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Embedded Racism: Japan's Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination

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  • Book IN APPROPRIATE: A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan
  • Immig Fingerprinting NJ from today, media coverage (or lack of), GOJ data security breaches

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on November 20th, 2007

    Hi Blog. It’s Nov 20, FP Day. Keep your eyes peeled for how the media talks about the event, send in briefs (or copies of whole articles, duly credited) about what you see. A reader wrote in last night to say:

    Absolutely no mention of fingerprinting NJ entering Japan starting tomorrow. I’ll give them another chance tomorrow night, but that’s it. If they don’t find this new policy newsworthy, why should the foreign community pay for NHK?

    Also notable that it is still hard to find a regular Japanese person who is even aware the policy is coming into effect. Not surprising really if NHK has nothing to say about it.

    Wow, the anger runneth over these days. Quite so. Speaking of media, here’s a post from a friend who also considers the dearth of coverage (except to justify it as a domestic crime-prevention measure by hiring former baseball pitchers as spokespeople). Have a read. Debito in Sapporo


    Hi Debito. Guess what was just posted to YouTube? If you guessed official (painless looking) instructions for fingerprinting and photographing, complete with elevator music and a smiling foreigner, you’d be right!

    Is this the official video to be shown on flights entering Japan??? Doh! To be fair, I don’t know how they can offer in-flight instructions without coming across like they see us as criminals.


    I really hope someone can post a catchy video on YouTube WITH a link to the petition right below this watered-down load of rubbish! So far, only TWO videos uploaded to YouTube on fingerprinting in Japan. I’m surprised no one else has thought to do this, yet. The other video is a news clip from Japanese television. Anyway, only 38 “views” so far on that link I included.

    Also found some information on Japan Today that may interest you. I’m going to quote it since it didn’t come from me:

    “Here’s an interesting development…”
    WhatJapanThinks (Nov 19 2007 – 17:07)
    外国人の指紋、20日から採取 「テロ対策」で入国時
    2007年11月19日 朝刊 中日新聞

    Focus on last paragraph:


    Japanese and Zainichi, etc (or since this is news to me, “also”) can preregister their fingerprints for the express lane(s).”


    Posted by: nigelboy (Nov 19 2007 – 18:31)

    “Posted by nigelboy November 14th 14:04

    It’s part of the SPT program (Simplyfying Passenger Travel)

    Also some stories in there regarding the current conditions before the procedures are brought in:


    “Today at Narita”
    genkidave (Nov 19 2007 – 23:55)

    “went to see a buddy off back to New Zaland and as usual showed my alien card as ID after getting off the train. Was then singled out by an overzealous policemen for no reason (apparently spot checks) and given the 3rd degree. I even had to hand over my current mobile number. While asking me many questions he was flatout filling in a form. I guess they are trying to get more data than they have now on record. We must be given a chance to register our prints and a photo once and that should be the end of it. From then on we should be in the re-entry line!!”


    “Immigration fingerprinting, photographing device unveiled at Narita”
    Richard_III (Nov 19 2007 – 16:59)

    “I flew out of Narita a couple of weeks ago and they were separating gaijin from J then. That pretty much narked me off as I had to queue for 25 mins (this is in spite of paying J taxes and employing people here). The thought of then either having to queue and answer questions or go through the typically bureaucratic and petty minded pre-application procedure – which would nark me even more – then the stresses of flying out of Narita are bound to quadruple.”


    All these quotes come from:

    By the way: I love the idea of having a page for the stories of those that are coming through the airports. That’s apparently being done over here too:

    Well worth a look. I, too, am interested in hearing those stories.

    You may also want to do a small story on how the government is losing personal info right, left, and center these days. I can point you in the right direction:


    731 SDF applicants’ details leaked onto Internet
    731 SDF applicants’ details leaked onto Internet
    The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Personal details of 731 people who passed the first-stage entrance examination for recruitment by the Self-Defense Forces have been accidently uploaded onto the Internet, it has been learned.

