Hi Blog. Here’s something I found rather interesting. A survey reported on the front page of the Asahi yesterday (courtesy Evan H., Matt, and H.O.) indicates that a quarter of major hotels nationwide sampled have qualms about asking NJ for their passports, and a third of them refused to copy them for police use. (No wonder–they can’t. By law they can only ask passports from NJ who have no addresses in Japan–meaning tourists.)
Hotels cite privacy reasons, and the problems and discomfort involved with explaining the rules to guests. Quite. Thank you. The Japanese article, however, notes that “some voices” (whoever they are) are noting the lack of punishment for noncooperating hotels (meaning we’ve got some legal holes to plug in the gaijin dragnet). Moreover, the survey was carried out by the National Police Agency. But you wouldn’t know either of these things if you read the English article only.
The two articles follow–the English translation, and the Japanese original. Note that the Japanese original is very specific in saying that “teijuu” NJ residents cannot be asked for their passports. However, the English translation omits that sentence entirely. And renders them misleadingly as “foreign guests”. Just like the NPA does. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
The translators (listed below as Seiji Iwata and Ichiro Noda) should be reprimanded for misinformation and unprofessionality. Feel free to express your opinion to the Asahi by email (they don’t have a comments page for the English site, but never mind–send in English if necessary) at http://www.asahi.com/reference/form.html
Meanwhile, there has been no reply from the Toyoko Inn chain regarding my letter re their reception in Hirosaki last November (asking me not only for my passport, but also proof that I’m even a Japanese). The head office in Tokyo had plenty of time to reply and say they’re concerned about customer complaints, and didn’t bother. So I say it again–don’t bother using the Toyoko Inn chain. Given their history towards other NJ clients, not to mention the handicapped, they don’t deserve your business.
The NPA indicates below that they will be cracking down on hotels who don’t “cooperate”. Expect more third-degree at Japanese hotels at check-in. Anyone want to create an information database for hotel and chains which follow the law properly, and confirm whether or not any and all guests are residents of Japan first before demanding their passports? Even a significant number of hotels aren’t happy with the oddly-enforced regulations. Arudou Debito in Sapporo
Survey: 1 in 4 hotels fails to record foreign guests
01/05/2008 BY SEIJI IWATA AND ICHIRO NODA, THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
One in four hotels and ryokan inns across Japan is not complying with government anti-terror initiatives that require them to record nationalities and passport numbers of foreign guests [sic], according to a survey.
Many hoteliers and inn owners say they are reluctant to do so for fear of treading on customers’ privacy.
The issue has taken on heightened importance in light of the Group of Eight summit to be held at Lake Toyako, Hokkaido, in July and fears of foreign terrorists infiltrating Japan.
The September survey of 33,000 hotels and ryokan inns was done to determine the level of compliance under the revised Hotel Business Law, according to the National Police Agency (NPA).
One in three hotels also failed to photocopy passports as directed by the government.
Many hotels said it is difficult to single out foreign guests. However, the agency has repeatedly asked hotels to check passports in light of the G-8 summit this summer.
“We want to ask all hotels to fully cooperate by April,” said an NPA spokesperson.
Because of the 9/11 terror attacks against the United States in 2001, the hotel law was amended in April 2005 to mandate hotels to record the nationalities and passport numbers of foreign guests, except for those with long-term residence status.
The law was originally enacted in 1948 to require hotels to record the names, addresses and occupations of all guests as a measure to prevent infectious diseases.
In addition to keeping proper records, the government has asked hotels to photocopy guests’ passports.
The survey targeted 33,000 hotels and inns which were deemed likely to be frequented by foreign visitors. There are 88,000 registered accommodations across Japan.
In several prefectures, more than half of hotels surveyed failed to write down the passport information.
The agency has refused to disclose survey results broken down by prefecture, saying that it may “let terrorists know the areas with poor security.”
Even in Hokkaido, which will host the G-8 summit, about 20 percent of hotels surveyed did not track the records.
Thanks to efforts by prefectural police, the figure fell about 10 percentage points in a follow-up survey conducted in November.
Prefectural police officials said small hotels tend not to have front desk clerks fluent in foreign languages and thus fail to obtain the information.
Since December, Hokkaido police have posted templates on their Web site for posters that publicize the requirements in English, Chinese, Korean and Russian so that hotel operators can download them for use at their facilities.
But an official at a Tokyo hotel said some customers are hesitant to let hotel clerks bring their passports to behind-the-counter clerk rooms to make photocopies.
“We don’t want to keep guests on business trips or group travelers waiting (while photocopies are taken),” said an official at a major U.S.-affiliated hotel chain.
“In addition, we find it difficult to explain why only foreign guests should have (their identity documents) photocopied,” the official said.
Reflecting these concerns, the Japan Ryokan Association, which has a membership of about 1,400 prestigious hotels and ryokan inns, asked the government in 2006 to stop requiring them to photocopy passports.
The NPA insists, however, that the records are needed for prompt cross-checks in case police obtain the identities of suspected terrorists before attacks take place.
“It will also play a crucial role in searching for the whereabouts of terrorists in case they commit an attack,” said an NPA official.
Emiko Iwasa, deputy counselor of the Japan Hotel Association, agrees that hotels should fully cooperate to “demonstrate that the country as a whole is fighting to prevent terrorism from occurring.”
Naofumi Miyasaka, an associate professor of international politics at the National Defense Academy of Japan, said the survey actually shows promising results, implying that an increasing number of hotels are now fully cooperating with the government’s anti-terrorism campaign.
“Hotels in Western countries usually cross-check identities of foreign guests, and if Japan fails to arrest terrorists or criminals on the international wanted list by allowing (hotels to) neglect an identity check, it will seriously damage the country’s credibility in the international community,” he said.(IHT/Asahi: January 5,2008)
Original Japanese, courtesy of H.O.: