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  • Ariel updates experience with not-random Gaijin Card and Passport Checks by Narita cops

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on February 5th, 2010

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    Hi Blog.  On this day of heading for Narita, here’s an update from a Reader on how the Narita Airports Not-Random Gaijin Card Checks are continuing unabated.  I hope for their sake they don’t stop me; not in the mood.  Arudou Debito in transit


    January 31, 2010.  Author:  Ariel

    Hi Debito, I’m not sure whether you’re interested in an update on what’s going on at Narita, but I’ve noticed the topic cropping up in the comments lately.

    My work takes me to Narita airport an average of once a month, and I’ve been noticing an increase in “random” police checks since last September. In my first three years living/working in Japan I was never once stopped by a policeman, but I was stopped three times in a row recently. I’m a caucasian woman in her mid-20’s by the way.

    Early September: I was in the arrival lobby waiting to pick up some college-aged interns when I was approached by a uniformed policeman who asked for my passport in English. I explained in Japanese that I lived in Japan, so he asked for my ARC. I asked why, and he gave the standard explanation of catching overstayers. I didn’t want my new interns’ first impression to be of me arguing with an officer, so I gave in and let him take down my info.

    Early November: I was sitting in the departure lobby filling out some paperwork before heading through security to catch a flight. Two officers came up and once again asked to see my passport in English. I asked why, and this time they said it was an anti-terrorism thing. Since I didn’t want to risk being late for my flight I let them take down my info (they even asked for my phone number) but gave them a hard time about how kibishii and mendou Japan is getting. They actually laughed and agreed.

    Early January: I was standing in the departure lobby with another female caucasian coworker when two officers approached and started the standard conversation (I actually saw them eyeing us, and predicted to my coworker that we were going to get carded…sucks to be right). Once again, when asked why they were doing the check they blamed it on anti-terrorism procedures, though they were quick to assure us that of course they didn’t think the two of us were terrorists, but they needed to go through the motions. I responded that I felt it was an invasion of privacy, which caused them to get a bit stone-faced. I then asked “shinakutemo ii desu ka”, and they hemmed and hawed a bit, but eventually walked away.

    Late January: I didn’t get stopped this time, but I also had a Japanese coworker with me in addition to my caucasian coworker. We were in the departure lobby most of the time, and we didn’t notice any patrolling officers.

    Today [January 31]: I was picking up yet another intern, and decided to do a bit of informal research. I stood by where people exit from customs, but well away from the general flow of traffic, while holding a sign with the intern’s name on it an my headphones securely over my ears. I think my general location and demeanor discouraged any officers from coming over to check me, every other time I had been stopped I was in a high traffic area and did not have any “barriers” to starting a conversation. However, I was in a great spot to observe what the three officers posted in the area were doing for the half an hour I was waiting.

    One or two of the officers would periodically search for someone to check. They were most certainly not being random, they would stand in the flow of traffic and scan those passing by until someone caught their fancy and then they’d make a bee-line for them. I saw them stop a total of 11 people, ALL of whom were caucasian, and all of whom were walking alone or in pairs. None of the 11 protested, but then again they all had luggage and/or had just exited customs, so it’s quite possible they were mostly tourists. I did not see them stop any other NJs (black, latino, etc), but strangely there seemed to be only caucasians and asians in the terminal at the time (yes, I looked). The only time I saw the officers speak to an asian was when a young woman approached an officer and asked for directions.

    Granted this is essentially all anecdotal evidence, but it seems pretty clear that the police at Narita have been instructed to engage in active racial profiling. The oddest thing to me though is that these officers don’t seem to care about finding dangerous people, rather they seem to be targeting people who seem to be easy to approach and won’t make a fuss in order to make a quota and give the appearance that they are doing something to combat crime and terrorism. Is it just me, or is this the opposite of what the goal of airport security should be? Instead of keeping an alert watch out for legitimately suspicious people they are wasting half of their time stopping people they don’t think pose any threat!  Ariel


    47 Responses to “Ariel updates experience with not-random Gaijin Card and Passport Checks by Narita cops”

    1. Drew Says:

      I’ve been asked several times now. It’s always down on the lower level if I am buying a train ticket. I’ve never been asked if I’m buying a bus ticket (on the main level) or going out to the parking lot.

      When I’ve asked why they weren’t stopping Japanese, who also could be terrorists, the answer was (I am not kidding) “We check Japanese at the exits of the parking lot.”

