.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    Alex, that’s useful information on the zainichi Koreans. It’s sad how they’re often seen as not being Japanese, whereas in most other countries their citizenship would not be in doubt. (I have no problem with them having Japanese passports while speaking Korean at home, but

    A very accessible movie about the lives of zainichi Korean kids is “Uri Hakkyo” (“Our School”), which chronicles a year (?) in the lief of a Korean school in Hokkaido. Worth watching.

  • Ken… Lunar (Chinese) New Year – Kung Hei Fat Choi this year was in January and falling three weeks after New Years/Christmas there were a lot of very cheap 3/4 day offers for trips to Japan… Easter into Golden Weeks figures I think will be a little more revealing regarding tourism trends in general… will there be an exodus of J-folk abroad due to the strong yen or will the discounted hi-ways tolls mean less overcrowding on the shinkansen?…

    Anyhows the topic is does Japan policies towards it’s non Japanese visitors affect regardless of outside influences… my answer has to be a resounding ‘yes’… in a way I wish that Tokyo gets the Olympics just to prove that point (again… as anyone who was here for the FIFA world cup will remember)…

    — Not sure I understand your point. Again, proofreading, please.

  • Well, I have to admit I previously believed the point about the decline in tourism in the US. After reviewing the statistics, I have to reverse my position on that one.

    However, I do take serious offense with STP’s comment: “I suspect the percentage are so minimal that the only ones that are having second thoughts about going to Japan are those with prior immigration violations or are wanted in the INTERPOL.”

    I will spare you all a repeat here of the very real concerns that innocent people can have. I have posted some of my evidence in other posts, and in the future you will see more evidence. Apart from that, and staying away out of principle, and simply feeling insulted, there may be all kinds of perfectly legitimate reasons not to come or to take other action that I for one missed.

    I’d say that people who either voice their concerns, or demand a decent answer, or who stay away, deserve a little more respect and consideration than: “I suspect … that the only ones that are having second thoughts about going to Japan are those with prior immigration violations or are wanted in the INTERPOL.” (You are having second thoughts, therefore…).

    But it is my experience that this very statement, along with the eternal “J-bashing” refrain about sums up the ‘care’ of the Immigration Bureau. They do not need any more encouragement to persist in that attitude.

    Summary. I’m not sure if the fingerprinting is going to have a negative impact on the number of visitors, though a number of high profile incidents where innocent people get in trouble because of fingerprint mishaps or abuse might just change that overnight. But given the attitude of the Immigration Bureau to people who already know about the problems, I would say that I very much understand the few people who choose not to take any chances.

    One last thing. Chuck mentioned a copy of a passport in hotels. That’s not good either, a copy of a passport can potentially be used to take over the entire financial situation of someone. But one crucial difference is that in case of falling victim to identity fraud with a passport, you can at least replace the passport……….

  • STP writes:

    “Sorry Jon. I suspect the percentage are so minimal that the only ones that are having second thoughts about going to Japan are those with prior immigration violations or are wanted in the INTERPOL.”
    Sorry STP. That’s two dimensional thinking. I’m not going to repeat what I wrote in post 18 except to say that there are legitimate reasons for people to refuse to travel to Japan or at least have second thoughts about doing so. Incidentally, the South Korean government is considering implementing the same measure starting in 2010. The subheadline of the Korea Times article reads: “Revival of Fingerprinting Expected to Have Adverse Impact on Tourism.” This implies that other people, apart from those with prior immigration violations or those wanted by INTERPOL, might have second thoughts about visiting Korea.

    http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2008/12/117_36872.html

    “And if I may use my anecdote, I have yet to encounter any friends, acquaintances, co-workers, neighbors, or whomever decided not to visit Japan because of their immigration procedures. That’s ZERO. If you multiply that by X, you still get ZERO.”
    I don’t doubt you are telling the truth. I also don’t doubt you are in the majority. However, I do doubt it is an overwhelming majority. People tend to gravitate to people towards like minded people. I guess the people I tend to gravitate to are not content with going with flow when that flow is totalitarian in nature. There are millions of us around the world who are unwilling to submit to the growing totalitarianism measures countries around the world are introducing and are numbers are growing daily.

    The comments in this blogsite provide a cross spectrum range of thoughts about fingerprinting. Some don’t mind it, other refuse to accept it and then there are those in the middle.

    http://www.travelblog.org/Forum/Threads/10700-1.html

    “And who cares if in the U.S., Mexicans and Canadians are exempted. It still doesn’t explain the FACT that the number of visitors to U.S. INCREASED after the implementation of USVISIT and very large % at that 2007 versus 2004.”
    Canadians and Mexicans make up over half of the visitors to the United States. Therefore, a large percentage increase by them could offset a decrease by other nationalities. This may or may not be the case but it’s why an analyst should care about the fact that Canadians and Mexicans are exempted.

    In 2007 the Canadian dollar made some of the strongest gains in the world. In fact it even was worth more than the US dollar at one point (versus a low of 73 cents in 2004). Consequently, alot of Canadians took advantage of this to travel to the US. The Euro was also very strong versus the US dollar in 2007. Yet, according to a report in the EU Digest, European travel to the US declined. Excerpts from the March 2008 report:

    http://www.eu-digest.com/2008/03/newscarrentalscouk-fewer-european.html

    “Fewer European overseas tourists visit US”

    “The number of overseas tourists visiting the United States declined last year.”

