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  • Aly Rustom on how he got out of a Gaijin Card Check by J-cops

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on November 24th, 2009

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    Hi Blog. Quick missive from Aly Rustom a couple of days ago. This is how he dealt with a Gaijin Card Checkpoint in Ueno last week, apparently successfully. FYI. More here on what your rights are when the Police State Tendencies have you in their sights. And even more here if you think that he should have filed a complaint instead with the MOJ Bureau of Human Rights for this treatment:  guess what — I’ve tried that, and they did nothing.  Arudou Debito back in Sapporo


    By Aly Rustom

    Got stopped today (November 19, 2009) by a cop and was asked for my Gkjin card, and to make a long story short, I refused to show it, and they finally left me alone.

    The strange thing was that I was in Ueno station walking to work. Just outside the Iriya gate. The whole conversation was in Japanese, but I will try relay this in English as best as I can.

    I got stopped by a plain clothes cop whose name I got Kobayashi Keiichi or Kenichi. Anyway, he asked me for my passport, and I told him that I didn’t have it. I said that this is not an airport. He then told me to go to the Koban to which I replied, “I’m not going anywhere with you.” He then asked me if I have a gaijin card to which I said yes.

    He said, “Show it to me”

    “I want to confirm you are legal.”

    “Why? I’ve done nothing wrong. I pay my taxes same as the Japanese. Why should I show it to you?”

    I want to see it.

    At this time a uniformed cop, also in his forties came running over. He was smiling and friendly. Unlike the idiot I was dealing with. I at first thought that this was going to get ugly, but I soon realized that he was trying to smooth the situation over.

    “If you have a reason, I’ll not only show you my card, I’ll even show you my Japanese Driver’s License. But with no reason I refuse to show it to you.”

    This went on back and forth. My anger clearly showing and his cold suspicious eyes never leaving me, with the uniformed cop trying hard to convince me kindly that it was the law.

    I then asked to see his ID and he showed it with confidence. Pulled out my iphone and was about to take a picture of it when he snatched it away.

    “What are you doing?”
    “I’m going to take a picture of your ID?”
    “No (DAME)”
    “If not, then I will not show you mine”
    “No. I showed you mine. You show me yours.”
    I pulled mine out and just as he did very quickly showed it without giving it and put it back in my wallet.

    “No,” he said. I can’t confirm anything like this”
    “If you want to confirm I will take your ID picture.”
    “No. Why?”
    “I want to complain about you,” I said.
    “To whom?”
    “To Debito Arudou”

    They didn’t seem to know who our Debito was, and I explained that he was an activist and that I wanted this cop’s ID to pass on so I could blog it.

    He refused but showed it to me again and stated his name, saying that it was sufficient. I said show it to me again, and he said no. you will not take a picture of it.

    I said that was fine, but that I wanted to write down his number, but he refused. Fine. Then I will not show you mine.

    What’s the problem?, He asked.

    You are invading my privacy. I don’t want you to know my address. And this is racism.
    Its not racism, he said.
    It is. Because I am not Asian.
    No. You are a foreigner. That’s why I want to see it.
    That’s still racism.

    This also went on back and forth. The interesting thing is that he really seemed upset by the fact that I was calling him a racist. He kept coming back to this issue and trying to convince me he wasn’t a racist, but I was not convinced.

    At one point he asked me to just step away from the ticket gate and I refused. He said that we were in other people’s way and to be considerate of them, to which I replied, “Why aren’t YOU considerate of my feelings? Plus, YOU are the ones who stopped me, so its YOU who has made other people’s lives more difficult.”
    “That’s why I said for us to just step to the side…”
    “NO! I want people to see this. I want to show them your racism”

    He continued to assert that it was not racism.

    In the end, he said, “Ok. You can go. I asked to see your ID, and you refused. I can’t make you show it to me. You are free to go. Thank you anyway.”

    For those of you who know me you know that I don’t back down and refused to just let it go, insisting that this is not a way to catch foreigners, not a way to treat foreigners. etc etc.. I wasn’t getting to him, but I sure gave him a piece of my mind. I wanted him to feel that stopping us is more trouble than it was worth.

    The uniformed cop was friendly after the other idiot cop had gone, and he said that he goes to Australia once a year etc etc. He was kind and we stayed and had lots of small talk.

    In retrospect, the fact that I was raising my voice and that I seemed to have no problem with the people around seeing and hearing the conversation seemed to bother the idiot cop tremendously. The fact that it was getting more and more obvious to people around that he had stopped me for my card seemed to embarrass him. And he REALLY was rankled by the fact that I wanted to take a picture of his ID.

    To everyone reading this, I don’t know how much of a legal leg we have, but it seemed to work. You want to see my card, I’ll take a picture of yours. It seems to really scare them. Or at least just this guy, but he really was a tough looking guy who looked like he had stared down and beaten down every foreigner he had met into showing him their ID.

    But not this foreigner.


    99 Responses to “Aly Rustom on how he got out of a Gaijin Card Check by J-cops”

    1. stuart Says:

      I suppose that the best way to insist that they present their ID before you is to suggest that there have been cases of people presenting themselves as police officers in order to steal passports and ID cards. “I’m just going to take a photo for OUR own safety.”

    2. Kakui Kujira Says:

      He stopped you because you are non-Japanese, but that’s not racist? Well, I see the police have paying attention in the DoubleThink classes…

    3. peter Says:

      like seriously, what is the big friggin deal with showing ID to police? [incorrect data deleted]. Unfortunately racial profiling is the norm here and unless immigration picks up, which seems highly unlikely, and we start seeing a melting pot of cultures this is going to continue to happen.

      In any event, maybe the police should invest time in sensitivity training.

      which brings up another point, for all you japanese that don’t “look” japanese, since you don’t need to carry the alien card or a passport what happens if the police stop you? how do you ‘prove’ you are indeed japanese?

    4. Scipio Says:

      Seems to have gone to a lot of trouble over nothing. I would have just shown it to him, why not?

      The policeman was only doing his job, agreed with a little racial profiling.

      Seems silly to me.

    5. jonholmes Says:

      I was at Narita on Saturday, waiting three hours for my GF to be refused entry into Japan, but thats another story. While I was there near the arrivals gate (A and B) I saw two cops going up to several Caucasians waiting nearby and asking them something. They had a clipboard. I dont know what they were asking, perhaps to show ID or a passport like was going on in the station as blogged here previously, but it was definitely racial profiling as they only asked foreign, non Asian people.

      Nb. I deliberately sat in a crown of people and got out my phone whenever I saw them, maybe they didnt bother with me, plus I was wearing a suit and tie, but this is pure speculation on my part as to why they didnt come up to me.

    6. Kiyuu Says:

      I don’t recommend such a confrontational approach. Like it or not, the police have enforcement authority over immigration regulations and they can ask you for verification that you are in the country legally at their discretion. You don’t have the same civil rights here that you may in the U.S. or elsewhere, and racial profiling is not illegal here.

      I’m not saying that such practices are not unjust, it’s simply important to remember that a confrontational approach in this culture is more likely to be counterproductive than it is to achieve the result you want. In your case, the policeman in question relented, but he could just as easily have detained you for several hours if not days. It was risky. If you’re here legally and you have the proper ID, it’s better to be cooperative than confrontational. If you feel the police were inappropriate, contact a legal assistance group to help you in filing a formal complaint.

      I would add, however, that if the person asking for your ID is not a uniformed officer, ask to see theirs first. There is no shortage of crackpots in this country, either.

    7. Miles Says:

      Bravo! Thanks for making a stand.
      Trying to take a photo of the policeman’s ID is an interesting idea. My understanding of the law (which Debito has posted somewhere on this site) is that they are required to SHOW their ID, not to have it photocopied or photographed. But in this case it sounds like just the attempt to take a photo maybe helped to make the policeman back down. Anybody have an opinion on this?

