Discussion: As a person with NJ roots, is your future in Japan? An essay making the case for “No”.


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Hi Blog. More woolgathering on the past decade, as the end of the year approaches:

I’m hearing increasing discontent from the NJ Community (assuming quite presumptuously there is one able to speak with a reasonably unified voice) about living in Japan.

Many are saying that they’re on their way outta here.  They’ve had enough of being treated badly by a society that takes their taxes yet does not respect or protect their rights.

To stimulate debate, let me posit with some flourish the negative case for continuing life in Japan, and let others give their own arguments pro and con:


It’s becoming increasingly difficult to expect people to want to immigrate to Japan, given the way they are treated once they get here.

We have racial profiling by the Japanese police, where both law allows and policy sanctions the stopping of people based upon having a “foreign appearance”, such as it is, where probable cause for ID checks anywhere is the mere suspicion of foreigners having expired visas.

We have rampant refusals of NJ by landlords and rental agencies (sanctioned to the point where at least one realtor advertises “Gaijin OK” apartments), with the occasional private enterprise putting up “Japanese Only” signs, and nothing exists to stop these acts that are expressly forbidden by the Japanese Constitution.  Yet now fifteen years after effecting the UN Convention on Racial Discrimination, Japan still has no law against it either on the books or in the pipeline.

With recent events both with the Northern Territories, the Takeshima/Tokdo rocks, and the Senkakus, we have a rising reactionary xenophobic wave justifying itself upon creating a stronger Japan to “protect sovereignty” through anti-foreign sloganeering. This is is very visible in the reaction to the proposed suffrage for Permanent Residents bill, which went down in flames this year and is still inspiring people to ask their local assemblies to pass “ikensho” expressly in opposition (I was sent one yesterday afternoon from a city assembly politician for comment).  Bashing NJ has become sport, especially during election campaigns.

We have people, including elected officials, claiming unapologetically that even naturalized Japanese are “not real Japanese”, with little reprisal and definitely no resignations.

We have had the NPA expressly lying and the media blindly reporting about “foreign crime rises” for years now, even as crime falls.

And we are seeing little future return on our investment: Long-term NJ bribed by the GOJ to return “home” and give up their pensions, and the longest wait to qualify for the pension itself (25 years) in the industrialized world. With the aging society and the climbing age to get it (I have little doubt that by the time I am old enough, currently aged 45, that the age will be around 70 or so), and Japan’s postwar Baby Boomers soon qualifying themselves, looks likely there won’t be much left in the public coffers when it happens.

Yet we still have little acknowledgment by our government of all that NJ and immigrants have done for this society.  Instead, the image of NJ went quite markedly from “misunderstood guest and outsider” to “criminal threat to Japan’s safe society” this decade.

Why stay in a society that officially treats its people of diversity with such suspicion, derision and ingratitude?, is a case that can be made.  Especially other NJ are getting the message and leaving — the NJ population dropped in 2009 for the first time since 1961.  As salaries keep dropping in a deflationary economy, even the financial incentives for staying in an erstwhile more hospitable society are evaporating.

That’s the negative case that can be made.  So let me posit a question to Debito.org Readers (I’ll create a blog poll to this effect):

Do you see your future as living in Japan?

  1. Definitely yes.
  2. Probably yes for the foreseeable future, but things might change.
  3. Uncertain, is all I can say.
  4. Leaning towards a probable no.
  5. Definitely no.
  6. Something else.
  7. N / A: I don’t live or will not live in Japan.

Let’s see what people think. I’ll leave this up as the top post until Tuesday or so, depending on how hot the discussion gets. Arudou Debito

Speaking PGL 2010 Sat Dec 4 ICU on “Propaganda in Japan’s Media: Manufacturing Consent for National Goals at the Expense of non-Japanese Residents”


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PGL Conference 2010
International Christian University, Tokyo

The Conference
The 3 R’s: Resist Business as Usual, Reclaim Space for Peace,
Revolutionise Public Consciousness

Room Number & General Theme
Media – Room 252
Saturday, December 4, Session 3 (3.15 – 4.45)

Paper Presentation Titles
Folake Abass, Kyoto Sangyo University (30 mins)
Exploring Injustice

Arudou Debito, Hokkaido Information University (60 mins)

Propaganda in Japan’s Media: Manufacturing Consent for National Goals at the Expense of non-Japanese Residents


1. Paper title


2. Abstract in English

Japan has one of the most vibrant and pervasive domestic media environments in the world. This media environment can also be significantly manipulated by the Japanese government, mobilizing Japanese public opinion towards national goals even at the expense of domestic minorities — particularly non-citizens. The degree of underrepresentation and disenfranchisement of Non-Japanese residents in Japan is clear when one studies the “foreign crime wave of the 2000s”, promoted by the government in the name of “making Japan the world’s safest country again”, justifying public policy against “foreign terrorism, infectious diseases, and crime”. The domestic media’s complicity in publicizing anti-foreign sentiment without analysis has caused quantifiable social dehumanization; government polls indicate a near-majority of citizens surveyed do not agree that non-citizens should have the same human rights as citizens. This presentation studies how language and media have been used as a means for disseminating propaganda in Japan, fostering social stratification, alienation, and xenophobia.


Yomiuri: ‘Leaked MPD data’ out as book / Documents published as is; names of police, NJ informants revealed


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Hi Blog.  This breaking news from the weekend compounds just how sinister the activities of the Japanese police can be.  First spying on people in the name of combating terrorism because they’re Muslims or connected to Muslims, then losing control of the information to the point where it becomes a book on sale to the public.  Shame on you, Metropolitan Police Department.  Imagine how big a scandal this would have been if Japanese people had been treated similarly.

Now, of course, since this is embarrassing to the police, the book (as per checks with Amazon.co.jp and an in-person check at Kinokuniya Sapporo yesterday) is no longer being sold.  Good.  But that sure was quick, compared to how much comparative time and effort it took for the Gaijin Hanzai Ura Files Mook in 2007 (which I believe the police contributed information to) to go off-market.  Seems to me less the need to protect individual NJ than for the police to cover their collective ketsu.  Whatever.  The book is off the market.  The materials for it shouldn’t have been collected in the first place.  Arudou Debito


‘Leaked MPD data’ out as book / Documents published as is; names of police, informants revealed

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 28, 2010)

A Tokyo publishing house has released a book containing what are believed to be Metropolitan Police Department antiterrorism documents that were leaked onto the Internet last month.

Released by Dai-San Shokan Thursday, the book contains the personal information of Muslim residents in this country, such as their names and addresses.

Akira Kitagawa, president of the publisher, said he decided to put out the book “to raise questions about the laxity of the police’s information control system.”

The documents in question are thought to have been leaked via file-sharing software on Oct. 28. The book is printed in the same format as the documents.

One foreign resident whose name and address are listed in the book has called for it to be immediately recalled from bookstores. However, since the MPD has not officially admitted a leak took place, they cannot suspend publication or take other measures.

The 469-page book, titled “Ryushutsu ‘Koan Tero Joho’ Zen Deta” (Leaked police terrorism info: all data), is on sale at some bookstores, but several major publishing agents have refused to distribute it.

If the documents are authentic, the book contains the names and photos of foreign residents being monitored by the 3rd Foreign Affairs Division at the Public Security Bureau of the MPD, the names of people who have cooperated with the police, and the photos and addresses of police officers involved in terrorism investigations.

One African man whose name and those of his family are in the book told The Yomiuri Shimbun he was worried how this would affect his family, and that he wanted the police to halt the book’s publication. He said he had not yet seen the book.

The MPD maintains it is still investigating the case, and has not confirmed whether the information is authentic. A senior police official said, “At present, it’s difficult for the MPD to protest the publication or demand its suspension.”

Masao Horibe, professor emeritus at Hitotsubashi University, said the publication of the data in book form could be called a human rights violation since it increases its distribution, even though the information was already available on the Internet.

“Some might argue people have the freedom to publish or know about the data. But this book is just raw unedited data, not like a newspaper would carry. I think it’s questionable whether the publication of this book is in the public interest,” he said.

Author Go Egami said the police should halt publication of the book and admit the leaked data was genuine, because its authenticity is obvious to anyone who has seen it.

“I think the government neglected the [terror information] leak because they were distracted by the coast guard’s trouble with the Chinese fishing boat,” he said.


‘MPD data’ book wreaks havoc / Foreign residents who had private info exposed express fear, anger
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 29, 2010), Courtesy of JK


People who saw their personal information published last week in a book containing what is believed to be police antiterrorism documents are expressing anger and fear over the fallout they could face.

Many foreign residents had their photos and family members’ names revealed in the book, which some bookstores have removed from their shelves. It also carries personal information about investigators of the Metropolitan Police Department’s Public Security Bureau, as well as data on police informants.

It has been about one month since the suspected leak came to light, but the MPD has yet to confirm the data belongs to the department, only saying it is still verifying the validity of the documents. The police have not taken any action, such as requiring the publisher to stop sales of the book.

Experts have called on the MPD to quickly admit the data is real and take action.

Published by Tokyo publishing house Dai-San Shokan, the 469-page book is titled “Ryushutsu ‘Koan Tero Joho’ Zen Deta” (Leaked police terrorism info: all data) and hit the shelves Thursday.

The book carries the names, photos and addresses of foreign residents who have apparently been subject to MPD investigations, as well as those of MPD bureau investigators in charge of international terrorism.

An African man living in the Kanto region whose photo and family members’ names were carried in the book said: “After the documents were leaked online, a disease I’ve had for a long time got worse because of the stress. I’m shocked the information became a book so soon. I was just trying to forget about it.”

Another foreign resident of Tokyo said his home telephone number was carried in the book. “The publishing company didn’t contact me in advance. Now that the information’s in a book–not just on the Internet–I wonder what’ll happen to me and my family?” he said.

The book is on sale in Tokyo bookstores and via other channels, but some retailers have voluntarily decided not to sell copies. The Shinjuku branch of Kinokuniya Co. put 60 copies on sale Saturday morning, only to take it off the shelves when it realized the contents were inappropriate, but not before several copies had been sold.

MPD making no progress

The MPD did not notice the leak until Oct. 29 when it received a tip from a private telecommunications firm. Since then, the MPD’s position has been that it is verifying whether the data found online were in fact internal documents.

The MPD is stuck, because if it admits internal information was leaked, it will likely lose the trust of foreign authorities, according to a senior MPD official. One document contains an apparent request by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation for cooperation in investigations.

The entire MPD is involved in the investigation into the leak–not only the Public Security Bureau but also the Personnel and Training Bureau, which investigates scandals involving police officers, and the Administration Bureau, which is in charge of information control.

A former senior official of the Public Security Bureau said “the data is absolutely the bureau’s internal documents” and includes top secret items. The data was leaked onto the Internet through a server in Luxembourg, making it difficult for investigators to track where it originated. The MPD has asked the company operating the server for cooperation, but it has yet to be given any communications records.

The MPD maintains it is unable to take any action against the publisher because it has not officially confirmed the data came from the organization.

Police appear to be divided on how to handle the problem. Some say the MPD should never admit a leak occurred, but others believe they should admit at least part of the documents are internal and take necessary action as soon as possible.

The data has continued to spread online across the globe via file-sharing software. NetAgent Co., a Tokyo private information security firm, said as of Thursday, the data had been downloaded onto 10,285 computers in 21 countries and regions.

Japan Times: Leaked documents reveal Tokyo Police spies on Muslim residents, tries to make snitches of them


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Hi Blog.  In probably one of the most important developments of the year (thanks again to the Japan Times Community Page, consistently offering one great expose after another), we have actual substantiation of the Tokyo Police extending their racial profiling techniques to target Muslim residents of Japan.  Not only are they spying on them and keeping detailed files, they are trying to turn them against one another as if they’re all in cahoots to foment terrorism.

