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  • Fingerprinting: Anger in the Blogosphere

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on November 23rd, 2007

    Hi Blog. Lots to do this weekend in Tokyo at JALT, so I’ll be brief:

    In all my twenty years of Japan, I’ve never seen the NJ communities so angry.

    Not during the “gaijin all have AIDS” scare of 1986, the Otaru Onsens Case of 1999, the Ishihara anti-gaijin anti-crime “Sangokujin Speech” media campaigns of 2000, the “anti-hooligan” scare before and during World Cup 2002, the Al-Qaeda scare of 2005, or the “foreign crime is rising” National Police Agency media campaigns every six months. This time, there’s a very “faith no more” element to it all.

    I am receiving links to angry diatribes on the Fingerprint policy in the Blogosphere. Two that leave a lasting impression:

    Running Gaijin Card Checks

    Oppose Japan’s bid for The Olympics

    If you know of any more, please send links to the comments section below. Angry, humorous, ironic, and/or poignant is fine, racist is not, so exercise discretion.

    The point is, how else are NJ going to express their anger when they are this disenfranchised in Japanese society? Where the media machines for manufacturing consent will ultimately pit the entire Japanese society against the “gaijin”–through completely unfounded assertions of criminality, terrorism, and allegedly effective preventative measures which single people out for discrimination by race, nationality, and national origin.

    How else? The Blogosphere. Vent away.

    How things work over here to create “Team Japan vs. The World” has never come out as clearly as now. Arudou Debito in Tokyo

    29 Responses to “Fingerprinting: Anger in the Blogosphere”

    1. 害人 Says:

      出人 様
      But, boycotting Japan is probably the only possible thing we can do.
      Do not come here to participate in sports or cultural events or scientific meetings.
      I am a professor not a criminal, I am an athlete not a criminal and so on.
      And do not accept japanese persons as researchers, teachers etc. abroad. Just say , we do not want a racist in OUR country.
      Isolate them, that is what they want anyway.
      This is a 21 century fascism, leading to a well known end point.

    2. ponta Says:

      There is nothing wrong with opposing the fingerprinting. It helps Japanese government to improve the system.
      And there is nothing with opposing the bid for Olympics. I myself am against it.
      But do you support the second site?
      “Japan is now a fascist Police State”

      I don’t like Ishihara’s speech on gaikokujin , but

      “He’s the head of the committee for Tokyo’s 2016 Olympic bid.

      And his personal friends:
      (the photo of a black van of the extreme rightist)

      These are the militant right-wing folks who want to return to the glorious days of the Japanese Imperial Army. You know, the ones who invaded most of Asia, killing, raping and enslaving.”

      Did you confirm the fact?

      “Japan is the sick man of Asia now.”

      Don’t you think it is hate-speech?

      I can pick up many other statements that is hard to confirm.

      Is this the way you promote the opposition to the fingerprinting?


    3. vegetablej Says:

      Scarily, I found myself nodding my head to most of the items on the “alphabet of abominations” in Japan on the second link.

      It bears repeating that the previous head of the Military is now under investigation for scandal, a pretty big irony considering the Ministry of Justice’s big concern about FOREIGN CRIME. Shift the focus tactics?

    4. Hoshisato Says:

      As for the Olympic bid, note that there is a comment form on the Tokyo 2016 webpage:
      I left my objection about the bid being spearheaded by Shintaro Ishihara, the man stands for everything the Olympic games tries to oppose.

    5. Ken Y-N Says:

      Debito, I find that nofj16 link offensive, and it features a good number of obvious lies and many distortions. I’ll list a few:

      The Ishihara quote – that’s a new quote to me, so I’d like to see evidence of it.

      A – millions?
      C – 30 times weighted by land area, not an absolute value
      F – Half the Japanese population climb Fuji san every year?
      G – 7% of those in jail are foreigners
      H – 55% of the population over 65?
      S – These numbers are made up

      The rest is a message of hate, and I’m disappointed that you have chosen to highlight such stuff.

    6. Thomas Says:

      Informing and thinking about biometric controls at entry gatepoints un Japan:

    7. Jerome Besson Says:

      I remember a tale of solidarity and courage from WWII. In German-occupied Denmark, king Christian X, who used to ride his horse unattended through the streets of Copenhagen, took to displaying that infamous yellow star on his sleeve and his subjects followed suit. Although this is assigned to legend, the fact remains that the solidarity the Danes displayed toward their Jews prevented the Nazis from carrying out their racial policy in Denmark. The Jewish community of Denmark spent the war in relative safety.