    8. Justin Says:

      Congratulations, Aly! You are a hero. Thanks for standing up instead of going along.

    9. HO Says:

      He was lucky that he did not get arrested, jailed and, as a consequence, deported for refusing to show his ID. I hope no one will follow what he did. The law is very clear that a police officer can ask a foreign national to show an alien registration card with no reason and that the foreign national must show it upon request.

      Alien Registration Act
      Article 13
      (2) The alien shall present his/her registration certificate to the immigration inspector, immigration control officer (meaning the immigration control officer provided for in the Immigration Control Act), police official, maritime safety official or any other official of a state or local public entity prescribed by the Ministry of Justice Ordinance, if such official requests the presentation of the registration certificate in the performance of his/her duties.

      I know Debito argues that “in the performance of his/her duties” should be interpreted as “if there is reasonable doubt”. But it only means, “while he/she is on duty.”

      The criminal penalty for refusing to show gaijin card is one year in prison.

      Article 18 Any person who comes under any one of the following items shall be punished by imprisonment with or without work for a period not exceeding 1 year or be punished with a fine not exceeding 200,000 yen:
      (vii) Any person who, in violation of the provision of Article 13, paragraph (2), refuses to present the registration certificate;

      Debito, I hope you are using pseudonym for him, or there are chances that he get arrested, this blog being an evidence.

      Also, there are risks on you, if a reader does the same thing.
      “Penal Code
      Article 61 (1) A person who induces another to commit a crime shall be dealt with in sentencing as a principal.”

      — You really are delusional, HO. There is no arresting offense anywhere here. Take a valium and find something different to do with your day than using a magnifying glass and scratching your long, long pinky nail on your dogeared law books.

    10. Jake Says:

      This raises an interesting new facet to the tit-for-tat of the ID showing game: if the cop will only let you momentarily see his ID but will not let you take down his information, are you obligated to do anything more than simply show your ID for a second (as in the case above)? I’m curious as to the legal specifics of this; I have a hard time believing that a cop can legally refuse to allow his name and number be taken down while doing the same to the foreigner he is stopping.

    11. David V Says:

      This is a heartening story to hear. I have never been profiled like this or accosted by the police, but I know many people do without much recourse, and it’s good to hear that the word is getting out and people are protecting their rights. I am not too sure from Aly’s comments about Debito’s influence on his methods, but I think Debito’s work on this issue has greatly influenced our perception of our treatment in Japan and improved our lives here. So, thank you to Aly for standing up for your (and our collective) rights, and thank you to Debito for providing a resource we can use to take initiative and do as Aly did.

    12. softbanksucks Says:

      You did not have a legal leg upon which to stand. But good for you anyway. The law does not say they are required to allow you to write down the details on their badge. It does say that you must show if asked, and they must do the same if you request.

    13. Tom R. Says:

      Sounds like exchange got a bit heated. I’m not sure anyone would be so bold. Not a good thing when you’re dealing with someone who can deport you without reason. I believe after reading this the cop really only wanted to check the ID and nothing more and didn’t even think it was racism just an arrogant foreigner.

      But all in all I think it got the point across, arrogant or not. Good job.

      In an after thought how does someone pick their battles and fight only true instances of racism without labeling someone who isn’t a racist accidentally? Without coming across as arrogant. I guess there has to be a line drawn in the sand somewhere.

      And we all have to pick a side.

    14. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      Aly, GOOD FOR YOU!

      The only time an out-of-uniform cop ever tried to stop me on the street was also in Ueno, which is one reason why I try to avoid going there now. In my case, he claimed that the pedestrian crossing light had turned red while I was crossing, and he wanted to check my bicycle and for me to accompany him to the koban. I said I might do that if he had a badge and uniform on, and demanded to see them. He first tried to pawn off his 警ら (警邏 keira, patrol) armband as a badge, and I insisted on the real one. He finally pulled it out, and when I read his name from it (printed in Roman letters; why is this? A small child wouldn’t be able to read it), he gave up and I was on my way.

      Non-uniformed cops shouldn’t be even speaking to non-suspicious people, ever. How can they justify that? If it became normal for cops out of uniform to do things like this, someday we’d get scammers and criminals claiming to be police, stopping people, and stealing their ID (or worse).

      I’m curious — do patrol cars have cameras equipped on them? If a patrol car stops you, you could try justifying your own photo by reminding them that they’re filming you without your permission, so surely you can film them!

    15. TN Says:

      Awesome! Bravo Aly! I hope more people will stand up to the police the way you did. I try to avoid dealing with them when I know they are following me, even though I would like to give them a piece of my mind. But if I am stopped, I will do my best, using the advice from this site. I want to them to understand how it feels to be treated differently, as a potential criminal, just because we’re not Japanese.

    16. PKU Says:

      I say well done, but my cynical side says that for some people passing you will have fitted the stereotype put out of the noisy disruptive gaijin!

      — Oh well. The cop started it.

    17. A Says:

      Good cop, bad cop
      Sounds like that guy was a bad apple. You should ring up and make a complaint. I had a run in with a cop on a bicycle over a card check earlier this year. He wasn’t really a bad guy but I was pissed off after having my bag searched previously (these searches were being done on Japanese too) so I told this guy I was thinking of suing the police for an illegal search. He started to shit in his shoes and came up with a bunch of lame excuses for what the police were doing. He got even more defensive when I suggested racism and when I asked if he had a quota to fill he flatly denied it. With all the questions he must have thought I was a reporter or something. Anyway he showed me his ID and I memorized his name but I didn’t make a complaint in the end. He wasn’t a bad guy and was obviously just following orders.
      Coming from New Zealand, I never had to deal with police at all until I came here so it pisses me off. But from what I here it’s a different story in the US/England and even Oz. I guess it depends where you live in the country too. In Kumamoto I never saw any police, but Tokyo is a different story.

    18. Graham Says:

      I would agree that it was racism, if cops only went after foreigners.
      But that’s not the case.
      Here an ordinary Japanese citizen is being interrogated (called “shokushu shitsumon”) by the police. How can you call it racism when they do it to everyone else?
      Racism implies that they specifically target foreigners, which is certainly not the case.

      — Er, you been reading much? I’ve presented plenty of evidence over the years, including G8 Summitry two summers ago, which supports the assertion that the NPA engages in racial profiling.

    19. AET Says:

      May I just say… Rock on!

    20. Level3 Says:

      Wonder if this plainclothes cop was really a police officer?

      I’m still not entirely clear on this issue, but from some incidents and documentaries (the ones about the Aum cult, the J cops’ tactics are so underhanded you can find yourself rooting for the cultists, though at least they’re actually going after actual crimnals) with J cops in action, there seems to be some kind of group of middle aged men, seemingly the types who probably have a well-thumbed copy of the infamous “Gaijin Hanzai File” mook at home, who go around engaging in policing activites while a real uniformed cop is nearby waiting to help them out if someone objects to being stopped by a random plainclothes dude who could just be lying about being a cop. Especially since they seem to tend to have an attitude problem (being deliberately provocative) that “real” cops don’t seem to have, in my experience with uniformed J cops.

      What’s the deal with this? Are they actually cops? Retired cops? Wannabe cops?
      Are they some kind of legal buffer that gives real cops “probable cause” without them initiating contact, per se?
      I’m just speculating, but seriously, what’s the deal?

      Anyay, bravo on standing up for basic rights!
      Not allowing someone to take a note of the “cop”‘s name is surely not in line with the law requiring they identify themselves. Can they actually physcially restrain you from writing their names down?
      Wonder how they would have reacted to a voice recording. Most keitai can do it these days.
      (And everyone should take the time to figure out how to use that feature, can come in handy!)

      — Need a source for the “there seems to be some kind of group” in second paragraph above.