We all suspected as such (the very day I naturalized, I got a personal visit from Japan’s Secret Police asking me to inform on any Chinese overstayers I might happen to know; they said they read Debito.org — perhaps as assiduously as some of my Internet stalkers).  Now we have proof of it.  Shame, shame on a police force that has this much unchecked power.  Do I smell a return to Kenpeitai tactics?  Arudou Debito


The Japan Times Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2010
Muslims in shock over police ‘terror’ leak
Japan residents named in documents want explanation — and apology — from Tokyo police force


This time last month, Mohamed Salmi says he was just another anonymous foreigner living and working in Japan. Today he fears his life here may be over, and receives phone calls from reporters asking him if he is an al-Qaida “terrorist.”

“I’ve no idea why they have picked on me,” says the Algerian, who has lived and worked in Japan for over 20 years and is married to a Japanese national. “My wife and I are still struggling to believe it.”

Salmi’s name was one of several released in extraordinary leaked documents from a counterterrorism unit of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department’s Public Security Bureau. Listed as “terrorist suspects,” the men are Muslims who live and work here, in many cases for decades.

The documents, which have been obtained by The Japan Times, contain vast amounts of personal information, including birthplaces, home and work addresses, names and birthdays of spouses, children and associates, personal histories and immigration records. Even the names of local mosques visited by the “suspects” are included.

In most cases, the causes of the initial police suspicion appear to have simple explanations. Salmi’s former work as a travel agent placed him in contact with Arab students, businessmen and diplomats.

“I had a lot of ambassadors as clients,” says the 47-year-old, who now works for a Japanese construction company. “I can’t believe this is enough to put me on a list of suspects.”

Apparently released via file-sharing software, the files and the background on how they were compiled reveal that Japanese police, under pressure from U.S. authorities, trawled Tokyo in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, in search of intelligence data among the city’s tiny Muslim community. According to victims of the leak, in some cases the Security Bureau tried to recruit them as spies…

Rest of the article at

Ministry of Justice website justifying crime prevention measures due to “frequent occurrence of serious crimes committed by foreign nationals and increase in transnational crimes”


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Hi Blog.

Here’s what Debito.org has been saying all along (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here): The policing agencies are justifying any programs dealing with crime by blaming it on the foreigners.

As a source, here’s the Ministry of Justice itself in unrepentant Bunker Mentality Mode. It’s hard not to read this as, “We were a safe society until the foreigners came along and spoiled everything for us. So now we have to crack down on the foreigners and Japanese who deal with them.” Great. Of course, we have no purely homegrown crime here, such as the Yaks, right? Why is “Recovery of Public Safety” so firmly linked in “foreigner issues”? Because they’re a soft target, that’s why. Read on and try to suppress a wry smirk. Arudou Debito


Recovery of public safety

Undated article, courtesy of XY, English original

In the past Japan was proud of its image in the world of being an exceptionally safe country, but in recent years, the number of criminal cases that have been identified by the authorities has increased remarkably, while the clearance rate has dropped drastically and remains at a very low level, which makes the deterioration of public safety an issue of grave concern to the nation. In particular, exceptionally violent crimes attracting public attention and the occurrence close at hand of many offences committed by youngsters or by foreign nationals coming to Japan are making people uneasy about the maintenance of public order. In addition, since computers and high-level information technology such as the Internet have become a common feature of daily life, new crimes abusing such advanced technology have risen in number. Further, effective measures against international terrorism such as the multiple terrorist attacks on the United States, and efforts toward solving problems concerning the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korea, are needed.

Under such circumstances, the Government, aiming at restoration of Japan as “the safest country in the world”, inaugurated the Ministerial Meeting Concerning Measures against Crime, which formulated in December 2003 “The Action Plan for the Realization of a Society Resistant to Crime”, and the Conference is actively promoting comprehensive measures such as various countermeasures against crime including shoreline countermeasures, the consolidation of a social environment under which it is difficult to commit crimes, and the strengthening of the structure of agencies and organs responsible for public safety.

Based on the important issues shown in this plan (Action Plan for the Realization of a Society Resistant to Crime), the Ministry of Justice submitted the Bill for Partial Amendment to the Penal Code and other related laws to the Diet, which raised the terms of statutory penalties for heinous and serious crimes and extended the statute of limitations for prosecution, and this Law has been in force since the beginning of 2005. Further, the Ministry of Justice, in order to better protect the economy and society from organized crime and suchlike, is engaged in getting legislation passed, including criminal provisions, to combat the obstruction of compulsory execution, which is also necessary for ratification of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime; as well as legislation for measures against high-tech crimes, thereby enabling ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime.

In order to deal effectively with the frequent occurrence of serious crimes committed by foreign nationals and the increase in the number of transnational crimes, it is necessary to make the procedure for gathering evidence from abroad more effective and to enhance cooperation between the investigative authorities of foreign countries and Japan. As part of such enhancement of cooperation, the Japanese Government has concluded the Treaty between Japan and the United States of America on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters (entered into force on 21 July 2006) and the Treaty between Japan and Korea on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters (entered into force on 26 January 2007). These treaties have made it possible to send and receive requests not through diplomatic channel but directly between the Ministry of Justice or other competent authorities of Japan and the Ministry of Justice of respective countries, enabling the expediting of procedures. The Japanese Government is also negotiating with Hong Kong, Russia and China to conclude the Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters. The Ministry of Justice is in the position of developing cooperation with other countries in the future.

The Bill for Partial Amendment to the Penal Code and Other Related Laws has been submitted to the 2005 Ordinary Session of the Diet, which is necessary to ratify the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and to cope with the modern crime of violation of the right to liberty, for example, confinement for long periods and the heinous kidnapping of minors, and this Law has been in force since July 2005.

In order to stabilize the public security of the nation, preventing the re-offending of offenders who have committed crimes or delinquency is also important.

Penal institutions including prisons, juvenile prisons and detention houses, are now suffering from a severe overcrowding of inmates and it is thought that this may adversely affect the treatment given by the institutions. Therefore the Ministry is striving to solve the problem by such means as the construction of prisons using private financial initiatives (PFI). Furthermore, in order to find a way to enable the large numbers of Chinese inmates, who are one of the causes of overcrowding, to be transferred to their home country, the Ministry, in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is working toward early conclusion of a bilateral treaty between Japan and China and continues dialogues with China.

In addition, the Ministry is striving to prevent inmates from re-offending by improving the treatment programs for the rehabilitation and smooth resocialization of inmates.

In the field of rehabilitation of offenders in the community, the Ministry of Justice is aiming to smoothly enforce the Offenders Rehabilitation Act, which was passed by the Diet and was promulgated in June 2007 and to ensure fair application of the Act in order to improve and strengthen the offenders rehabilitation system in the community.

The Offenders Rehabilitation Act shall be enforced on a date which is specified by a Cabinet Order within a period not exceeding one year from the day of promulgation (June 15, 2007). However, some articles of the Act which relate to support of crime victims were already enforced on December 1, 2007. In order to carry out balanced probation, parole, and improvement of the system of cooperation between rehabilitation workers in the private sector such as volunteer probation officers, and public officers, the Ministry of Justice is striving to strictly enforce the lower laws and ordinances which lay down the detailed regulations of the bill of the Offenders Rehabilitation Act. In addition, the Rehabilitation Bureau is endeavoring to establish strong rehabilitation of offenders in the community in a way which will fulfill the expectations of the citizens in the future.

To ensure balanced and effective probation, the Ministry of Justice implements the following from the viewpoint of the appropriate roles for probation officers and volunteer probation officers: guidance and assistance by probation officers who give direct and intensive supervision to persons who need special consideration for treatment, reinforcement of direct participation by probation officers for persons who need focused treatment, implementation of special treatment programs for sex offenders, violent offenders and drug abusers. In addition, assisting in securing employment is extremely important to prevent re-offending. Therefore, the Ministry of Justice promotes finding employment together with public employment security offices to support probationers and parolees in finding work, promotes measures for work security in a variety of industries and fields through cooperation with the ministries concerned, and promotes the National Halfway House Project.

Concerning antiterrorism measures, the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act (hereinafter to be referred to as the Immigration Control Act), was revised in the regular session of the Diet in 2005 in order to include new counter-terrorism measures, based on the Action Plan for the Prevention of Terrorism (decided on December 10, 2004 by the Headquarters for the Promotion of Countermeasures against International Terrorism including International Organized Crime) and the amended Act entered into effect in December of 2005.

Further, according to the plan, the ordinary Diet Session in 2006 amended the Immigration Control Act. The revision included the introduction of (i) regulations requiring foreign nationals to provide fingerprints and other personal identification at the landing examination, (ii) regulations regarding the grounds for deportation of foreign terrorists, and (iii) regulations requiring the captains of ships and other vessels entering Japan to report in advance information regarding crewmembers and passengers.

With regard to North Korea, the Public Security Intelligence Agency is collecting and analyzing information such as abduction, nuclear and missile issues, in order to contribute to providing solutions. Further, the Agency is endeavoring to consolidate its intelligence collection mechanism by intensifying and expanding its intelligence network and its cooperation with foreign intelligence agencies in order to prevent the occurrence of terrorist attacks by international terrorist organizations, and to clarify the actual state of such organizations as well as to detect international terrorism related activities in Japan, while making efforts to actively promote the Government’s “Action Plan for the Prevention of Terrorism” with other agencies and organizations concerned. With regard to Aum Shinrikyo (the Aum cult), taking into consideration that there is no fundamental change in its dangerous nature even after the cult split into the main stream group and the Joyu group in May 2007, the Agency is strictly implementing the measure to place the groups under surveillance thereby clarifying the organizations themselves and their activities and providing local governments at their request with the results of the surveillance, thus trying to secure the safety of the public and ease the fears and the anxiety of the Japanese people.

(Criminal Affairs Bureau, Correction Bureau, Rehabilitation Bureau, Immigration Bureau, Public Security Intelligence Agency, and Public Security Examination Commission)

Eyewitness report on how NPA is targeting NJ in Gotanda as security risk for APEC Summit in Yokohama


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Hi Blog.  In case you haven’t heard, the latest APEC Summit is coming up in Yokohama this weekend.  Aside from the regular boilerplate on places like NHK about how we’re gearing up to greet and communicate effectively with foreigners (with some smattering on the security measures — cops on every corner looking busy and alert etc.), we once again are hearing next to nothing (if any media is talking about this, please send source) about how security means targeting NJ as potential criminals and terrorists.

It’s one thing to have Police State-style lockdowns.  It’s another matter of great concern to Debito.org for those lockdowns to encourage racial profiling.  This seems to happen every time we have any major international summitry (see past articles here, here, here, and here), and as usual no media seems to question it.  An eyewitness account redacted only in name that happened last week in Gotanda, Tokyo, quite a distance from the Yokohama site, follows.  Anyone else out there getting racially profiled and zapped by the fuzz?  Make sure you mention the whens and wheres, please.  Thanks.  Arudou Debito


November 5, 2010

Hey Debito, Just to keep you abreast of a recent NPA excuse for a ‘stop and search’ shambles, here’s my story.