    “The US Department of Commerce made public key figures earlier today that suggest a noticeable drop in the number of overseas visitors to America.”

    “The drop in European tourists to the US, however, is somewhat surprising, considering the fact that these visitors can take advantage of very beneficial exchange rates, since in 2007 the US dollar lost a significant amount of its value against both the euro and the British Pound.”

    “In concrete numbers, the US saw approximately 10 million fewer tourists last year than what had been expected.” Comment: WOW!

    “Another reason for this drop in tourism to the US from overseas is the increased red-tape related to what seem to be unnecessary US security measures.”

    Comment: Perhaps millions of Europeans still have that historical memory of what can happen when you are not vigilant about protecting your liberties and instead acquiece to tyranny.

  • First of all I want to start off by saying anyone reading this shouldn`t trust Murphy`s previous post.

    Murphy it is not worth arguing with somone who hasn`t studied history. I live in Japan buddy. I have lived here for years, My fiance is Japanese and I have nothing but Japanese, Korean, Zainichi (I have zainichi who were raised as Japanese and those raised as Chousenjin. I also have zainichi taiwanjin and chuugokujin friends but they are irrelavant to this conversation) friends and not to mention a huge group of Japanese people soon to become my family. I got into Graduate school here NOT using the 外国人枠 and I speak enough Japanese that not only can one not tell I am foreign on the telephone, but even in person I can say I am half-Japanese and not one person will doubt me for a second. (Ok, maybe one second) What does that say about how acultured I am to this country?

    Murphy where do you get off saying that young people ACTUALLY STUDY THE ZAINICHI ISSUE. Are you actually young? I am 21 and I can tell you for a fact that anyone around me from age 16 (age of my kouhai`s at work) to 35 (age of my boss at my main part-time job) has not studied past the `many koreans came to Japan during the war and never left` part. When they weren`t so much going to Japan as they were going to 内地 from the 外地. They didn`t `come` to Japan in the sense we use the word today because they *were* Japanese. So it makes the only sentence in their history books that touched on the issue, not in-fact true.

    Good god.

    and the Zainichi issue IS the fault of the Japanese government.

    I have not only the degree I have the experience as well. Just what did you experience that made you think the Zainichi issue is one of the past? I have BEEN to the 朝鮮民族学校 in Kobe several times and I lived in 十三, near 鶴橋 and in 西成区。But I also lived in areas where so-called `normal` Japanese live like 宝塚 or 西宮。

    lastly, yes, Zainichi are not just zainichi koreans, yes I will give you that. There are also zainichi-chinese and zainichi-taiwan. I was just using koreans as a base because they are the largest zainichi population and easier to grasp as a group. You just do not hear about the Zainichi Chinese or Taiwan population much because they are much smaller and the Taiwan group have almost all assilimated.

    Oh and on the `beware of Japanese sources` Japanese professors who aren`t テキトウ will tell their Japanese as well as foreign students to be extra careful when selecting sources. Of course it is the same in English Academia but the source citing system is MUCH MUCH stricter in English Acedemia. There are kids in prestigeous universities here (In japan) who use WIKIPEDIA as a source for their essays. good god. If you used Wikipedia as a source in the UofT or any prestigeous (or even a second or third rate) western university you would receive a zero. (I know a korean student at the UofT who has had this experience)

    And yes of course you have to be careful when reading something written by the zainichi themselves. By calling me on this point aren`t you contradiction your whole clever inference to `the north korean school has some *interesting* ideas` bit? I bet you thought you were so clever making that little joke eh?

    My talking with you is finished. You do not know Japan (nor zainichi Japan) and your post almost almost made me as furious as something written by that ass-clown gregory clark would.

    Mark in Yayoi

    Yeah I have seen Uri Hakkyo. Very important film in the study of the zainichi problem. Where you you saw it though is something I am curious about. I am pretty sure that a lot of these documentaries are available only on VHS and usually are only available if you go out of your way to look for them. You must be very well informed on the subject.

    The problem (from what I personally surmise from my experience) isn`t so much that they aren`t seen as Japanese.(Because even Japanese in the empire with Chousen roots were `Chousenjin`. They just want to be treated equally). The problem is that the government is asking *once again*, that they become Japanese. They did what the government asked during the 36 years of the empire (plus the years previous in which Japan slowly poured into Chosen) and became completely Japanese, throwing away their Chosen identities in order to assilimate into their newfound empire. Not that they had a choice. Then when they lost the war they also lost their Japanese citizenship because part of the sanfrancisco agreement was the independance of Chosen.
    All of a sudden *every single chosenjin in Japan* was to either go home or be caught and deported for get this *illegal* entry into Japan. Even though the whole reason they came to the home islands was because they legally *were* Japanese.

    Pretty much until the 1980`s when zainichi koreans were granted more than just the `right to stay in Japan`(Hence Special PR) the silent stance of the government was pretty much naturalize or `go home`. Would you refuse to give insurance or pension to somone who you wanted to stay?