    The Defense Ministry learned the list had been online for six weeks and has begun investigating how the information was compromised.

    The list–confidentially created using spreadsheet software by Yokohama-based SDF Kanagawa Provincial Cooperation Office, which recruits self-defense officers in Kanagawa–included Kanagawa Prefecture-based applicants’ personal details including their name, sex, date of birth, address, cell phone number and parents’ names.

    On the list, each candidate’s former high school was recorded as well as the prefectural rankings of the high schools, taken from a commercially available information book for high school examinations.

    In addition, the list was sorted by applicants’ preferred personnel assignments such as the Ground, Maritime or Air Self-Defense Forces. The list also included the names of self-defense officers–likely the recruiters of the individual candidates.

    The recruitment office said it conducted the first-stage entrance examination in September. Though the office intended to make only the identification number of those who passed the first-round examination available online, the office likely mistakenly posted the entire list on the Internet on Oct. 1 when it uploaded the ID numbers.

    Later, the site was updated, hiding the list, but the Web page remained accessible via search engines.

    After a family member of an examinee whose name was on the list made the office aware of the problem Friday evening, the office barred access to the list.

    “We intend to inform the examinees [about the leak] and apologize to them,” the office said. “We’ll study what measures should be taken to prevent such leaks occurring in the future.”

    Families of examinees have expressed their dismay over the mishandling of the information.

    “The situation, which saw detailed personal information made available online, is a serious error that caused problems for the examinees,” the man who told the office of the errors said. “They have to realize the severity of the situation.”

    “I worked as an SDF officer. I think it was disgraceful,” the father of a male examinee said. “They let their guard down…now we’re afraid what the information could be used for. The Defense Ministry has been hit by so many scandals that even as a former officer, I find it hard to be proud of it.”

    The Defense Ministry and SDF have been hit by a succession of information leaks. In February last year, confidential data on the MSDF destroyer Asayuki was leaked onto the Internet through members’ privately owned computers, which had been installed with a file-exchange program.

    In April last year, the Defense Ministry prohibited the use of privately owned computers in the workplace, and barred personnel from handling business data on privately owned computers. Then, SDF members were visited at home by inspectors who checked whether personnel had stored business data on their computers.
    (Yomiuri Nov. 18, 2007)


    Japanese finger virus for police document leak

    Japanese finger virus for police document leak
    Bug in Japan
    By John Leyden The Register
    Published Wednesday 7th April 2004 14:56 GMT

    Japanese police are blaming a computer virus for a leak of information about criminal investigations.
    Information from 19 documents – including investigation reports, expert opinions and police searches – found its way from the hard disk of an officer from Shimogamo Police Station in Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, onto the Net last month.

    The names, birthdays, addresses and other personal data of 11 people were listed in the leaked documents, along with a detailed description of an alleged crime. Police have promised to notify the 11, including an alleged crime victim, to explain the cock-up.

    Japanese newspaper Daily Yomiuri reports that police suspect that a computer virus might have sucked up this sensitive data and spread it over the Net. Viruses like SirCam are capable of this kind of behaviour but an equally likely scenario is that the hapless officer’s PC was hacked into.

    The leak only came to light after the data was made available to all and sundry over the popular Winny P2P network, the Asahi Shimbun reports.

    The officer at the centre of the debacle created the leaked documents in 2002 while practicing how to fill out forms using real data instead of dummy entries.

    He was on police box duty and authorised to use his own PC but not to save sensitive data on it, a violation in police procedures that has become the subject of disciplinary inquiry.


    Nine laptop computers stolen from Japanese Embassy in Belgium
    Nine laptop computers stolen from Japanese Embassy in Belgium

    BRUSSELS, Belgium — Thieves broke into the Japanese Embassy in Belgium and stole nine laptop computers, including one belonging to the consul, embassy officials have announced.

    The break-in is believed to have occurred between the evening of Nov. 2 and the predawn hours of Nov. 3. Officials said nothing besides the computers had been stolen. They added that no confidential diplomatic information had been leaked outside the embassy.