I have been living in Tokyo for around eight years now and this was the first time I have ever been stopped. I was on my way to meet a client in Gotanda in Tokyo on November 3rd and as I went through the ticket gate at approximately XXXpm [daytime] there were two regular police officers waiting on the other side. I saw one of them clock me and registered that he had decided to stop me for whatever purpose. Resigned to my fate, I watched him beeline his way towards me and gesture for me to stop. I took out my earbuds and responded to his question (“Can you speak Japanese?”) with a polite, “just a little.” Suprisingly, he then spoke English to me and continued to do so for the rest of the time I was delayed (I am not a fluent speaker of Japanese so I was quite happy to stay in my native tongue rather than struggle along with what little I know). First he asked if I had any I.D. such as a passport or Registration Card so I obligingly opened my bag, got out my wallet, closed my bag and handed him my I.D. I then asked him why he had stopped me and what he said was, and still is, the shocker of this whole story for me. He said that they were stopping foreigners “because of the APEC meeting being held in Yokohama.” I will refrain from launching into what I think about this ridiculous statement but I’m sure you can imagine my chagrin, so to speak. When I asked him why he had chosen to stop me, he then said that they were focusing on searching foreigners bags for “dangerous goods” and asked if it wouldn’t be too much trouble to have a look inside my bag. I said no, he couldn’t look inside my bag. He was a bit flummoxed at this and had to gather himself in order to proceed correctly. First he called over his sidekick and asked him to fill in the relevant form with my Registration details – sidekick obviously hadn’t done this before as he had a hard time guessing which bits of info to write down and had to check more than twice with the guy I was dealing with – then, he confirmed that I had just said “no” and asked me again if he could look inside my bag. We went back and forth a couple more times. Next he asked me to cooperate and that it wouldn’t take much time; I said I was cooperating and asked him if he thought I wasn’t cooperating. We went back and forth a couple more times. The discussion went round in circles a little longer but I must stress that at no point was he ever threatening or aggressive, and neither was I. In the end, I asked for his name and I.D., which he obligingly gave me. Once I had taken this down I opened my bag to put my notebook back and allowed him to have a look inside – by this time it was getting close to my appointment and I wanted to get on with my day. The one thing I forgot to ask him before I showed him the inside of my bag was if I could leave now, once they had taken my Registration details. It’s easy to think about it in retrospect… He only gave the inside of my (fairly sizable backpack, messenger style) bag a cursory look even after the reason he gave for the search, too! – I guess he supposed I would refuse if he asked to open the other bags which were inside my bag (soft lunch bag, quality waterproof bag with spare clothes, book bag). At least, in the end, he was polite, even though he was persistent. The whole affair took about 10 minutes of my time and I can’t help feeling like I was the victim of some inane body-count for administration purposes only.

Police Officer Seiya NC 217 of the Osaki Police Station looked like he was still in his 20’s and had been tasked with the job of targeting foreigners for the sole purpose of satisfying his superiors that Japan was doing it’s bit to ‘fight’ terrorism. I’m sure he believed in what he was doing and most likely still does but I’m also sure that he and many others like him have no clue that targeting foreigners and not even considering the idea that terror can be home-spun is not only hypocritical (and ironic – sarin gas, anyone?) but ultimately damaging to the good nature, honesty and humility of the vast majority of Japanese people in this country.

Isn’t there something I should download from your blog that would be ideal for explaining why I refuse to have my bag searched?

Best regards, rock on and keep banging that hammer, Debito.


WB and me on what NJ tourists also need in Japan — security against NPA harassment


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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
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Hi Blog.  I get letters like this on a daily basis (thanks everyone; can’t respond to all).  This one dovetails with something Debito.org is increasingly focusing attention upon:  Japan’s attempts to rebrand itself as a “cool tourist destination”.  This is fine, of course, but if you’re going to make it easier for NJ tourists (such as Chinese or Subcontinental Indians) to visit, you better make sure that they have a good time while here.  And I certainly see some room for improvement there.

I was waking up to NHK last Monday morning, and in line with their general cluelessness about how to treat NJ (such as acclaiming paltry 30-sen discount coupons for exchange rates), this time they were surveying airport tourists about what they’d like to see done to make Japan more attractive.  Some of the advice was decent (such as making clear on menus the contents of food, as in, what items are safe for vegetarians or diabetics).  But others were of the “whiny” variety (as in, “In America, we have menus in English”; this in a land where menus are very conveniently visual indeed).  Nice try, but if you’re trying to appeal to Asian-Region tourists, why not ask more Asian tourists what THEY want, NHK?

But one thing is of course being overlooked — how tourists and NJ in general are being targeted and harassed by police for instant passport checks.  It starts at Narita Airport, where the Narita Police are essentially using gaijin for target practice.  And as Debito.org Readers keep hearing here, it keeps happening once inside as well.  Witness this letter below, redacted only in name.

Point is, if you want to make Japan a more attractive tourist destination, please heel your police dogs, GOJ.  The NPA is spoiling the party with its racial profiling and treating NJ as suspicious.  Being treated as a criminal can really spoil one’s vacation.  Arudou Debito


November 2, 2010

Hello Debito, My name is WB and I have been following your site for 3 years by now. Let me start by saying that I was very doubtful and cynical of what you mentioned in regards to racism and discrimination in Japan as I’ve noticed none when I first went there for a short 2 week trip on Dec 2008 (Narita’s fingerprints aside). As a matter of fact, I still have some reservations towards the way you approach things, though my opinion of you changed dramatically after I went back to Japan for a 3 month stay last summer.

I went on a tourist visa to Osaka to practice and learn martial arts. My experience in that regards was fantastic and I’ve have the pleasure to meet amazing people during my trip. My experiences with police checkpoints, however, we nothing but scary. During my 3 month stay, I’ve been stopped 5 times, once by undercover detectives simply because I was gaijin. Once I was stopped on my bike, asked for my residency card (which naturally, I didn’t have because I am a tourist!) and escorted back to my home like a criminal, had my privacy intruded, handed my passport to the officers to see it being inspected to the very finest bit as if I gave them some letter full of anthrax or something. One of the officers was apologetic but the other one was rude and warned me harshly. I protested but that got things escalating so I backed down with a “hai, wakarimashita” and breathed a sigh of relief as they went away from my place.

The ensuing days had left me in fear. I quickly looked in the internet for some practical solutions and yours was what I found. I printed the Japanese laws tidbit you posted and had a copy of my passport in my pocket all the times. Carrying my passport all the time is out of the question! What if I lost it here or there? Terrible treatment awaits me if they decided to check on me when that happens! Thankfully, the next few checkpoints after this incident went smoothly, but I was always in a state of fear (for a “crime” that I didn’t commit).

The passport thing also extends to hotels it seems. I went to Shikoku for a 3 day trip and I’ve been asked for my passport in two hotels I stayed in. Failure to do so apparently means that they have to deny me service. I didn’t have my passport at that time, but I managed to convince them to accept my Canadian ID. If you think of it, they’re just following “the rules”, and since my Canadian ID had an name, address, and personal information on it; I was able to “get around” those rules.

Let me stress again that my experiences there were more positive than negative, and I am hopeful to return there once again. However, I can now understand what most NJ face in their daily life. I still have don’t like some of the aggressiveness in your opinions, but I am glad that you’re putting up the fight. Your site provided me with important information at a time of need….Thank you.

PS: I am unable to connect to your site here (Nova Scotia) for the past 2 months. I had to use an anonymous surf proxy to view it. What gives…??

Regards, WB

Eido Inoue on improbable remote tracking of RFID next-generation “Gaijin Cards”; yet “scan-proof” travel pouches now on sale


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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
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Hi Blog.  With the rerelease of an article I wrote last year (I am reading all my old articles in order for the Debito.org Podcast, so listen here or read it here) is a revisitation of an argument I made about the next-generation “Gaijin Cards” (Zairyuu Kaado), with imbedded IC Chips.  I expressed a fear that these “smart cards” will be remotely scannable, meaning the NPA will be able to zap a crowd and smoke out who’s foreign or not (whereas Japanese citizens have no legal obligation to carry ID 24/7 backed up with criminal punishment) — or will further justify racial profiling of people like me who look foreign but aren’t.

Techie Eido Inoue, a naturalized J citizen himself, writes here on invitation to address this argument.  He was worried that this topic might get a bit geeky (he has in fact made it very readable, thanks), but never mind, this needs to be discussed by people in the know.  However, please do read or page down to the end, where I have some basic counterarguments and a scan of something I saw the other day in a travel shop — a “scan proof” pouch for your valuables on sale!  Read on.



There has been a lot of concern these days about the inclusion use of NFC (near field communications) technology, which is a type of RFID (radio frequency identification), being included in the successor to the Japanese ARC (alien registration card), the 在留カード {zairyū kādo} (non-Japanese residence card). In this comment, I’ve summed up, per Debito’s request, some of the back and forth Q&A that has been occurring on other blogs:

Q: What sort of wireless technology is in these new cards? Is it reliable? Is it proven?
A: The card’s IC chip will use JIS X 6322 type B standards, which is basically the Japanese translation of ISO 14443 type B standards. This is the exact same international standard used for both Japanese and overseas e-passports, as well as Japanese driver’s licenses and the 住基カード {jūki kādo} (Japanese citizen residency card).

Q: What will be inside these chips?
A: The same information that’s printed outside the card:
* full passport/English legal name, date of birth, sex, nationality & domicile/state/locale
* resident address in Japan
* [visa] status, and status length / expiration date
* visa status grant date
* residency card number and expiration/renewal date
* work restrictions, if any
* any permitted activities outside of visa status
* color photograph

Special Permanent Residents, however, will only have the following on their cards:
* full passport/English legal name, date of birth, sex, nationality & domicile/state/locale
* resident address in Japan
* special permanent resident number and renewal date
* color photograph

Technically speaking, the 在留カード {zairyū kādo} (non-Japanese residence card) will be called and labeled as a 特別永住者証明書 {tokubetsu eijūsha shōmeisho} (Special Permanent Resident Identification [Card]) for people with this status.

[ the only thing that will not be on the chip but on the outside of the card will be the Ministry of Justice’s seal. Note that there’s much less information on this card than the ARC: no passport info, head of household, employer, etc. ]

Non-Japanese that have kanji names with their governments will have the kanji on the cards. In the case that the kanji is Chinese Simplified or Traditional and can’t be represented with using Japanese character sets, it will be converted to Japanese form.

[it was not clear from the literature I read what characters were permitted and what were not and what underlying character set encoding, such as JIS X 0208 or Unicode, would be used. It was also unclear to me from reading the literature as to whether non-Japansese without official government registered Kanji names, such as Japanese-Americans or those who just want a Kanji (or kana or hybrid) name, even if it’s 当て字 {ateji}]

Customs/airport officials plan to register / use the alphabet passport form and not the Kanji [even if it’s Japanese] form of the name as inputting / copying the kanji name takes too much time.

Unlike the previous ARC cards, there is no plan to list aliases (either katakana or kanji).

[It does not say how non-Japanese, who have Japanese aliases for anti-discrimination or other purposes, will prove what their registered legal alias is]

Years on the card will be specified in Western (ex. 2010) system, not Japanese (ex. H.22 or 平成22) system. Dates will be in Y M D order, and the fields will be labeled [so you know which is the month and which is the date]. Sex will be specified with a “M” or “F” [as opposed to 「男」, 「女」, 「♂」, or 「♀」].

[This should make the card more comprehensible to non-Japanese officials if you attempt to use it as ID overseas]

If a full name is too long for one line, it will be broken into multiple lines.

[better than the ARC and the Japanese driver’s license, which continued long (ie. Brazilian) names onto the back of the card]

Q: If the information inside the chips is the same as the information written on the outside of the card, what’s the point?
A: Three main points:

1. reduction of data entry errors (no hand copying the info from the card to some other system)
2. speed of processing (depends on the operator, processes, & hardware/software implementation)
3. [primary official reason] preventing the creation of completely bogus identifications using high tech printing, copying and manufacturing technology that is available to even amateurs today.

The info on the chip is digitally “signed” (a certificate validating that no information has been added, changed, or deleted) using PKCS (public-key cryptography standards). So long as the signing key is kept secure by the government, it’s mathematically impossible to recreate a government’s digital signature/certificate associated with a bogus identity. Now, you can clone (that is, copy the certificate along with the entire ID, including the photograph, without adding or removing anything) a digital ID. But that’s not the purpose of the certificate. The signature prevents somebody from creating a bogus ID from scratch. These days, thanks (?) to advances in technology accessibility, most professional and even some amateur forgers can create a phony identity card (“Taro McLovin”), mimicking holograms, blacklight ink, microprint, etc., that is so good it can fool a professional trained inspector.