      Last time I was in a bad mood so I just ignored them and kept on walking. They didn’t pursue and went after an easier mark.

    2. Netko Says:

      Sunday Jan 31 I was at Narita to pick up my J husband returning after several yrs of work abroad. (I had returned to Japan 2 wks before him.) After passing the ‘security gate’ where I had to show my handbag to an officer (a guard?) to glance at it and my ARC — because I had no passport, I rushed through the passage to get to the terminal where my husband’s airplane had already landed. I was worried I’d be late and kind of stressed with trains that ran late etc.

      A young policeman with a white ‘cold mask’ over his face stopped me. At first I didn’t realize at all why I was stopped just seconds after already passing the security. I thought at first it was a standard procedure and only later noticed that many other people were not stopped.

      The policeman asked for my passport and I said (again, just like to the security) I had no passport on me because I live in this country as a PR. I was in a hurry and I just said, “How about my ARC?” Then it clicked… I recalled your website and others’ stories and for a moment I felt paralyzed. I was actually scared. I thought that if I protest I may be arrested or treated as a suspect, you know, like “Oh, she had a reason to resist, to protest, so she must be hiding something” kind of thing. BTW, I’m a PR, only 5.2 ft, 110 lbs…

      The policeman didn’t only look at my ARC, but he had a board with a stack of forms to be filled and he started writing down stuff from my ARC! I had time to look around and I did notice that NO single “Asian-looking” person was stopped, all the rest who were stopped at that time were Caucasian-looking.

      Then I realized I could ask about that and said, “Aren’t you stopping only foreigners?” Well, he SAID, “Yes, we actually do.” (I: “Demo, kekkyoku, gaikokujin dake wo tomerunjanai deshouka?,” He: “Hai, kihontekini…sou desune, gaikokujin dake.”).
      I was shocked that he would be so blunt!

      I then said, “But, how could you tell I was foreign?! From the way I look (gaiken dake de) you can’t know if I were ‘half-Japanese’ or a naturalized_citizen (kika shitaka douka), right? Yet, you stopped me. I can’t believe this.”
      He paused and then, with some insecurity in his voice, told me that he “saw that at the security gate I had shown either my ARC or drivers license” so he decided to stop me and see! Go figure.
      It made no sense to me and I am sure that from where he stood he couldn’t really see if I showed a small (ARC, license) document or a passport, I am sure.
      I was so stunned at the meaningless and illogical reply that I just stood there confused how to deal with that… (I’m ashamed of that now!)

      I told him that I was shocked at this and that this has never happened to me before, that I’ve never done anything wrong and that I don’t think I should have been stopped, plus (although I realize that’s irrelevant) that just until 2 wks ago I had spent years in a foreign country representing Japan, as a spouse to a guy whose job it was… and I am shocked at this treatment after my return to my adopted country Japan. I just wanted him to see my humanity, not only my ARC number and “foreignness.” I regret so much that I didn’t say clearly it was discrimination and racial profiling, which I understand his action was. I was a little scared of the whole situation.

      Finally, I asked him, “So, BTW, how could I know next_time if stopped that you’re a real policeman?” He pointed to his inside pocket and said, “Keisatsu techou ga arimasukara” but he didn’t show it. I didn’t ask. All I know is he was quite young, with a white mask over his nose and mouth and that it was before Terminal 1 South Wing, Jan 31, 3:50 PM.

      Later, after 4 PM, I returned by chance to this point, now with my husband, and all I could do is stare back at them for a while, and tell my husband what happened… We stayed there 10 min just to see if they’d stop other people, but during that time nobody else was stopped.

      I think it’s interesting that he “admitted” they ‘kihontekini’ (in essence, basically) stop only ‘foreign-looking’ people. I don’t know if they have ways to detect foreigners who are Korean or Chinese or other Asians, however, as I said, while he was writing down my data (no idea why he had to write data from my ARC down!), I noticed that only Caucasians were stopped.

      — Well, now that you know that it can happen to you, you can plan ahead to know what to say next time. Cut yourself some slack. L’esprit de l’escalier, and all that.

    3. Kevin Says:

      I have been a security gaurd in the past… well not at an airport… but lets just say at some highly public and populated events. My job was to check incoming vendors trucks for bombs. I would like to clearly state I have no expertice in bombs, and wouldn`t know the first thing about locating one, unless it was out in the open labled bomb. My point is my job wasn`t to actually find a bomb, because if someone really wanted to smuggle a bomb into the event there probably wasn`t anything anyone can do outside using a metal detector and even then…

      My job was simply to reassure people that there was no bombs, and put on the front that discurrages future ideas of using bombs in the vendor`s truck.