    21. Kimpatsu Says:

      Another Type II racist. No surprise there.

    22. jim Says:

      good job, i will try this same thing next time the idiots in osaka try to ask me.

    23. Emanuele Says:

      Congrats man… more pain in the ass like you will make them reconsider their behaviour eventually

    24. Kevin Says:

      I salute you and your determination for not showing your card. One can hope that in teaching one cop his action are racist it will hopefully influence his future dealing with foreigners.

      One a side note: Why when non-Asian foreigners are the smallest minority they are associated with the most amount of crimes? I have even asked Japanese people when they read foreigner in the newspaper what kind of foreigner do they think of. The reply that I received was that they think of non-Japanese looking foreigners, which pretty much excludes Chinese, and Korean foreigners. Racial profiling is vastly out of control in Japan, and maybe by calling enough Japanese racists we might hope to see a change in the future.

    25. MD Says:

      That racist cop sounds to me to still have been quite mellow compared to what we see in the US or Canada… had this happened over here I would have expected the cop to pull out his taser or something

      When I’m in Japan I always show my ID when cops ask because I’m just to scared to do anything. After the horrible experiences I’ve had in America I would never dream of talking back to a cop or saying no to a request, regardless of what rights I have

    26. Jake Says:

      Just to add that you can also make a complaint regarding discrimination to the human rights division (jinken something or other; the official name escapes me) in the local office of legal affairs (法務部; for example, in the prefecture offices). I don’t know what good it will do, but it is one way to lodge an official complaint about racial profiling. The more complaints go through official channels, the better a chance there is to actually change this behavior.

      — It’s the Jinken Yougobu. And lodging a complaint with them won’t do a damn bit of good. I know because I’ve tried, after an incident of racial profiling by police at Chitose Airport in 2002. Months and months of negotiating later, the Jinken Yougobu did essentially nothing. Read that writeup here.

    27. Erich Says:

      Softbanksucks Says: “You did not have a legal leg upon which to stand. But good for you anyway. The law does not say they are required to allow you to write down the details on their badge. It does say that you must show if asked, and they must do the same if you request.”
      But if you dont write down the info and confirm it, recieving a showing of one second or so doesnt really matter does it? This is why the cop complained that he couldnt confirm anything. By your arguement, the cops should also have no leg to stand on when they request more than a one second veiwing, so I can just make my next card with photoshop and never have to go to immigration again because we can all just waive something around in the air without letting anyone right anything down. Right?
      Aly was spot on in his reaction. Kudos to him…

    28. Level3 Says:


      No source other than having watched the documentaries “A” and “A2” about the Aum cult (highly recommended)

      Perhaps as Mark in Yayoi noted, it’s these “警ら (警邏 keira, patrol)” people?
      What is their affiliation with the actual police? Or are they actual police?
      Are they some sort of deputy? civil servant? or just a glorified, self-appointed neighborhood watch?
      Do they have law enforcement rights? Or just the right to report
      you to the actual police, with a high likelihood the police will actually respond?
      Which boils down to, “Am I legally obligated to show my ID to one of these people? Exactly which quasi-official persons am I obligated to present ID to? And which quasi-official persons will be able to just call in a rapid response from actual cops, resulting in me needing to show my ID anyway?”

      I ask the questions because I hope someone one the board actually has some knowledge of this stuff. I’ll start checking up on 警邏 myself.

      — Thanks.

    29. Bob Says:

      Important point- he DID show his ID to the police, so he did not “refuse” to show it. Do not go all confrontational and completely refuse to show it, as that is illegal. I think it’s an interesting idea take a photo of or make mental note of racist cops’ ID badges for blogging- perhaps they can get sent to bumblefuck nowhere Japan where they will only have to worry about invading foreign wildlife once their racism is exposed.

    30. HO Says:

      >There is no arresting offense anywhere here.

      Refusing to show a gaijin card itself is a crime. Since the “crime” takes place in front of a police officer, he can arrest the foreigner without a warrant.

      Some people learn the lessons in a hard way, which could be avoided.

      — I hear the scratching of a long, long pinky nail.

    31. FG Says:

      @Level3 and Debito’s comment – Need a source for the “there seems to be some kind of group” in second paragraph above.

      Could it be referring to this?

    32. Rob Says:

      Well done, Aly!

      @johnholmes (post 5). I saw the same thing at Roppongi station recently during a weekday morning. I can’t remember which ticket gate it was, but there was a plain clothes police officer standing next to the nearby area map/info board who was occasionally flashing his badge at NJ (looked mainly like tourists from other Asian countries to me, but that is speculation on my part) when they went up to the map. He then asked them questions.

    33. Steve VonMaas Says:

      It was reasonable for the officer to refuse to allow you to photograph his identification. Even in the United States, most police departments require their officers to prevent photocopying or photographing their identification cards, so as to avoid facilitating forgery of the IDs.

    34. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      HO, please stop posting long blocks of law text as if your interpretation of it is the correct one, and that there’s nothing to then argue about.

      Some of us have actually consulted with veteran police officers about these issues, and the obligations of each party in these arbitrary stoppages aren’t clear-cut at all. (You’ll hear グレーゾーンgray zone repeatedly.)

      The most important legal point to consider is the meaning of “if … in the course of [the officer’s] duties” (職務執行に当たり). I’m sure that for the young trainee cop, his “duties” are whatever his boss assigns to him, and if that includes harassing innocent, non-suspicious people (i. e. people who aren’t 不審 fushin) based on their skin color, then he considers that to be his job, and that’s that.

      But can a policeman extend his duties, or those of the people under him, to forcibly stopping non-fushinsha?

      Or can skin color be used, all by itself, to categorize a person as fushin?

      Aly did something I’ve never managed to have the guts to do: he refused a card check after admitting that he was foreign. I’ve refused to tell them whether I’m foreign or not — they’ve tried to follow up a bicycle check with more questions, and I’ve insisted that with my bicycle details in order, I’m not suspicious, so Im’ not answering any more questions — but Aly added an important step, which is to question whether or not police “duties” include questioning someone whose only grounds to be considered suspicious is the possession of a different nationality.

      To my knowledge this hasn’t been tested in court. Aly set a very valuable precedent on this occasion.

    35. adamw Says:


      what are you talking about?

      are you honestly threatening debito with arrest if he doesnt take this down?

      also,person in question showed his id so i dont see what you are talking about.

      I think you are still smarting from the time you denied foreigners could ever be subjected to a urine test in the street for no reason and it turned out to be true.

    36. jonholmes Says:

      There has been some speculation about the ojisans who “help” the police; I think they are a deputized neighbourhood watch or citizen’s volunteers. During the G8 summit in Hokkaido last year, they were everywhere in Tokyo (d’oh), literally on every street corner near the gaijin house I used to live in. I started to get quite paranoid and imagine that we were under surveillance.

      Of course, the subsequent police “check” of the names of the (foreign) people living in the building at this time was pure coincidence, I m sure!

      Why? Because they can. Perhaps there was some directive from city hall to be on the look out for potential dodgy foreigners during the G8, but again, I m just speculating.


      — There was indeed a directive. Quoting myself from my Japan Times article, April 22, 2008, entitled “Summit Wicked This Way Comes”:

      According to the Yomiuri (April 14), the police are deputizing about 3000 amateur “local residents” and “neighborhood associations” in Ikebukuro and Shinjuku, to “watch for suspicious people” around “stations and important facilities”. That now widens the security radius [of the G8 Summit in Hokkaido] to 800 kilometers!

      Source: Yomiuri News podcast April 14, 2008, from minute 13

    37. HO Says:

      Mark in Yayoi, I knew where you got things wrong. The fact that a policeman checks your ID does not mean you look suspicious in his eyes. You make an assumption that you look suspicious in his eyes and get angry by your own assumption. The law gives the police the power to check IDs of foreign nationals whether suspicious or not, and they check the IDs as their duty.