      I would like to suggest the following as a form of peaceful resistance:
      1) foreigners in Japan would display an enlarged copy of their finger print on their breast pocket or the rear window of their car in protest.
      2) like-minded Japanese would follow in silent solidarity.
      3) the movement gaining ground would set a new trend whereby gift shops in Harajuku and Shimo-Kitazawa would devise pins that could allow one to display ones finger-print.

      When I last left Narita five years back, immigration sent me away with a nice memento – a “52-4” logo stamped on my passport. I’ll leave it to the initiated to appreciate. I had lived peacefully there for sixteen-years and ever since then have lived estranged from my two kids.

      Shame the dorks and have fun!!

    8. A Says:

      Those of you that are offended at Debito’s reference to that website are missing the point entirely. It’s not whether Debito\I\You agree with the contents of the website or not. The reference is to illustrate the reaction that Japan’s blatant xenephobia is generating. The contents of the website may, or may not be, entirely accurate but the fact that such websites are being created is completely relevant to the topic at hand.

      Even if the website is exaggerated, what do you expect? You can only poke a dog with a stick for so long before it turns around and bites you. However, once the dog is biting you, you don’t get a say in how hard it does it.

      Japan is long overdue for a bite from its foreign community, it has poked for a long time, and much the same as the biting dog, I doubt that there will be much consideration for fairness and equality in the foreign community’s reaction.

      For better or worse, expect such sites and sentiments as the referenced link to increase as Japan continues to label, and treat, the entirety of its foreign population as criminals-in-the-wait.

    9. ponta Says:


      I don’t understand.
      Do you fall into the victim complex all over again when you claim the accusations for gaijin is unfounded?
      And do you think the statement that gaijin is sick falls into one of the category “Angry, humorous, ironic, and/or poignant”but not racist and that it is justified for the Japanese to express the anger in that way for the unfounded accusation?
      Is such unfounded accusations good to let gaijin empathize with the Japanese for a change?


    10. meatleg Says:

      The point is, how else are NJ going to express their anger when they are this disenfranchised in Japanese society?
      Debito, has anyone published our oppositions to this clearly in any major publications, in JAPANESE? we can bitch in English all we want, I doubt it will have as much effect as an argument in Japanese would. It will be a few weeks before I can come up in something personally, but I will be submitting my own to some publications ASAP. I was just wondering if you had published anything yet in Japanese or if you knew of anyone that had published anything in Japanese (that is on OUR side I mean of course…).

    11. John Says:

      More potential anti-Japanese xenophobia is brewing abroad because of… whaling. A UK marine research company that manages aquariums across Europe is giving free entry to any kid bearing a message to Santa asking him not to bring anything made in Japan.

      Meanwhile, I haven’t spotted much criticism of Japan’s fingerprinting from international organisations. But whaling is an easier, emotive target for activists, I suppose.

    12. Charles Says:

      This is such an outrage! I am so over the top-boiling mad about this!! I have lived here for about 9 years and I feel that in a sense, I have accomplished nothing. All the work and effort in paying taxes, taking care of my family, not to mention overworking myself half to death and for what? to be treated as if I`m about to march off the Auschwitz?
      While I do have some issues with nofj16(especially, the part where he compares the US immigration policy to Japanese policy)but that is for an entirely other debate, but the point is indeed hard-hitting.
      Debito is right, don`t fall into the victim complex category. I would say in Japan, most of the NJ population are law-abiding citizens, you might have about 5~10% that could be considered not right or shady, no one is perfect, it`s case by case, but this is going way too far. I have never seen anything like this in my life and it just seems to get worse.
      What`s next? Will our personal businesses be confiscated? Will we be denied ALL medical care, food…and on and on and on….
      Yes, I believe all sane foreigners living in Japan should all unite and hold peaceful rallies, protests, call in the the media CNN or BBC, tell Amnesty international and other human rights groups that want to take up and join us in this fight of suppression and to shed some much needed light on this outrageous issue, because the sad fact is; it can only get worse. Debito-once again, thank you so much for being the one that always fights the good fight and for being the voice for all of us that just want a fair shake in this misguided country.