    The embassy is located on the sixth and seventh floors of a seven-story building in the middle of Brussels. Investigators said the locks on double-layer doors at the entrance on the sixth floor had been broken.

    The embassy was closed between Nov. 1 and 4 for national holidays and the weekend. Japanese officials have asked the government in Belgium to boost security in the wake of the incident.
    (Mainichi Japan) November 5, 2007
    Original Japanese story:



    毎日新聞 2007年11月5日 1時10分 (最終更新時間 11月5日 1時13分)

    Yomiuri has it at eleven laptops with details on the contents of those laptops —


    11 laptop PCs stolen from Brussels embassy
    11 laptop PCs stolen from Brussels embassy
    The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Eleven laptop computers were stolen from the Japanese Embassy in central Brussels earlier this month, leading to fears that personal information on about 12,700 Japanese living in Belgium may have been exposed, the embassy said Wednesday.

    The robbery is believed to have taken place early Nov. 3. Security guards alerted by an alarm found the lock broken on the seventh-floor entrance to the embassy in an office building.

    Some of the stolen computers held electronic data on matters such as the expats’ residence certification, overseas voting registration and passport information, according to the embassy.

    The residence certification contains details such as a person’s name, birthdate, permanent address in Japan, occupation, family information and passport number.

    (Yomiuri Nov. 15, 2007)

    If they can’t take care of personal information for their own citizens, how can they be expected to take care of foreigners’ information?

    Still digging around and keeping my eyes open for new information. I will contact you again if I find anything. Hope this helps! M

    16 Responses to “Immig Fingerprinting NJ from today, media coverage (or lack of), GOJ data security breaches”

    1. Alien Says:

      I’ve been reading about it in several newspapers.
      Here’s another link:

      「外国人の指紋採取を開始 「テロ脅威」「強制、最悪」」

    2. no name Says:

      I just saw the TINY TINY bit of footage on NHK (since I am overseas the broadcasting is a bit delayed) and I was astonished at the way they made it appear as an insignificant peace of news.

      They had a guy from India interviewed (who was clearly Canadian by his accent and word usage, but they proclaimed him to be a visitor “from india”) who almost seemed like he was asked on the spot to promote this…

      I am going back to Japan for graduate school (and subsequently, marriage) and it aggrivates me a bit to know that they are going to be watching be as if they were watching a terrorist, even though all terrorists in Japan have been Japanese.

      mr. debito, what am I to think about this law..amazing.

    3. Peter Says:

      “went to see a buddy off back to New Zaland and as usual showed my alien card as ID after getting off the train. Was then singled out by an overzealous policemen for no reason (apparently spot checks) and given the 3rd degree.”

      I went to Narita the weekend before last to pickup my girlfriend who was returning to Japan. My luck must have run out because for the first time in seven years, I was finally “carded” by a police officer. (This was of course after already passing the initial security check.) The guy was generally polite and we chit-chatted for a bit. However, he seemed a little unsincere about some of the questions that he asked me.

      I really knew that my luck ended when I got stopped by another cop a few hours later on my way home on that very same evening. I have only been stopped twice in seven years, and both times happened on the same day. Wow.

    4. Another John Says:

      A blurb – a SMALL blurb – on NHK’s website.

      11月20日 12時32分


      11月20日 12時32分

    5. Ryan Says:

      Hey everyone, found this on Who knows what it means, but it sounds bad.



      新入国審査システム初日 トラブル続出
      2007.11.20 12:51


      Also, I have no idea what the future results of this will be, but I wrote a little something about this in Japanese using Mixi (a Japanese social networking site). Who knows what results I’ll have. I just hope it gets some word out and my nihongo didn’t crap out on me and say something opposite of what I intended or insulting.

    6. Noone in particular Says:

      I just thought you should read this:

      An Armenian contract worker at my company came back through Narita today. Not only was he fingerprinted/photographed, but his 11 year old daughter as well. So much for upholding the law.