      Half of security is not actually cetching bad guys, but creating an enviroment that discurages bad guys in the first place. It might seem kind of dumb and stupid, but in someways it also makes sense.

      While racial profile white people may not actual provent terrorism, it is creating an envoriment that A) reassures (targeted) tourists that Japan is combating terrorism, and B) Discurraging future terroists to be white people or who ever is targeted… (or at least come though an airport with dangerous stuff as a white person/whatever targeted race)

      On the realistic side, those gaurds are probably told to do it, and have to target somebody…

      I have no real opinion if your inside an airport and this happens, but outside an Airport being randomly stopped by the police is more of an insult rather than surving a productive cause.

    4. Jay Says:

      This is a fascinating phenomenon and a dangerously ineffective for airport security. Surely security is not the goal here; if it is then they are extremely misguided. But if security is not the goal, then what is?

      This has happened a couple of months ago to me as well. I am caucasian and was with a caucasian friend who had been visiting. A very young officer approached us in English and asked for our passports. I responded (in English) that I wasn’t carrying mine. (at this moment my friend gave me this don’t-make-me-miss-my-plane-for-your-principles look) I also told him that we’d just had our IDs checked and inquired about the reason. He didn’t follow, so I switched to Japanese. He said it was just standard procedure and asked where I was going. I told him that I wasn’t going anywhere and his response was 「あっ、日本の方ですか」 and he suddenly didn’t need to see any ID.

      My friend told me that she was stopped two more times on the way to the plane. Her response was this: “Ok, y’all obviously had some sort of training video or whatnot yesterday and now you’re all fired up to stop and search people, but IT WAS BAD, BAD TRAINING. NOT WORKING. Everybody is stopping the atheist, liberal, world-hugging lesbian. Training fail.”

      I did watch a bit on my way out and it does seem that they were only stopping small groups of caucasians. What is going on here? And how do we find out?

    5. jonholmes Says:

      “I think my general location and demeanor discouraged any officers from coming over to check me, every other time I had been stopped I was in a high traffic area and did not have any “barriers” to starting a conversation”.

      This is exactly right, they just go up to people who look approachable in the main, as when I was in Narita last October I was either on the phone to immigration (who called me 4 times on my mobile to grill me for an hour and then refuse my friend’s entry), or deliberately sitting in a group of people, so although they looked at me, the cops did not come over and question me as to why I was hanging around for 2-3 hours and looking quite suspicious!
      I can confirm that they came up to several caucasians with a clipboard, and to no one else of other races.

      If you are in Narita, pretend to be on the phone or even make a real call so you can try brushing them off with “sumimasen, denwa chu.” Perhaps they re filling a quota, and it’s easiest for them to so by targetting Caucasians, but at the same time these hapless bobbies don’t want to cause too much “meiwaku”.

    6. James Annan Says:

      Surely everyone knows that 99% of “airport security” around the world is just theatre for the sake of impressing the public? Sounds ideal to pick on compliant hakujin who are not going to kick up a fuss and aren’t actually going to be a threat so the check does not need to have any genuine function.

      I go through Narita a few times a year, never been stopped, but I’m generally moving purposefully and not loitering (I expect visitors to find their own way, it’s hardly difficult). I may also be too big and scary to stop, but I’m not banking on it!

    7. jonholmes Says:

      They can easily spot Asian tourists who arent Japanese, they re all talking in another language!

      Why don’t they just go up to a group of these tourists then, and check lots of people’s IDs, thus fulfilling their quotas more quickly?

      Why the focus on solitary Caucasians?

    8. Level3 Says:

      Ugh, hate to fight racism with racism, but the J cops own stats pretty much prove that caucasians are the SAFEST group of gaijin, with crime rates far lower than even native Japanese. And I’m pretty sure whiteys aren’t really a major portion of visa overstayers.

      Clearly the J cops just want to get their quotas without hassles, and maybe get to talk to some blonde girls (and get their phone numbers?!) while getting paid with our tax yen to do so. So, it’s sickening on that point.

      Of course, a similar (reverse) debate is going on in the states as far as airport security that is actually an attempt to counter an actual threat of terrorism. Some think they should be using the Isreali’s method of behavior profiling to hunt for actual terrorists rather than searching gransma’s pill bottle for C4.