But even the most powerful governments in the word have yet to break the modern strength digital signature/certificate algorithms — because the best mathematicians, working for the best spook agencies (NIST, NSA) in the world, created the system based on principles of impossible to solve quickly mathematics (ie. using ultra large prime numbers), then publicized all their work to have it checked by the other best mathematicians in the world. Based on what mathematicians have known for literally thousands of years, and taking into account the current state of Moore’s Law, the crypto should theoretically be safe from brute force attack for literally eternity. Where things fail is due to errors in implementing the algorithms, or theft/discovery of the secret keys, not in the algorithms themselves.

Anyway, for IDs with digital signature certificates, the forger is going to have no choice but to clone, in its entirety, somebody’s existing digital ID when they make a fake ID. Which means they’re going to have to look an awful lot like the person whose identity they stole because the picture data is calculated with the certificate’s hash. Plus they’re going to have to hope that the identity theft victim didn’t report the ID as stolen / lost or that the victim unknowingly had their ID scanned in a place that would be logically impossible for a followup scan of the cloned card. For example, a digital ID gets scanned in Hokkaidō, then the exact same digital ID with the same serial number gets scanned by another police officer in Fukuoka 5 minutes later; a computer will pick up on that.

Now, if there’s a fingerprint encoded in the chip (which is not the case for Japanese passports or the 在留カード {zairyū kādo} but is true for new European passports) and digitally signed, then even if the fraudster looks like the victim in the digitally signed photograph, they’re out of luck. They can’t remove or change the fingerprint without invalidating the certificate.

Q: Can a civilian or official read my card from a distance?
A: Extremely doubtful. The way the cards work is that while they have no power source of there own; they are powered by a minute amount of power they induce from their radio frequency for no more than a fraction of a second, and this power gives them the strength to produce a very faint signal that can only be practically read reliably by another device that’s less than four or 5cm away. The chips contain power regulators, so even if you send an extra strong signal to the chip in an effort to give the chip more power to work with, it does not produce a stronger return signal.

This is why you can see a lineup of Suica/Pasmo/Icoca/PiTaPa electronic wicket gates in a train station: the radio waves produced by those gates, which are no more than a meter apart, are so faint that each gate can’t hear and interfere with the radio waves being produced by the gates right next to it.

The maximum field range of a ISO 14443 device is less than 10cm. The maximum range that professionals have managed to get out of a ISO 14443 device in a laboratory (meaning neither the card or the reader can move for a long time, the room’s air is shielded from radio noise, and the lab’s using a very nonstandard reader) is 20cm: the length from the tip of your little finger to the tip of your thumb on an average outstretched hand.

Because the return signal from the chip inside the card is constant no matter how how power you throw at it, the only way you’re going to increase the range is by using a larger antenna. But even then there are limits, as the signal is so weak that it’s literally drowned out by the radio noise that permeates the real world.

Some professionals have speculated that, given a large enough (a very non-portable antenna; it would need to be mounted and not hand held), it is possible to increase the maximum range of ISO 14443, in a laboratory (not real world) setting, to 50cm: the length from your wrist to your elbow.

Anything longer than 20cm is suspect; anything longer than 50cm is science fiction, in my opinion.

Q: Could a crowd of people (assuming they’re in range of a reader), or even a whole bag of cards, be scanned en mass?
A: Even if it was possible to read ISO 14443 cards from a distance, ISO 14443 is designed to only work with one card at a time. It is not possible to have one reader read multiple cards, have many readers read one card, or have many readers read many cards.

It’s a matter of laws of physics (two signals being in the exact same frequency) and the way the devices were designed. Mobile phones, Bluetooth, and WiFi have very sophisticated and complicated protocols to allow them to share and operate and be individually addressed in a range of airspace, jumping and across (sometimes thousands) of frequencies and channels, sometimes using more than one simultaneously, in an elaborate cooperative ballet to prevent two devices from using the exact same airspace at the same time.

ISO 14443, on the other hand, not only doesn’t have these protocols, but in fact was specifically designed to not share airspace with anything else. There are specific fail-safe parts of the protocol that are designed to make the card/reader shut down, back out, and shut up if it detects something else using its airspace for safety/reliability reasons. It also has safety procedures to handle cases where it doesn’t have enough power or a good enough signal to complete a transaction: Everyone knows it’s futile to try to yank away your payment card or try to swipe your card for only a split second in an effort to fool the vending machine into making a transaction without having your balance debited.

If you’ve ever had two Suica Cards and/or a Japanese driver’s license in the same wallet, you know that the readers will refuse to work or will only work with one card. Again, this is not just a limitation of the technology, it is by design.

Q: But what if somehow somebody comes up with way that allows for eavesdropping of a card talking to a reader (from afar or near)? Am I safe?
A: Some people on the Internet have claimed even farther ranges than what we mentioned above: such as detecting the presence of a signal at 20 meters and actually discerning the digital bits at 10 meters. None of these claims have been independently confirmed or verified, and even if we give them the benefit of the doubt and believe for the sake of argument that it’s possible, nobody has shown they can break the cryptography gleaned from real devices in the field in real world situations.

To an eavesdropper, most ISO 14443 cards “sound alike.” This means they all — be it your e-passport or your U.S. Passport Card or your Japanese driver’s license or your FeLiCa based Suica/Pasmo/Icoca/PiTaPa or your PayPass credit card or your Japanese Taspo tobacco age-verification card — talk on the same frequency (13.56 Mhz). Furthermore, the transaction that occurs between the reader and the card is encrypted, so even if a bad person had such a clear signal that they were able to discern the individual digital bits going back-and-forth between the reader and card, it would be useless for determining the payload or even the type of card being used in most cases.

Thus, just because the card, either in your hand or concealed in a wallet, of you or the person next to you is or isn’t “ squawking” and you are or are not doesn’t mean somebody can figure out that “that person is a foreigner and that person is not” due to the presence or absence of a 13.56 Mhz encrypted squawk. That squawk could be anything, from a Japanese passport to a London train commuter Oyster Card.

NOTE: Some security journals have speculated that it may be possible to perform literally a “man-in-the-middle” attack in some cases. This means putting something physically between (the 10cm) space of air between the card and the reader that is big enough to ensure that the reader and card can’t hear each other; the bad spy device acts as a “relay” between the legit card and reader. So when you swipe, you should be absolutely sure you’re swiping the real legit reader and not something placed directly on top of it.

Q: Even if they can’t read the contents of my card, can a civilian or official detect that I’m in possession (or that I’m not in possession) of a 在留カード {zairyū kādo} (non-Japanese residence card) without my knowledge?
A: No. The reason for this in answered both in the previous question and the following question. You could easily fool an eavesdropper into thinking you swiped any arbitrary ISO 14443 Type B card that uses encryption by simply using another, completely different and unrelated ISO 14443 Type B card. You could purchase and carry your own battery powered USB portable [dummy] reader in a purse or bag, for example.

Q: Can a civilian or official read my card without my knowledge if they’re very near or next to me?
A: Japanese [and U.S. and E.U., but not all countries] e-passports, and yes, the new 在留カード {zairyū kādo} (non-Japanese residence card) have BAC (basic access control).

This means you have to know some piece of information that’s either on the card or in your head to read it.

Even if somebody manages to covertly (say, on a crowded train or bus) get a portable skimmer close enough [less than 10cm] to your back pocket, purse, bag, or briefcase to pick up your card, they still need to know some things that are on the card in order to read it.

NOTE: Not all NFC cards and RFID use this extra access control and/or encryption. So you don’t want to carry all your cards unprotected / unshielded in your back pocket. It is possible to obtain special, practical shielded slips for ISO 14443 based technology (tin foil hats sold separately). Some ISO 14443 technology (such as many, including Japanese, passports) already include a shielding envelope or technology integrated into the device. However, the presence of the shielding does not mean that the shielding is the last or only or even best line of defense against skimming; it is merely one component in a suite of many security components for the passport & residency card, already built-in by design, that would have to be compromised. To stay on topic, the NFC cards which are the discussion of the Q&A, such as Japanese passport, driver’s license, and yes, the 在留カード {zairyū kādo} (non-Japanese residence card), do implement and enforce BAC in addition to encrypting their point-to-point sessions with the readers.

Q: Can private enterprises read the IC chip?
A: Yes. The MoJ [Ministry of Justice] plans to publish the specifications for reading information from the card. However, they can’t override BAC (see above) which means a private enterprise would not be able to read your card without your knowledge.

[ This is interesting. The literature I have specifically mentions that society, especially financial institutions and mobile phone companies, needs a reliable domestic photo id for non-Japanese residents. ]

Q: What if the chip isn’t working? What if the private enterprise doesn’t have a reader? Is there an alternative electronic way to verify the card without the chip? Will I be hauled off to the police box if my chip isn’t working?
A: The MoJ [Ministry of Justice] is also going to make a website available for checking cards (which presumably could be accessed by even mobile phone browsers). The website will accept the card’s number and one other piece of information from the card to prevent people from randomly guessing 在留カード {zairyū kādo} (non-Japanese residence card) numbers. The literature suggests that this extra information be the card renewal/expiration date.

Upon submitting the number, the website will simply return 有効 {yūkō} (valid) or 失効 {shikkō} (invalid). To protect private information, no other information (such as name, date of birth, nationality, visa status, etc.) will be returned.



COMMENT FROM ARUDOU DEBITO (donning his tinfoil hat):

One conflict I always notice from my side of the spectrum is the inherent mistrust of scientists — when they claim a new technology, open to all manner of theoretical abuses, is “safe”.  This is the same camp that tends to blame the scientists on the Manhattan Project for opening Pandora’s Box with The Bomb.

Continuing in that vein in an attempt to contrapose aarguments to Eido’s research above, a whole bunch of “what ifs” and “whys” that are not all that unreasonable quickly come to mind:

1) WHAT IF the sacred encryption keys get cracked or leaked somehowCan happen quite easily, if not in part due to government error, see here.  And hackers are forever getting increasingly sophisticated.  It’s hard to imagine the “eternity” scenario in a place when it’s techie vs. techie, and one is but a few steps ahead of the other.  The risk is too great — once the door is open, identity theft becomes possible.

2) WHAT IF the realm of “science fiction” becomes “science fact”? We once thought manned flight (with or without gravity), or portable computers, or even gigabytes of data stored in tiny places were impossible, but technology, again, has a habit of catching up and deleting the “im” prefix.  Encryption notwithstanding, decrypting computers are getting faster and smarter all the time.

3) WHY are foreigners only required to be IDed by private businesses (last two Qs above)?  Actually, I can answer that one.  Because the NPA feels the irrepressible need to track people that could commit crime.  And because they can’t do that to Japanese citizens due to the outrage — witness the flop of the Juuki Netto system.  People just don’t want to be forced to carry ID in this society, much less tracked by it.  It’s just happening to foreigners because they can’t stop it.  And it increases the Japanese police’s power by deputizing the private sector.  This is just common sense — give the police anywhere in the world extra power, and they will feel fully justified in using it to accomplish their goals until they’re told they’ve gone too far (and in Japan, they insufficiently are).

4) WHY is that same private sector now advertising preventative measures against RFID technology? Check this out — a scan-proof pouch for your valuables now on sale in travel shops in Japan (seen because I went and renewed my passport on Tuesday):

Unless this is Snake Oil (and Eido himself points out that non-contact scanning is possible), how do we deal with this?  By saying that the distance is too small or the definition of the signal is too vague to matter?  Again, I will raise the technology argument to say that once the leap is possible, it’s only a matter of degree.  This may be tinfoil-hat-ism, but to me it’s like saying, “Don’t worry about The Bomb; if there is fallout from an unlikely attack, there are anti-radiation pills you can take.”  Sorry, I don’t believe in having to put the Genie back in the Bottle.  Especially since the reasons for this measure are less a technological inevitability than a political necessity (i.e., tightened policing of the only people you can police this way, since society in general wouldn’t dare accept it).  If this is scary enough to the general public for it to be used as a preventative marketing ploy, then the foreigners should also count as members of the general public who are entitled to be scared.  Just fobbing it off on a “it probably won’t happen” “eternity scenario” ignores the political realities behind these moves.

