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  • Manitoban: NJ FP etc. “The Land of the Rising Shun”

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on December 3rd, 2007

    Hi Blog. An article in The Manitoban (Canada) using lots of information from Debito.org, dispersing what’s been going on in Japan vis-a-vis NJ in Japan legally, socially, and logistically over the past 50 years throughout the Canadian steppes. Mottainai. Best to also put it on Debito.org for a wider audience.

    Article courtesy of the author, thanks. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    ===============================
    THE LAND OF THE RISING SHUN
    THE MANITOBAN (Canada), November 14, 2007
    By Trevor Bekolay
    http://www.themanitoban.com/2007-2008/1114/127.The.Land.of.the.Rising.Shun.php

    If you or anyone you know is planning to go to Japan, be advised that beginning Nov. 20, all non-Japanese people will be fingerprinted and photographed upon entering Japan.

    Unlike other fingerprinting laws, such as the U.S.’s, Japan requires permanent residents (the equivalent of Green Card holders in the U.S.) to be fingerprinted and photographed every time they re-enter the country. Those fingerprints and photographs are kept on file for 70 years and can be made available to the police and other government agencies.

    While one could argue that permanent residents should just apply for Japanese citizenship, obtaining citizenship is a long and arduous process, which requires residents to give up their current citizenship. Unless you are willing to make those sacrifices, you are a foreigner, and you must give up your biometric information every time you cross the Japanese border.

    History of the fingerprinting law

    This Japanese fingerprinting law is an updated version of a fingerprinting program implemented in 1952, after the American occupation of Japan following the Second World War. The original fingerprinting law met with firm opposition from foreign residents in Japan, especially the Zainichi. The Zainichi are ethnic Korean and Chinese people born and raised in Japan. Despite living most or all of their lives in Japan, and despite 90 per cent of Zainichi adopting Japanese names, the Zainichi must go through the same application process as other foreign residents to obtain citizenship.

    The 1952 law was opposed on the grounds that it was an official expression of mistrust for all things foreign. It was an unnecessary humiliation and alienation of residents who had lived their whole lives alongside their Japanese peers — Zainichi children were often not aware that they were of a different ethnic background than their schoolmates until they were contacted at their school to have their fingerprints taken. Further, it associated all non-Japanese people with crime. By law, a Japanese person may only be fingerprinted if officially charged with a crime.

    Eventually, people started refusing to submit to fingerprinting; first the Zainichi, then other foreign residents. Since this refusal meant jail for some, the number of legal battles skyrocketed — enough so that overseas media like Time Magazine and the New York Times picked up the story. In 1989, under heavy pressure, the government of Japan granted general amnesty, and by 1998 the law was completely abolished.

    After the dust had settled, Immigration Bureau officials said that “the fingerprinting system appears to be ineffective in stopping or reducing the growing number of illegal immigrants and visa overstays in Japan.” The Ministry of Justice noted that “the practice could be construed as a violation of human rights.” Then why is this law being reinstated?

    Fears of terrorism and foreign crime

    Japan’s Ministry of Justice explains the motivation for reinstating the fingerprinting law: “By collecting personally identifying data, such as fingerprints and facial photos of visitors to Japan, we will be able to identify persons considered to pose security risks, such as terrorists, and persons travelling with passports that are not their own. This will help us prevent terrorist attacks.”

    If Japan wishes to fight terrorism, then history tells us that it is the Japanese population that should be policed. The Sarin gas attack that took place on the Tokyo subway in 1995 was perpetrated by members of the Japanese religious group Aum Shinrikyo. In the 1970s, two Japan Airlines flights were hijacked by a terrorist group called the Japanese Red Army. There have been no terrorist attacks in Japan by non-Japanese in recent history.

    The public support for the fingerprinting law could also be attributed to a fear of foreign crime among the Japanese. Since 2000, the National Police Agency (NPA) has been releasing updates on foreign crime every six months with detailed press releases. The media has been quick to report on these releases, and further support this with unbalanced reporting of foreign crime compared to Japanese crime. One study found that crimes by foreigners were 4.87 times more likely to be covered than crimes by Japanese. Even more frustrating is the way the NPA twists the statistics.

    The semi-annual press releases note increases in foreign crime without a comparison to the state of Japanese crime. The increases in foreign crime do not take into account the increase in the foreign population; while the Japanese population has remained relatively static, the foreign population has been growing steadily over the past decade. Foreign crime is inflated by including visa overstays (a crime that a Japanese person cannot commit) with harder crimes. When proper statistical practices are used, foreign crime is rising in proportion to the rate of population increase, while Japanese crime has doubled within the past 10 years.

    It is interesting to note that in 1999, before the first press release detailing foreign crime statistics, the NPA established the “Policy-making Committee Against Internationalization.” Would such a committee receive taxpayer money if foreign crime was on the decline?