      The section 2 of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act is “Conditions for Residence.” One of the conditions is to always carry an ID and to present it to the police on request. If someone does not keep the conditions, he is requested to leave.

      By the way, the translations are unofficial translation by the government of Japan, taken from here.

      Adamw, I am not threatening Debito, but warning. A wise man will listen to the warning and avoid unwanted results. I am not asking Debito to drop this entry. But I might suggest, with a little modification, he can avoid criminal and civil liabilities.

      Adamw, since it seems you still do not get a thing about the urine test, let me repeat. No one is forced to take a urine test, unless the police have a warrant. As the report showed, no one was “forced” to take a urine test in that case, either. You keep telling a wrong story that a foreigner is subjected to a urine test on the street for no reason. It is high time you should stop it, or people may misunderstand that they have no right to reject urine tests.

      — Skrit skrit.

    38. wu Says:

      He stole my idea! I have been taking, well trying to take, photos of the cop’s ids since they put cameras in cell phones. Always ends the same.

      cop: Can I see your gai-card?
      me: can I see your badge?
      cop: here
      I pull out my phone and turn on the camera
      cop: WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!
      me: I don’t have paper so I want to take a picture of your badge number and name.
      cop: WHY?!
      me: so I can report you.
      cop: WHY?!
      me: because you need a reason to stop me other than the fact that I am jot japanese
      cop: um…. err…… uh…. there was uh.. some suspicious activity near here this month.
      me: what kind of suspicious activity?
      cop: um…. never mind, you can go.

    39. Kakui Kujira Says:

      I can see why some people are suggesting that when asked by a police officer for ID, one should co-operate and do so. Given the lack of rights one has, this is certainly pragmatic.
      However, it is discrimination to be singled out by the police for questioning when no apparent crime has been committed simply on the basis of one’s nationality (perceived or actual). That is wrong.
      If we meekly accept it, it will never change.
      Personally, probably because I’ve had negative experiences with Japanese police, my choice is to ask for the police’s ID, write all the details I can in no great hurry, show my gaijin card, then cease to speak. If pressed, I keep a printed piece of paper explaining my legal right to silence in Japanese in the same plastic folder with my gaijin card.

    40. adamw Says:


      i think youve answered your own question ,and essentially underlined the basic problem.
      foreigners (or anyone looking so) are considered suspicious so police think this is perfectly within their rights.

      robs report is also dreadful-if correct,foreigners going up to an info board trying to find out answers to their questions abut where they are ,are themselves being subjected to questionning
      by plain clothese police.
      rather like the american OAP who went to the koban to ask for directions and got arrested

    41. adamw Says:

      still struggling to understand HOs comments-the policeman himself said he couldnt force Aly to show his ID- indicating Aly was well within his rights ,and that more people should push back and ignore this racist bullying

    42. PeteMcC Says:

      “警ら” is just the Japanese word for patrol and is used by the 自動車警ら隊 who are just average cops on the beat.

      Asides from that looking at the NPA website( it would seem that in many areas there is a 自主防犯パトロール which is like a neighbourhood watch style of group that has at least one OB警察 or old boy policeman(unfortunately never an OG policwoman). Though these groups are usually wearing clothes with the English PATROL or katakana パトロール on them that identify them as a part of these groups(I have volunteered for my local one). Though these people do not claim to be actual police which is why they wear paraphernalia such as this↓↓↓

    43. Graham Says:

      > You really are delusional, HO. There is no arresting offense anywhere here.

      Wait wait wait… As far as I can see, HO has made a clear case that this case could have you get arrested and locked up for a year or longer, unless I’m missing something here. Could you show us exactly how this is not an “arresting offense,” or that it could be interpreted as such?

      About my earlier post: I will admit that I was wrong. Yes, it is racial profiling. But let me just add that it’s not the ONLY profiling they do, and foreigners are not the only victims.

    44. Graham Says:

      Oh wait… I get it. So he showed his ID, but only for a brief moment, thus he didn’t break the law. Sorry, made a big fool of myself…

    45. Chris Says:

      I believe Mark In Yayoi is on the mark with “in the course of [the officer’s] duties” (職務執行に当たり).
      In fact there is a law that states with that officer’s duties are: the Act Concerning Execution of Duties of Police Officials (警察官職務執行法).
      That law states that a police officer can stop and question someone (職務質問) if the person’s actions present reasonable doubt that he or she is committing a crime.
      So, stopping a foreigner for being a foreigner (not doing anything suspicious) is not a duty of police officers.
      Thus refusing to show ID to a police officer acting outside of the course of his duties cannot be a crime.
      Sure, it may not stop the police from arresting you, but it certainly gives your something of a legal standing in court. The prosecutors would probably throw out the case as not being worth their time anyways (as often happens to people arrested simply for carrying an itty bitty pocket knife).

    46. softbanksucks Says:

      Erich, my “logic” is irrelevant. The law is (conveniently?) vague and specifes neither the manner nor the duration for which the officer’s ID must be shown. The officer fully complied with the law as written, so it is irrelevant whether or not our friend Aly got a good look.

    47. Mcfly Says:

      What you did is right to fight back, but we should all understand they were trained to do what they did to you. Meaning what they were doing may be racist or insulting but the cops themselves don’t question or think of what they are doing. All they know is that they are just doing their job and getting paid. Even if they knew it was wrong they would have to do in fear of getting fired. So who we should really be fighting against if we ever want the problems to stop is not the against workers or each cop on the streets, we should be fighting against the leaders and the people in charge of it all. I’m talking about the ones sitting in their comfy chairs inside the high rise buildings giving out all the orders etc . It’s not just us who are labeled as “foreigners” who are being pushed around it’s everybody else in the country too. As long as these few individuals are pulling the strings.

      When the cops come I take out my card even before he asks with a sort of “get it over with already” sign. The cops want to get it over with too. All of us know it is a pain in the ass, but we only have to do this as long as the aristocrats make it so. We need to change that. Whats most important of all is that never admit to yourself that you are a foreigner. It is nothing but a status given to you at immigration, never let it become part of your identity. Always know that each and everyone of us is an individual.

    48. softbanksucks Says:

      And another thing for Adamw: What are you talking about that the cops can legally stop you for no reason for a urine test? I’m pretty sure if you search this blog, you will see this is not the case. Don’t spread FUD; it just confuses people who may come here for legitimate information.

      What would happen to you in the short term if you refused is debatable. Well, you’d likely spend some time in their 5-star accommodations. How long? Who knows. But the cops must prove in court that the had a reason for searching/testing you. I copied and pasted this from a comment on Japan Probe and can’t be bothered with translating it. It is not about a urine test, but about a Japanese person being arrested and in possession of marijuana. He got acquitted. Even after he hit a cop with his car (most likely grazed).

      毎日新聞 2009年7月22日

    49. softbanksucks Says:

      As usual with newspaper websites in Japan, the article is not archived and the link is dead. This is the best I can do for a link.

    50. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      Mark in Yayoi, I knew where you got things wrong. The fact that a policeman checks your ID does not mean you look suspicious in his eyes. … The law gives the police the power to check IDs of foreign nationals whether suspicious or not, and they check the IDs as their duty.


      “putting the cart before the horse”, as the saying goes. The foreign national does indeed have to carry the card, but even if the policeman’s duties include stopping and demanding IDs from even non-suspicious foreign nationals, how can he establish the “foreignness” of someone he wants to question, without violating his own Execution of Duties Law?

      Foreignness isn’t something that can be determined by skin color or behavior. Unless the government succeeds in implementing RFID-scannable cards which will give away the holder’s nationality without any human interaction, the only way to get any information from someone is to ask them. And cooperation by the target is voluntary (任意).