Alright, I’ll stop there.  Let’s have a discussion.  Arudou Debito


CJFF: Immigration raids Filipino family home, husband has heart attack


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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
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CJFF writes:

October 21, 2010

For press/blog release…

Afternoon of October 13, 2010 immigration officers questioned Victor de la Cruz in his work site at Gako Ishikaya located at the basement of Tokyo’s Shimbashi station of JR line. The immigration officer is asking if he and his wife, Susan Lubos de la Cruz who is an employee of an African embassy and Victor as her dependent are real husband and wife. There is no established case and Victor went home afterwards.

Today, October 20, 2010 at around 11:30 a.m. the immigration officers went to the home of Mr. and Mrs. de la Cruz in Meguro-ku and Victor was alone in the house. Later an immigration officer who gave his name as Mr. Kato of Shinjuku immigration with telephone number 03 5155 0496 called Susan, the wife of Victor, informing that they, the immigration officers, sent Victor to the National Organization Tokyo Medical Center at around 1:00 p.m. Victor suffered heart attack and in comatose given a 10-20 % chance to live by the doctor as of this writing (October 20, 2010, 11:50 pm).

Susan learned that her husband heart have stopped beating for an hour before Victor was sent to the hospital. Upon arriving home, Susan found all of their things and belonging are scattered and she also learned from the immigration officers that they went to their house to look for evidence if their marriage is real or not.

The fact is Victor and Susan have been married since 1989 or 21 years now and have been living together in the same house in the past 15 years in Japan. Susan and Victor have three children.

Susan, a member of Gabriela-Japan, a chapter of the Philippine national women organization Gabriela with 2 seats in the Philippine House of Representatives, is asking her organization for legal assistance and possibly to question the Immigration Bureau about the legality of their actions. Nobody knows what transpired and what kind of treatment, pressure, or intimidation or whatever the immigration officer employed to make Victor to suffer from heart attack. Susan is also doubtful about the legality of the immigration officers’ action in raiding her house.

The Gabriela-Japan, together with its Philippine national chapter Gabriela Philippines and its parliament representatives in the Philippine House of Representatives, is launching the JUSTICE FOR VICTOR AND TO ALL FOREIGN MIGRANTS VICTIMS OF UNJUST ACT OF AUTHORITIES, ABUSE OF POWER AND MALTREATMENT. The campaign network will seek to unite various groups and individuals to push for legal actions in demanding the Ministry of Justice and legal courts to rule on the legalities on handling the Victor case.

The Justice for Victor Campaign Network is calling on all foreign migrants support groups and justice loving people of Japan to joint the cause. As initial move, we are asking all the network supporters to make a barrage of inquiry to the Justice Ministry regarding their knowledge about the Victor case and to register our strongest protest against excessive use of power of immigration officials in raiding foreign migrants suspects that cause the sufferings and being in state of comatose of Victor at present.

For all interested parties to join the Justice for Victor Campaign Network please send an email to sa_ryo AT hotmail DOT com

Justice for Victor and to all foreign migrants victims of authorities excessive abuse of power!

Cesar V. Santoyo
Mission Director, Center for Japanese-Filipino Families (CJFF)


“Pinprick Protests”: Chand Bakshi fights back against “NJ ID Checkpoint” hotel, gets apology


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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
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Hi Blog. Here is a report from Chand Bakshi on how he called “basta” to a hotel that was racially profiling its customers, demanding all visually-looking NJ submit to an ID check and copy — claiming erroneously that this was required by law. Chand followed up on this to the point where he got capitulation and an apology. Well done.

This is actually pretty effective. The hotel I usually stay at in Tokyo has on various occasions (depending on how I was dressed) tried to Gaijin Card me too. I told them (and later followed up with an explanation to the management) that this only applied to tourists; NJ with Japanese addresses are not required to show ID. Of course, that’s not what the NPA would have hotels believe — they have explicitly instructed hotels to inspect and photocopy ID of ALL NJ. Which is why we must fight back against this invitation to racial profiling, as Chand has below.

In my case, my Tokyo hotel yesterday asked me if I had a domestic address upon check-in (which I’m fine with). I pointed to my name on the check-in card and said, check your records — I’m not only a Japanese, but also a frequent customer. Got a deep apology. But at least now my hotel chain is more sophisticated in its approach.

Read on for Chand’s report. Thanks Chand. Arudou Debito in Tokyo


October 7, 2010

Dear Debito,

I’d like to share a recent experience I had with a hotel that was discriminating against NJ and it’s somewhat positive outcome.

I live in Kyushu and took a trip to Nagasaki with a Japanese friend; we decided to stay at the Richmond Hotel in Nagasaki. It’s one of a countrywide chain.


When we checked in the staff asked for my passport or gaijin card. Now, since living in Japan I’ve had my share of bad hotel experiences, refused service etc, but I tend not to get too upset when asked for my gaijin card as I realize its often a communication error and what the staff really want is any ID from all customers and they just presume NJ are unlikely to have Japanese driving licenses etc. So I offered the staff my Japanese driving license instead. However they wouldn’t accept it. They wanted a gaijin card or passport only. I explained to them that as a resident of Japan it wasn’t required that I show my gaijin card to a hotel and any ID should suffice. They continued to insist I had to give them my gaijin card and I refused. I brought up the topic of discrimination and the staff seemed to have an automatic English response,

‘It is not discrimination, it is required by law, please understand.’

Finally they accepted my driving license, as ID and all seemed ok, check in completed they handed over our keys and wished us a happy stay. I then realized they hadn’t asked my Japanese friend for any ID. I asked them why they hadn’t checked my friend. Their reply was ‘only gaikokujin need to show ID, please understand.”

I started telling them off again much to the embarrassment of my Japanese friend, a supervisor came and said rudely the now all too familiar line. ‘It is not discrimination, it is required by law, please understand’

I asked what law, and was told ‘the Ryokan Gyouhou, please understand it is not discrimination.’

As an avid debito.org reader I was pretty sure this was incorrect, but there was the chance the law had changed and more importantly my Japanese friend was becoming frustrated/embarrassed and wanted to get on with sightseeing so I let the issue drop.

When I returned home I check with Debito that the Ryokan Gyouhou hadn’t changed and contacted the hotel again via telephone.

I got explained my unhappiness to various staff who where much more friendly over the phone than they had been in person. The lobby staff still kept saying it was required by law, but when I asked them if they had actually read the Gyouhou as I had they passed me up the management chain.

Finally I got to a lady who told me it wasn’t actually the law but was in fact a request from the Nagasaki police, she listened to my concerns that I basically summarized as:

* NJ are particularly sensitive to discrimination in hotels as we are sometimes refused service.

*NJ aren’t required by law to give their gaijin cards to hotel staff, they should ask for ID only, insisting on the gaijin card could be discrimination and ideally the word ‘gaijin card’ should never come out of hotel staff’s mouths.

* Requiring ID from NJ and not Japanese is discrimination, no argument about it.

*Its racial profiling as my children could look NJ despite holding Japanese citizenship. And why wasn’t my Japanese friend checked in case they were Zainichi Korean as they too hold gaijin cards.

*If they’re collecting this data on NJ what is being done with it?

She said she understood, and that they were just following the police’s instructions. Nothing was done with the copies of the IDs and they were shredded after a month.

I told her as the copy of my ID had been copied under a discriminatory policy I would like it returned to me.

The lady said she couldn’t approve that but would get her boss to call me in a few days.

A few days later the manager, a Mr. Motoyama contacted me, he was very apologetic. They said that they were sorry they had offended me, and they would return the copy of my ID.

I told him I was concerned that this was going to happen again and what was their hotel was going to do about it. Mr. Motoyama said he would inform head office of the error and in his own hotel advise the staff to follow the Gyomhou not the instructions of the police and that this shouldn’t happen again.

I asked him if this was because of the 2005 memo. (previously discussed on debito.org at http://www.debito.org/japantimes101805.html and www.debito.org/newhotelpassportlaw.jpg)

However Mr. Motoyama informed me that the police had asked for the information to be collected in 2007 when they visited the hotel in person.

They had been collecting copies of all ‘gaijin’s ‘ cards since then but hadn’t actually been passing them to the police, just shredding them after a month.

A few days later the copy of my ID and an apology letter arrived in the post. (see JPEG attached.)

So this all had a fairly satisfactory outcome, however it’s frustrating to constantly have hassle when traveling. Here the hotel staff were just being stupid. They had an automatic English response ready with their ‘It is not discrimination, it is the law please understand.” so, they must’ve been getting complaints fairly regularly. They should’ve read the Ryokan Gyouhou.

But the real culprits here are the police, I can understand how a Japanese might be tempted to follow instructions from the police without checking first if it was the law or not. Now I haven’t contacted the police (yet), but this hotel problem isn’t going to be solved one hotel at a time or even one police station at a time. It needs sorting out once and for all and I think we can do it.

We need to create some kind of guide/pamphlet/oshirase explaining the law. Maybe use some cute characters, ‘anti-sabetsu chan or something’. Then we need to get it to every hotel in the country.

So if anyone wants to help out with this project over the next few months, has some ideas, or contacts, especially with how to distribute any notices we make to literally 1000’s of hotels drop me a line at my email address:

chandbakshi AT gmail DOT com

To avoid the spam filters mark it ‘hotels’ or something. I’ll look forward to hearing from people.

Sendaiben and MB on Narita Airport again, this time both before and after entry


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Hi Blog. Have just finished giving a presentation and partaking in a PhD workshop at the University of British Columbia (getting ready for those sucked all the time out of blogging, sorry). But we have some updates to some recent posts on how Immigration (and extensions thereof) is treating people crossing borders and afterwards. Sendaiben and MB comment:


September 29, 2010
From Sendaiben:

Just came back through Narita and gave my usual calm and friendly rant to the immigration officer (she wasn’t particularly impressed -got a very curt “if you don’t comply you can’t come in”). Fair enough.

I then had a thought. The re-entry permit holder line anywhere I’ve been has been by far the shortest. I have never had to wait more than a minute or so, unlike the Japanese citizens who often have long lines (and let’s not talk about the tourist lines, which are often pretty bad). I can also take my family through with me (even though they have Japanese passports) and save them time standing in line too.

If you think of the re-entry line as a VIP line that requires additional security (fingerprints), does that not make the whole thing easier to swallow? After all, it’s not such a big deal, is it? It’s not worth getting het up about every single time we come back into the country, is it?

Sadly, that doesn’t work for me, however much I would like it to. I really dislike the policy, which seems pointless and needlessly offensive to me.

I will keep complaining, although I make sure I do so in a calm and friendly manner (the immigration officers on the desks didn’t make the rules, so there is no point being hostile to them). However, as public servants, they should know how the public feels about the policies they carry out: thus it is my right to talk about it in a calm and reasonable way 😉

Ironically it is this more than anything else which is pushing me to naturalize: I don’t need the grief every time I come home. What does everyone else think?


MB adds what happens once within the pale:


July 14, 2010
From MB:

It seems that Narita cops still practice racial profiling even after all the protests lodged at their office in Narita…this is sad because it shows we foreigners count like zero.

I frequently use Narita and to say the truth this was the first time I saw this bad practice at work. Hearsay is one thing, seeing something with your eyes is very different and I have to be honest to say that I got angry.

In the open space just before the Narita Express entrance two policemen
had stopped two people and were asking them various things.

Those two people of course were also showing their passports. They were foreigners. At that point I took one picture. I thought to myself, “Well, they will also stop Japanese….”. So I purposedly waited nearby to see what the two cops would do next.

When I saw that the next people they stopped were foreigners too I began to feel angry. Welcome to Japan.

Then, after these two people the policemen stopped another couple of…. foreigners.

All of this lasted like 30 minutes and they only stopped foreigners (all white, no asians etc.).

I also walked around to see if they stopped me but they didn’t. Maybe I look “mendokusai” ? One of the two cops looked at me after I was staring him for a long time but he didn’t make any move. The pattern I noticed is:

– white only
– two people for two cops
– tourist looking type
– normal looking person (with this I mean
those people they stopped were not really “suspicious” looking !!)