    If fears of terrorism and foreign crime are unfounded, then what is the main issue that surrounds the fingerprinting debate? It’s the same issue that has been the subject of many recent legal battles: racism and xenophobia.

    Racism and xenophobia

    By most accounts, since the Second World War, Japan has a good international record as a modern industrialized nation. Japan has the third largest economy in the world, manufacturing and designing goods for a worldwide market. Despite claims of homogeneity, Japan is home to over 2.5 million residents of non-Japanese ethnic backgrounds. Japan is a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Yet walking through Tokyo, you can find buildings with “Japanese only” signs posted on the front door. “Japanese only” signs have been found at bathhouses, bars, stores, hotels, restaurants, karaoke parlors, and pachinko parlors. How is this legal?

    The unfortunate answer is that Japan has no law against racial discrimination. It is unconstitutional — article 14 of the Japanese Constitution states that there shall be no discrimination on the basis of race. Further, Japan signed and ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 1996. So, in theory, racial discrimination should not be tolerated; in practice, the lack of a law forbidding racial discrimination allows discriminatory behaviour, such as the “Japanese only” signs, to continue.

    And these signs are unarguably discriminating on the basis of race. Social activist Arudou Debito became a naturalized citizen in 2000, after being denied entrance to a public hot springs in Hokkaido. Upon returning to the establishment a Japanese citizen, he was still refused entry to avoid confusion from the other customers. He sued the owner of the hot springs for racial discrimination and was met with moderate success. While he won some judgments, he lost an important decision when his appeal to the Supreme Court was dismissed for “not involving any constitutional issues.” The story of the incident at the hot springs and the ensuing legal battle is chronicled in his book Japanese Only.

    Debito is not the only person to take these matters to the courtroom. In 1997, Brazilian Ana Bortz was asked by a jewelry store’s owner to leave his store, which had a strict no-foreigners policy. The store owner accused Bortz of planning a robbery. Bortz sued the store owner for violating her human rights, using the security camera footage as evidence. The judge ruled in Bortz’s favour, sentencing the store owner to pay 1,500,000 yen (approximately C$12,300) in damages and legal fees. The judge cited two articles of the UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, setting a good legal precedent for future discrimination cases.

    Or did it? In 2004, Steven McGowan, a 41-year-old black man residing in Kyoto, was refused entry to an eyeglasses store in Osaka. Steve claims that the store owner said, “Go away. I hate black people.” Steve lost his case in a lower court because the judge did not believe that Steve’s Japanese language ability was good enough to accurately determine what the store owner said. Even after further investigation by McGowan’s Japanese spouse, the judge was not convinced that Steve was discriminated against because of his race, rather than his foreign status (the Japanese words for black person and foreigner are very similar). McGowan appealed to a higher court and was awarded 350,000 yen in damages; yet even at the high court, the judge remarked that the store owner’s remarks were “not enough to be considered racially discriminatory.” These decisions set the dangerous precedent that testimony by non-Japanese cannot be trusted if they are not completely fluent in Japanese. It also demonstrates the power one judge can have in Japan’s juryless court system.

    A plea to Japan

    In discussing these issues, it may seem that I have some disdain for Japanese culture. This can’t be farther from the truth — it is my fascination with and interest in Japanese culture that compels me to bring these issues to the forefront. It is only through open dialogue that conditions will improve for both Japanese and non-Japanese residents.

    If Japan does not change its immigration policies, and birth rates continue at the current rate, Japan’s population will plummet from today’s 127 million to 100 million in 2050. It will become very difficult to maintain economic strength with such a reduced work force. Immigration is the easiest and most sustainable answer to Japan’s population crisis.

    With increased immigration, there will have to be widespread changes in media and education. Though this seems prohibitively difficult at the moment, Japan’s rapid industrialization is proof that it is possible. By working together with its new generation of international citizens, I foresee Japan having a modernization of culture that will rival its rise to economic greatness.
    —————————-

    Trevor Bekolay studied Japanese language, history and culture at Tokyo’s Kokugakuin University in 2005.
    ENDS

    9 Responses to “Manitoban: NJ FP etc. “The Land of the Rising Shun””

    1. Philip Martin Says:

      Very finely done piece, except for the final paragraph, which makes the unpersuasive insinuation that because Japan industrialized rapidly, it can also overcome xenophobic “media and education.” The problem with this insinuation is two-fold: it omits the author’s own explanation that the problem with Japan’s relations to non-Japanese is also both legal and political in nature. Furthermore, it presents an argument that is akin to claiming that because a man can fish, he can certainly tap dance, too. This begs the question: What is the relation between “rapid industrialization” and the need in Japan’s legal and political circles, not to mention its “culture,” for a currently lacking systematic respect for human rights? Finally, the dangling modifier of the final sentence unwittingly (I presume) grants the author a very powerful role in the presumptuously forecast “modernization” of Japanese culture. It is nice to imagine that he will personally work “together with (Japan’s) new generation of international citizens,” but can he be so optimistic that his efforts will transform the nation’s “culture”?