      It’s pretty obvious that the J airport cops training video is NOT teaching them anything at all about identifying terrorists, criminals or visa overstayers. Otherwise they’d be stopping Asians and even Japanese who happen to be doing whatever is deemed suspicious activity. Instead they waste time, and endanger our actual security by having fun scanning the crowd for white girls to practice their English on.

      Bravo to those who are deciding to become observers, going the extra mile to watch these J cops for 30 minutes or whatever, and confirm to us that they are only stopping caucasians. It’s totally ineffective, and even right-wing J uyoku would probably object to this as a waste of police resources.

      If possible, keep making it difficult for them. If us “safe” caucasian NJ get a reputation for giving cops 10 minute lectures about privacy rights, maybe they’ll give up, or maybe they’ll start looking for actual criminals.
      Anyway, can we make some Youtube videos of J cops only stopping white girls?

    9. Johnny Says:

      Maybe a resident foreigner boycott of Narita would get Chiba Governor Morita to change his racist tune and stop this crap. After all on a per capita basis, we use Narita more frequently than the natives do.

      Particularly with Haneda’s international terminal opening later this year, Chiba police’s blatant racial profile is going to cost Chiba.

    10. Frodis Says:

      Perhaps a new hair-brained initiative for the month of February or year-end jockeying for promotions and raises or good reports on job assessments.

    11. Graham Says:

      The link you gave to Netko had this PDF file, and I noticed a typo-ish thing:

      The rubi on #3 for “携帯し” reads “たずさおびし”. I think you meant “けいたいし”

      — I keep meaning to getting around to fixing the submitter’s typos. Sorry.

    12. jack Says:

      I haven’t yet been stopped for my info at Narita or Kansai International Airport, just lucky, I guess. Tonight I’ll be picking up a friend at KIX, and I imagine I’ll have at least half an hour to wait. I’ll keep my eyes open and see if similar things are going on down here.

    13. Dan Kirk Says:

      I’ve been thinking of taking an alternative tack. Making copies of my card, with the passport number blacked out, to pass out to whomever asks for one. Heck, they made the cards with their tax money. If a police officer stops and asks me for my info, just give him an easy-to-read copy. Other information is hardly necessary. Ariel mentions a phone number, but I would hardly give them that, especially if I were a 20-year woman. I mean, my card is hardly accurate. It lists my home, misspelled, as a place that I haven’t visited for over twenty years. Heck, give them copies for their entire family and neighbors. They payed for the card.

      I mean, who are we fooling, asking the lackeys of a police state to stop being lackeys of a police state? They know who I am. They have my address and all the other information that’s on the card anyway. They have the info on my automobiles. They have all the data from countless cameras set up around town. They can follow the signal on my cell phone. What a joke. [illogic deleted]

      If they want to follow me around, they can do it, and they’ll be awfully bored. I am one unexciting guy.

    14. Tommy Says:

      I was leaving Nagoya Centrair bound for the US about three weeks ago when I was stopped.
      My flight was not scheduled to leave for another three hours so I sat with my backpack in a central area and absentmindedly watched people coming and going. An officer approached and asked
      in english to see my passport. I handed him my passport and boarding ticket which he stared at for a long time before returning it to me with a bow and a thank you. I am half-Japanese. I did not see him approach any other traveler — asian or not — to check their papers. No harm no foul.

    15. Marius Says:

      Checked a few times, all while waiting for friends to arrive.

      There’s some truth to the notion that if you stand still and they’ll get you. Perhaps this is a government run scheme to get people fit?

      Anyways, a question, since I am to catch a flight next week:
      are vague reasons like “to stop terrorism” enough, legally, to fill that “Police Execution of Duties Law, Section 2” requirement?

      I’ve had success with this before when I’ve told police-officers that me just being white isn’t reason enough.
      (I’ve followed that up with “you can make up a reason if you want to, like you were looking for someone white with a gray jacket (or whatever I were wearing at the time) but know that I am recording”).

      Helps to have a phone that does that (record). Tinfoily, and sad I/anyone have to resort to that, alas…

    16. Matt Says:

      It is very much a counter-measure that is for appearances only. I mean really, by showing them your passport what are they able to surmise? How are they able to determine if you are a terrorist or not? Terrorists don’t carry passports? The whole thing is truly a meaningless exercise for show purposes only.

