MOJ Website on fingerprinting/photos at Immigration from Nov 2007 (UPDATED)


Hi Blog. Lovely bit of Japanicana at the GOJ online TV network. Except that as well as being kinda weird and laughably amusing, it’s deadly serious about targeting foreigners as potential terrorists.

Friend just sent me a link to a new site talking about the new Immigration procedures coming into effect in November 2007, which will involve taking fingerprints and photographing of all “foreign visitors” crossing the border into Japan.

This will, however, not be restricted to “foreign visitors”. It will be applied to everyone BUT (quoting the website):

1. Persons under the age of 16
2. Special status permanent residents
[presumably the Zainichi generational “foreigners”, which means regular-status permanent-resident immigrants are NOT exempt]
3. Those performing actions which would be performed [sic] by those with a status of residence, “diplomat” or “official government business”


Which means even people who are long-term residents will get fingerprinting reinstated, despite having it abolished after decades of protest in 1999 (See article with more details at

And this time, if you don’t comply, you can’t take it to court (like Kathy Morikawa and others did). You’re just refused entry at the border.

GOJ’s justification? Prevention of terrorism, and the “safety of foreign visitors”.

The video in English is a hoot too, wheeling out a few token foreigners of color hamming it up, and agreeing to have their privacy violated on suspicion of terrorism.

But the irony here is that all the terrorist activities that have happened so far in Japan (from Aum on down) have been Japanese.

The association of foreigners with terrorism (moreover apparently helping to save them from themselves) is pretty presumptuous.

Why are they doing this? Because they can. If the GOJ were really serious about combatting terrorism, they would fingerprint everybody. But they can’t. They tried this before years ago with widespread protest. Look what happened to the failed Juki-Net system with universal ID cards (it was even ruled unconstitutional in December 2006, see

The GOJ info site on fingerprinting is at

Distressed about this? More on what you can do about it here:

Trace the arc of this policy proposal as it became law at:

Here comes the fear
Antiterrorist law creates legal conundrums for foreign residents
Column 21 for the Japan Times Community page, MAY 24, 2005

LDP proposal to computer chip foreigners has great potential for abuse
By Arudou Debito
Column 26 for the Japan Times Community Page November 22, 2005

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

–UPDATE JULY 2, 2007

I decided to call around to a few places in Japan, specifically to
get the official word on what new immigration procedures will be
happening at airports starting in November. I called the Ministry
of Justice Immigration Division (General Affairs), Narita
Immigration and Japan’s Foreigner(?) Human Rights Bureau.

First off, not that I expected much from Houmushou, but I was able
to get the person answering the phone to confirm that all
foreigners, except Zainichi and government staff on offical business
will be photographed and printed each time they enter and exit
Japan. When I suggested that this procedure could be seen as
invasive to long-term visa holders and permanent residents (who have
already gone through an extensive vetting process by immigration) he
simply restated that all foreign guests would have to submit their
biometric data. Of course, I do understand that front-line
government staff have no power to comment on laws nor to change
them. I thanked him for his info and asked that please pass on my
concerns to his superiors.

Narita Immigration also confirmed the same information, although
they were slightly more sympathetic in tone of voice. I asked them
what the procedure would be for international families entering
Japan. Would they be forced to separate into foreigner and Japanese
lines at immigration or would they be able to enter together as is
currently. The woman explained to me that situations like this are
being debated within the department, but as far as the plan goes for
now, she believes that all foreigners will have to use the “foreign
national” line. She did add that front-line staff at Narita are
hoping to have one or more booths on the “Japanese National” side be
able to handle reentry permit holders. I also asked her a
hypothetical question about what were to happen if a permanent
resident visa holder with a valid re-entry permit were to refuse to
get printed and photographed. “They would be denied entry into
Japan.” she said.

Finally, after being given the number from the woman at Nartia
Immigration, I called a number of an organization dealing with human
rights for foreigners in japan. I spoke to a nice woman who was
well aware of the upcoming regulations. I asked her whether the
organization felt this legislation was a violation of human rights,
and if so, would they be writing some sort of report to the
government. She said that they really can’t make a statement about
something being a human rights violation until AFTER it has been put
into place. In other words, they’re adopting a wait-and-see
approach. She further added that if there comes a time in which
they feel these new procedures ARE infringing in foreigners human
rights, they will consider writing a report to that fact to the
Ministry of Justice. (although, by then millions of foreigners will
have their biometric data collected and stored on some huge, on-line
database that other government agencies will have access to).

Well, that’s where it stands at the moment. Any chance that we can
get the media to talk about this again before November? It seemed
from articles months ago and several Ministries were surprised and
concerned that this new policy was blanketing the entire non-
Zainichi foreign population. Perhaps there’s still hope for getting
this revised?

Mark Mino-Thompson


33 comments on “MOJ Website on fingerprinting/photos at Immigration from Nov 2007 (UPDATED)

  • Odd that there isn’t a Japanese version.

    I’m assuming the policy won’t apply to re-entrants. They do say nyuukoku, not sainyuukoku, which are two very different procedures. So I imagine that permanent residents have less to get worked up about, though I could be wrong…

  • So they finally set a date, huh. I like the way everyone is a ‘foreign visitor’. I guess we don’t have to pay inhabitants’ tax anymore then 😉

    I find this very depressing. One thing is for sure, I have no intention of being fingerprinted/photographed at the border. Guess I can’t leave Japan until I get that Japanese passport then…

  • Jason Topaz says:

    Combine my poor Japanese reading skills with my lack of legal credentials, and it’s a recipe for disaster when I try to read Japanese law. But the amendment to the law in section paragraph 3 at the top of here seems to refer back to the preceding paragraph (2) in section 6 here. This defines who must petition and be inspected in order to enter the country, and it seems that re-entry holders are exempt. The amendment (paragraph 3) begins by referring only to foreigners subject to that petition.

    So my amateur analysis: anybody with a reentry permit is exempt. Of course I yield to Debito-san who has probably read a bit more of this stuff than I have!

  • I hope so. I won’t have a lot of choice when I reenter the country after Christmas.

    You’re right, Debito-san, that last minute of footage tells it all; who in the world gets that excited about donating their fingerprints? And the spokeswoman maintains her smile, saying “you will be denied entry into Japan and ordered to leave.”

    My brother may be visiting Japan after this gets put into effect – I’ll keep everyone aware of just how it goes…

  • Overthinker says:

    From the Ministry of In-Justice home page on immigration: 新制度は,下に掲げる免除者を除き,既に日本に滞在している外国人が再入国する場合も含め,日本に入国する外国人全員が対象(たいしょう)となります。So even re-entry permits mean you get fingerprinted like everyone else.

    Japanese Government logic here is like claiming jail is for the benefit of the prisoner. Also not one of the terrorist attacks they list would have been prevented by this system. This is probably largely in response to the insane US system (does anyone know if Green Card holders are fingerprinted?) and yet another nail in the coffin of human liberty and freedom. Bin Laden was the best thing to happen to government power since the invention of democracy focused public anger on impotent political parties rather than revolution to expunge the real rot.

  • Overthinker says:

    Added: I wouldn’t mind if they came right out and said something like “We Japanese are sick of being treated like criminals when we visit the US, so we’re being equally petty in response.” It’s this pathetic attempt to make it seem as if they are actually doing us a *favour* that makes it so annoying.

  • They have my fingerprints, I don’t like it but it’s the government. The Americans have them too.

    I’ll complain but I don’t expect much to change.

    However, I’ll be damned annoyed if this means reentrants have to start queuing with other foreigners at immigration. That’s a hell of a wait but I can see them doing it “to maintain orderly flow in immigration” or something.

  • Thanks, Overthinker.

    Now I’m just hoping they won’t publicize the photograph of me taken after 14 hours on an airplane… (shudder)

  • Doing this under the guise to prevent terrorism is the most absurd part about it — as Debito-san said, all terrorist activities in Japan as long as I can remember have been committed by Japanese nationals, not foreigners.

    Anyway, since I’m about to become a visitor, I suppose I can get away without paying my juuminzei, right? 😉

  • I have a close friend with a permanant resident green card status in the US and i dont believe she was finger printer. damn my country for allowing bush to wreck havoc our our freedoms and starting a chain reaction of paranoia that spreads to other countries. a friend that went to visit the US from japan two years ago said that she also got a RETINA scan, and she was just sightseeing…

    the timing is really nice too. get us all after we go home for the holidays… jerks

  • Overthinker says:

    You think this is bad? Look at this from the UK (Independent):

    Fingerprinting of UK pupils to be given go-ahead

    LONDON – Schools are to get the go-ahead to fingerprint pupils as young as five in new measures to be approved by the British Government.