      Also, he mentioned naturalized citizens lining up separately from Japanese born in Japan for fingerprinting/photographs. Do you know any more about that?

      (Sorry to mail you and post this here, but I thought this very important to get out)

    7. Lionel Dersot Says:

      Create your own “modified” version of the GOJ YouTube video and spread the word.

    8. elena Says:

      Maybe this is not appropriate to post this here, this is a copy from Japan Times article, I just don’t know how to post a link!

      But am I alone to feel strongly that the biggest problem with Japan is the increasing mania of grandeur?


      Starting today, ‘gaijin’ formally known as prints
      Exclusive to The Japan Times, November 20, 2007

      Today sees the introduction of a law requiring the majority of foreigners entering Japan to be fingerprinted and photographed. This change has been met with howls of protest from foreign residents and the foreign media, who have pointed to the fact that the only terrorist attacks on Japanese soil have been carried out by Japanese.

      Matters were not helped by recent comments from Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama, who attempted to justify the law by saying a “friend of a friend” of his was an al-Qaida operative who had entered Japan a number of times, using a different fake passport on each occasion.

      In an effort to get an inside perspective on the new law, I wrote to a high-ranking Ministry of Injustice official closely involved in the planning and implementation of the measure. My source, who wishes to remain anonymous, sent the following statement by e-mail:

      “Firstly, let me explain exactly what Mr. Hatoyama meant by his comments at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club. What he was trying to emphasize was the relative ease with which foreigners bent on causing harm can enter Japan. Rather than giving dry statistics or resorting to vague and empty scare tactics, Mr. Hatoyama thought it would be better to give a concrete example of why this law is necessary. He also hoped to show that, despite his position as justice minister and scion of one of Japan’s most famous political families, he is comfortable moving in any social circle. In hindsight, his choice of words was perhaps inappropriate, but the truth in what he said is undeniable. The simple fact is that this law will make Japan a safer country by tightening its borders and preventing would-be terrorists from entering.

      “The main beneficiaries of this law will not be the Japanese or even foreigners living here, but foreigners who haven’t even been here, and the international community as a whole.

      “Take the bankruptcy of Nova Corp. Thousands of foreign teachers have been left jobless and facing eviction in a country where many of them cannot speak the language. Had this new law been enacted years ago this unfortunate situation could have been avoided.

      “Consider why these people came to Japan — to teach foreign languages, mainly English, to Japanese people. Why do Japanese people want to learn? Partly to help foreign visitors who come to Japan for pleasure or business. The unique history and culture of Japan attract millions of visitors to these islands each year. However, the new law will significantly reduce this number so the need for foreign language teachers will decline sharply, and it is highly unlikely there will be a repeat of the Nova fiasco.

      “In addition to protecting people from taking risky teaching jobs in Japan, this law will also help reduce the effect of brain drain on a number of countries. Huge numbers of Asians currently take advantage of Japan’s generous immigration laws to come here and work. Although they often send money home, the fact that they have had to move overseas has a serious effect on the quality of the workforce in their home country. Again, the new law will reduce the number of foreigners in Japan, and the benefits of this will be felt throughout Asia as countries’ brightest brains choose to stay and work in the land of their birth.

      “The new immigration controls will also impact on globalization and its benefits for developing countries. The new law will probably cause some companies to close their offices in Japan and relocate to countries with less stringent border controls: developing nations in Asia, for example. As it has done in the past, the generosity of the Japanese government will allow other countries to develop economically and socially. Japan is a rich nation, but not a greedy one, and is glad to spread the benefits of globalization and free markets as widely as possible. This new law will indirectly allow us to do so.

      “Of course, there will be benefits for the Japanese: Fewer foreign workers will mean more jobs for Japanese and this may go some way toward combating the growing income gap in Japan. Also, the pressure to learn English will be reduced, and this will allow Japanese people to spend more time studying their own country’s history, traditions and culture. English will become an optional language for those who really want to study it, and there will still be enough foreigners here to meet the reduced demand. But, as I outlined above, the main benefits will be felt internationally, as Japan steps back slightly on the world stage and graciously allows some other countries the chance to shine.”