      When the right-wing groups have one of their bigger rallies, the police are out in full-force. They are on every corner and sometimes following the vans but they are not actually doing anything. It is the appearance of maintaining control that the police in Japan seem to spend much of their time with.

      This airport business is the same: to make Japanese feel secure. My question is, why not make us all feel secure and do these checks with everyone? Oh wait, they do do that already with the checks at the train exist, customs, etc. So this is truly one, big pointless enterprise.

    17. Anthony Says:

      With regard to Matt’s comment (#16); I read somewhere that the checks at the train exits, which always were pointless were to be discontinued. I never minded those as they were really quick, and most importantly, applied to everybody. I just wonder if this recent development of mass checking of foreigners, which I first noticed back in August, is a way of the police justifying their large presence at the airport. Warm in winter, cool in summer, lots of places to take a well-earned break; it has to be a good beat. By each officer personally interviewing and recording the details of several suspicious individuals who are checked every day, the police can continue to be there in large numbers. Otherwise, what are they going to do? Just walk around looking useless?

    18. Andi Says:

      I’ve yet to be stopped at all, at airports or anywhere else in Japan. Having read others’ accounts, I count myself rather lucky.

      I’m inclined to agree that this serves two main purposes: the first being for the police to fill their quotas easily by targeting (what they perceive to be) clueless, non-Japanese speaking tourists; the second being to appease xenophobes who no doubt would otherwise say that the police are not doing enough to combat the non-existent foreign crime wave.

      To some small degree I can sympathise with their situation – in the UK too, police are given ridiculous quotas that distract them from actual policing – but it is nevertheless incredibly frustrating.

    19. Astrix Says:

      “I hope for their sake they don’t stop me; not in the mood. Arudou Debito in transit”

      Actually, I’m kind of looking forward to reading about how you deal with them if you are stopped. Most people seem a little too compliant.

      Anyway, have a good trip!

      — Thought you might. Well, something odd did happen. See my blog entry for today.

    20. Behan Says:

      Once in the Narita Airport 2nd floor shop/restaurant area I was picked out by a policeman and asked a lot of questions about what I was doing in Japan, where I lived, etc. But the odd thing to me was that most people in that area are people waiting for their flights to leave Japan. If I were up to no good coming into Japan, I would leave the airport as quickly as possible.
      I don’t know why the policeman needed information about my job, either, especially since I have a permanent visa.
      I felt kind of embarassed being singled out for questioning in front of a lot of other people.
      I have also been pulled off to the side a couple of times for an extra bag search as I was walking down the ramp to board airplanes. I suspected it was racial profiling but I didn’t really see who else they were pulling over.

    21. Thomas Says:

      My first and (until now) only experience of racial profiling in Japan happened at Narita about one year ago. The old officer did not want to explain to me why I looked suspicious. Having read the other comments here, I am convinced more than before that simply looking “Caucasian” was enough. The officer wrote down the data of my passport in his book and left. After that, someone else who seemed to be “Caucasian” was checked in the same way.
      One more reason to avoid Narita Airport if possible; and if not, to enter the boarding area as soon as possible. As far as I see, most cases of racial profiling at Narita happen in the public area.

    22. Traveler Says:

      After having used Narita Airport 30-40 times in the past 25 years, I experienced the first random ID check of my life last December as I was quietly waiting at the international arrival point for a family member.

      It was surprisingly humiliating and upsetting. I felt unreasonably singled out, since during my 90 minute wait I did not see anyone else questioned. It was particularly embarrassing to have this happen in front of my family, as it is typically assumed that police officers only interrogate criminals. The encounter was also unsatisfying in that the officer could not offer a single reason for why he decided I was suspicious. In addition to being insulting, this exercise was surely a waste of time and energy, as randomly harassing calm well-behaved travelers does little to improve airport security.

      The really sad thing is that there are so many more effective and less degrading methods to actually enhance security.

    23. Orient Says:

      A few weeks ago my younger daughter (18, blond) was checked at Narita, Terminal 2. Not in the usual area – arrival lobby, or departure hall. This time it happened after the hand luggage was x-rayed! The cop – I suppose with his handgun – was beyond the security check, just before immigration….. so annoying indeed. Same procedure, asking for passport, making time consuming memo on his pad.