    2. HO Says:

      I think he misses the real motive of Japan’s implementation of fingerprinting for foreigners.
      The real motive is diplomatic pressure from the US, which goes something like “Japan, if you don’t implement Japan-VISIT similar to the US-VISIT, we will suspend the VISA waver program for the Japanese.”
      When the fingerprinting law was reviewed at the Japanese Diet, LDP, which is prone to US pressure, and Komeito Party vote for the law, whereas Democratic Party of Japan, Communist Party and Democratic Socialist Party voted against it. Votes in the Upper House were 131 Yeas and 94 Nays.
      When President Bush goes out of his office and US State Department stops the diplomatic pressure, LDP will change its policy and abolish cost ineffective Japan-VISIT.
      If you really want to abolish Japan-VISIT, start by writing to the US State Department and ask them to protect US citizens from the atrocity of Japanese Government. Then you see what they think, and who the mastermind is.

      –WE NEED MORE EVIDENCE TO BACK UP THESE CLAIMS. JUST SAYING THAT THE LDP HAS A HISTORY OF BOWING UNDER USG PRESSURE (WHICH IT DOES) DOESN’T MEAN THAT THERE WAS A TRADE-OFF BETWEEN US-VISIT AND VISA WAVER. IT DOESN’T NECESSARILY FOLLOW–WHY WOULD JAPAN BE THE FIRST TO KNUCKLE UNDER ANYWAY WHEN UNDER THIS LOGIC, THE US WOULD PUT PRESSURE ON ALL ITS ALLIES THUSLY? AND I DOUBT THE PROGRAM WILL BE SO EASILY REVERSED WHEN PLENTY OF PEOPLE ARE PROFITING FROM IT (AND NOBODY WITH ANY REAL POLITICAL POWER IS HURTING FROM IT… YET).

      JUST CITING SOME CONSPIRACY THEORY (I KNOW–I’VE DONE THE SAME PLENTY OF TIMES) AND TELLING US TO START BY PUTTING PRESSURE ON THE USG IS YET ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF HOW SOME PEOPLE DON’T WANT JAPAN TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR ITS OWN ACTIONS. THAT’S OFF-TARGET, IN MY VIEW. DEBITO

    3. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      While I’m sure that the US does want other countries to implement fingerprint checking at the borders, let’s not pretend that this isn’t something that Japan hadn’t been doing in another form until just a few years ago.

      Also keep in mind that if Japan were really imitating the US, the mandatory carrying of Alien Registration Cards on one’s person and the arbitrary stop-and-interrogate sessions that the NPA love to impose on us would be abolished.

      http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cgi-bin/getcase.pl?friend=nytimes&court=us&vol=461&invol=352

      This is classic Japanese government behavior: blame ‘gaiatsu’ when possible while simultaneously ignoring their own faults.

    4. HO Says:

      OK. Evidence.
      These are links to the 2005 annual report of Immigration Bureau of Japan. First one in Japanese, the other in English.
      http://www.moj.go.jp/NYUKAN/nyukan45.html
      http://www.moj.go.jp/NYUKAN/nyukan46.html
      They are almost word by word translation, except one paragraph on page 113 of Japanese version which is missing from the corresponding page 103 of English version. It begins with

      なお,米国は平成16年10月26日以降に発給される旅券にバイオメトリクスを導入する計画のない国については,その国の国民の入国に際して査証免除しないことを明らかにしていたが

      What do you think?

      You already know this document by the USDHS which describes “diplomatic efforts” by the State Department.
      http://www.dhs.gov/xnews/releases/press_release_0838.shtm

      I hope some US citizens will write to the State Department.

    5. Paul Says:

      The following is a bill recently passed overwhelmingly in the United States House of Representatives. The description of the bill is on the link below:

      S. 1959: Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007

      http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=s110-1959

      My question is will the Japanese government, which claims that the fingerprinting of foreigners is just following the model of the US, also pass something like this which would affect Japanese citizens?

      Some of the criticisms of the bill are as follows:

      Language in the act partially defines “homegrown terrorism”
      as “planning” or “threatening” to use force to promote a political objective, meaning that just thinking about doing something could be enough to merit being labeled a terrorist. (i.e. thought-police)

      The act also describes “violent radicalization” as the promotion of an “extremist belief system” without attempting to define “extremist.”
      Note Section 899A Homegrown Terrorism where it becomes a crime “to intimidate or coerce the US government, the civilian population or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objective”.
      And Section 899B Paragraph 3 – The internet is a tool of terror!