    The problem with those who still hold onto their chosen identities is Why SHOULD they naturalize? The reason they are still legally Korean in the first place is because Japan didn`t want them here from the beginning of the end of the war. And even if you take Japanese citizenship your are still zainichi. No offense to Debito but how many Zainichi would feel OK with having to go through the same process as him to become Japanese even though they have been born here for Generations and he came here in his 20`s? (Really debtito, no offense)

    Murphy doesn`t know what he is talking about when he is saying that if you have japanese citizenship you are automatically Japanese. How many Japanese would consider stars like Wada Akiko to be the *same* as them? Not that people would look down on Wada Akiko but even though she has naturalized people still refer to her as 在日.

    There are indians who carry only british citizenship and those who only carry indian citizenship. Why? because britain gave the indian population throughout the empire a CHOICE. Be Indian or be the British subject you have assimilated to be.

    There was no choice for the Chosen people.

    A plausible solution would be to change the laws to give all people born on Japanese soil citizenship and hope that the problem solves itself over a few generations, but even then those who hold korean citizenship may still apply for their children to be korean at the Korean consulate because Korea is just as stuck on Pureblood主義 as Japan is.

    — Are you sure Wada Akiko has naturalized? I’ve heard she came out on her own accord as a Zainichi and still is one.

  • Alex:
    “I live in Japan buddy. I have lived here for years”
    “I am 21”
    “I am a graduate of University of Toronto”
    “I have a specialist degree in east asian studies at the university of toronto”
    “I grew up in an all Chinese-Canadian neighborhood and spoke cantonese by the time I was 10”
    I’m calling your bluff. It is theoretically possible to be 21 and a university graduate. But even so, it would mean you only just arrived in Japan, at the very longest you’ve been in the country since last summer. Not “years”.

    The University of Toronto’s only study abroad program in Japan is a summer one in Tokyo, not Kansai. So you couldn’t have been living in Japan while studying at university.

    “My grammar and whatnot are not weird because I have a bad education (I am a graduate of University of Toronto) it`s because I simply don`t use english in my daily life at all.”
    For a (very) recent Canadian university graduate to consistently make the grammar and spelling mistakes you do would be extremely unusual. I’ve been in Japan since before you got out of diapers. I’ve been married to a Japanese who does not speak English since you were allegedly running around Mississauga speaking Cantonese. In other words, I spend most of every waking day speaking and thinking in Japanese. My English has suffered, yes, but I still know to capitalize proper nouns and the first letter of sentences, put spaces between words, etc.

    I don’t believe you are who you say you are, or that you know what you say you know, or that you have lived in Japan for years. I am not impressed that you can manage to write (on a computer) place names from around Kansai. And which North Korean school did you go to in Kobe “several times”? Because there is no “朝鮮民族学校” in Kobe. There is the 朝鮮高級学校 and the 朝鮮初中学校, but there is no “朝鮮民族学校” in Kobe.

    You’re a fraud, “Alex”, plain and simple. Your story doesn’t add up because it can’t. And we don’t even have to look too closely at it to realize that.

    — This is waaaay off topic now. I’ll let Alex reply once if he wants, and then we’ll close this thread within this blog entry to any more comments.

  • Mike Gunn says:

    CNN, March 31, 2009

    “I think business travel is down,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. “I think leisure travel is down, and I think people are just deciding if they don’t need to fly… if they can drive, that will be the alternative. But it’s all as a result of a very lousy economy that all of us are facing.”

    — Link please. Thanks.

  • Jon. I appreciate your comments but the links you provided did not convince me at all.

    First, your Korean Times link.

    “Impact on Tourism

    The ministry has yet to decide whether to only fingerprint foreigners newly coming to Korea or to include those who have been here since 2003, the official added.

    Many foreigners showed a negative to cautious reaction to the plan.

    Mike Weisbart, who has stayed here since 1995, said, “My fingerprints have been on file at the immigration office since 1995 and I have no problems with that. But for short-term visitors, I’m not sure why they need it and, if the system is annoying or invasive, it might run counter to the government’s plan to attract more tourists.”

    He said that he basically believes that it is the right of the country to demand visitors give the information if they want to come here. But he said it could have an adverse impact on the government’s plan to attract more incoming tourists. “If the system is poor and is inconvenient for visitors, they will go back to their country and speak poorly of Korea,” Weisbart said.

    Another tourism expert, who declined to be named, said the Ministry of Justice’s plan, to be implemented in 2010, contradicts the Ministry of Tourism’s plan to attract as many foreign tourists through various promotion projects.

    The U.S. obliges foreign visitors to register their fingerprints and a photo since 2004 as an anti-terrorism measure after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. Japan began the system in November last year.

    In Korea, the number of foreign residents is estimated at 1.1 million as of now, a figure equal to more than 2 percent of total Korean population. The Justice Ministry estimates the number of illegally residing foreign nationals at 220,000.”

    Now. Based on the evidence provided by the writer above, can you honestly say that the article deserves the headline of “Revival of Fingerprinting Expected to Have Adverse Impact on Tourism.”??