The cops always asked for:
– passports
and, this is interesting, I also noticed that in all three cases they talked to their targets for a while, THEN, when they were about to let them go, they asked again, casually, for some last thing (which I couldn’t hear). I am curious to know what it was…

The pattern was something like: “Thanks, now you may go. (then with a surprised face) Ah…I forgot to ask….”

I really do hope they also start stopping anybody not only practice dummies. This practice doesn’t make me feel safer at all, instead it makes me think of all those people that just pass through Narita without any fear to be stopped by these robo-cops.


Sendaiben digs deeper on those Narita Airport racially-profiling Instant NPA Checkpoints


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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
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Hi Blog. Just got this this morning from friend Sendaiben, about his latest experience with Narita Cops and their racially-profiling ways. Self explanatory, looks like the J-cops are getting free training at the expense of NJ bystanders for being visible while foreign. Have a read. More on this topic previously on Debito.org here. Debito


From: Sendaiben
Date: September 5, 2010

Flying out of Narita on September 5th, I had a few hours to kill after connecting from Sendai. I was alone, reading on a bench in the restaurant area. After about 20 minutes, a young and very pleasant policeman came up and asked to see my passport in passable English. I replied in Japanese, and we had an interesting conversation. Unfortunately I was mentally unprepared for all of this, so gave him my passport from which he noted down all the details. I refused to provide a contact phone number, however.

I have to emphasise that he was very pleasant throughout, and we had a friendly conversation. He was from Akita, seconded to Narita for two years (it seems the Narita police are drawn from all over the country). I mentioned several times that as a long-term resident I loved Japan but was uncomfortable being singled out for special attention like this due to my appearance. He sympathised and said that it also made him uncomfortable.

Some important points:

1. It seems that the whole exercise is voluntary, something he mentioned when I refused to provide the phone number.

2. I reminded him of the law on the management of personal information, but he was unable to tell me why they needed my passport details or how long they would be kept on file.

3. He claimed it was a random check but that they asked ‘people who seemed foreign’. I asked him to ask some Asian people next, and he said he would 🙂

The whole thing seemed like a training exercise, down to the silent sempai observing from ten metres away.

The most important thing I got out of this is that these checks may well be voluntary. I am therefore going to refuse (politely) to cooperate next time, and see what happens. I guess in a worst-case scenario they could ask to check my ARC, but I would then not allow them to write anything down.


More racism in NPA police posters, this time Kanagawa Ken Yamate police and big-nosed “int’l NJ crime groups”. (UPDATE: Contrast with same Kanagawa Police site in English: “we patrol community hoping smiles of residents never vanish.” Retch.)


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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
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Hi Blog. For a nice bite-size Sunday post, dovetailing with yesterday’s post on the NPA’s whipping up fear of foreign crime gangs, here we have the Kanagawa Police offering us a poster with racist caricatures of NJ, and more minced language to enlist the public in its Gaijin Hunt. Check this out:

(Click on image to expand in browser.)
From http://www.police.pref.kanagawa.jp/ps/32ps/32pic/32004_47.pdf, courtesy lots of people.

Now let’s analyze this booger. In the same style of fearmongering and racist police posters in the past (see for example here, here, here, and here), we have the standard NJ conks and wily faces. Along with a crime gang stealing from a jewelry store (nothing like getting one’s hands dirty, unlike all the white-collar homegrown yakuza crime we see fewer posters about).

The poster opens with employers being told to check Status of Residences of all the NJ they employ. Of course, employers who employ NJ usually sponsor them for a visa, so this warning shouldn’t be necessary. I guess it’s nicer than warning the employer that if they do employ overstayers, the employer should also be punished. But again, we hear little about that. It’s the NJ who is the wily party, after all.

Then we get the odd warning about overstayers (they say these are lots of “rainichi gaikokujin”, which is not made clear except in fine print elsewhere that they don’t mean the garden-variety NJ) and their links to “international crime groups” (although I haven’t seen convincing statistics on how they are linked). Then they hedge their language by saying “omowaremasu” (it is thought that…), meaning they don’t need statistics at all. It’s obviously a common perception that it’s “recently getting worse” (kin’nen shinkoku ka).

Next paragraph offers the standard “threat to Japanese social order” (chi’an) presented by visa overstayers and illegal workers (even though overstayers have gone down steadily since 1993), and asks for the public’s assistance.

Then it brings in the heroic Kanagawa Police, and how they will be strengthening their controls over these big-hootered shifty-eyed NJ from now on, and asks for anyone with information about illegal NJ to drop by any cop shop or police box (even though police boxes I’ve reported unlawful activities to have told me to take my crimes elsewhere; I guess NJ criminality is a higher priority).

Finally, we have the places to contact within the Kanagawa Police Department. We now have a special “international crime” head (kokusai han kakari), a “economic security” head (keizai hoan kakari), and a “gaiji kakari“, whatever that is shortened for (surely not “gaikokujin hanzai jiken“, or “foreign crime incidents”). Such proactiveness on the part of the NPA. I hope they sponsor a “sumo-yakuza tobaku kakari” soon.

Anyone else getting the feeling that the NPA is a law unto itself, doing whatever it likes in the purported pursuit of criminals, even if that means racial profiling, social othering of taxpayers and random enforcement of laws based upon nationality (even a death in police custody with impunity), and manufacturing consent to link crime with nationality?

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

UPDATE:  Compare and contrast with the English version of PR for the same police department, courtesy of crustpunker:


Not only is it a disingenuous lie, its contents are utterly banal.  And since I can’t find the gaiji kakari under “Section Information” in English, so I doubt the overall accuracy as well.

This is linked from this even nastier Kanagawa Police site regarding NJ:



ここでは、これら対日有害活動の一部を紹介し、我が国の国益を害する不法行為に関する 情報提供をお願いしています。
rest at above website


Saturday Tangent: How the US deals with Arizona racial profiling: Federal lawsuits and Jon Stewart humor


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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

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Hi Blog. We’ve recently been discussing racial profiling on this blog, comparing what’s happening in Arizona with new immigration laws vs what goes on as SOP in Japanese police law enforcement and gaijin harassment.

What’s interesting for me is how the US deals with it: They actually discuss it. First watch this Jon Stewart Daily Show excerpt (courtesy of Dave Spector) on the subject and then we’ll woolgather:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Latino 911!
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

So let’s recount the important differences apparent in this video:

1) In the US, they have not only a presidential administration making clear statements against racial profiling, but also a judiciary filing federal suit against errant state policy that would condone that. Imagine either of those happening in Japan.

2) In the US, the voices of minorities are actually being heard — and listened to — somewhere. Imagine THAT happening in Japan!

3) In the US, police training materials and the actual text of law enforcement are coming under scrutiny! Imagine… oh you get the idea.

4) In the US, they have things such as satire and sarcasm to enable people to take this apart with the very powerful tool of humor, and an investigative media that can hold people accountable for what they say and do! (God bless the Daily Show!)

These are some things that societies with healthier civil societies have at their disposal for analysis and debate.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

NYT guest column on racial profiling of Japanese for “looking too tall and dark”. Just like arrest of “foreign-looking” Japanese back in 2006.


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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
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Hi Blog. Here we have a good opinion piece in the NYT (the overseas paper the GOJ takes most seriously) from a Japanese (not a NJ, so there’s no possible excuse of a “cultural misunderstanding”) who looks suspicious to Japanese police simply because she is taller and darker than average. So she gets zapped for racial profiling (a word, as she acknowledges, is not in common currency in nihongo). Well, good thing she didn’t get arrested for looking “too foreign” and not having a Gaijin Card, which happened back in February 2006 (article enclosed below).

As I have said on numerous occasions, racial profiling by the NPA is a serious problem, as it will increasingly single out and multiethnic Japanese as well. I am waiting one day to get leaked a copy of the NPA police training manuals (not available to the public) which cover this sort of activity and scrutinize them for latent racist attitudes (we’ve already seen plenty of other racism in print by the Japanese police, see for example here, here, and here). But scrutiny is one thing the NPA consistently avoids. So this is what happens — and victims have to take it to outside media to get any attention. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Too Tall for Japan?
The New York Times, July 8, 2010, Courtesy lots of people


TOKYO — Racial profiling had never struck me as a personal issue. I am a Japanese woman living in Japan after all, where less than 2 percent of the population is foreign. And even among that sliver of a share, the majority is Asian. How could racial profiling exist if most everyone looks the same?

I was awakened from such naïveté a few years ago when I started getting pulled aside by police, apparently to see if I was an illegal immigrant. On three occasions, officers sidled up to me at busy train stations, flashing their badges and asking me where I was headed. When they concluded I was a Japanese national, they sent me on my way.

Earlier this year, two officers approached me as I was exiting Tokyo Station and asked to see an ID and the contents of my purse. I refused their repeated requests while demanding an explanation until one of the officers finally told me, “You are tall and dark-colored and look like a foreigner.” He then added, “Every day we catch four to five overstays this way,” referring to immigrants with expired visas.

I was stunned by the officer’s blatant profiling of me based on what I perceive as my only slightly unusual features: a bit taller than average height and a shade of a sun tan. But microscopic vision for sniffing out differences is a common trait among the Japanese who are often uncomfortable with dealings outside of their familiar zones.

The officers who approached me on suspicion of being an illegal immigrant were presumably acting on Japan’s Police Duties Execution Law. It states: “A police officer may stop and question any person who has reasonable ground to be suspected of having committed or being about to commit a crime.”

The Japanese law is broader than the controversial legislation in the U.S. state of Arizona that goes into effect this month, which allows police to confirm someone’s immigration status only after stopping the person on other grounds. “The same thing as in Arizona has been in place in Japan for a long time without much criticism,” says my cousin and lawyer Genichi Yamaguchi.

Most Japanese are unaware of these racially motivated checks. But even if they knew about them, it is questionable how much they would object. Profiling is a common practice here with casual exchanging of personal information. The details collected from a business card or queries such as asking where one attended university or what blood type one is serve as clues to allow people to predict how each party will behave.

As a single parent who has lived overseas and is blood type A, I am stereotyped as hard-nosed enough to have decided to go it alone, blithe from surviving dealings with all sorts of people and having the seriousness attributed in popular beliefs here to people of my blood group.

Such typecasting takes on racist overtones when applied to foreigners. “Chinese don’t know train manners,” I overheard a man say recently in response to a Chinese woman talking loudly on her cellphone in the compartment. On a bus tour of the Western city of Nara, several Japanese passengers complained that the Filipinos aboard who had trouble keeping up with the rushed sightseeing pace “don’t understand ‘dantai kodo,”’ or group behavior. When one of the Filipinos went to the restroom, a Japanese woman grumbled that she should have held back in deference to the group schedule. Such intolerance — when the government is on a major campaign to increase tourism to the country, and just this month eased visa application requirements for Chinese visitors.

There are even disturbing signs that Japanese increasingly don’t want to bother trying to understand the unfamiliar territory beyond their borders. Only one student from Japan entered Harvard University’s freshman class last year, bringing the total number of full-time Japanese undergraduates to five, compared to a total of 36 from China and 42 from South Korea.

A 2007 Web-based survey by the Nomura Research Institute revealed a growing reluctance to live overseas among younger Japanese. While 33 percent of men and 23.9 percent of women in their 60s and older said they would have some aversion to either themselves or their spouses going to work overseas, the share of people with that sentiment reached 42.9 percent and 38.9 percent respectively for people in their 20s.

The next time a police officer stops me, I plan to explain that suspecting me of a crime simply because I look foreign constitutes racial profiling. Only there is no term for the practice in the Japanese language.

Kumiko Makihara is a writer and translator living in Tokyo.