    13. Glenn Says:

      Well, I understand the point is to highlight the backlash from the fingerprinting, but you can count me as one foreigner who is pretty uncomfortable with the site in question. I don’t think the antidote to discrimination and intolerance is to hit back with more intolerance and nasty hyperbole. Quite the contrary. Someone on yet another site wrote to the effect that we should maintain our dignity even as they try to take it from is, and I agree with that.

      Whoever put that anti-Japan site together has an agenda beyond this one issue. Sure there are some things there that are true, but also plenty of exaggeration. You could make such an “A to Z” list of all the negative aspects of any country. I would prefer to focus on this one issue, and trying in reasonable and positive ways to promote change. That’s the best hope of being listened to and taken seriously, in my opinion.


    14. Andrew Smallacombe Says:

      I’d hazzard a guess that one reason for the anger at the finger printing policy is exactly that – it’s a policy, now written into the law books, and it’s a regressive step. Decades of work to eliminate a law many people found offensive, and it gets reinstated through the back door in an even nastier form just a few years later.
      “What, that card you make me carry on my person every time I step out of my door is not good enough proof to you that I’m not a terrorist/ illegal immigrant/ wanted crimminal??”
      AIDS proved that being Japanese was no immunity; Ishihara is just an individual (albeit, a very powerful and influential one) with enough enemies and stupidity to make sure not everyone will take him seriously, plus he’s going to die someday (heh, heh, comforting thought…); Gaijin Hanzai proved that voting with our wallets and making the general public aware could make a difference. But this is a different beast.

    15. Thomas Says:

      The “alphabet of abominations” in the 2nd link is probably the worst way to protest against fingerprint policy. This is just hate. We can make that kind of list for everyone, every country, this is just anger, no serious thought.

    16. Macg Says:

      I’ve pointed here before:

      If you want irony this is it. Very funny, and often spot on.

    17. Tony Says:

      I heard yesterday from a friend whose company employs a number of foreigners who regularly enter and leave Japan. He contacted a friend in the Foreign Ministry to ask if the situation regarding re-entry permit holders was likely to change in future and the Ministry guy said this was very unlikely, because the long-term plan is to also eventually fingerprint/photograph Japanese entering the country! If this was to happen, I wonder if that is correct and, if it is, how much opposition there would be to it? Of course it doesn’t make a lot of sense, because a huge number of Japanese never leave the country in the first place, but I guess there wouldn’t be too much opposition to it, and that would then justify the authorities fingerprinting foreigners.

      Since voluntary pre-registration is even now available to Japanese, it is perhaps not so far-fetched? Anyone else know anything about this?

    18. debito Says:


      Regarding fingerprinting, there is lengthy forum discussion on

      Here is the link

      For up-to-date traveller experiences, I suggest interested people go to the last page first and then work backwards in time.

    19. John Says:

      I think that the U.S. has similar plans to collect biometric data on all Americans passing through airports. If Japanese people are also required to provide this data, it would equalize things a bit, but wouldn’t remove the central problem of collecting such data to begin with. The notion that it will reduce the threat of terrorism is unproven at best. Every new layer of personal data collected by authorities creates more potential for abuse or misuse of it. A cursory glance at the recent record of the U.S. and its “War on Terror” and the multiple incidents of due process violations is instructive. You might believe the Japanese government would never, ever misuse the data it collects from you and you might be right. And the easter bunny might be real too.

    20. String Says:

      I think we really need to blog this issue and other issues of abuse to death.

      I had a bit of spare time and added my opinion to the the topic to a new blog.

      I would be very interested in any future rallies planned if they exist, in particular in the Kansai area.
      I would have gladly gone to the Tokyo rally if I had seen it on my radar.
      I really think I myself as a 20 permanent resident have got to get more involved in the fight against this type of abuse.

      link to the blog

    21. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      Jerome, I’ll bite. What does “52-4” mean?

    22. Adam Says:

      They will need foreigners (“outsiders”) sooner or later. See this article from BBC News. This is not related to fingerprints but labor shortage and aging society. Read carefully what interviewers says.
      “not enough people to repair houses, not enough carpenters etc.

      Japan’s quake victims left waiting
      By Chris Hogg
      BBC News, Tokyo

      Four months have passed since the Japanese coastal city of Kashiwazaki was hit by an 6.8-magnitude earthquake.

      The tremor damaged more than 80% of the homes and caused damage to the nearby nuclear plant which led to its shut down.

      The quake made headlines around the world because of the fire at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant and a leak of radioactive material into the sea.