    And as for the comments on the blogs, all I can say is that saying it on the web versus actually doing it are totally separate and the gap between the two are oceans apart.

    And as for the EU Digest, I believe the exerpt

    “Another reason for this drop in tourism to the US from overseas is the increased red-tape related to what seem to be unnecessary US security measures.”

    came from the editor of the site?

    http://www.eu-digest.com/about.htm

  • I’m going to take a stab that Alex is a member of the DPR Korea Communist Party. The rhetoric has the same overtones as North Korean propaganda and the logic is about the same.

    Murph, I like the way you think. We’ll have to meet up for beers some time.

    Debito, thanks for hosting an enjoyable argument.

  • I was going to chip in with some figures on the travel decline w/in the U.S. (Hotel Occupancy: off 20% http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2009/04/hotel-occupancy-revpar-off-20.html). And I was going to throw in a tangent to Comment #30 about people driving instead of flying (vehicle miles driven down, too — at a steeper rate than even during the 70’s oil crunches http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_pMscxxELHEg/ScJqldiSSCI/AAAAAAAAE1w/3q1NLufa59Y/s1600-h/VehicleMilesYoYJan2009.jpg).

    However, this comment string is turning into a much more enjoyable topic. Chuck N., can I join you and Murph for the beers?

    FYI, anecdotal info from our ryokan in Nagano: our “Inbound” numbers are up, mostly due to our increased marketing efforts. But we’re likely chasing a bigger slice of an increasingly smaller pie. Also, I haven’t made a point of asking our guests from overseas, but I’ve never heard any negative feedback about the fingerprinting. Most are more interested in experiencing traditional Japanese culture, and aren’t hung up on the Customs & Immigration details.

    Finally, one further aside, Nagano Prefecture has taken a giant step towards being more foreigner friendly, with it’s new tourism website featuring current, local info provided by long-term foreigners and/or locals dealing with foreigners: http://www.go-nagano.net/blog/

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    I have to add one more comment regarding fingerprinting and tourism — not only are some tourists not bothered by it, some even encourage it as a way to keep criminals out!

    Rather, it’s the residents who are most inconvenienced and insulted by it.

    A week ago an American friend came to visit Japan for the first time. I asked him what he thought about being fingerprinted and photographed, and he said it didn’t bother him. “The Japanese government has no idea who I am; I could be a murderer trying to escape here,” he said. When I brought up possible resentment at being deemed untrustworthy, etc., he responded with, “It’s not like they’re doing that stuff to you. You live here!”

    Obviously he had assumed that the Japanese fingerprinting was a mirror of the American system, and hadn’t considered that Japan actually fingerprints and photographs returning residents, repeatedly. (He was, it must be noted, a bit shocked that Japan would treat people who already live here as if they were fresh-off-the-boat holidayers.)

    This is what’s so devious about the fingerprinting. Of their targets, the vast majority are tourists who won’t get really angry about it. The number of tourists is going down because of things like fuel surcharges and less spending money, not because of this. But, hidden away like a line of pork-barrel spending in a bill before Congress, the same suspicion is applied to returning residents in addition.

    I often wonder who the real targets of the fingerprinting are. Sometimes I think the main purpose is to keep more tabs on people who already live here, and they just needed a politically-palatable angle at which to approach it.

  • I have a much simpler, but just as legit theory.

    Japan’s tourism is down because of movies.

    “Memoirs of a Geisha” (AKA Sayuri) was released in 2005 and on DVD in 2006. Japan got free advertising from the movie, which may have been a catalyst to provoke Japan-o-philes to actually come to Japan. They came. They went. They don’t “need” to come again.

    To boost tourism, there has to be another major Western-made motion picture about Japan.

    It is just as provable(and refutable) as any other theory.

    Personally, I don’t believe fingerprinting has anything to do with tourism numbers dropping, except for possibly reducing the number of wanted international fugitives coming to Japan and a few info-conspiracy nuts who don’t leave their homes anyway.

    It’s the money. Lack of it. Exchange rates. Fuel surcharges.

    As far as procedures, I think the insanely strict trends in airport security and searches of belongings and 2-3 hour lines to just get to the gate, are far more of a factor than a 2-minute fingerprinting on arrival.

    — The average wait in line for fingerprinting at J airports is far more than two minutes. But anyway.

  • As for the wait for fingerprinting being longer than 2 minutes.

    Just a simple question, as I haven’t been out of country and back (no money or time) since the policy came into effect. Is the fingerprinting line separate from the regular immigration line? Or is it done at the same place and time as the passport check?

    If it’s the same line, then you can only count the additional time it takes for fingerprints. You can’t claim the Immigration control wait time is now ALL due to the new fingerprint system, inplying there used to be no wait at all. You can only compare it to the wait time before the fingerprint system.

    Has the average Immingration wait time pre-fingerprint and post fingerprint changed? If so, by how much? If it’s a huge difference, you have a point. But I suspect wait times have a lot more to do with staffing levels and the J national/foreigner ratio on each flight, rather than the actual procedures themselves. Does the fingerprint scan require additional agents hovering over each of the scanners, thus reducing the number of available lanes?)