    24. Astrix Says:

      Obviously cops are having trouble meeting their quotas and are going for the easiest pickings. Blond 18 year olds? Ridiculous.
      I send an email to the kankou-cho about this practice. There is no need for us to take this lying down. Get the name and number of the officer who stops you and make a complaint about him.

    25. Paul Says:

      I suspect that part of this is simply running a training program and giving the officers a chance to brush up on their English.

      This morning again, after a rather long absence – they are back at it at the Roppongi station. Here I have never seen them stop a Caucasian, and I have never been checked – even after lingering and observing to the point of being suspicious. But they do check Asians who appear not to be Japanese, including all who look at the area map.

    26. DS Says:

      Just to be crystal clear- what are the police exatly allowed to do once they request your card/passport? Once we go through the song and dance of getting the policeman’s name and ID number, what are we required to do? I have read of police taking copious notes of peoples’ personal information as they stand there, their addresses and phone numbers, etc.

      Is a quick flash of the ID and the appropriate visa\date sufficient cooperation or not? As someone noted before, silent disapproval and non cooperation may be the way to show displeasure without being unpleasant. Show the card but keep it firmly in your hand. Answer all questions with “itte mo ii desu ka? Chotto isogashii…” instead of providing details. IMHO, an incredulous attitude like that would make the police reconsider their attitude that whiteys are easy marks for random checks.

      — I agree. Try it. Be brave.

    27. Kerokee Says:

      People who have experienced random checks should really get the cops’ numbers and names and make an official complain. And keep doing it again and again.

    28. The Shark Says:

      This kind of thing seems to happen at NRT only. I have NEVER seen these kind of cops or other weirdos at KIX and I often use KIX.

    29. The Shark Says:

      Some additional thoughts/ideas:

      1) Would it be OK to show just your ARC to police officers in public areas of NRT (whether or not you have any luggage)?
      2) If being asked and I said I had a stomachache and might have to throw up would that help …?
      3) If you’re a man does it help if you wear a suit?
      4) How about wearing sunglasses and a hat so you can’t be spotted as a caucasian that easily?
      5) How about showing them your ARC but telling them (very politely of course) that you are fully aware of the real purpose of that exercise (that you know you are being targeted only because you’re white and that you also know they don’t really think you’re suspicious or have overstayed your visa etc.)?
      … then you would win psychologically while still obeying their orders
      6) I think it’s OK not to answer any lifestyle-related questions (e.g. How long have you been studying Japanese? etc.)
      7) How about telling them you’re a freelance journalist with special interest in the Japanese police force?
      8) How about asking them: “How would you feel if in XY country the local police would just check Japanese people?”

      … just some ideas, not sure they would work though … any comments being appreciated

    30. Dan Rea Says:

      At Miyazaki Airport I was stopped at least once a week. In my job I meet arriving journalists for various events like the Dunlap Open, Giants/Hawks training and so on.
      I noticed when I was on my Iphone I was never once stopped and asked for my passport/registration card. I am always on my phone to the office, daughter, or wife. Not one single cop has bothered me since I began using my phone.
      Last week I was waiting for a friend at the airport who works for the Dallas Morning News and decided to test my theory, no phone use, and sure enough a smiling and friendly cop asked in English, “Do you happen to have your passport?”
      Advice: use your phone and chances are good they’ll pass you up.

    31. AWK Says:

      Guys, buy on eBay pen with HD camera. It looks so real just like pen, but with HD recording. If they stop you, record it and later upload everything to YT . Let the world know what`s going on here in “reality” not just from written stories. This is good for any situation where J cops are involved. here is link:

    32. The Shark Says:

      Thanks Dan Rea for this quite practical piece of advice. Seems like the phone trick will do.

    33. The Shark Says:

      I’ve found the following video clip on YT. Just watch it for yourself if you like:

      It shows a guy who recorded one of those police checks at NRT.

    34. M.G. Says:

      I have to say I (thankfully) never experienced this sort of thing at Kansai Airport. I was singled out for more “random” searches back in the USA, my home country. I had one case of a bag search request shortly after 9/11, but the officer backed off after I said I’d rather he didn’t.
      Last year I ended up hanging around the arrivals’ gate for a good four hours due to a miscommunication with a friend about her arrival date. I didn’t see a single police officer and no one looked at me funny. I was back the next day for a two hour wait, with the same bright red jacket to help single me out, and again…nothing.
      I’m going back on my own trip this April…I think I’m going to take a closer look around me, just in case.