This has happened before, only worse for the victim:

<誤認逮捕>旅券不携帯で逮捕の女性、実は日本人 埼玉

( 2006年02月28日 00時37分 )
毎日新聞社 Courtesy of Kaoru

埼玉県警川口署は27日、入管法違反容疑(旅券不携帯)で逮捕した女性(28)が実は同県川口市在住の日本人だったと分かり、釈放したと発表し た。女性が言葉を発せず、容姿などから外国人と判断したという。

同署によると、25日午後7時40分ごろ、川口市内の路上を歩いていた女性にパトロール中の署員3人が職務質問。署員は女性の容姿が東南アジア出 身者に似ており、名前や国籍を尋ねたところ、小さな声で「日本人です」と言ったきり何も話さなくなったため、署に任意同行した。女性は署でも日本語の質問 に対し無言を通したため、同署は「外国人」と判断。パスポートの不所持を確かめて同容疑で逮捕した。

女性は逮捕後に家族の名前を紙に書き、母親に確認すると娘と分かって誤認逮捕が判明した。母親は「娘は知らない人とは話をしない性格」と話してい たという。


Police erroneously arrest ‘Asian-looking’ Japanese woman on immigration law breach

Mainichi Shinbun Tuesday, February 28, 2006 at 07:01 EST

SAITAMA — The Saitama prefectural police on Monday arrested a Japanese woman on suspicion of violating the immigration law but later released her after discovering that she was a Japanese national, police officials said.

The police had judged that the unemployed woman, 28, was not Japanese because she looked like a foreigner of Asian descent and that she carried an envelope written in Portuguese, the officials said. The woman was questioned by a policeman around 7:40 p.m. on Saturday in Kawaguchi. She told the officer that she was Japanese, but stopped answering further questions, the officials said. The woman’s family said she is not good at speaking with strangers.


Sunday Tangent: Racial profiling of immigrants becomes legal in Arizona. However, controversy ensues.


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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

Hi Blog.  I have been hearing word from several sources about the new draconian laws being enacted in Arizona to catch illegal migrant workers, including legally-sanctioned racial profiling, and stopping people on the street for ID checks.  Many have said that it seems Arizona has taken a page out of the GOJ’s handbook for dealing with NJ in Japan.  The difference, however, is that 1) the US dragnet is (necessarily) a coarser mesh (as Japanese authorities have a wider view of who doesn’t “look Japanese”, since anyone can “look American” and more sophistication is needed over there), and 2) it’s caused a level of controversy that has never happened in Japan (imagine street protests to this degree, even a J prime  minister denouncing it?).

I believe it’s only a matter of time (and it will take some time) before the Arizona authorities stop the wrong person on racial grounds, other American laws kick in to protect people against racial discrimination, and American courts rule this Arizona law unconstitutional.  Wait and see.

That just ain’t gonna happen in Japan for obvious reasons:  We ain’t got no legal sanctions against racial discrimination, let alone this degree of people caring for the human rights of foreigners.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Mark in Yayoi writes:

Hey Debito, a bill just signed in Arizona:



Arizona’s Gov. Brewer Signs Controversial Immigration Bill

Brewer Says Law is Necessary to Solve a ‘Crisis,’ But Obama Calls Bill ‘Misguided’


ABC NEWS April 23, 2010 — Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a controversial immigration bill into law today that will give local law enforcement greater authority to ferret out and arrest illegal immigrants.

Immediately before signing the bill into law, Brewer said that the legislation “represents another tool for our state to use as we work to solve a crisis that we did not create and that the federal government refuses to fix.”

“We in Arizona have been more than patient waiting for Washington to act,” Brewer said. “But decades of inaction and misguided policy have created a dangerous and unacceptable situation.”

The bill takes effect in 90 days after the current legislative sessions over the next several weeks.

“I firmly believe [the law] represents what’s best for Arizona,” said Brewer. “Border-related violence and crime due to illegal immigration are critically important issues for the people of our state, to my administration, and to me as your governor and as a citizen.”

The signing came just a few hours after President Obama harshly criticized the legislation, calling it “misguided.” The president also instructed the Justice Department to examine the Arizona law to see if it would violate civil rights.

Obama criticized the bill at a naturalization ceremony in the White House Rose Garden for active duty service members from 24 countries.

The president said if Congress fails to enact comprehensive immigration reform at the national level, “We will continue to see misguided efforts opening up around the country.”

The absence of a federal resolution of the controversial issue, he said, “opens the door to irresponsibility by others,” and he cited “the recent efforts in Arizona, which threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans.”

So far this year, Congress and the administration have made little progress in advancing legislation on the issue.

Outside Capitol Building, Crowds Protest Decision

After the signing, crowds outside of the state capitol building erupted in anger. Carrying signs and American flags, they marched nearby, protesting the governor’s decision.

Brewer defended the law against claims that it is discriminatory, saying that she had worked for weeks to rework the language to strengthen civil rights protections. The governor also issued an executive order to develop training for state law enforcement to prevent racial discrimination or profiling.

“As committed as I am to protecting our state from crime associated with illegal immigration, I am equally committed to holding law enforcement accountable should this statue ever be misused to violate an individual’s rights,” she said.

The Arizona law makes it a crime under state law to be in the U.S. illegally and allows police to arrest and question suspected undocumented persons about their status without a warrant. It also criminalizes the transporting of an illegal immigrant anywhere in the state, even if by a family member.

Brewer, who faces a tough Republican primary in August, signed the same bill that former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, vetoed three times.

Brewer was under intense pressure to not sign the legislation. Civil rights groups have decried the sweeping measure as opening the door to racial profiling and sowing distrust between Hispanics and the law enforcement groups charged with keeping them safe. Others said the law will pull resources from fighting more-serious crimes.

Thousands of people wrote or called the governor’s office, with a 10-to-one majority opposing the bill, a spokeswoman said.

“I don’t think anything has been this extreme until this point,” said Bridgette Gomez, a 24-year-old math tutor. “The evil is racial profiling, to think that you’re going to always have to show identification. Because I’m tan, I must be illegal.”

But supporters of the law, including U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have said it will help solve an illegal immigration crisis the federal government so far has not acted swiftly enough to contain.

Ariz. Immigration Bill Supporters Say They’re Enforcing Law

“Illegal is illegal,” said the bill’s sponsor, Republican state Sen. Russell Pearce. “We’ll have less crime. We’ll have lower taxes. We’ll have safer neighborhoods. We’ll have shorter lines in the emergency rooms. We’ll have smaller classrooms.”

An estimated 10.8 million immigrants live illegally in the U.S., according to the most recent Department of Homeland Security figures. About 460,000 live inside Arizona’s borders. Now that the Arizona bill has become law, it likely will face constitutional challenges.

President Obama said he’s instructed the Justice Department to “closely monitor” the situation and “examine the civilian rights” and other implications of the legislation.

The Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF) and other groups are also preparing to challenge the legislation.

“The Constitution is pretty clear about having one set of rules,” said Thomas A. Saenz, general counsel and president of MALDEF. “Now, you have the state of Arizona coming along and creating an obstacle to federally mandated priorities.”

Still, state Sen. Pearce, a former deputy in the Maricopa County Sherriff’s Office, which is known for cracking down on illegal immigrants, said he’s merely trying to enforce law that’s already on the books.

“Illegal is not a race. It’s a crime. And in Arizona, we’re going to enforce the law … without apologies,” he said. “It’s just that simple.”

Vulnerable to Legal Challenges?

California attempted to pass a similar measure in 1994 — Proposition 187 — that was designed to keep illegal immigrants from using health, education and other social services.

Even though it passed, it was struck down by a federal court on the basis of constitutionality.

Similar legal challenges against Arizona are inevitable, Saenz said, and it will likely end up costing the state millions of dollars.

“Arizona is going to face very serious consequences if it enacts it,” Saenz said, comparing it to the experience in California, where the legislation was a “tremendously wasteful diversion of resources.”

“There was a palpable impact on international trade to California, in particular,” Saenz said. “It became clear over time that Mexican companies began to take their commerce through Texas and other border states because of pervasive hostility.”

But it’s high time states step up to the plate and do something about illegal immigrants, Pearce said.

“I would think this is a great opportunity to codify states’ inherent authority,” he said. “We created the federal government. We’re in charge. Constitutionally, we have inherent authority. It’s time to step up to the plate and start enforcing the law.”

This is not the first time Arizona’s state laws have come under fire. In 2005, the state made smuggling humans a state crime, and in 2007, it prohibited employers from knowingly hiring illegal immigrants.

Earlier this week, the state House voted for a provision that would require President Obama to show his birth certificate if he wants to be on the state’s ballot in the next presidential election.

Before the signing, protesters had hoped to build grassroots momentum to convince Gov. Brewer to veto the bill — an effort that ultimately failed.

“You hear story after story of youth that don’t find out until they’re 16 that they are undocumented because their parents didn’t tell them,” said Alicia Contreras, 26, a student at Arizona State University. “Arizona is ground zero for these type of immigration laws, and as a youth — high school, college students — we need to come together.”



It looks like the state of Arizona is going to become exactly like the nation of Japan when it comes to immigrants and their civil liberties.  Mandatory carrying of papers, police empowered to question people and demand papers, punishment up to 6 months in jail and $2500 fine.

Obama has already spoken out against it.  (Imagine a prime minister doing that here!)

Provisions of the law here:



Key Provisions of Arizona Immigration Legislation

Key provisions of Arizona immigration legislation signed into law by governor

The Associated Press

Key provisions of Arizona’s immigration legislation, signed into law by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on Friday:

— Makes it a crime under state law to be in the country illegally by specifically requiring immigrants to have proof of their immigration status. Violations are a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. Repeat offenses would be a felony.

— Requires police officers to “make a reasonable attempt” to determine the immigration status of a person if there is a “reasonable suspicion” that he or she is an illegal immigrant. Race, color or national origin may not be the only things considered in implementation. Exceptions can be made if the attempt would hinder an investigation.

— Allow lawsuits against local or state government agencies that have policies that hinder enforcement of immigration laws. Would impose daily civil fines of $1,000-$5,000. There is pending follow-up legislation to halve the minimum to $500.

— Targets hiring of illegal immigrants as day laborers by prohibiting people from stopping a vehicle on a road to offer employment and by prohibiting a person from getting into a stopped vehicle on a street to be hired for work if it impedes traffic.

— The law will take effect by late July or early August.


It’s as if they copied this stuff straight out of NPA guidelines!

This really is disgusting.  Commenters on the two stories don’t seem to be cognizant of the plight of legal immigrants who don’t yet have US nationality (perhaps because with dual nationality being allowed in the US, there’s no reason to remain a “foreigner” if you’re long-term), and are focusing only on the difference between US citizens and illegals.

Fortunately, people are protesting it already, both online and in the real world.  It’ll be interesting to see what happens with the inevitable falsely-accused people.  Hopefully the news outlets won’t drop the story.  MIY

From Times Online (London)
April 22, 2010
Arizona Bill ‘puts racial profiling into law’
Giles Whittell, Washington, Courtesy of AI


An anti-immigration law condemned as a licence for racial profiling is expected to come into force in Arizona within the next 48 hours. The law would be the first in the US to give police the power to stop citizens and demand proof of legal residence in the US merely on suspicion of not carrying appropriate papers.

Arizona’s Republican Governor, under pressure from right-wing rivals for her job, has until Saturday afternoon to sign or veto the measure. The Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles, a leading champion of immigration reform, has denounced it as a mandate for “German Nazi and Russian Communist techniques” of snooping and betrayal.

Up to ten other states are said to be considering similar laws as pressure mounts on the Republican Right and along America’s southern border for state-based immigration crackdowns in the absence of federal immigration reform.

The Arizona Bill would make it a crime for legal immigrants not to carry their alien registration papers, and would allow police to arrest those unable to produce them — potentially upending the presumption of innocence underpinning US law and the principle that its enforcement should be colour-blind.

“It basically puts racial profiling into law,” a spokeswoman for the Senate Democrats in the Arizona state assembly told The Times yesterday.

