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  • “Pinprick Protests”: NJ refusing to comply with GOJ Census?

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on September 26th, 2010

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    Hi Blog.  I got this a couple of days ago, and am hearing that others are now getting their 5-year Japan Census forms (recently discussed on here).

    Friend KD writes the following:


    September 23 2010

    Hi Debito, Today a lady rang my door and kindly asked me to fill out the census papers. As you probably remember from previous censuses, in the spirit of civil disobedience I refuse to participate with the census, in protest of long-term resident NJ’s not having the right to vote in local elections.

    I discussed this with the lady who brought the census papers. She clearly understood my position and also brought up some points herself why it was strange that long-term NJ have no voting rights.

    Anyway, to make a long story short, I do not intend to be an activist, but I thought that perhaps other people who follow you might be interested in the idea of protesting our lack of voting rights in this way.

    In itself it won’t get us voting rights, but it does send a message. Sending that message, whenever we can, and in every way we can, is important.


    COMMENT:  I am of two minds about this.  As KD says, one way to make the GOJ take notice of NJ needs is to deny the GOJ something it wants (information from us all).  But then again, I also want the GOJ to record how diverse Japanese society is (even if it won’t do it properly, by providing an optional question to indicate ethnicity; as it stands, it keeps the “pure Japanese society” (as in, no visibly off-color Japanese citizens) discourse secure).

    Another person commented back at the previous thread on the Census:


    Anton:  According to this:– the census questionnaire must be available in 27 languages. Got mine yesterday, in Japanese of course. And all foreigners I know got it in Japanese. And the only contact phone is Japanese only. So, OK guys, I can’t help you here, you’ll get no data from my family.


    What do others think about this?  Yet another discussion.  Arudou Debito in Calgary

    32 Responses to ““Pinprick Protests”: NJ refusing to comply with GOJ Census?”

    1. James Annan Says:

      And there was me being disappointed at my exclusion, because I happen to be out of the country on business. I can’t see an upside for people excluding themselves – if you don’t exist, the govt can hardly be expected to take account of you in any way…

    2. Oscar_6 Says:

      Will GOJ really notice anything if they WON’T get somebody’s quesionnaire? Is somebody’s refusal to fill it in recorded anywhere?

    3. adamw Says:

      yes ive refused before as well
      wasnt so much the voting but more the fact that we are not recognized as juumin but expected to take part in a census
      doesnt make any sense

    4. Tim Says:

      Got mine this week… it asked me nationality and country of origin(in Japanese). Am I missing something?

    5. Kev Says:

      Pointless. Your message only went as far as that lady, as she wouldn’t have passed it any farther up the line.

    6. Joe Jones Says:

      I am pretty sure that the census person doesn’t know anything about you before coming to your house, including what language you speak, so they will give you the Japanese form unless you meet them at the door and request another language.

    7. redballoon Says:

      Not complying with the census makes no sense. Better to comply with not paying taxes since you can’t vote and have a hand in how they’re spent. The census is so benign and if you have an alien registration card you have already in effect participated. Meaningless gesture to “not participate.”

    8. Hoofin Says:

      If someone could post and explain how not having yourself counted helps the NJ situation here I’d appreciate it. What’s gained from not just filling out the top part of the form?

    9. Joe Jones Says:

      if you have an alien registration card you have already in effect participated

      This is not true, as the recent “missing old people” issue has made clear. National census stats and the various city hall registration systems are completely separate.

    10. Tora no Shima Says:

      Hello Debito,

      It’s important to let GOJ know that we are here and that many of us are here long-term. I have another gripe with the census. There is no place on it for “partner”, so ten years ago I filled in “haigusha” on the paper as well as marking that we are two women. We will do the same this year. Yes, I want to be able to vote. I also want to have the right to marry. Which will come first… or ice cubes in hell, etc.

    11. jonholmes Says:

      Money talks-not paying taxes sends a stronger message. fill out the census in the way you like it, ie. adding or excluding information as you see fit, write somewhere on it something like “Give us a vote, we exist too”

    12. Jon Says:

      I agree with “Redballoon”. We received ours and filled in BOTH Japanese and other for our children who carry duel citizenship. In the sparse area to comment we wrote “Duel citizens” but felt this question limiting.

    13. Bob Says:

      I would be more offended if the default language were not Japanese after seeing a katakana or eimoji name on the mailbox. I say kudos for the assumption that, this is Japan, Japanese is the most likely language to work.

    14. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      I’m on the side of participating as fully as possible in the census so that, at the very least, my existence will be noted. Why not do that and inform the census-keeper of your views?

    15. Level3 Says:

      Seems counter-productive to me. Not being counted makes it seem like there are fewer NJ. That doesn’t help.

      Micro-protests against the lowest level of bureaucrats are almost pointless. Perhaps it will show up in some “Refusal to participate” statistic at some point, but again, without providing info on yourselves, I don’t see how they could make a “NJ refusing to participate” statistic, let alone “NJ refusing to participate because they are miffed about local voting rights”. There won’t be any data, unless these census workers have some after-visit form they fill out on their own to document such cases. I imagine there would be no check box on the form at all regarding NJ, except maybe “couldn’t speak Japanese” – because we all know, all gaijin issues stem from our own language troubles and cultural differences. Nothing else 😉

      I agree with above poster that if you want voting rights, you need some kind of action. Maybe a Boston Tea Party-like “No taxation without representation” protest.