      — I too had a two-hour layover in Narita last week, and had a hard time finding my free internet credit card lounge, so was walking all over the map (albeit not down to the trains). I kept my cellphone handy, as I was jetlagged and not in the mood for an ID checkpoint. Nothing happened. I think perhaps the cops have periodic checkpoing campaigns, like their spring offensives up here to catch speeders once the snow melts.

    35. sendaiben Says:

      Flew into Narita on Wednesday morning and didn’t see any police. On the other hand, at the re-entry permit holders’ line, when I complained politely about how I object to the fingerprinting and think it’s a crappy way to treat people, the officer on duty gave me a new answer!

      She apologised, and asked that I continue co-operating ‘until the law is changed’. Not sure if that means anything, but it’s the best response I have had so far :)

      I am also getting desensitised. Couldn’t be bothered to file my fingerprints off this time.

    36. Astrix Says:

      I made a complaint about this by email to Narita security about 1 month back making references to information learned on this site and I got a reply back amazingly enough. They apologized and said they would refer my complaints to police headquarters. Maybe complaining is effective.

      — It very well can be. Please send us the exchange, with your name removed if you like.

    37. Astrix Says:

      I have a copy of the reply so I will attach it here. My complaint basically stated that myself and others were unhappy with the police checks at Narita, especially, according to observations noted on this site, as they seemed to be targeting caucasians. I said I regarded this as racial discrimination, and sited some examples from the comments here which I regarded as ridiculous and unprofessional police work. For example, stopping young women and people with families. I also noted that I had contacted the UN and the 観光庁 regarding my reservations (which I did also by e-mail).
      I wasn’t expecting a reply as I thought they would shrug it off as an angry rant, but they did reply, and politely too. By the way, I never did get a reply from the UN or the 観光庁.
      Here is the reply:



    38. Jules Says:

      More Random Checks at Narita

      Feb 24th 2010, about 11am

      My info, I’m “Half-Japanese” but looks white. I have PR and was born in Tokyo.(Retroactively given J citizenship and then unknowingly had it removed)

      My arrival at Narita terminal 2
      I took the train as with most people and upon exiting the station at terminal 2 there was the usual security check, where I showed my passport.

      Just after that is where I was randomly selected for the random check by the police.

      As I was not familiar with the meeting point I was supposed to go, whether it was the north or south side of the terminal I was looking up at the signs trying to figure it out.
      Then a certain officer made a bee line for me and asked for my passport.

      The event goes as so, to the best of my recollection,

      P – Passport please
      M – Why?
      P – This is a random check
      M – Really? A random check? Not Gaijin check?
      P – Yes random check
      M – Can I see your police ID?
      (He proceeds to hand it to me, though it’s attached by a cord to his pocket or uniform)
      (I then allow him to look at my passport)
      At this point he starts writting my information down so I ask him to show me his badge again

      M – I want to see your badge again!
      P – Why? (or a confused look)(I believe he asked why because I had to explain why I wanted to)
      M – If you’re going to take my info I’m going to take yours
      (He hands his badge over to me a second time)
      I start to write his info in my phone, and as I see him flip through all my pages I start scrutinising his badge. Asking him what the number on the white sticker says, not important apparently. Then I notice another officer, there were three at the station exit, heading towards someone. I look around and see that the other officer stops two young white guys with backpacks and asks for their IDs
      I turn to my cop break my Japanese silence and say that this is not right in Japanese
      M – This is a gaikokujin check isn’t it? (as I point to the others getting stopped)
      P – Ohh you speak Japanese?
      M – This is not right! Look, only foreigners are getting stopped! This is discrimination and might be illegal. (Gaikokujin dake jyan… kore ha ikenai yo! Sabetsu desu! Iho desu kamo!)
      By this time he had finished jotting down my info gave me back my passport and thanked me for my cooperation.

      If I had time to sit there and talk to him I think I would have. But naturally people EXITING the trains usually have a plane to catch.

      I was fuming… and shaking. So the details of the event are somewhat hazy now.

      It was 100% clear to the both of us that it was JUST foreign looking people. As the WHOLE train unloaded only the Causasians were stopped. If it was labeled as a gaijin check, it would be more honest. But to be lied to to my face… how irritating!

      I was wondering if I should publish his details here or write a letter to the Chiba police department, explaining the blatant mislabelling of their random checks.

      Debito do you have a Japanese template letter for complaining about this? I’m thinking as the officer was perhaps eager to stop me then I’d write him in English.