      But for the local people, many of whom rely on the plant for their livelihoods, the aftermath of the quake is still causing serious disruption.

      Isami Fujita is 78. He is living in temporary housing with his wife and his mother who is bedridden.

      Japan is an ageing society, there are fewer and fewer of those workers – not enough to fix all the houses
      Isami Fujita
      The prefabricated metal hut is part of a long line of huts erected on what looks like a car-park.

      The people who live there have done their best to make the huts as homely as possible.

      There are pot plants outside the front doors next to huge gas cylinders that provide the power they need to keep themselves warm.

      Cold weather

      There is real concern here about what it is going to be like when winter comes. The first snow in this mountainous region is likely to fall at the end of the month.

      Mr Fujita slides open the front door of his unit and shows me inside.

      “There’s a kitchen and you can see a washing machine there,” he says.

      “You turn left and there’s a bathroom with a toilet, but there are no windows – it’s very dark. It’s so tiny and I always bang my head walking into the room.

      “It’s difficult for the two of us to sleep in that small room with all our belongings around us. You can’t even stretch out your legs in the bath tub.”

      We get in a car and drive for about 10 minutes to see his old house, along roads that are still cracked and buckled in some places by the earthquake this summer.

      His old house is too dangerous to live in. He tells me that on the day of the earthquake the shaking was so severe that the lamp swinging against the ceiling made a hole in it.

      There is a mechanical digger working on a plot nearby but Mr Fujita is still waiting for rebuilding to begin. The insurance does not cover the whole price.

      Lack of builders

      Although there is limited support available from the local council, the family has had to make up the difference from their savings.

      Most of those living in the temporary housing are elderly. It’s going to be very hard for them to rebuild their lives
      Hiroshi Aida
      Mayor of Kashiwazaki
      Banks are unwilling to lend to pensioners, but a lack of funds is not the only factor that has held up the rebuilding.

      “We don’t have enough carpenters in the region,” he explains.

      “We don’t have enough people to work on the roof. Japan is an ageing society, there are fewer and fewer of those workers – not enough to fix all the houses.”

      Hiroshi Aida, the mayor of Kashiwazaki, says they are still trying to finalise a comprehensive plan to rebuild his city and repair all the damage.

      “In terms of recovery I think it’s going to take at least three years,” he says. “It could take even longer.”

      “What concerns me is that we have a lot of elderly people here and lots of them were living in old wooden houses that were destroyed.

      “As a group they suffered the most. Most of those living in the temporary housing are elderly. It’s going to be very hard for them to rebuild their lives.”

      Cities like Kashiwazaki do get financial aid from the central government to help them rebuild the facilities damaged by earthquakes, but it does not begin to cover the cost.

      Shops closed

      Yukio Fujinawa, an earthquake expert, says Japan needs to spend more money on measures to reduce the impact of earthquakes.

      “If you have no limits for funds you can put in place counter-measures that would offer significantly greater levels of protection.

      “The reality is though we have limited funds, so there is a balance between what we can do to try to protect people and what damage the earthquake does.”

      Japan is a rich country but the bureaucracy moves slowly here. That does not help.

      But as you drive around Kashiwazaki – where many shops are still shuttered and at night there are few people in the bars or on the streets – you can see that the quake this summer is still having an effect on the city.

      Our taxi driver tells us that business is down, people just do not go out.

      A woman who runs a bar explains that some of those whose houses or businesses were not so badly affected do not want to be seen out and about enjoying themselves when others are still suffering.

      Like so many other residents here, Isami Fujita knows he will have to spend the winter in his prefabricated hut and probably many more months after that.

      “There’s really nothing we can do to speed up the process,” he says. “But I really would like to move back home as soon as I can.”

      Story from BBC NEWS:

      Published: 2007/11/26 00:27:00 GMT

    23. elena Says:

      Re the BBC news – they say “Japan is a rich coutry”, and I feel that this assumption is a widespread un-truth, it would be interesting to try to trace how the whole world was made to beleive this. My Japanese husband is working in the field of public finance and he says that nobody can even imagine how deep in debt the vast majority of local communities are, and they only need a “shake-up” of a sort that was given to South Korea by IMF fund several years ago to realise the true meaning of “rich” or “poor”, everything is borrowed! THe local communities are on the verge of bancrupcy – and some already start to announce it like Yubari-cho in Hokkaido, and all those tragedies related to “shohisha kinyu” (consumer loan) loans sharks , that is loans which are basically impossible to repay and the loan sharks hassling the people up to the point of suicide, because all their loans get the life-insurance provision with them and if the person dies the loan shark gets the insurance – just what they need, they could not care less about someone’s life, could they?