    I was just guessing that it might take on average an extra 2 minutes, where it’s probably far less than a minute extra if there’s no snags, and quite a bit more if there are.

    Again, you can make the moral argument, and the humiliation argument, the slippery slope to Japanese being fingerprinted too argument, and just the total lack of any effectiveness argument, but inventing other lines of criticism about time only hurts your reputation, dilutes your thesis, and leaves you vulnerable to easy criticism, which leads to critics just deflecting your more legitimate arguments, because they found an easy hole to attack. Especially since it’s unnecessary to think up new arguments of questionable validity when you already have so many perfectly good ones.

    If the fingerprint line is separate, and actually represents an entirely new chunk of waiting time, I stand corrected.

    — You stand corrected, and you should do some research before you comment based upon hypotheticals rather than information. Start here.

  • Debito, why does Level3 “stand corrected”? There is no separate fingerprinting line, it is the same lines as it has always been (re-entry permit holders in one line, tourists and first-timers in another), if the Japanese lines are short they wave re-entry permit holders through those lines. All of that is based on my personal experience and the experiences given in the blog entry you told Level3 to read. Based on that real-world, non-hypothetical information and experience, Level3 has got it exactly right. Entry/re-entry procedures have not been redone, one more step has been added to the process. A step that adds, based on my experience, at most 10 seconds to the entry procedure. Usually less. So if you have 60 people lined up for prints, and only one line to process them, you will add at most 10 minutes to the time the last guy in line is queued up waiting to get to the desk – assuming no other lines are made available (they always seem to be). While the time waiting to get to the desk and through immigration may be longer than 2-3 minutes, it has always been so. Fingerprinting has not substantially changed waiting times.

    — Er, are you reading the links I provide? According to Kyodo, Haneda and Kansai have never had a wait time of less than twenty minutes in 2008, and the official word is that lines and wait times are longer. And the other airports are doing practically as badly — so badly the Tourism Bureau is scolding MOJ. We have frequent repeat fingerprinting of the machines, due to both malfunctions and worn fingers, so it’s not a matter of seconds.

    And the lines are not separated in the way you say. In fact, I just got a phone call from a friend, a Permanent Resident (but not a Zainichi, exempt from fingerprinting), who only last week was told to go to the same line as tourists when he stood in the line for Re-Entry Permit holders (a new black sign apparently indicates the same thing: Line for citizens and Zainichi reentrants only, all others another line.). That means that residents are treated the same as tourists, a fundamental departure from the way things were before. Other testimonies echo the same experiences, if you would bother to read the ones that don’t support your mathematical theory of bureaucratic procedure.

  • Michael Weidner says:

    Regarding the lines at Narita….

    I have never had to wait in line to go through the line, ever.

    After the policy was instituted, I registered my fingerprints in the database and when re-entering the country, I went to the automatic gate immediately and didn’t even have to wait for that at all.

    What I wonder is this: What are these wait times based upon? I’ve been out of the country 3 times since the system was implemented and NEVER have had to wait whatsoever in a line. I walked right over to the automatic gate, scanned in, and that was it.

    So where are the numbers from Debito?

  • http://www.convocation.utoronto.ca/site4.aspx

    Here are the details to my Convocation (Graduation) in June 2009 from the University of Toronto.

    I will graduate with an EAS Specialist Degree (Half of my credits being from 関西学院大学/立教大学 and the other half from the UofT St.George Campus)I invite any of you for a beer afterwords (As I am fairly sure to spectate you have to be either a family member or a friend) with myself, my bestfriend (Cantonese-Canadian, he can fill you on the details of my cantonese-life) and my fiancee (Who also doesn`t speak english. What, is that some sort of status to you? Murphy. Ass.). If any of you wish to discuss all the so-called `fraudulant` stories I have posted (I prefer the wording `Life Experience`)we might just head over to the fox and fiddle on Bloor and St.George for a few pints of Guiness. Although you might want to stay away from the Zainichi subject infront of my fiancee because she suspected for some time that I was cheating on her with my Zainichi friend even though we were completely plutonic. I am certain just hearing the word `zainichi` makes her remember those times.

    Mind you this MIGHT end up being intrusion on what is supposed to be one of the greatest days of my life.

    I am through with this site. Bye.

    The thought just occured to me that it could be dangerous for me to put up these details but I figure that anyone who really has it in for me could find out the details anyway by using Google, etc. (Probably fine since half the traffic this site receives is from CHINA)

    — I’ve seen people unsubscribing from mailing lists after a speech, but this is the first time I’ve seen it on this blog (when there is no subscription necessary anyway). And it is an odd feeling to have the option of approving a message that the poster thinks might put him in danger…

    Alex, you’ve got issues. Work them out and come back if you like at a later date and comment level-headedly, please.

  • Another interesting little article… (Debito do you want links/articles like this posted or just comments? Not too sure of your netiquette yet)

    http://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asahi/TKY200904070057.html

    Unlicensed guides overrun tour market
    BY MANABU SASAKI, THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

    Tourism industry officials fear an influx of unlicensed tour guides for foreign visitors is taking business from those with proper credentials, many of whom have undertaken extensive study to gain the right qualifications.