      Once that question is answered, and the answer is “foreign”, then, as the law stands (assume your interpretation of ‘duties’ for now), the target will have to show the card if the cop demands it. But how does the cop force the target to answer any questions at all, including “are you a foreign national?”?

    51. Tony Says:

      Seventeen years (15 in Kobe) and yet to be asked by police for ID on the street. No doubt it will happen some day on a trip to Tokyo.

      I have been asked for ID when I went to report a theft or return a found item (a cellphone), but it was my Japanese DL, not my gaijin card that I showed, and they were fine with that.

      Most likely reason is the local police are not interested in the [white] foreign community in these parts.

    52. Al Says:

      @Tony – I’ve been 8 years in Yokohama/Tokyo without being stopped on the street. I handed a lost wallet over to a policeman but didn’t need to show my ID. I gave my name and when they asked for my address so they could send me the wallet if they couldn’t find the owner. I said I didn’t want it so that was it.

    53. J Says:

      HO….get a life….I’m sure you have never been stopped for walking ‘white’ have you?…like say in front of your neighbors after you’ve walked your child to her yochien…and you are just walking home…and stop at a signal light….ok normal thing to do is to choose another corner to cross the street at, but that is suspicious because the cop has seen you what happens if you don’t hear him call out for you to stop?
      How about driving ‘white’ now HO?…you stop at a red light and signal left. There is a police car already stopped opposite you with no turning signal on …as soon as he realizes you are ‘white’ he pulls behind you on the green and demands you pull over. What happens if you want to take walks or jog for your health? Now running away is suspicious. Do you put your ID in your pocket everytime you go out of your house to take out the garbage, go to the convenience store, shovel snow, join the neighbors sweeping the street, water the neighborhood flowers etc. How about going to the neighborhood cento?..what ID do you carry?

    54. Jake Says:

      Of course, a single person reporting a single incident to the 法務部 will probably not accomplish anything, but who knows? And if more and more people do officially report these issues and refuse to simply “gaman”, the more likely the general consciousness about this issue will be raised.

      In general, Japanese people tend to guard their private information, and in the conversations I’ve had with Japanese friends, they have almost unanimously agreed that such racial profiling is wrong and illogical. It’s just not something that Japanese people have to confront on a daily basis, though, so the general level of consciousness is low. It’s not a knock on this blog, but it does have a pretty selective readership and thus posts like this are often little more than “preaching to the choir”; hence I think it’s important to lodge formal complaints whenever possible.

      Actually, Debito is one fellow who ALWAYS seems to lodge a formal complaint, and recently had a great measure of success (with the Kyoto Tourist Association).

      — Well, not always…

      And there is quite a variety of readers here (I don’t know exactly, of course, but I keep getting surprised when I meet some of the readers face-to-face from time to time.

    55. Joe Says:

      In Yokohama at least (probably other places as well), the following bicycle violations are technically crimes:

      riding while talking on a cell phone
      riding at night without using headlights
      riding the wrong way down a one-way street
      riding while holding an umbrella
      riding on the sidewalk (except in very limited circumstances)
      riding while under the influence of alcohol

      So keep abreast of your local bicycle laws and don’t give the cops a legitimate excuse to card you.

    56. John in Ginza Says:

      Please can someone explain why HO is wrong ?

      The police are allowed to ask to see you ID as
      stipulated in the laws. The laws are not subject to
      Debito or anyone else’s preferences – they are laws.

      — We’ve provided links a couple of times before, even within this blog entry. Read the documents and what the laws mean here, already.

    57. Anon Says:

      Debito: Did you know that HO seems to have a blog with references to this and other entries.

    58. Bob Says:

      here’s why HO’s refined claim is illogical- the law requires display of ID for cops and NJ with identical lingo. if the cops 提示 was accurately mimicked by our protagonist, no matter how you read the law.両方は提示したならいいし、そうでもないのなら職員(警官)側も提示しなければならないのにしなかったし完全にセーフだ。問題ないはず。外国人登録法13条2項及び3項。

      ちなみにinteresting item i found- if his commute is part of his 生活圏, he may not be subject to a check at all (lower house proceedings- 2001 : )

    59. Bob Says:

      woops- the answer from the LDP denies the existance of or use of a seikatsuken exception, so i guess forget about that side note.

    60. adamw Says:


      ive seen it before-its very racist indeed.

      one example-debito is described as a parasitical gaijin .

    61. Another John Says:

      Joe – I’m in Yokohama, too (Aoba-ku), and your list is, more than anything, a set of must-do guidelines to riding a bike rather than a list of rule violations, so I’m guessing those regulations have about force as Hamid Karzai’s government in Afghanistan.

    62. adamw Says:


      are you really suggesting that Debito could be liable for criminal proceedings unless he amends his blog?
      You really have sunk low this time.
      I think you make some good points on here from time to time,but this is disgraceful..

      i think youve comprehensively proved that what Aly did is perfectly legal.
      furthermore,the cops comment that he couldnt do anything to make Aly give it to him also proves this.

    63. TJJ Says:


      I don’t think that your example is of an ‘ordinary Japanese’ as you say.

      Did you see the his youtube username? – keisatuskirai

      And he just conveniently had a video camera with him and ready to go the moment the police started questioning him?

      A little common sense please.

    64. Al Says:

      @Joe – As I mentioned I too am in Yokohama and up until recently was, 3 or 4 days a week, cycling past Hodogaya Police Station on the footpath where about a dozen cops seem to just hang out at the gate and was never stopped so even if it is just a guideline it is not enforced much in my neighborhood.

    65. Behan Says:

      Just my two yen, but HO seems like he’s either guilty of trolling or at least harassing. I vote to ban his posts.

    66. Hoofin Says:

      I think HO is wrong, because even if the police are permitted to ask for the ID “on request”, by other rules they are supposed to have a probable cause to ask for it. I think what he/she should have said was that you are supposed to show it IF the police request it AND have a legitimate reason for asking for it.

      Myself, I have gladly showed a passport or tororuksho ID on those rare occasions (I think there were two in 4 1/2 years) when I was asked for it. My view of it, is the ID is the validation I have that I am me. (How else would I show that here?)

      I appreciate that there are others that really want to hold law enforcement to the rule. But for myself, I am assured that barring unusual circumstances, “the law” has a reason to ask for it—even if they are on the hunt for a “suspicious foreigner” and well, heck, I am a foreigner.

      Anything beyond that point (and I haven’t had that situation), then of course the price goes up. And if it was someone local, I would have to be filled in on why–since I am paying their salary through resident’s tax.

    67. Bob Says:

      The 外国人登録法 law may be open to interpretation on when police are allowed to ask, but look at the stats in the response to the questions from my link above- EVERY YEAR people with proper visas are being punished under this law, and the guidelines are as HO described. Don’t be one of them. Exercise your right to check their details, write it down, show yours just as they show theirs, and file a complaint about their racial profiling, 迷惑 and waste of your tax money.

    68. Justin Says:

      > “And if it was someone local, I would have to be filled in on why–since I am paying their salary through resident’s tax.”

      That reminds me of the Simpsons episode where Homer gets pulled over for speeding and tells the cop his taxes pay the cop’s salary. The cop throws him in jail and says, “Look what else your taxes pay for.”

      (Coincidentally, that’s the same episode where Homer eats sushi and gets fugu poisoning.)

    69. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      Tony, I’ve also returned items on several occasions (in Bunkyo-ku, in Tokyo), but was never asked for any identifying documents. There, they initially asked for my fingerprint! This was a shock until I learned that what he really wanted was a hanko seal, and he had assumed that I wouldn’t have one. Needless to say, I went home to get mine and stamped that rather than use my finger!

      Behan, while I disagree with HO on this issue, and find his knee-jerk support of the National Police Agency’s questionable tactics to be disheartening, he’s posted useful info on many other issues. I wouldn’t want to see him banned.

      My view of it, is the ID is the validation I have that I am me. (How else would I show that here?)

      Hoofin, couldn’t you just give them your name and birthdate? This could be radioed, bicycle registration style, to the station where records are kept. They could even have you state your alien registration number if it came to that. Please don’t let a document like the ARC, which is basically an instrument of state control (or oppression, depending on how you look at it) serve as any kind of validation of who you are.

    70. Odeena Says:

      I think meeting these “random” checks with open hostility only furthers the stereotype that foreigners are loud, obnoxious and rude. That policeman might have been a racist. Then again, maybe he was simply doing his job. Blatant cases of discrimination and racial profiling (such as the 「外国人お断り」 signs) need to be addressed, but maybe we shouldn’t jump the gun and call out “racism”, “meiwaku” or “waste of tax money” for every little thing?

      >“Why? I’ve done nothing wrong. I pay my taxes same as the Japanese. Why should I show it to you?”
      The police won’t take your word for it. They need proof. That’s where the ARC comes in. Show it and you’re done.

      Just to clarify, I did get stopped at random once. The policeman was very civil and he even seemed slightly embarrassed when he asked me for my ID. I proved that I was me and I was in no way dangerous or illegal, and we even had some small talk afterward. No harm done.

      — Glad you had a pleasant experience. That doesn’t happen to everyone, as Mark in Yayoi can attest. Yes, harm done. And it’s not every little thing. Haven’t you read the statements above in this blog entry? Are you so convinced that “It hasn’t happened to me, therefore it doesn’t happen”?

    71. johnhenry Says:

      The plainclothes police officer was not just doing his job. His job is to enforce the law, not break it. Even in Japan, the police must have probable cause to search someone. Yes, demanding a person present identification is a search of that person.

    72. Graham Says:

      Behan, making counterarguments or stating disagreements should not be considered trolling. I don’t think even Debito wants the comments to be written by only yesmen who will agree with everything he says.

      He makes a point that refusing to show your card may have you arrested, and so far it seems like the only response he is getting is ridicule and not logic-based counterarguments. It almost resembles a high school classroom where one kid makes an unpopular statement and everybody points at him and calls him a retard.

      — No. We’ve pointed to links to other again and again on this blog where we cite precisely the same laws (and less selectively) and arrive at a different conclusion: What Aly did was perfectly within the bounds of the law. That’s why we keep pointing to those pages — to reintroduce the debate that we settled years ago via the archives. HO, and those people who keep on citing HO’s selective anal-retentiveness only and not the archives, are being ridiculed because they refuse to consider the counterevidence found elsewhere. This brings about a separate conclusion: they are trolling.

    73. A Says:

      Theoretically couldn’t you sue them for this under the privacy laws? Apparently you don’t need a lawyer to do a keijikokuso, just fill out some forms.
      Anyone with more knowledge on this matter?

      — What you’re citing above is for “meiyo kison” (libel, or damage to honor), which isn’t applicable here.

    74. Joe Says:

      Another John: At the bike parking lot where I am at, it is posted that there is a maximum fine of 50,000 yen for such things as riding without a light at night and riding while talking on a cell phone. The worst that has ever happened to me personally though is that a cop asked me to turn on my light when I was riding.

      So yeah, 99% of the time they won’t do enforce it ever if they see it. I’m just saying that it might someday give them a plausible tatemae for demanding to see your ID. Why give them any reason to do so?

    75. adamw Says:

      absolute nonsense.
      you seem to have a full blown case of guest syndrome.
      as debito pointed out,its becoming ever so tiresome repeating the same thing to people like you who come up with these illogical arguments but here you are:

      what open hostility are you referring to from Aly?
      you say the policeman was doing his job.
      no he wasnt – the law clearly says he has to offer his id .
      he refused.
      why do you think this continues the stereotypes of foreigners as being rude??
      what aly did shows he know the japanese law and wants to be treated as he should be under it,and treated as an equal resident in japan.this is breaking down stereotypes.
      from your case
      `i proved that i was me` whatever does this mean?
      what was the reason he wanted you to do that?
      did he prove who he was??
      what you did just furthers the stereotype that foreigners dont know japanese law,dont speak enough japanese to stand up for their rights, arent and dont consider themselves as equal residents in japan and are thus easy pickings for police . people like you just make things harder for others here.

    76. Norik Says:

      Dear Debito,I’ve been reading this discussion so far, and it reminded me my Intercultural communication class in Nagoya.People from different cultural backgrounds (Japanese ,Chinese,Americans, Indians,etc) discussed certain cultural conflict, and for some it wasn’t big deal, while for others it was, and we simply couldn’t decide over anything.The reason was exactly the different background and environment, where different values and rules have been taught.
      I come from an ex-Communist country, where we have been taught to obey the police, and the sence of privacy wasn’t that strong. Besides, during my short life in such country I’ve whitnessed increadibly blatant human rights violations, compared to which this current case looks very small. I have been taught that the best way to survive when you are in weak social/economical position is not to oppose too much, even if you are right.So I just give my ARC when asked and try not to think too much, because for me this is not such a big deal. But Aly comes from another cultural background, where privacy and human rights are very highly valued, and such ideas have been in his society for decades.That’s why it looks like some people(including me) don’t find an ARC check a matter worth arguing.But I just accept that Aly is right for himself and from his cultural point of view.
      Besides, I myself am very tired of all these everyday fights, and would comply in such ID check. Why not allowing the cop to see my address, when companies, where I apply don’t return my resumes with my photo there, and giggling say that “either you leave your resume here, or you don’t apply at all”.These resumes have my photo on them, who knows how they will be used?Why not showing my ID to a police officer, when the people at Geo Tenroku said:”Either you leave us to photocopy your ARC, or you can’t use our shop(this happened last year May or June, I think). As for racial profiling, why would Japanese always assume that a Chinese with no degree would speak Japanese better than a white person with MD exactly in Japanese? It is so tiresome to argue and argue, that finally I decided to pick my fights, and stuff like ARC check by cops just to let go.

      — Thanks for the letter. Quick point: The resume example is rather different in that you are volunteering your information (as opposed to having it demanded from you) and there is no threat of arrest or incarceration.

      Anyway, to each his or her own, as you say. But there’s also a difference between cheering someone on for defending their rights, and razzing them because it’s not something they wouldn’t personally do (or don’t empathize with — or even claim a fictional alarmist threat of civil lawsuit). I’m happy with cheering. But I find the razzing to be inappropriate. One’s empowering, the other dispiriting, and I prefer the former to happen on this blog.

    77. Odeena Says:

      – Glad you had a pleasant experience. That doesn’t happen to everyone, as Mark in Yayoi can attest. Yes, harm done. And it’s not every little thing. Haven’t you read the statements above in this blog entry? Are you so convinced that “It hasn’t happened to me, therefore it doesn’t happen”?

      Yes, I read all the comments on this entry, and I also read several accounts (both here and on other blogs) where the police were much more aggressive. Yes, those ARE serious matters. Yes, they NEED to be addressed. In this particular case, however, it seemed to me that escalating the situation wasn’t the best thing to do, and some things were uncalled for.

      What’s “guest syndrome”? I googled it and couldn’t find anything relevant.

      Anyway, I don’t think I was being illogical. The “idiot cop” that Aly was talking about did show his ID, but refused to have it photographed. That’s a different thing entirely. Aly, on the other hand, just flashed his ID card without giving the cop a chance to actually read it. And you see nothing wrong with that behavior?

      A Japanese person would have cooperated (協力する, they really seem to like this word) straight away. Without raising his or her voice, without refusing to move out of other people’s way, and without making a scene.

      what you did just furthers the stereotype that foreigners dont know japanese law,dont speak enough japanese to stand up for their rights, arent and dont consider themselves as equal residents in japan and are thus easy pickings for police .

