DEBITO.ORG
Arudou Debito/Dave Aldwinckle's Home Page

New ebooks by ARUDOU Debito

  • Book IN APPROPRIATE: A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan
  • Gaijinwife blog on her house check — is having authorities visit Permanent Residency applicant’s home and throughly photograph its interior now SOP?

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on December 21st, 2011

    IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito

    New novel IN APPROPRIATE by ARUDOU Debito

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
    UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
    DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free

    Hi Blog. Continuing on with arbitrary bureaucracy in Japan (particularly pertaining to NJ, see newfound arbitrary hurdles when getting married or getting rejected for Permanent Residency), check this blog out, excerpted below. This degree of background check used to be the domain of people applying for Japanese citizenship (see what it was like for me back between 1998 and 2000 here, not to mention Sendaiben’s nasty experience here) Now it seems that even PR applicants may have their premises policed and photographed by the authorities. Is this happening to others as well?  Not according to the commenters on Gaijinwife’s blog, but let’s ask Debito.org Readers as well.  Arudou Debito

    //////////////////////////////////////////////

    “Men in Black”
    Gaijinwife blog, Posted on October 21, 2011
    http://gaijinwife.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/men-in-black/
    Courtesy of MD

    Well, actually only one was in black, the other just had on a shirt and tie. Two men from the immigration office – waiting in their car across the street when I got home from shopping at about 3pm.

    They show me their ID badges and say they are here to do a checkup on my application for permanent residency that I submitted in August. They give me a piece of paper to sign saying that I give them permission to come into the house and have a look round. I have had no warning they would be coming so it is just pure luck I’m not still in my PJs squiffing wine and watching horny housewife porn on an illegal streaming site.

    The first thing they do is take a photo of the array of shoes in the genkan – focussing on the kids shoes. They ask me questions about the kids, where Granny K sleeps and then come into the lounge where they take a photo of the fire – the DVDs and the lego on the mantlepiece above it. We haven’t used the fire this season yet but when we do all the toys and shit will go and the big metal guard will come out – they asked about it. I offered to show them but that wasn’t necessary.

    Then they wanted to know where the kids clothes were – as if shoes, lego, DVDs, and a pile of unfolded kids laundry on the sofa wasn’t enough. He even took a picture of a pulled out drawer with kids clothes in it.

    I then got quizzed on the futon downstairs – was that the master bedroom? No, I said, it is where I am sleeping cause I’ve got a hacking cough and no point keeping hub up as well. Oh, so you and your hub aren’t sleeping in the same room? No, but we do usually. Would you like to see our bedroom – its upstairs.

    So up we go where more photos are taken of our bedroom (bed miraculously made) and kids bedrooms. They inquire about the black and white photo of my parents when they were 20, don’t ask about the empty suitcase out in the hall but do ask about the big backpack by the front door. Hiking? No, that’s an evacuation kit. He wrote something down.

    Am presuming it was highly safety conscious gaijin, with relatively clean house who obviously dislikes laundry and sleeping with her husband. Does appear to have all three children as stated on application…

    Rest at http://gaijinwife.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/men-in-black/

    38 Responses to “Gaijinwife blog on her house check — is having authorities visit Permanent Residency applicant’s home and throughly photograph its interior now SOP?”

    1. Charuzu Says:

      I note that Gaijinwife lives in rural Japan.

      Are things perhaps different in rural areas than in the cities?

    2. Me Myself Says:

      Don’t know about PR applicants, but this is nothing new for spouse visa applicants (from countries with a high risk of fake marriages for visa purposes). They even showed the “immigration G-men” on TV making a visit and finding no trace of the supposed married couple living together.
      So, if you are from one of those countries whose citizens can’t get a tourist visa at the airport, it most likely a case of what some call “profiling.” Otherwise, you probably got picked out in a lottery.
      The process seems to be easy for some, and a pain for others. It was relatively painless for me…

    3. Brooks Says:

      That is too much. Makes me wonder if I should even bother applying for PR.
      I wonder if gaijin wives have to go through more bs than male applicants. There are cases of fake marriages, but this is going too far.

      Where does this lady live in Japan?

    4. gaijinwife Says:

      I live in a rural town in Oita, Kyushu. I arrived here on JET at age 22 and haven’t left, although did have a stint working at a university for 4 years – university still in Oita though. I am now 35 and have 3 pre-school age children. I lived in Japan for 2 years prior to JET also. I am from New Zealand, a country I presume has very good relations with Japan. There were phone calls over the spouse visa but no visits. I got a three year spouse visa first up – you’d think if I was ‘suspicious’ I would get only one year first.