    Ministers will issue guidance telling schools they have the right to collect biometric data and install fingerprint scanners.

    But the decision has angered Opposition MPs who say collecting fingerprints from children will be a gift to identity thieves.

    The guidance will say that personal data, including fingerprints and eyeball scans, can be collected from pupils and used to monitor attendance, so long as schools consult parents first and do not share the data with outside bodies.

    Schools will be able to place fingerprint scanners at the entrances to classrooms, the school gates and even in cafeterias.

    Fingerprint and eyeball scans would make it easy for schools to track children during the day and tell if they are playing truant or even what they have eaten for lunch.


    Damn glad I am not a UK schoolkid….



    My traveling days are almost over, fortunately. But I wonder how long
    sending foreign re-entrants to the foreigners’ line is going to last. Japan
    is trying to promote foreign tourism, and the waiting time for foreign
    visitors at its airports is already too long as it is. It will also result
    in backups at the baggage retrieval areas and customs. I predict that when
    immigration will be innundated with a chorus of complaints and start to look
    for a fix. Perhaps they’ll change another 6,000 yen in revenue stamps for a
    “Special quick re-entry permit” that expedites re-entry. One-time only, like
    the good old days. Prepare for a visit to Shinagawa each time you go abroad.

  • Justin Weiss says:

    Note that Mark writes, “front-line staff at Narita are hoping to have one or more booths on the “Japanese National” side be able to handle reentry permit holders.”

    So there may still be hope…

  • That video reminds me of a futuristic version of 1984. I can’t believe this is happening and nobody seems to want to stop it or see that it is happening. Give up your liberty for safety? Supposedly protect yourself and Japanese people from `terror`. Then showing government false flag operations like 9/11 to try to scare people into believing that they are giving up their rights for a good course. I hope people refuse to have their digital photos taken and fingers scanned, MOJ will have to change back because of the lack of tourism.

    I was planning to travel home to visit my family for Christmas, but with the new measures, I am thinking about staying here and hoping that it will be changed due to great protest. I have a spouse visa and would be travelling with my wife, I will also have a re-entry permit, does anybody know for sure if I would have to give up my human rights when re-entering Japan?

    Has this new `AMENDMENT` in the immigration law been fully documented yet, or are we still waiting for the details? Guess they will realise all the details near November so people don’t have much time to protest.

    Keep up the good work Debito-sama.

  • Im coming to Japan this fall. Since I don’t want to be treated like a criminal, it will be my last visit unless the govt changes course. I don’t expect they will, especially if another false flag operation is carried out in a western country.

  • I found this item interesting, too. Although it is not directly related to Japan, look at what the USA is going to implement. I will quote the first paragraphs, then let you read the rest.
    “The Justice Department is completing rules to allow the collection of DNA from most people arrested or detained by federal authorities, a vast expansion of DNA gathering that will include hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants, by far the largest group affected.

    The new forensic DNA sampling was authorized by Congress in a little-noticed amendment to a January 2006 renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, which provides protections and assistance for victims of sexual crimes. The amendment permits DNA collecting from anyone under criminal arrest by federal authorities, and also from illegal immigrants detained by federal agents.”

    Although a few articles on this topics have been published and seem to refer to illegal immigrants being sampled, look at the first paragraph…”most people arrested or detained by federal authorities”. Do you see the word “convicted” in there anywhere?


  • So am I correct in assuming that SOFA passport-holders will be considered Those performing actions which would be performed [sic] by those with a status of residence, “diplomat” or “official government business”?

    Just curious…


    Wow, that was a quick reply–thanks! Will definitely do that and post the answer here (if I can remember). Cheers.

  • Justin Weiss Says:
    July 3rd, 2007 at 8:02 pm

    re: booths on the “Japanese Nationals” side – So there may still be hope…

    In effect what this means is re-entry permit holders will have the choice to queue up with the tourists, entailing a lengthy wait, or queue up with the J-nationals, entailing

    a) being gawped at for being in the ‘wrong’ queue and then

    b) being paw-printed and mug-shot in full view of said gawpers.

    Please remember to offer a cheery ‘tadaima’ to the immigration officer after enduring your humiliation.