    6. HO Says:

      Amazing. So, any political or social movement that uses any kind of “force” to intimidate a part of US citizens is “Homegrown Terrorism” in the US. Anti-abortion movement will surely qualify as Homegrown Terrorism. Death of a free nation.
      I do not see anything similar in Japan yet.

    7. Netko Says:

      The article reads:
      Unlike other fingerprinting laws, such as the U.S.’s, Japan requires permanent residents (the equivalent of Green Card holders in the U.S.) to be fingerprinted and photographed every time they re-enter the country.

      Unlike the US?
      It has been several times to read such statements on this and other Web sites, but from what I’ve heard from a couple of people (only in cyberspace, though!), Green Card holders have been required to give their fingerprints.

      I got online and checked by myself.

      First, when they apply for the Green Card, the applicants have their photos AND fingerprints taken, it seems. One of the sources:
      http://immigration.about.com/library/weekly/aa043003a.htm

      (There were also people’s blogs online, some writing about their fingerprinting experience for the Green Card.)

      Also, about the re-entry… Green Card holders seem also to be required to submit their fingerprints when (re)entering the US.
      It is not new, but:

      http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,205943,00.html

      I wonder what is true, finally, as some people (who are not Green Card holders, but American citizens) say there is NO need for the PR in the US to submit their fingerprints, while some Green Card holders claim they were required to submit them. All TEN fingers. The news also say that PRs in the US have to submit their fingerprints, too.

      I believed and hoped that there was no need, but, sadly, from what I see now, the US and Japan’s programs are almost identical. Does anyone know the real details? Or, where we could obtain them.

      (I am not American citizen, but when I entered the US this year, I did not have to give my fingerprints and have my photo taken, but that was because of my visa – which does not require them.)

      –I THINK YOU JUST ANSWERED YOUR OWN QUESTION WITH THIS LAST SENTENCE. YOU WOULD NOT BE EXEMPT LIKE THIS WHEN ENTERING JAPAN. THE PROGRAMS ARE NOT THE SAME. AND EVEN IF THEY WERE, THAT’S NO JUSTIFICATION FOR THEIR EXISTENCE ANYWAY. LET’S NOT LOSE THE FOREST FOR THE TREES…

    8. Netko Says:

      A appreciate the answer.
      BTW, my visa is kind of “diplomatic” – because my spouse’s position here, that is why I did not get fingerprinted. I think it is the same in Japan.

      I did not mean to justify these regulations, of course. I just really wanted to know if the PRs in the USA get fingerprinted, as many people were emphasizing that the Green Card holders do not get such treatment in the US. I bought that, but it seems those who argued which is better or worse did know the facts. I do not think it was all right for some to write how the Japan’s system is worse than the US one – besides, THEY were the ones who were comparing the two countries’ systems, not me actually. And, it did make me feel worse that I had to live in Japan, not the “better” US.
      As a reader, I just wanted to read articles and claims based on facts. It is disappointing… seriously, there were so many claims “This system is worse than the one in the US, where permanent residents are treated better.” Even on TV in Japan.

    9. HO Says:

      Mark in Yayoi, US law demands foreigners to carry “alien registration receipt card”. Look at 8 USC Sec.1304(e).
      http://law.onecle.com/uscode/8/1304.html
      http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/08C12.txt

      Aliens and Nationality – 8 USC Section 1304
      (e) Personal possession of registration or receipt card; penalties
      Every alien, eighteen years of age and over, shall at all times carry with him and have in his personal possession any certificate of alien registration or alien registration receipt card issued to him pursuant to subsection (d) of this section. Any alien who fails to comply with the provisions of this subsection shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall upon conviction for each offense be fined not to exceed $100 or be imprisoned not more than thirty days, or both.

      –YEAH, BUT SERIOUSLY, IS THIS ENFORCED? I’VE NEVER HEARD OF RANDOM GAIJIN CARD CHECKS ON THE STREET IN THE US. I’VE HEARD OF IMMIGRATION RAIDS ON SWEATSHOPS ETC. WHERE PEOPLE HAVE TO GIVE THEIR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS, SURE. BUT IT’S NOT THE SAME.

      BUT IS YOUR POINT TO SAY THAT THE US DOES IT SO JAPAN CAN TOO? IS YOUR QUEST FOR “FAIRNESS” BLOCKING OUT THE FACT THAT JAPANESE AUTHORITIES ARE USING THE GAITOUHOU AS A MEANS OF RACIAL PROFILING, SOCIAL OTHERING, AND PUBLIC HARASSMENT? LET’S KEEP THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE.

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