      My husband is a civil servant, which I would think mean less likely of going into a marriage just so his ‘wife’ could get a visa.

      The men did seem genuine. I don’t think it was anything more than what it was. They rang my keitai ten minutes before I got home – I was driving and didn’t answer it. They weren’t rude, just getting things done. Perhaps Immigration offices in more rural prefectures have more time on their hands? Our house is a two hour drive away from the office after all.

    5. flyjin Says:

      “No, that’s an evacuation kit. He wrote something down.”

      Aha. The Flyjin thinks that might count as a show of disloyalty to the Japanese Empire. (What? You are thinking of leaving in a disaster? How disloyal!!)

      Only joking. I hope.

    6. flyjin Says:

      @ Brooks, this is a tame example. There have been worse, like them telling Korean residents to get the Kimchi out of the fridge if they are to becom a “real Japanese”
      Or the toys the kids play with and the programmes they watch. (Dont have source now but would come up in a google search).

      A bit like Debito`s old Hokkaido company bosses stopping him reading English newspapers 24/7. There can only be one culture, no duality.

    7. sukitup Says:

      I have always understood a “home visit” is a possibility.

      I think it is more rare in busier regions like Tokyo.

      It seems the authorities do not understand how invasive and potentially humiliating this amount of scrutiny is for an innocent person. It is an invasion on privacy that I believe a Japanese person would never accept. Perhaps it is indicative of the authorities’ view of the “otherness” of the foreigner?

    8. Brooks Says:

      In New Zealand I know of a Japanese woman with PR. She has an Australian husband and has been treated well.
      I really wish the Japanese government would realize how bad this makes them look.

    9. Dr. H Says:

      Shouldn’t they be giving her medals for having kids? I mean, seriously, three kids in Japan is huge. *sarcasm*

    10. Curious Says:

      I think it’s high time for Non-Japanese to assert their rights in these instances.
      I noticed the officials asked for permission to enter the residence. Why give it? I would not.
      Often the police come around to my house to do their regular “Mawari” of the neighbourhood. They sometimes ask to step through the property gate. I go out to meet them.
      Often the police ask for my foreigner’s card when I ride a bike by them. I politely refuse and keep cycling.
      If they ever ask me to provide a urine sample to or enter my home or search my car or other such unwarrantable advances, you can be sure I will refuse repeatedly.
      All NJ’s must stick together in this regard, unless you want to see your personal rights slowly dissolved.

    11. gaijinwife Says:

      I don’t think I’m losing my rights. They caught me so off guard the thought of not letting them in didn’t cross my mind. I want my PR and probably come to think of it pissed in a cup had they asked. I’ve never had to show my gaijin card other than at the airport, and to the police when I witnessed a murder and then when I got snapped driving while talking on my keitai. Our local policeman comes to the door for ‘mawari’ and I don’t think he should be treated any differently than how my Japanese neighbors would treat him.

      @ Dr. H – considering the national average is 1.37 kids per family I think 3 is quite good going.

      I don’t think making home visits is unfair – I just think the Immigration office should be more consistent across the board.

    12. Incongruous Says:

      Given the unexpectedness of these officials arriving on her doorstep she would have been prudent to have excused herself and requested them to make an appointment. I’m sure most Japanese wouldn’t so easily acquiesce a request for this type of unexpected home invasion either and such officials should be treated the same as any other pesky salespersons. The same goes for being stopped on a bicycle without probable cause – indicate your ‘busy’ in a polite yet resolute manner to put a stop to these odious forms of victimization.

    13. sendaiben Says:

      @Curious

      Completely agree with you. That’s my approach: smile and decline. I even asked the police in Narita about their passport checks: they admitted they were voluntary, but they’d never tell you up front.

    14. sendaiben Says:

      As for the original post, there is no way I would let a couple of bored bureaucrats poke through my bedroom without cause.

      I might invite them in for a coffee, but not past the living room and certainly no photos.

      Can’t imagine many of my friends/colleagues doing so either (foreign or Japanese).

    15. AJ Says:

      Brooks, we’ve seen far more egregious examples of hubris from the Japanese govt this week demonstrating how little they care if their actions make them look bad or not. They just dont care.

      If you’ve got nothing to hide, I wouldn’t be too bothered, but all of you need to know your rights. You know the cops make stuff up. My new girlfriend is going to get a dose of me telling off hotel staff for asking to copy my gaijin card and passport next week.

      But if you apply for PR or citizenship a bit extra attention is to be expected no? But nosing through the house asking personal questions? No. They can ask at the gate. And there’s a difference between asking “Do you and your partner usually share the same bed(room)?”, a simple yes/no question, and “Why aren’t you sleeping in the same bed(room) as your partner?” a loaded question, which is, really, none of their business. Aren’t three kids on the koseki enough evidence of marital relations? Really. These guys were total a$&es.

    16. 無名 Says:

      I see country of origin has been brought up as a possibility for this “search”, however I believe that race trumps all when it comes to the authorities. For example, an Anglo North American may not draw much attention, but I believe an African North American, or Vietnamese North American may raise some red flags. I say this because I’m American of Chinese extract. I have been treated different when gaijin carded along with some of the Anglo Americans I was with at the time. More questions…….to the point where I was the only one being questioned out of a group of four foreigners. I don’t know Gaijinwifes race, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she wasn’t of Anglo descent.

    17. Olaf Says:

      When I got PR some13 yrs ago I wasn’t visited. Do the application forms mention that gov officials might visit and if one is obliged to let them into the house?

    18. Curious Says:

      I can pretty well tell if a couple are a real couple by observing them from outside their home in most cases. If I can see children’s bicycles around the entrance (and shoes in the foyer when the door is open,) then it’s pretty well a given this is a real marriage.
      I’m not blaming you, Gaijinwife, for letting them in. I’ve been too lenient in the past, myself.
      Regarding the mawari-san police officer who makes his rounds in the neighbourhood: I noticed he doesn’t make notes when speaking to my neighbours. He asks me many private questions, hoping to get info to write down:

      “Where exactly do you work?”
      “Who is that friend that I saw you with the other day?”
      “What is his job?”
      “Where is he from, and where does he live?”

      And his questions sound like casual banter, yet he writes down everything. Sometimes asking me to spell out names and addresses.
      He is overly-curious about my non-Japanese friends, and not interested in talking about the Japanese neighbours.
      I have stopped giving me proper answers — just vague non-committal replies.

      If his intentions were more for my safety/well-being, I would certainly not be adverse to inviting him into my home. But what what these cops do, and what happened to Gaijinwife is a cheap one-way info-grab and reduces our rights to that of second-class citizens.

      It’s becoming clear I am more of a ‘person of interest’ than my Japanese neighbours.

    19. Jim Di Griz Says:

      Some posters seem of the opinion that Japanese may have been highly put out by what we see as a form of invasion of privacy. I am not so sure. I have a suspicion that most Japanese will roll over in the face of any kind of authority, uniform, or arm-band. Someone posted here about it way back (I can’t remember when), but I think that ‘concept of privacy v’s obedience to authority’ is vastly different in Japan to western countries.

    20. J Says:

      The Laws written by the Legislators DON’T require PR applicants to agree to this invasion of privacy. Read the Laws, this is definitely not a requirement for PR.

      But: the “Guideline Additional Sub-Rules” added by the unelected immigration officers probably do now somewhere sneakily claim that applicants who refuse to agree to this invasion of privacy can be refused PR.

      If you find such Guidelines, and you post here about the conflict between the Laws and the Guidelines, there will always be a few people who reply “Well, it’s in the guidelines, so it must be legal to refuse people PR based on whatever is written in the guidelines, right? Hey, you’re lucky that the immigration officers are nice enough to let you work here in Japan on a 1 year or 3 year visa, so just be thankful for their kindness. Re-read the guidelines. Here, I’ll paste the guidelines for you to read again. Blah, blah, blah.”

      No, no, no. If the Guidelines conflict with the Legislator-Enacted-Laws, the Guidelines are Unlawful. End of debate.

    21. Baudrillard Says:

      “Why aren’t you sleeping in the same bed(room) as your partner?” a loaded question”

      -Thats rich, considering many Japanese couples now sleep in separate rooms.

      Interestingly, the NY Times considers this a western trend,
      http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/25/fashion/25FamilyMatters.html
      But as post modern “Japan” is more an American brand than a real country, this is hardly surprising.

      So, logically, in the interests of fairness, you should reply to the J-Men in Black, “Of course we do not sleep together, here is Japan!”

      However, their “map” or rulebook will of course not reflect this reality. It refers to some bureaucrats wish-list of married couples` lifestyles.

      Its either one rule of the “real” and another for the Newbie Japanese, or again its this postmodern illusion of Japan. The “map” imposed western mores on Japanese couples (beds, sleeping together) when in fact this is either out of date or unrealistic (many couples sleep separately so as to “get a good nights sleep” (tatemae rationalising) with the J-honne being “I married him/her because my parents liked him/her, had a good job, thought would be a good mother/father to my child etc” i.e. he.she is now more of a room mate or family than a “lover”.

    22. Baudrillard Says:

      Correction to NY Times, Japan and Britain are NOT similar;only 8% of Brit couples sleep apart

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8245578.stm

      So, it does seem to be a Japanese custom to sleep apart. In Samurai mythology, as in Ancient Rome, the marital bed was for congress and not for sleeping together.

      “Samurai no yo ni, neru no ha betsu betsu desu!”

    23. sukitup Says:

      @Jim,

      You say

      I have a suspicion that most Japanese will roll over in the face of any kind of authority, uniform, or arm-band.

      And to some extend I agree that the tatemae of some (most??) Japanese might be to comply with the request — if it is conceivable that Japanese authority might even make such a request of Japanese citizen. But still I think the honne would be offense.

      I think, when you become more used to the Japanese society, you will see that a Japanese individual will value his own privacy much greater than the privacy of another. It is an interesting paradox of the Japanese psyche, don’t you think?

      But if you have observed the Japanese society in reality, like I have, you will see that it is not universal for then to “roll over in the face of any kind of authority.”

      Witness the bicyclist who will swerve around the omawari-san at the bicycle check point. Witness the Japanese driver who will strongly protest the parking ticket. Witness the Japanese person who will loudly protest and argue at the random car or bag inspection in Shibuya. Witness the nationalists who try to approach the foreign embassy despite the protestation of authority.

      If you look, you will see the truth is that the Japanese person is in a much better position to resist authority than the foreigner ever can be. It can be witnessed on almost a daily basis.

    24. J.J. Says:

      Unreal: I am an African-American man, and when I applied for my PR 10 years ago, I was expecting police to jump out of the woodwork trying to ask me why I would dare apply. I had no visitors, but Immigration DID call all my old jobs, and my ex-wife’s family; what is funny is that my Japanese friends and family exploded about it, whereas I was not surprised in the least. Good looking out QW: let them do what they have to (impose, take free liberty), and just wait for your PR to come: any anger displayed will reinforce the justification of why foreigners deserve nothing and should just be lucky to be here! Lol

    25. Baudrillard Says:

      @ Curious

      Here is a tip I got from a Japanese friend when she was stopped by the police on a bike after midnight.
      1. Act cute and stupid (now you know why some do this!)
      2. Give stupid, non commital answers (as you are doing).
      3. If they ask about “that friend” talk about a different friend (you have more than one, why shoudld you know which one he is asking about?)

      The Theatre of the Absurd that is postmodern Japan, makes us all actors. All Japan is indeed a stage, and we are merely tatemae players.

    26. Paul Says:

      I wonder what their response might have been if Gaijinwife had asked that they come back when her husband was at home – a perfectly reasonable request in this society, and I dare say in many – when two men want entrance to a private residence.

      I have never had a home visit and do have PR, but will be applying for nationalization, so it will be interesting to see if they want to waltz thru.

    27. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @Suckitup

      ‘when you become more used to the Japanese society, you will see’

      ‘if you have observed the Japanese society in reality, like I have’

      Maybe I better clarify my background a little, I have lived in Japan for 11 years (so far), did my post-grad research ( Japanese social anthropology) here (in Japanese).

    28. Blackrat Says:

      People seem to have had some pretty negative responses when applying for permanent residency. In my case, I got mine on the urging of my Japanese wife. I already had a spouse visa and don’t intend to be here indefinitely. I was so unconcerned that I just dumped the papers on the counter at the immigration office and told them that if anything was missinig they could contact me at the address given. The women behind the counter was similarly indifferent. She indicated that was standard procedure and told me it would take six weeks or more. I heard nothing more until the card arrived indicating my application had been approved. When I returned to Immigration, they stamped my passport without any questions I wonder if it was my attitude; the fact that I must have come across as being pretty nonchalent about the whole thing?

      – I doubt it. I think you just got lucky, in the sense that the people who viewed your application didn’t get bloody-minded about it. Dealing with the Japanese bureaucracy, like dealing with judges in Japan’s civil courts, is truly a crapshoot, I’ve found.

    29. Johnny Says:

      Didn’t have any issues with applying for PR. I suppose though I ticked all the boxes, married to local with a kid on the way, good job, above average income, taxes all paid up, no legal issues in my time here.

      Still took close to 6 months however.