      — I have written to the local police regarding airport checkpoints I didn’t like. Have a meander through here.

    39. Johnny Says:

      Will be writing again to Narita airport tonight.

      Parents are coming to Japan, and we are going to take a couple of short trips out of Japan in that time. Have deliberately chosen to fly out of Haneda instead of Narita.

      Pull this racist crap and you don’t get any money from me Narita.

    40. Johnny Says:

      Narita airport is recruiting ‘monitors’.

      Thought it a good idea to register and give them a piece of my mind. Perhaps a few more of us could do so.

      The “2010 Narita International Airport Monitor Program” is designed to elicit the opinions of airport users to help the airport evolve as a facility that provides an experience that is satisfactory, pleasant, and fun.

      Guidelines for Applicants
      1. Program Details
      Participation in surveys (two surveys of approximately 20 questions each) about Narita International Airport
      Answering surveys about Narita International Airport services each time after using

      2. Period
      April 2010 – March 2011 (1 Year)

      3. Maximum Number of Participants
      1,200 (1100 Japanese, 100 Non-Japanese)

      4. Application Period
      Marchi 16-31,2010

      5. Conditions
      No registration fee or annual dues are required to participate.
      Anyone who meets the following conditions is eligible to apply.
      Has an e-mail address and access to the internet
      Flew into or out of Narita International Airport in or after April 2009
      Can communicate in Japanese or English

      6. Benefits
      Those who complete the surveys will receive a modest gift.

      7. How to Apply
      Participants will be chosen based on the information entered in the application fields.
      To begin the application process, please click the “Apply” button below.

      8. Privacy Policy
      This monitor program and information provided to participants regarding Narita International Airport will be conducted in accordance with the “Personal Information Protection Low” and other related laws.
      All personal information provided in the application will be handled safely, and disposed of appropriately with all due care.


      — Yes, do apply, everyone!

    41. john k Says:

      Is it worth going armed with a video camera and filming it…then posting it on YouTube, so everyone can see?

    42. Johnny Says:

      Have just updated Narita Airport’s wikipedia entry with a reference to this site.

      ‘Since 2009, Narita police have been actively racially profiling non-Japanese looking people. This has caused some anger within Japan’s resident foreign community’

    43. Matt Says:

      Well done Johnny.

      Now we should think about sending the fine folks at Narita the link for their Wikipedia entry, and perhaps the link for this thread, the link to the youtube videos that are popping up, and perhaps any other threads on other message boards on this topic.

      This effort on behalf of the Narita police is doing more harm than good (what good again is coming from harassing foreigners at their entry/departure point to your country? ). Surely, money and energy could be better spent elsewhere.

    44. Johnny Says:

      I have been accepted as one of the monitors, so will actively participate over the next year.

      They may not have read my submission very well!

    45. Johnny Says:

      Was out at Narita picking up my parents tonight, and I witnessed the exact same thing Ariel did. Managed to get some keitai photos so will e-mail them to Debito tomorrow if he wants them.

      One thing I did notice was that they were obviously picking on tourists. I went straight there from work in my suit, and despite the large numbers of cops, none of them dared come near me. It really did seem as if they are trying to avoid people who appear to be residents of Japan, so as to avoid complaints and allegations of racism.

      I say this as one cop was watching me as I went through the security barriers, and he stopped watching me when he saw that I showed my driver’s licence.

      Blonde lady behind me showed her passport going through the barriers, and sure enough when I walked past the cop, I then looked back to see that he had stopped her.

      In any case, it goes to show that the Narita police haven’t really modified their ways, other than to try and possibly avoid those most likely to call them on their blatant racism.

      — Please send photos with a briefing! Thanks

    46. Joe Says:

      “It really did seem as if they are trying to avoid people who appear to be residents of Japan, so as to avoid complaints and allegations of racism.”

      Well, that’s one way of looking at it, but couldn’t it be the case that the police are starting to accept that a lot of foreigners are residents, and choosing not to stop them on that basis. Couldn’t it be? Or am I being naive? :)

    47. Rick Says:

      I’ve been stopped at Narita as well while sitting along at a bench, waiting for my J-wife to buy some socks at a nearby shop. And yes, I’m a pretty ordinary looking white guy. I noticed too that they seemed to stop only white people, I personally observed them stop two or three others, but this was a couple years ago. I suspect that they question anyone who simply doesn’t look Japanese, in principle.

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