      The only effect I see from micro-protest is the long-term one. Low level bureaucrat learns of NJ disappointments. 10-20 years later, if he/she becomes a high-level bureaucrat, NJ issues might factor in to some policy-making.

      Too slow. 10-20 years from now Japan is going to be different. At the present course, I don’t see how it can change for the better.

    16. Kimberly Says:

      It’s got nothing to do with NJ rights, but my husband has never filled out a census form despite the fact that he was living alone 5 years ago when the last one was passed around. I got one and filled it out incorrectly (I didn’t know that a roommate was not supposed to be considered a part of the same “household” at the time, so I filled in her info as my dependant) and my husband didn’t get one at all… because he was at work when the census people came? Because it was a tiny out-of-the-way apartment building that just got skipped? Because he didn’t write his name on the mailbox and they thought the place was empty? I don’t know. But there’s no way the census can be accurate anyway. Protesting probably doesn’t make a bit of difference. Between people who get missed, people who can’t read it, people who try but get it wrong, etc, there’s no way they’re getting an accurate count anyway. I’d say it’s better to fill out the information as well as you can for the purpose of, as Debito says, letting Japan know (at least somewhat) how diverse it really is.

    17. john k Says:

      Down side with not complying is that the “official” number of NJs ends up being low, thus more reasons for GOJ not to enforce or change any rules to help a very very small minority live in Japan, when it “could be” higher….how to know?

      Either way you look at it…no easy answer.

    18. Hanshin Says:

      “Stand up and be counted” is a typical census slogan. The census can discover the true state of NJ in Japanese society. To a certain degree I agree with it’s purpose. In an ideal world the information can provide an understanding what areas need to be addressed by the different levels of government here to meet the needs of the foreign population e.g. education, language education, multi-lingual services etc.

    19. Another John Says:

      True the census is relatively benign, but not complying doesn’t make sense. We are disenfranchised from the system vis-a-vis voting rights and that’s a biggie, granted. However, linking the census with voting rights is like the recent Chinese action of holding back rare earth materials because Japan was holding the captain of an out-of-bounds “fishing” trawler – it is an illogical connection. Holding back on the census lowers our numbers and, by extension, our visibility to the government. “Redballoon” talks about the Alien Registration cards; I disagree. Alien registrations and the number of cards therein issued may or may not be rolled up in all the other stuff that bubbles up; the census is a definite. The more of us who write in our nationalities, the more the central government will know we exist in no uncertain terms.
      It is perhaps an empty gesture, but in this case, I feel an empty gesture is better than none at all.

    20. Norik Says:

      Send it directly to the ministry or to some media, empty , of course. Thus the protest may actually be heard.
      I personally will fill it in, if I resolve the issue with the space for my name (my name is too long to fit in the limited space of the questionnaire). I’ll call them tomorrow and ask.

    21. Joe Says:

      I think that making our diversity known trumps having an awkward conversation with some low-paid census lady…

    22. Eido Inoue Says:

      The ironic thing is that those protesting the lack of non-Japanese suffrage rights by not paying their taxes will not be able to naturalize, which is currently the only way for a non-Japanese to obtain the right to vote in Japan.

      Additionally, not paying taxes is illegal, and would add credence to the argument made by anti-immigration groups that non-Japanese are a burden to society because they don’t do their duty.

      … not that it’s really realistic for most people in Japan to do this unless you get paid casually in cash from somebody’s wallet or work in some non-standard job or switch jobs often, as most legit businesses pre-deduct tax obligations from your pay.

      Anyway, I agree with the majority of the comments: intentionally not getting counted in the census as a form of protest accomplishes nothing except potentially hurting the non-Japanese community, as it makes them statistically invisible and thus makes it harder for government to address and understand their needs. Not smart.

    23. Graham Says:

      Denying the census will result in a fine of maximum 500,000 JPY. If you are willing to pay that price, go ahead and refuse.

      …Then again, nobody in the history of Japan has ever been charged for the supposed “crime” of not participating in the census (and there are those who have refused in the past, lots of ’em).

    24. Level3 Says:

      Just one more point. Doesn’t the whole family registry thing plus gaijin cards make the whole census pointless anyway?
      The government already has my personal information at least in 4 places; at the city tax office, at the ward office gaijin registry, at the ward office health insurance desk, and at the Immigration office. Maybe also with the people who run the pensions, if they didn’t lose it.

      Bits of info are probably all on file with even more ministries and agencies.

    25. Selena Says:

      I don7t think that protesting will do any good, on the contrary the number of foreigners would seem smaller making it even less possible for changes in the future.