      Every time I read a foreign official saying that Japan is a rich country I wonder what he wants to get from Japan with this flattery that is so powerful that it never fails to move the officials that they address – but it’s a myth! And of course, they will not be ever able to survive without foreigners, the point is they – the people in certain government circles – seem to choose a sort of “country-scale” suicide instead of opening to the world, I always wondered why are they so deeply “autistic”, maybe it’s related to eating too much mercury poisoned sea food – see the articles on DOlphin meat, and mercury poisoning has been related to autism…

      And of course “they” – these government circles – do not represent the whole of Japanese people, although they seem to believe they do!

    24. nofj16 Says:

      This page is aimed at holding up a mirror to Japan, so they can see what I see, and what many people overseas see when they look at this country. For almost eighteen years I have worked two or three jobs, paid my taxes, and followed the rules in Japan. I’ve been subjected to all manner of racist, discriminatory and exclusionary behavior. I mind my own business, just plod along and avoid any trouble as best I can. Now they are going to violate my person, my dignity and my honor for the sake of a lie. Rather than being Japanese and taking a knife to a crowded location, I have decided to pour out a bit of my frustration in print and photos. If readers are offended, too bad. I have not said anything untrue, as far as I know. Germany has repented its past. It’s not too much to ask Japan to do the same if it wants to be treated as a bona-fide member of the international community. They don’t “get” nuance, so I have to be very blunt and direct. Preventing the summer Olympics going to the likes of Ishihara is something I will make my life’s goal if necessary. If they are going to treat me like a criminal, insisting on fingerprints and a photo, then there is a price they’ll have to pay. Loud, peaceful protest.

    25. arai akemi Says:

      I have been a quiet Japanese for 60 years.
      But the site made me very angry, because it is not a protest but seems to be pure hate.



    26. arai akemi Says:

      So, you mean the site is parallel to 2-channel. I understand.


    27. nofj16 Says:

      Let me reiterate to Arai Akemi: This page is aimed at holding up a mirror to Japan so they can see what I see, and what many people overseas see when they look at this country. For almost eighteen years I have worked two and three jobs, paid my taxes, and followed the rules in Japan to the letter. I’ve been subjected to all manner of racist, discriminatory and exclusionary behavior. I mind my own business, just plod along and avoid any trouble as best I can. My wife has been spat at, had stones thrown at her and been asked ,”Couldn’t you find a Japanese husband?” Now they are going to violate my person, my dignity and my honor for the sake of yet another lie. Rather than being Japanese and taking a knife to a crowded location for a slash-fest, I have decided to pour out a bit of my frustration in print and photos. If any readers are offended, that’s just too bad. Get over it! I owe these J-Klan type supremacists nothing. I have not said anything untrue. Germany has repented its past. It’s not too much to ask Japan to do the same if it wants to be treated as a bona-fide member of the international community. They don’t get nuance in Japan, so I’m going to be very blunt and direct, and unapologetically so. Preventing the summer Olympics going to the likes of Ishihara is something I will make my life’s goal if necessary. If they are going to treat me like a criminal, insisting on fingerprints and a photo, then there is a price to pay. Loud, peaceful protest. It goes without saying that I am most definitely not a member of “The Chrysanthemum Club.”

      I CERTAINLY didn’t come to Japan to hate anyone. But your country-wo/men chose to hate me. Instead of being a violent, murderous Japanese, I choose to express my frustration in a peaceful, non-violent manner. Look in the mirror of your country/society and see the raw hate that I see every day. I DARE you! And then DARE to tell me that I am hateful? My Nikon camera doesn’t lie!

    28. nofj16 Says:

      HUH! again,
      Arai Akemi Sama, just look at where the people who are reading this page are located…..around the globe!

      With the greatest of respect, might I suggest that Japans’ “secret” is out?

      I am but one voice.

    29. TJJ Says:


      I think you have to understand the frustration that law-abiding foreigners are feeling right now.

      We didn’t start this. The Japanese government started this by treating us like criminals without any good reason for doing so. Many of us are worried that Japan is slipping back into a period of oppression against non-Japanese, and we don’t want to see that happening again, and will do what we can, without violence, to prevent it.

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