    30. J.J. Says:

      @ Debito san:

      Very true: a crapshoot. I think they play janken ib another office. @ Suckitup san: please, don’t go down the “if you understood Japan” route; if we DID understand, we all wouldn’t be here on this forum, now would we? Lol

    31. flyjin Says:

      Some of us old timers understood Japan all too well. We are here to share our experiences and to make sense of it, as societies, even Japan’s Brezhnev like stagnation phase, do change over time in some ways.

      Or we are here to vent at the bizarreness, the unfairness. the sheer arbitrary nature of a rudderless and captain less vessel.

      The cliche is, there is a honeymoon phase, a pissed off phase, and an acceptance phase. I would like to add a fourth, the “I understand it but I can never accept it” phase.

      I m sure some J apologists would then say, “Well if you don’t like it, leave”.

      Oh, Ok then. One less taxpayer. Two, if you count my wife.

    32. Selena Says:

      I wouldn’t worry about it. They did the same to me when I applied for PR. But before visiting our house, they went around asking our neighbors all kinds of questions about us which I found much more embarrassing. Immigration officers do that in other countries as well. There are too many cases here apparently with married couples who do it just for the visa. Just cooperate and if you have done nothing wrong, you don’t have to worry about anything.

      – That’s one way of looking at it. But that’s not how PR apps were done in my day. This degree of tightened background check has essentially made PR the same as naturalization, in regards to the sokou chousa.

    33. Selena Says:

      “But that’s not how PR apps were done in my day.”

      Debito, considering we have the same age and I have been here for 20 years now, we probably got PR at around the same time, so nothing has changed.

      – FYI, I got it in 1997. Here’s my report on it created and amended numerous times before I got it. Plus I co-wrote a book {HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS) including it, in which this was not the procedure we (the better half of us being an Immigration specialist scrivener) were aware of. It’s probably a regional or office-enforcement issue, but it seems to be getting tighter what with the GOJ alleging that there are more fake international marriages in Japan.

    34. sendaiben Says:

      I got my PR in 2007 (or so -I don’t remember exactly). It involved filling in a bunch of forms (including the intrusive personal information one) but there were no visits and no follow up. It took about six months for the decision to come down, but after the initial application there was nothing else from the immigration office.

    35. James Annan Says:

      FWIW my wife just got approval for PR with no hitch or home visit, just a 6 month wait after application. OTOH the basis for qualification was 10 years of residency rather than a spouse.

      – Congratulations!!

    36. gaijinwife Says:

      My PR came through yesterday – 6 months and a few days after I applied.

      – Excellent! Congratulations! Thanks for letting us know!

    37. Jkrusat Says:

      The German immigration authorities also paid us visits each time after I got married (first ex came from the Philippines, the second one from Sierra Leone), when each of them applied for a spouse visa. While they did not enter our flats (I would have denied them), they definitely checked if we were living together and that it wasn´t just a fake marriage. In the first case they were happy to see both our names on the door and they accepted my first ex´s explanation that I was just downstairs in the neighbourhood supermarket getting some groceries and if they would want to wait for me to come back, which I really was.
      The second time they also were happy to see both of our names at the door and they probably could see a mix of women´s, men´s and children´s shoes (my ex brought two kids into the marriage)in our entrance hall.
      The fact is that immigration departments all over the world are wary of fake marriages and are checking out suspicious applicants.
      In Germany I´ve heard about immigration officers trying to sneak looks through groundfloor windows to see if there is evidence that one of the partners is not living there, though it didn´t happen to me (and it would be pretty risky to be mistaken for a peeping Tom).

    38. GotPRin2006 Says:

      I moved to Japan in 1996, got married to a Japanese in 2000, and got my PR in 2006. In my case the PR came after only 8 weeks after application, however we were subjected to a morning visit from two immigration guys at about 10:00am on a weekday. I run my own company from home, so this was all listed on the application. They never asked us to sign any approval to enter paperwork though, but we didn’t really mind them coming in. I guess after so many years in Japan, I was kind of used to the ways of the authorities. They only stayed 3 minutes at the most. Their main interest was in seeing that we had a shared bed, and seeing that I had plenty of clothes there in our house. They never took any photos. We’re in Okinawa here. No kids. Paradoxically, we ended up leaving Japan anyway in 2010 to return to my home country, so after all that and all those years in Japan I gave back the PR anyway. Main impressions since leaving Japan are miss the food and the customer service. Don’t miss being the eternal gaijin. Nowhere is perfect. Was a mostly interesting 15 years anyway.

    Leave a Reply