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


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

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  • 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.

  • @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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 : )

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

  • 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.

  • Ho,

    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.

  • Graham

    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.

  • @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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • > “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.)

  • 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.

  • 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”?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • odeena,
    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.

  • 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.

  • – 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.

  • odeena,
    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.

  • 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.

  • @Bob
    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.

  • “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?

  • 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?

  • Norik,

    “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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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….

  • 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?

  • 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…

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

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

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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):


  • 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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