  • I don’t think the main issue should be the fact that the Permanent Residents might have to use the tourists line at immigration. The main issue should be the fact that we have to give up our rights, and let them take digital photographs of us that will be inputted into their database where they can search for people through cameras in shopping areas and in train stations and also they will take your digital fingerprints what will be added to their database.

    Is nobody going to start a petition against having to have your photo taken and prints taken?

  • If Japan won’t back down on this, I’m going to do some “honest reporting” to everyone I know and don’t know NOT TO BOTHER VISITING Japan, because it’s clear they don’t really want foreigners here, just their money(i.e., YOKOSO Japan “campaign”). It’s the same basic philosophy that has stuck to them for hundreds of years. Only most of them won’t admit it now or are just ignorant of what’s going on.

    Just for argument’s sake, what if EVERY foreigner(with his income/taxes), foreigner’s spouse, foreigner’s child, and all tourists left Japan for a while? It’s not realistic, but Japan needs to start taking foreigners seriously. They need us. They won’t be able to sustain their own economy soon…they possibly can’t even do it now. The Japanese government seems to even stick their tongue out at the UN. I think we should tell all foreigners who are considering buying/building a house, starting a business, etc. to wait until the bad scanners go away. I might start my own GOODBYE, NIPPON campaign just like them.

  • All you whiners should realize that if only we had fingerprinted and photographed the 9/11 terrorists, we could have prevented um, had a nice set of fingerprints and photographs to display after they still succeeded in killing thousands. Hold on. This argument needs some work.

  • I remember I went to “foreign line” by mistake and they sent me back to Japanese one. I`m PR holder, so now as most of people saying families will be seperated. Even in Europe my wife goes with me. People, let`s do something about it. Resident is Resident, not Visitor.
    Debito, any chances to work on it. Where can we foreigners go and show up everywhere to change this stupid law. Japanese follows US without reason. Video saying that we will be safer. HAHAHAHA…what`s bulshitt!!!! Saver from whom? japanese criminals.
    My concern is lack of law in Japan regarding data. I`m sure sooner or later it will leak somewhere and nobody will be responsible. Why? These will be data of ONLY FOREIGNERS.
    Good reason to get info of us when someone will committ crime (JAPANESE), they will first check foreigners data, because it will be easy job.

  • Hi everybody

    It is a lot of rubbish this thing about finger printing foreigners to prevent terrorism. I think there is a secret agenda that the Japanese government have.. I will never go to Japan.. I am cancelling my holiday trip in protest.

  • There are bits of information in all sorts of places, but nothing that REALLY clarifies whether “regular” permanent residents are exempt or not!
    Apart from the fact that I find this new law unnecessary and a violation of privacy and human rights (the fact that they simply copy the U.S. doesn’t make it right!), I find it even more outragous that the permanent foreign community here is not properly informed through official channels!
    So, do we have to queue up with all visitors and get fingerprinted and photographed each time we re-enter the country, or not? Does the exemption only apply to “special permanent residents”, or also to “regular” permanent residents?

    And what about that “automated gate system” that is supposedly going to be introduced at Narita, allowing re-entrants to pre-register their biometric data and facilitate the immigration process? I have not been able to find any information as to how and where I can pre-register my data.
    If there seems to be absolutely nothing that can be done about having to submit our data, at least I want to do it only once, and certainly not each time I come back to Japan!

    And this one – if it weren’t so sad – would almost have made me laugh: On the official Website of the Immigration Bureau, it states “When you email us, please use Japanese language at the present moment. Moreover, the immigration authority will not answer your question in foreign language for some time.”
    No comment…


  • I was trying to book a hotel in Hakodate but in the website I found that the hotel site is for Japanese tourist only.
    I am married to a Japanese citizen but not naturalized yet.I don’t know whether only the website doesn’t entertain the foreigners or the hotel itself.
    By the way, it was a Japanese Language website and my wife was trying book the room.

    — Send us the link.

  • Hello. Several years back, I recall that you wrote about hotels incorrectly believing that as an anti-terrorism messure they can require non-Japanese guests to present their Alien Registration Card upon check-in. Could you provide me with the link to that article? Last Thursday it happened to me (in Hakata) and I explained to the clerk at the front desk that I was under no obligation to show her my card. She quickly retreated and did not ask for any other I.D. (which I would have gladly shown), but I was left wondering whether I had done the right thing.

    — If you have an address in Japan, you did the right thing. Find the article in the pile here:


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