      I speak Japanese, I know all the laws relevant to my status as a foreigner in Japan, and thankfully I’ve never been suffered any gross abuse by the police or other institutions so far (so I can’t say I “stood up for my rights”). Why am I a stereotype?

      You say that “people like you just make things harder for others here.” Why is that? You’ve made me curious now.

    78. adamw Says:

      the policeman refused to let aly see it to write down the number.
      alys behaviour was perfectly legal as the cop admitted.
      im not going to bother correcting all your post,just the most ridiculous bit.
      “A Japanese person would have cooperated (協力する, they really seem to like this word) straight away”
      absolute nonsense.
      why dont you read debitos account when he (a japanese citizen)was stopped
      during the summit in sapporo airport.he challenged the policeman to ask a ethnic japanese person.policeman did.japanese man in question ignored him and walked off.
      please put your stereotypes away and stop making life harder for us nj in japan.and as debito says stop criticizing someone who was merely enforcing his rights.

    79. Bob Says:

      Odeena – If you believe the cop followed the law by presenting the ID as he did, then you should also agree that Aly followed the law by then presenting his ID in the same way. See my post above.
      The law requires the cop present his or her ID first if requested. If we don’t request it, then we may have just presented our ID with address to a crazy person or a criminal posing as a police officer, and this does actually happen.
      The reason not requesting their ID first to exercise your rights makes things harder for the rest of us is that it lowers the cost of their infringing our right to go about our daily business without being bothered for no reason by the cops. It’s annoying to, on your way to work, be stopped by the cops because they think you might not be Japanese (not sure, and so may be violating a Japanese citizen’s rights as well) and for no real reason, and it costs you and your employer real money. That is not only bad for other foreigners, it on net may waste police time as well in that it encourages them to waste time on random ID checks that they would otherwise be incentivized to spend pursuing investigations which have a positive value to society.

      If you know all the laws relevant to being a foreigner in Japan, you misunderstand them if you believe that Aly actually failed to present his ID AND the cop did present his ID, because the two are expressed in the same 条文 as 提示, and Aly mimicked the cop’s supposed 提示.

      Finally, and most important point: when the cops are talking to you in any country, they are your enemy. Any criminal law professor or lawyer in the US, Japan, or Timbuktu will without exception tell you to shut the hell up to the extent possible to avoid getting thrown in prison for something you didn’t do or because of falling for some trick. Cops are trained to lie and trick you into getting arrested, and one day, that could be you. It is more likely to be you if the cops in the country are out to get people who “look like” you, and in Japan, that means us “apparent” foreigners, including non-foreigners like Debito. Cooperating with them is the height of foolishness and helps nobody at all. You just encourage them to waste more of their time and your tax money.

    80. Odeena Says:

      Thanks for taking the time to explain all these things. I’m starting to understand your point now. Truth be told, I saw random ID checks as an annoying, but justified action by the police. See Norik’s post above my own (comment #76), especially the paragraph about coming from an ex-Communist country. That’s my background as well, and I guess that’s why these ID checks seem normal to me. I’m more of the “keep out of trouble and move along” mentality. Still… I can see how someone coming from a more liberal country, where civil rights and liberties are actually guaranteed, would think differently.

      It seems you’re determined to discredit anyone who doesn’t share your point of view, so I won’t even bother to reply.

    81. Erich Says:

      “Softbanksucks Says: November 25th, 2009 at 5:15 pm
      Erich, my “logic” is irrelevant. The law is (conveniently?) vague and specifes neither the manner nor the duration for which the officer’s ID must be shown. The officer fully complied with the law as written, so it is irrelevant whether or not our friend Aly got a good look.”

      Well then, Aly also fully complied with the law. The officer had an obligation to leave him alone and walk away at that point, as he had no legal leg to stand on to question him further. The law also doesnt state that the person being questioned has to show it long enough for the police officer to write it down, does it?

    82. Bob Says:

      It’s interesting to hear your perspective, too.
      The problem Japan runs into is that the government (according to me but not Debito) wants to attract high-salary western foreigners as long-term immigrants, which according to academics have a net positive impact on national income including all Japanese professionals. On the other hand, right wingers demand police-state treatment of generic “foreigners” (generally meaning Chinese and Koreans, but also Americans and others at times) who supposedly are the source of crime and all that is bad in Japan. You can’t really have both, because many westerners get really annoyed at the police treatment here and leave for a place where they can actually use all of their time effectively and not get pissed off about discrimination all the time. When you work 15 hours a day for months on end, getting hassled by the police may 5 minutes you could have spent with your family. It may cost you a deal, meaning who knows how much money. It’s just not acceptable, no matter who it is, because it’s an unnecessary inconvenience. Supposing an illegal immigrant is here working and paying taxes, that only helps Japan 99% of the time. In the rare event that they should commit a crime of some sort, well, they’ll be deported at that point anyway. This policy has a 100% chance of wasting 100% of people’s time for the off chance you’ll find someone bad before they do something bad whom you wouldn’t have ID checked when they ran a red light, etc., anyway. It’s a really screwey policy.

      — And this is a practically incomprehensible post. Rewrite?

    83. let`s talk Says:


      “Cultural background” is a convenient excuse for those who failed to have an individual background strong enough. I am from an ex-communist country too, actually from the most of most communist one. But unlike you I do value my human rights and privacy. If you do not do that, it is entirely your fault in the first place. I never showed my ID to any cop in Japan. And I have been here long enough. I am a permanenet resident. To be honest I have never been stopped by a cop. Your sentence “I have been taught that the best way to survive when you are in weak social/economical position is not to oppose too much, even if you are right” is the most disgusting description of people from the ex-communist world. I felt sick when I was reading your post.

    84. Innocent_Bystander Says:

      Instead of just posting in here, I think he should follow up this incident by filing a complaint to the local police station in Taito Ward and to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government tourist bureau. Ueno Park and its museums, etc., in a major tourist area and if foreign visitors are harassed it will impact on visitor revenues, which are already hard-hit by yen appreciation.

    85. yoga boy Says:

      Great post! I would have loved it if this was captured on video or atleast audio. You should have recorded it with your iphone.

      Debito, on a somewhat unrelated note: do you recall that in the not too distant past there was some talk about the J gov considering reinstating dual-citizenship? Do you, or any of your readers, know if there has been any movement on this? I had to renounce my J-citizenship long ago and wish to get it back now that I live here…but I don’t want to lose my Canadian status. Thanks.

    86. KeisatsuWatch Says:

      Everyone defending the police is absolutely nuts. I don’t care what the laws say at all (they’re just words on paper) because it’s wrong at the core to stop ANYONE and ask for their ID. I’ve been stopped several times in Tokyo and have eventually shown ID after a long and laborious chat.

      However, since I started shooting video of Japanese people being stopped, even though the police have told me to stop I’ve refused and not had to show ID. The camera is the new gun! If I’d been prepared when the police and immigration raided my house without a warrant or probable cause two years ago, the situation would have ended differently.

      For all of you with iPhones or Blackberrys, do what you have to do to get Qik installed. It livestreams and records video so that even if the police take (or break) your phone, the recording is still online! For the iPhone you need to jailbreak it, but no biggie 😉

      Don’t just use it to defend yourselves though! When you see Japanese being stopped, take the time to stop yourself and record the situation. I’ve done it many times, and let the stopped people know what their rights are afterwards.

    87. DM Says:

      I scolded a cop on a bike the other day for not having his light on at night. Actually cops are generally sort of shy here, no? But I still think the “Friendly Neighborhood Police State” needs occasional resistance lest it take over completely, asserting one’s rights is important.