      LOL at the census guy who came to my house. I asked him to give me the questionaire in my language and he said that there were no other languages. I told him that I saw it on the internet that they came in 27 languages. He went back to the city hall and came back with a paper explaining the procedure in 27 languages but not the questionaire. I insisted that they do have it and he came back 3 days later with the translated copy. Because the original Japanese one is too small to fill in, he gave me one with bigger letters. I presume that one is for people with eye problems.

    26. jon Says:

      @Eido Inoue
      you said “The ironic thing is that those protesting the lack of non-Japanese suffrage rights by not paying their taxes will not be able to naturalize, which is currently the only way for a non-Japanese to obtain the right to vote in Japan.”

      Maybe, as in other countries “we” foreigners” dont want to naturalize as we re only here temporarily, but we want a say in how our local tax is paid. You know, like they do in even South Korea.

      “Additionally, not paying taxes is illegal,”

      Really. I never knew that (sarcasm obvious). Ok, well lets all just buckle under and obey in the hope that the government will someday decide to deignfully grant us a vote.

      I guess the concept of Civil Disobedience or protest hasnt really entered your considerations of how to achieve change.

    27. Valentina Says:

      @ Jon:
      You don’t consider that not paying taxes will make you look like criminals and thus could easily be used as a reason for not grating you the right to vote.

    28. Andrew Says:

      I agree that not filling out the census is counterproductive and won’t be heard anyway.

      While it’s good that it’s available in 27 languages for those who really need it, I think it’s fine that they don’t try to provide it to you at first. I think it’s reasonable to expect that foreigners living in Japan, especially longer term residents, should be able to handle the Japanese. I would prefer they expect I can understand Japanese than assume I can’t. Too many people just assume I don’t understand Japanese, so don’t even try to speak. In my case the census worker had me fill out the form in Japanese and helped me check it over to make sure I did it correctly. I much prefer him doing that than just handing me a form in English.

    29. jon Says:


      “You don’t consider that not paying taxes will make you look like criminals and thus could easily be used as a reason for not grating you the right to vote.”

      err, I do consider it. I ve been considering this for many years. I dont agree it is as back and white as you suggest. As a matter of principle I pay the (now ridiculously high) city taxes late, very late and then claim as much back as I can. This is perfectly legal.

      Other than income tax, why pay the same as a Japanese for services you are not fully allowed access to? As a foreigner, I was not allowed to submit my tax returns online. City hall, who are happy to tax me at 10% of my yearly income, told me that to my face.

      Back in the 80s, “city tax” was a bit more “optional” because NJs were considered to be short term, and not staying more than a year. Local authorities were not so stringent on collecting it on people who’d already moved to a different city.And it was low if you lived in a crappy area. Ditto the health insurance, which had nothing to do with getting a visa in those days-that is ludicrous and is just a way to get more money from people who cannot object-foreigners.Why can’t they object? Because they dont have a vote or any representation!

      The “unspoken agreement” in those carefree days was “Ok, I m/you are a gaijin and just passing through. I/you dont have many rights or a stake in this place, but I/you dont pay full taxes either.”

      Now its 10% if you live in the slums of Sanya of the glamor of Ginza, and even if you leave Japan forever they ll still pursue you for it!

      My point is, if taxation of foreigners is going to be rationalized and codified, it should be rational and fair. Not all take and no give.

      No (city) taxation without representation.

      Oh, and paying taxes for 20 years hasnt won me a vote. Time to make a stand. Then they ‘ll notice.

    30. Valentina Says:

      @ Jon:
      now I understand your point better and I tend to agree. What you basically propose is to evade and/or claim back only the taxes you consider unfair towards foreigners, right? I supposed (probably out of habit) that you were talking about something more “extreme”, like evading taxes as much as possible (or even totally, if you can), which could be used to make you pass for criminals or a burden much more easily.

      On topic: I think that not filling out the census is useless. It’s a form of protest no one would notice and the number of NJ would only look smaller, making changes even more difficult.

    31. Brian Says:

      There is a useful write-up on the census in English at

      which explains that a copy of the form in any of the 27 languages will be delivered by requesting it from the census taker, and also that the information provided is kept confidential and not used for any otehr government purposes.

    32. jonholmes Says:

      What I ve resented about this census (“Census resent?”) is how the local government has deputized busybodies in my local apartment building to ring the doorbell of everyone they havent directly spoken to, first thing in the morning, every frickin day including Sundays when I m having a lie-in, until we answer him.I know it was him everytime as my doorbell was set to “answerphone” mode. I couldnt believe the arrogance of this guy, he said words to the effect of “I d appreciate it if you could fill it in for me by the 30th of September”

      No way, go freak yourself. The deadline is the 7th, and who are you? You re just the guy who lives in the floor above me.

      So finally what I did was I posted the census, then I went upstairs to his apartment and returned his note, with the option that I could post it to city hall heavily circled, and the option of returning it to his apartment crossed out in red.

      Now I m going to the building office to say that as I posted the census to the government, could you please call off the guy from aprt #1206 from coming round every morning and leaving the same message.

      Anyone here had a similar experience?

      Reminds me of when they had the G8 in Hokkaido and deputized thousands of local ojisan volunteers to stand on every street corner…in Tokyo.

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