    Officials say unlicensed guides are undercutting legitimate guide-interpreters by charging relatively cheap rates.

    Some fear the unlicensed guides, many of whom are foreigners, could project an undesirable image of Japan at a time when the nation is seeking to attract more international visitors.

    Under the guide-interpreter business law, established about 60 years ago, only those who have passed national or local government exams can charge fees as guide-interpreters.

    But according to the Japan Federation of Certified Guides, an organization formed by qualified guide-interpreters, less than 10 percent of those working in the field surveyed in Kyoto between January 2008 and January 2009 could present proper credentials.

    In late February, officials from the Kanto District Transport Bureau visited Tokyo’s Asakusa district to promote the certification system and assess the situation surrounding guide-interpreters operating in one of Japan’s most popular tourist districts.

    After questioning more than 10 guides serving overseas visitors during a two-hour period, the officials could not find a single guide with proper qualifications.

    After admitting to lacking credentials, one Taiwanese promised never to operate again. Others insisted they were “interpreters and not guides.” Still others said they were “busy” and excused themselves.

    According to the Japan Federation of Certified Guides, most Japanese travel agencies employ qualified guide-interpreters, while most tours to Japan organized by agencies in Asian countries employ unqualified guides.

    While penalties under the guide-interpreter business law were raised from 30,000 yen to 500,000 yen in 2006, according to the Japan Tourism Agency, there has never been a single case in which a guide has been fined.

    Officials said it was difficult to punish violators due to problems establishing whether they were offering such services as explaining history behind a tourist attraction and not simply working as an interpreter or tour attendant.

    It is also hard to establish whether they are being paid for their services.

    One reason for the proliferation of unqualified guides is the low rates they charge. While a certified guide-interpreter collects between 20,000 yen and 30,000 yen a day, one man who said he arranged tours in Tokyo for Chinese tourists admitted to hiring uncertified guides for around 10,000 yen.

    Another problem is that for many non-Japanese, guide-interpreter certification tests are too difficult.

    A 45-year-old South Korean man who said he had lived in Japan for 20 years and worked as a guide for 10 years, said he “would like to attain qualifications, but the knowledge sought in the tests is too detailed.”

    For example, a history question from one past exam asks applicants to identify a “Christian daimyo (feudal lord) who dispatched Tensho emissaries to Europe and who was ordered to disembowel himself following the sinking of the Portuguese ship Madre de Deus.” The answer is Arima Harunobu.

    Only about 17 percent of applicants passed the exam in fiscal 2008. A 38-year-old Thai man, who said he had worked as a guide for more than 10 years, said that while there were preparatory schools for the exam, he gave up attending after learning tuition would cost several hundred thousand yen.

    The Tourism Agency, which aims at drawing 10 million tourists to Japan in 2010 and 20 million in 2020, considers the guide-interpreter system to be “crucial for increased satisfaction in travel.”

    However, it has yet to find an effective way to tackle the issue of uncertified guides.

    According to an agency survey, about 40 percent of those with credentials who make a living from guide work said they earned less than 1 million yen a year.

    Industry officials say the situation must change.

    “The field of guides who have worked so hard to be qualified and who continue to brush up on their skills is being impeded,” said Sumiko Yamada, of the Japan Federation of Certified Guides.

    “To have people with inadequate knowledge showing tourists around Japan would definitely have a negative impact for the nation,” she said.(IHT/Asahi: April 7,2009)

    — Thanks for this. Debito.org Netiquette is if the article will wink out of public view (as it will in all online resources, except Japan Today and Japan Times), then post it in full here with links. Those resources that keep things open and free, give and excerpt and a link.

  • Earlier I promised not to bore you with a repeat of my earlier points. It seems I was wrong at that:

    “Personally, I don’t believe fingerprinting has anything to do with tourism numbers dropping, except for possibly reducing the number of wanted international fugitives coming to Japan and a few info-conspiracy nuts who don’t leave their homes anyway.”

    “Again, you can make the moral argument, and the humiliation argument, the slippery slope to Japanese being fingerprinted too argument, and just the total lack of any effectiveness argument, but inventing other lines of criticism about time only hurts your reputation, dilutes your thesis, and leaves you vulnerable to easy criticism, which leads to critics just deflecting your more legitimate arguments, because they found an easy hole to attack. Especially since it’s unnecessary to think up new arguments of questionable validity when you already have so many perfectly good ones.”

    With respect, Level3, you missed a few arguments. It’s not strange that you did, the paradox is the same as the one that people fear flying, not driving, and fear sharks, not pigs (http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Bruce_Schneier).

    I agree with you about the info-conspiracy nuts. It’s a typical exaggeration of the rare, spectacular risk. The risks I see are far more common. The most important risk I see is machine error. The second most important risk is becoming the victim of identity fraud, for which we already have leads that there is an underground market for this (the Korean broker of a few months ago).

    Fingerprinting as an identifier is a nice technological toy, and in small-scale, high profile investigations it can work miracles, but it is a very fragile system. Any common, everyday mishap can cause innocent people to suffer damage, and in visiting a country where you may want to attend a conference, visit friends, family or loved ones or simply return home, this damage can be severe.