    88. Marc Says:

      wu Says:
      November 25th, 2009 at 1:54 pm

      cop: um…. err…… uh…. there was uh.. some suspicious activity near here this month.
      me: what kind of suspicious activity?
      cop: um…. never mind, you can go.

      I get the same answer from a cop when he ask to check my ID ,he say somebody make trouble (agression of people)in this area ,at this time I just come in japan ,don’t speak japanese and don’t know this country yet so I cooperate (no kindly) and he ask to get out everything I have in my pocket and put in his cap,at this time I just finish my work in Iidabashi and go to the station

    89. HO Says:

      I said it before and I said again: As long as there are no official complaints toward the behavior of these police officers, these forum goes nowhere. Walk the Walk, not only Talk the Talk.

      I still think it is better to show the ID, prior to check his ID, get his information (Name, number, rank, etc) and then make an official complaint.

      If people start doing complains again and again, make a group to go to court, then the Japanese police will need to change the procedures.

      Anyway, a few days ago I was walking around Tokyo station, there was a group of 5 or so policemen checking people’s bags. They were looking for the nerdy (Otaku) and rockers (drug user) types; it was just pure power harassment. And the sad fact is that no one was protesting, no one cared….

    90. Ron Says:

      As Japanese police officers are required to show their identification when asked, I think it would be best for us to just do some random checks on them as well.

      We should just stop them on the street for no other reason than to ask to see their identification, just to make sure that they are really police officers.

      Any takers?

    91. A Says:

      HO Says: and the sad fact is that no one was protesting, no one cared…

      Actually some Japanese people do care and do refuse and do complain as I found in the above blog.

    92. A Says:

      Check out some of the videos on this site. Obviously some Japanese people what to do something about police accountability too.

    93. josh Says:

      I had the same problem in the small town I live in.

      I was walking with 2 of my other foreign friends, getting ready to eat around 6 pm. An officer on his bike saw us and rode to us. They kept asking to see our IDs, and we just said no. I tried to take a picture of his, and he became furious about it. Kept saying, “just show me your ID so you can go!” I said he was being racist and practicing discrimination, and he kept calling it “distinction.” I pulled out my iPhone and showed him the definition of discrimination, and explained that this was a perfect example of it. Said, “You stopped us because we’re foreign, right?” He said, “Yes.” Which got me so upset, because I was trying to tell a Japanese police officer, in Japanese, the defintion of a Japanese word and how it’s used in that context.

      It was in my hometown, and I’ve been stopped SEVERAL times there. When I told him I was tired of getting stopped, he said, “but we haven’t stopped you yet, it was another police officer…so how are we to know that you’re legal?” I blew my lid.

      In the end, after about 20 minutes, we showed them our cards after telling them constantly in front of everyone how racist they were being. It was right near my work, and students kept asking me what I had done to get stopped by the police. Such a hassle…

    94. Bob Says:

      Josh- file an official complaint and have each of your friends do the same! HO is right about that.

    95. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      Josh, what was the word he used for “distinction”? Just curious.

      — Probably “kubetsu”, right? I hear it all the time.

    96. Trevor Says:

      I would be very careful in trying to take a picture of police or their id. You have a right to an identification number, but id of law enforcement in most countries is a protected document. You could get in serious trouble by trying to take pictures of it.

      Protect your rights and get a badge number, but do not become so obstinate that you inadvertently step into a bigger issue.

    97. Alex Says:

      I’ve been stopped 8 times in a period of one year since I’ve been in Tokyo. The first 3 times, I simply complied like most foreigners new to this country. I think it’s instinctive for law-abiding foreigners to want to comply initially when they get stopped by the Japanese police (if they’re stopping me, there must be a good reason…). Well, after learning that there *is no* good reason (i.e. no probable cause), my attitude completely changed, and the last 5 times they stopped me they haven’t been able get anything out of me, gaijin card or otherwise.

      It’s very easy to do this and has worked for me the last 5 times I’ve been stopped: Just keep walking while waiving your hand in front of your face when they show their badge. Waiving your hand in front of your face is Japanese for “I’m not interested, leave me alone”. Don’t make eye contact, don’t say anything, just keep walking and pretend they’re one of those people trying to sell you something. Just KEEP WALKING. One time at a train station, three of them tried to block my path and were very persistent about it and kept asking me in both Japanese and English “Where are you from?” etc., but I just pretended they didn’t exist and finally they just left.

      The law says you have to show your ID *ONLY* if they ask for it. “Where are you from?”, “Are you Japanese?”, “Where are you going?”, etc. DOES NOT equal “Show me your gaijin ID.”. Wrong question = no prize. Remember, the law doesn’t require you to answer any of their questions, and they will almost always ask you something like “Where are you from?” before they ask you to show your gaijin ID. So just keep walking.

    98. Alex Says:

      Oh, I forgot to add, after the last stop, I decided to step in up a notch and call the police station directly (not 110) and complain after each and every incident from now on. Tokyo Metropolitan Police is broken down into many stations (警察署 keisatsusho) which in turn operate koubans. Remember where you were stopped and call the station that has jurisdiction over that area. I called the Shinjuku station, and was basically given the answer “Just tell them you don’t want to be questioned.”, meaning police questioning is completely VOLUNTARY. For your info, here’s the number for the Shinjuku police station (not kouban):


    99. OG Steve Says:

      Alex wrote: “(The Japanese police officers) kept asking me in both Japanese and English “Where are you from?” etc., but I just pretended they didn’t exist and finally they just left.

      The law says you have to show your ID *ONLY* if they ask for it. “Where are you from?”, “Are you Japanese?”, “Where are you going?”, etc. DOES NOT equal “Show me your gaijin ID.”. Wrong question = no prize. Remember, the law doesn’t require you to answer any of their questions, and they will almost always ask you something like “Where are you from?” before they ask you to show your gaijin ID. So just keep walking.”

      Beautiful summary Alex.

      And here’s the reason why they start by asking “Where are you from?” and/or “Are you Japanese?” BEFORE they start demanding your Alien Registration Card:

      People who choose to waive their right to silence by answering that seemingly-innocent question about nationality, have thus voluntarily given a STATEMENT which seems to be admitting that they are not a Japanese citizen.

      Now if you have made a such statement about yourself, in this Napoleonic Justice System of Japan, the onus is suddenly on YOU to prove that you are not an illegal over-stayer. Thus, as soon as you give that first statement, the Japanese police often become VERY aggressive about demanding your Alien Registration Card.

      Meanwhile, the people who refused to be fooled into making a statement about nationality, DON’T get directly asked for their Alien Registration Card (of course, as HO always reminds us, as soon as they DO directly ask for your ARC, it is risky to refuse to give it, so if they DO directly ask for it I suggest you show it.)

      So, if you’re not a Japanese citizen, and the Police Officer has NOT yet directly asked to see your Alien Registration Card (meaning, if the Police Officer has simply asked one of those other initial innocent-seeming conversation-starting-questions)

      You can say nothing, show nothing, and keep walking, as Alex succeeded in doing 5 times:

      You can say nothing, show nothing, and keep walking, as “Freeman”‘s acquaintance succeeded in doing numerous times:

      You can say “No time”, show nothing, and keep walking, as Joe Jones succeeded in doing numerous times:

      You can say “No time”, show nothing, and keep walking, as Taro succeeded in doing numerous times:

      And if you’re a Japanese citizen:

      You can say “No time”, show nothing, and keep walking, as Debito witnessed:

      You can say nothing, show nothing, and keep walking, as:

      You can say “I’m Japanese”, show nothing, and then keep silent after that, as a Saitama woman did (as it happens, the police illegally detained her for a bit, but in the end her silence prevailed:

      The police officers who illegally detained that Japanese citizen for “not looking like a Japanese citizen” (and for refusing to answer any further questions) had to issue a public apology the next day.

      — Wow, thanks for doing so much research of the archives.

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