    9. yanpa Says:

      Some clips from Japanese news on youtube:

    10. John Says:

      There’s an article in the Japan Times which claims to have an anonymous email from a Ministry of Justice official who states that fingerprinting foreigners is great for the country: fewer Japanese will need to communicate with foreigners, so there’ll be less chance of a repeat of the NOVA bankruptcy! It will also graciously stem the brain drain from other countries and mean more jobs for the Japanese.

      Please tell me this is a joke?


    11. elena Says:

      David, This article that I quoted above – that John above refers to – is it truly a joke? This has occurred to me as well, but then it reminds incredibly the style and ideas that one can find in the article by an Immigration official Sakanaka
      that is posted somewhere on your site!

      Very similar style, if you read it attentively,
      so it might be for real?


    12. elena Says:

      Oh, and after reading the cases of equipment failure that are mentioned in Ryan’s post – that is what one can do to perplex them – if dry skin is a problem, then if you wash your hands repeatedly, say every 30 minutes, with a soap while you are on a plane on your way to Japan – it will be more than 4 hours in most cases, right? – then this will be enough to cause this problem, and if it happens sufficiently often – they will be forced to do something!

      Sorry for another goofy idea, but we need to do something, really, this is appalling!

    13. yanpa Says:

      About the comment from Ryan:
      Also, I have no idea what the future results of this will be, but I wrote a little something about this in Japanese using Mixi (a Japanese social networking site). Who knows what results I’ll have.

      If you or anyone else posts on mixi, try and visit a few of the people who’ve commented on this article:
      By leaving an “ashiato” you can attract attention to your posts.

      Anyone know of any relavant mixi groups?

    14. yanpa Says:

      Decent and concise summary of the situation from the BBC:

      Japan ups checks for foreigners
      By Chris Hogg
      BBC News, Tokyo

      Japan has started to fingerprint and photograph all foreigners when they arrive in the country.
      It is only the second country after the United States to check foreigners in this way.

      But unlike the US, which only checks foreign visitors, Japan will require foreigners living in Japan to be checked each time they enter.

      The Japanese government says it is an anti-terrorism measure but others say it is discrimination.

      Any foreigner entering Japan will now be fingerprinted and photographed.

      The biometric data will be checked against lists of people who have been deported from the country in the past.

      There will also be cross-checks with more than 800,000 pieces of information relating to suspects wanted by the Japanese authorities and the international police organisation Interpol.

      Terror target

      Japan says the new move is an anti-terrorist measure that will also cut crime.

      Human rights organisations say it violates foreigners’ rights to privacy and could encourage xenophobia.

      They complain it implies that foreigners are most likely to commit acts of terrorism or commit crimes on Japanese soil.

      So far there has been no terrorism in Japan committed by foreigners.

      Incidents like the sarin gas attacks on commuters on the Tokyo subway were carried out by other Japanese.

      There are also concerns that the information gathered will be shared with immigration authorities in other countries.

      Foreigners who have visas which allow them to live in Japan, meanwhile, are angry that they will now be treated the same as visitors and subjected to longer waits when they re-enter the country.

      Japan insists, though, that the measures are needed to help keep terrorists out.

      Tokyo’s staunch support of the US-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have raised concerns that Japan could be a terror target.

    15. John Says:

      The article in the Japan Times has turned out to be a hoax: there’s now a note at the bottom telling us to that effect. I freely admit I fell for it hook, line and sinker.

      Thanks, JT: in this highly emotional environment, with Japan taking a step closer to isolationism, you’ve just shown us how seriously you’re taking the issue. At least when NHK finally did cover the story last night, no-one came on in an clown outfit.

    16. HO Says:

      I would call the Japan Times’ article a lie than a hoax.

      Note: This is a fictitious e-mail from a fictitious government official.

      I fear, someday, this article gains its own life and is quoted as if it were truth.

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