    This doesn’t have to mean it can’t be made safe. Aircraft have very unsafe properties too (you can’t park them on the side of the road if they break down), yet flying is among the safest travel in the world. The reason is as simple as it is brilliant. The airline industry expects their systems to fail. So generally what they do is rely on training, to improve the quality and minmise the chance of failure, and backup systems, to ensure that the failure of one system doesn’t mean you go down like a stone. And to reassure a certain group of passengers, they are very open about what they do, so that those passengers can check for themselves if the airline industry is acting responsibly.

    Which brings us back to the Immigration Bureau. Here, we have a system that is technically very fragile, that decides over wether innocent people are free to lead their lives the way they want it, without-any-visible-backup. Even in the variant, you can, if you look very carefully, find clues that the organisation is aware of the problems and has at least some backup procedures (http://fingerprint.nist.gov/standard/archived_workshops/workshop1/presentations/Latta-LessThan10.pdf). To me that acknowledgement is reassuring, far more than stupid drawings of female figures placing their fingers on the pad with a cute smile or a mere: “we will properly store and protect your data, according to the basic law for the protection of personal data, the Act for the Protection of Personal Information Retained by Administrative Institutions.” (without supplying a copy). Does anyone want to make a guess just how tragically low the percentage of organisations is that makes such statements about privacy laws and then actually is good on it’s words?

    Why would anyone need a conspiracy theory if there is ample reason to suspect negligence (in not providing the safeguards to backup the failure of their own system) and neglect (in failing to give some people the reassurance they need)?

    And why would we fail to use these arguments, that fingerprinting is inherently unsafe, that even a supermarket chain finds fingerprinting too unsafe to pay for the equivalent of 2000 Yen in groceries (http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2009/03/supermarket_stops_fingerprint.php), not to mention the risks of being caught up in a false alarm. And why would we fail to very closely examine the training and procedures of the Immigration Bureau in case of such problems and publish what we find? And why, finally, would we not look up the privacy law, read it, and put to the test just how well the Immigration Bureau is acting according to it anyway, and again publish what we find? The everyday, common risks to us, without any need for a conspiracy theory or having something to hide, are high enough to warrant such attention.

    — Excellent essay. Thanks for it. Belongs as a newspaper article somewhere. I’ll advise my editor.

  • Not to get back on subject or anything, but here are some links to JNTO and their official reasons for declining tourist #’s.

    http://www.jnto.go.jp/jpn/downloads/090127monthly.pdf

    This is a 29-page review of the 2008 numbers. P.7 lists 17 “negative impact” reasons, mostly general economic ones or troubles in foreign countries (Thailand’s airports closed by protesters, etc.) Further details broken down by origin country in subsequent pages.

    Update through Feb ’09 at

    http://www.jnto.go.jp/jpn/downloads/090325monthly.pdf

    I only briefly scanned the doc’s, but didn’t see any references to fingerprinting. The data is very thorough, though, and gives lots of other explanations for declining numbers. FYI.

    — Thanks Tyler, for the data and getting back on subject!

  • I doubt very much that fingerprinting is having a big impact on tourist numbers. It’s a quick and simple procedure – one that I don’t happen to support – that is far less troublesome than, for example, obtaining a visa. The exchange rate, on the other hand, is always going to play a part in people’s decision.

    Certain things will always work against tourism to Japan: the long held perception that it’s very expensive. Much of Asia has caught up, so this isn’t quite the issue it once was, but even so, if people believe it, it’s enough to deter many. There’s the fact that Japan is an island, on the way to nowhere. Most of us have to fly in. Flights do transit Japan, but it’s not really a place that people are bundling with two or three other countries they visit, and most people have to fly in and out (From Korea or China, arriving by sea is an option). The relative lack of English plays a part: countries where English is an official language will always have an advantage.

    Despite this, it is a place that people want to visit, and I sense in this thread a sort of satisfaction at a perceived failure of Japan to attract enough visitors. However it’s enormously popular with people from around Asia, particularly the wealthier areas like Hong Kong, Taiwan or Singapore.

    Someone said that they couldn’t “in good conscience” recommend to other people that they visit Japan. That’s just bizarre. Clearly, they’re not enjoying it here, but the idea that others couldn’t (or shouldn’t) get something out of a two or three week trip is ridiculous. Is he suggesting a “boycott” just because Japanese society has an ugly side?

    And where does a comparison with Hong Kong have any relevance? The place is tiny, it has a land area smaller than Tokyo, a population smaller than Tokyo, and it’s the best part of 2000 miles away. You can visit Hong Kong and have a great time, do a lot, and see a lot. There will also be people who decide to visit Hong Kong “instead” of visiting Japan. But one is not an adequate substitute for the other, Japan has things that you can never do in Hong Kong. And you can combine a Tokyo trip with Kyoto, one or two other of the main islands, travel round by shinkansen (or fly), hit a few national parks, go to onsens, visit ryokan, go skiing – you can make a very, very long list of things to spend your time on in Japan (as it happens, the shopping’s better, too). Anyone is welcome to pass that up of course, but there are many things that set Japan apart from other countries in Asia that would (and should) make it attractive to potential visitors. It will never compete directly with cheaper destinations like Thailand or Laos, or Vietnam, but there’s no real reason why it should, any more than England should be trying to compete with southern Spain on beach culture.

    Finally, Hong Kong can get all the visitors it wants and more, just by becoming more and more open to Chinese from the mainland. There are still restrictions in place, even though PRC visitors are a big and important section of the tourism market there. International tourism in Hong Kong can be as simple as a visitor coming across the border from Shenzhen. This is why Macau has deceptively high tourist numbers (it used to receive more visitors than HK, maybe still does). Most of its visitors were actually FROM HK.

    Another function for Hong Kong is as a base for visiting China, and again, this brings in huge numbers of visitors, who might otherwise not bother to cross an ocean and seven time zones just to sample the shopping in Hong Kong’s mediocre malls and department stores. So it seems futile just to make quick comparisons between destination A and destination B over the number of tourists, or who’s getting more this year and who isn’t. Using the numbers to confirm fondly held prejudices is even worse.

  • I would love to know how they make up these figures… a five fold increase in Chinese tourists is expected in 2 years… (on another thread I linked details of this (to qualify you need to earn silly money etc) and an article which noted that when the powers that be started offering ‘family’ visas to Chinese nationals a year or so ago only a few people ever took up the offer)…

    http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/japan-to-issue-tourist-visas-to-chinese-individuals-starting-wednesday

    Japan to issue tourist visas to Chinese individuals starting Wednesday
    Monday 29th June, 02:55 PM JST

    TOKYO —
    Japan will start issuing tourist visas to Chinese individuals Wednesday, responding to demands from Chinese people that they be able to enjoy their stay in Japan without the presence of tour guides, a Foreign Ministry official said Monday. Applications for the visa will be accepted at the Japanese Embassy in Beijing and the consulates in Shanghai and Guangzhou during the first year. The service will be expanded to other diplomatic offices in China if conditions are judged appropriate. The latest move is in line with a bilateral agreement reached during Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso’s visit to China in April.

    The visas will be issued when an individual ‘‘meets certain requirements’’ in terms of income, occupation and other factors, as well as the individual’s family members. Japan basically has in mind the wealthy class, the official said. So far, Japan has accepted Chinese tourists traveling in a group attended by tour guides from both the Chinese and Japanese sides. Including individual Chinese tourists, Japan expects the total number of Chinese visitors to Japan to increase by 250,000 to 1.25 million in 2010 from 2008, generating an estimated 40 billion yen, the official said.

    Kyodo

  • I worked in Japan for some time but I have never returned since leaving in 2006. Why? I object to the adoption of biometric scans and fingerprinting measures that do not equate with the reality of terrorism that has been perpetrated by Japanese nationals at home and in Europe over the years.

    The argument that Japan adopted these measures because of the US is just nonsense. The US had a terrorist attack on its soil perpetrated by foreign nationals who abused its study visas system. The US is a target for terrorism because of the country’s international role. The US is home and host to so many people from so many diverse countries and situations.There is no comparison between what it instituted after September 11 and Japan’s eagerness to yet again pander to the very real xenophobia that is deeply institutionalised no matter how fond I am of the Japanese people I taught, worked with and are friends with.

    Japan is tightening the screws on its foreign residents and that is another reason for my objection. Japan’s laws make it difficult for foreigners to establish a long term residence and even if you are married to a Japanese, although this makes it easier for you to live and work in Japan the system still makes it difficult when it should not.

    Forcing foreigner residents (some of whom have lived in Japan for a decade or more, even 3 decades or more) to undergo the biometric scans and fingerprinting every time they leave the country in which they have established a residence and to which they are paying taxes is plain insulting. Control is the issue here and it is an unnecessary measure.

  • Why so serious? says:

    Japanese tourism is suffering, because the Japanese tourist industry is not sufficiently well developed to compete with other international destinations. English is not spoken widely enough. When you get out into the country, transport links are often not tourist-friendly. In these economic times, people are going to seek to stretch their dollar as far as it can possibly go.

    What the Japanese tourist industry should be doing is targetting foreign residents. Then it can find out what they want, and friends and family want when they come to visit. That way the tourist industry can develop for the future. More jobs in tourism in the countryside may mean less migration to Tokyo.

    If I may cross reference to another debate, apparently an amendment in the new Immigration Law means that foreign residents will need to show that they have national insurance and pension arrangements in order to qualify for a new visa.

    Can anyone confirm this?

    Is anyone concerned about this?

    I personally predict that if large numbers of foreign residents are forced to join Shakkai Hoken, there will be large numbers who will leave, particularly if back payments are required. What Japan’s tourism industry needs is westerners living in Japan.

  • I’m sure the tourism numbers will drop further if and when enough people hear about the random urine testing. In a way, it’s hard to believe it’s true, but in another way, it’s hardly surprising.

    It seems to be just another incremental step by the authorities to turn Japan into a police state. It would not surprise me if these kinds of measures eventually reach the Japanese population itself.

    I refused to visit Japan again after the fingerprinting measure was implemented. The latest news about the new Gaijin cards and the alleged urine testing simply reinforces my belief that by consenting to one type of totalitarian measure, you allow further ones to be implemented.

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