One of the measure’s Republican sponsors, Representative John Kavanagh, called it “a comprehensive immigration enforcement bill that addresses the concerns of our communities, constituents and colleagues … gives our local police officers the tools they need to combat illegal immigration”.

The progress of the hugely controversial Bill through the state assembly has been closely watched throughout the country, and helped by a wave of anger over the murder of an Arizona rancher 20 miles from the Mexican border last month. Robert Krentz, 58, was gunned down on his own property by an unknown assailant whom police assume was an illegal immigrant involved in a drug-smuggling operation.

In a sign of the pressure on moderate conservatives to be seen to get tough on illegal immigration in an election year, Senator John McCain, once a champion of progressive immigration reform, has stunned former colleagues by endorsing the Bill. “The state of Arizona is acting and doing what it feels it needs to do in light of the fact that the federal government is not fulfilling its fundamental responsibility — to secure our borders,” he told Fox News as the measure was approved by the State Assembly on Monday.

The Bill also has the support of Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, the senior law enforcement official in the Phoenix area, who has gloried for decades in the unofficial title of “America’s toughest cop”. Mr Arpaio has courted sanction by federal authorities for years by encouraging his deputies to stop those they suspect of being illegal immigrants and demand to see their papers.

Arizona has the highest per capita population of undocumented aliens, with 460,000 at the latest estimate. Cardinal Mahoney has called the new Bill “the country’s most retrogressive, mean-spirited and useless anti-immigrant law”.

The Arizona state assembly has invited further controversy by granting initial approval to a Bill that would require President Obama to submit his birth certificate before having his name entered on ballot papers for the 2012 presidential election.

Accusations that Mr Obama was not born in the US and is therefore not eligible for the Presidency have lingered in the blogosphere since his candidacy gained national traction in 2007. As a matter of record, he was born on August 4, 1961, in Hawaii where his birth certificate is on file. His campaign has released a certified scanned copy of the certificate but some 40 per cent of Americans remain doubtful or unsure where he was born, according to polls.

Japan Times on Suraj Case: Wife of Ghanian who died while being deported demands info on cause


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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

Hi Blog.  As I reported last week, the FCCJ had a press conference yesterday on the Suraj Case, where a Ghanian man died while being deported last March.  Details on the cause of death are unclear, but Immigration acknowledges that handcuffs were used, and a towel in Suraj’s mouth were involved.

What I find noteworthy is not only the circumstances (which allegedly, according to the Suraj group press release, involves other NJ deaths in Immigration custody), but also the courts’ reasoning when overruling a stay of deportation:
Japan Times: “In February 2008, the Tokyo District Court ruled the deportation order be waived. But in March 2009, the Tokyo High Court repealed the district court’s ruling on grounds the couple was childless and the wife was economically independent…”

So if they had children and she was a dependent housewife, then he could have stayed in Japan?  Their marriage counts for nothing otherwise?  Not sure I get it.

Article follows. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

The Japan Times Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Wife presses for details in death of deportee (excerpt)


The Japanese wife of a Ghanaian who died last month while he was being deported for overstaying his visa called Tuesday on police and the Immigration Bureau to disclose exactly how he died…

The wife’s lawyer, Koichi Kodama, questioned the police investigation, which has not resulted in any arrests.

“If a man died after five or six civilians, not public servants, held his limbs, they would undoubtedly be arrested,” Kodama said, adding he told “exactly that to the prosecutors” he met with Monday in Chiba.

The Chiba police are questioning about 10 immigration officers and crew of Egypt Air, Kodama quoted a Chiba prosecutor as saying. Police said March 25 the cause of death was unclear after an autopsy. Kodama said a more thorough autopsy is being performed.

Suraj’s wife is considering suing the government, but she and Kodama are holding off pending further evidence of malpractice by immigration officers.

“Lawyers have no authority to collect evidence, and thus we have to wait for police to disclose evidence,” he said.

Rest of the article at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20100421a4.html

Gaijin Card Checks expand to Tax Bureau, now required for filing household tax returns


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Hi Blog.  As a natural extension of the strengthened policing of NJ by the GOJ (for we can only anticipate what scams NJ might get up to, untrustworthy lot), starting with fingerprinting them at the border every time as potential terrorists, criminals, and disease carriers, then tracking their money wherever they earn it, we now have the Tax Bureau doing the Immigration Bureau’s job of checking visa status if NJ were so good as to file their own tax forms.  How dare they engage in such suspicious activities!  It’s all part of expanding Gaijin Card Checks to unrelated agencies nationwide.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


From: KYA
Subject: [Community] Gaijin card required for tax return now?
Date: April 13, 2010
To: communityinjapan@yahoogroups.com

Can someone help me shed some light on this situation? I’ve filed my taxes in Japan every year for the past 8 years. I can’t swear that I ws never asked for a gaijin card or other form of ID before, but I KNOW that last year I wasn’t, wasn’t even asked to fill out that form asking how many days you spent in and out of the country, etc (I was asked to do that one two or three times, definitely not every year). And I know that my refund has NEVER been delayed, I’ve always filed early and got my money back early.

But this year, I filed my return in early March, and until today had heard nothing. Today, I got this in the mail: http://s161.photobucket.com/albums/t223/babyhayate/?action=view&current=tax.jpg

(Click to expand in your browser)

I called immediately, asked why they needed it and if it was necessary, and got a big variety of non-answers in response. The first time I called, the person whose name was on the letter wasn’t there, so the guy who answered the phone said he’d answer my questions… I probably got more honest answers from him, although he was a bit of a jerk. He said that it’s always been like this, it’s not starting from this year, and that if I never had to do it before, it was because the person reviewing my return in the past decided that my name sounded Japanese enough, but that whoever did it this year thought it sounded foreign. I did challenge this, and asked him if it was okay to just judge people and choose who to question ad delay based on their NAME, would he have done the same to one of the many Japanese people who don’t have any NJ heritgage, but just have parents who gave them a katakana name? He basically said it just depended on the judgement of whoever got the return to review.

I asked why this NEVER popped up when I was preparing my tax return on the tax department’s homepage. There were all kinds of lists of necessary documents, including some things that said “(when applicable)” etc beside them. Nowhere did it say Gaiijn card (for those who have one) or something similar. He said “Well, the homepage is written with Japanese people in mind. If you’d asked for help at city hall they would have told you to submit it.” So… you are delaying my tax return BECAUSE I can read Japanese, look at the homepage and prepare my own tax return WITHOUT wasting the time of someone at city hall or at the tax office? That seems very counterprductive, and when I pointed out as much, again he had no reply.

Then I told him I wanted to Google the law that made this necessary and asked him to tell me the name of the law requiring a gaijin card to get a tax refund. He said there was no law. So I said, well then I won’t provide it if the law doesn’t require it, and he said that they wouldn’t process my return until I provided it. So I said, so that means the law DOES require it? This time he said yes, but still couldn’t actually come up with a specific law. He then wanted my name and phone number so that he could “get back to me” about it… but he was pissed off by this point, I didn’t want him to make a note on my file or something that would delay my refund any further so I said I’d call back when the person in charge had returned.

The person in charge said, it was for the purpose of confirming my address, because I don’t have a juminhyo… but again, I didn’t have a juminhyo LAST year either. And if they are really checking everyone at city hall, there is a record of my address there as well, it’s a different deprtment but they could still check. He then said it was to confirm the spelling of my name in English… again, doesn’t make sense to me as all of the documents issued by all of the companies I freelance for list my name in kanji-katakana (which I requested them to do BECAUSE it’s the way I’ve always filed my tax return and silly me, I thought the names should match?)

I did get this second guy to tell me that I could submit a copy of my driver’s license instead or copy the gaijin card and black out everything except name, address, and date of birth, when I said that it wasn’t the tax office’s job OR right to check my birthplace or status of residence etc.

But… what is the deal here? Has anyone else has this experience? This year only, or have I just lucked out seven years running? Does anyone know what the law DOES say about this? Do I have to submit it? Can they really withhold my tax refund, for taxes that I paid but never owed in the first place, if I don’t submit it?

I never know what to do in this situation… if it’s a hotel or another business, in the end, they want my money and the money of all the people I’m going to tell about my lousy experience… in this case, it’s the government and they’ve got 48,000 yen that I want and need, and in the end they KNOW that I’m not going to throw away that money on principle… I considered throwing the teigakukyuufukin paperwork in their faces when the woman had the nerve to refer to my “husband’s household” as something separate from ME… but that was a free handout, this money is MINE, I knew I was going to get it back and planned for it in my budget, so I feel like there’s not a lot I can do… I’d at least like to know what they are really checking, whether it’s for everyone or just people picked at random, and whether I can legally say no and still get my money (much as I’d like to make a stand, that’s a whole month’s pay coming back… they know they’ve got me up against a wall here)

Anyone else having problems? KYA


MTJ replies:

A few things came to mind when I read your story, KYA.  First, that the form they sent seems to cover a lot of the new ‘procedures’ linked to the new family allowance program being implemented this month, specifically the brouhaha in the media over NJ who has children living abroad needing to jump through all sorts of hoops to qualify.  More tellingly, the part at the bottom confirms what I suspected was the case, it’s a piece of gyousei shidou;, or ‘administrative guidance.’  That’s why the official may have had trouble supplying you with an actual law, as it doesn’t actually exist.  However, in the minds of the local bureaucrats it’s just as good, especially if it “came from above.”

Wiki has a good stub on the subject here:



MHLW clamps down on NJ spongers of system claiming overseas kids. What spongers?


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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
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Hi Blog.   In mid-March we had a storm in a teacup about DPJ policy re child allowances:  If NJ also qualified for child support, politicians argued, some hypothetical Arab prince in Japan would claim all 50 of his kids back in Saudi Arabia.  Well, thanks to that storm, we have the Health Ministry creating policy within weeks to prevent NJ from potentially sponging off the system.  As submitter JK notes, “What follows is article on why 厚生労働省 feels the need to clamp down on those untrustworthy foreigners; never mind about the lack of data.”

Gov’t gets tough on allowances for foreigners who claim to have children in home countries

子ども手当:外国人支給、厳格に 子との年2回面会要件

Well, that’s proactive policymaking in Japan.  In the same way that anti-terrorism policy that targets foreigners only was proactive (although it took a few years to draft and enact).  Here, the bureaucrats could just do it with a few penstrokes and call it a “clarification”, without having to go through the pesky political process.

But the assumption is, once again, that a) foreigners are untrustworthy and need extra background checks, and b) any policy that might do something nice for the Japanese public needs to be carefully considered by viewing it through the “foreigner prism”, for who knows what those people might do to take advantage of our rich system?  “What-if” panicky hypotheticals without any data win the debate and govern policymaking towards NJ again.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Gov’t gets tough on allowances for foreigners who claim to have children in home countries
(Mainichi Japan) April 7, 2010

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has tightened conditions for paying child-care allowances to foreigners who reside in Japan and claim to have children in their home countries, ministry officials said.

The move is aimed at preventing foreign residents from illicitly receiving expensive allowances by falsely adopting children in their home countries or using other tricks to deceive Japanese authorities. The ministry has notified local governments across the country of its decision.

Before providing child-care allowances, local governments are required by the ministry to confirm that such recipients meet their children in their home countries at least twice a year by checking their passports, and make sure that they send money to their children at least once every four months.

The ministry took the measure out of fear that a large number of foreigners would falsely adopt children in their home countries for the sole purpose of illegally receiving child-care allowances in Japan.

The number of foreign residents’ children who receive child allowances while living in their home countries remains unclear, according to the ministry.

Some local governments have expressed concern that the measure would increase their workload.

Original Japanese story

子ども手当:外国人支給、厳格に 子との年2回面会要件
毎日新聞 2010年4月7日 東京朝刊





Rough draft text of my speech to UN Rep Bustamante Mar 23 in Tokyo


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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
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Hi Blog. What follows is a rough draft of the text of the speech I’ll be giving on Tues, March 23, before a United Nations rep. I have twenty minutes tops. I read this at a normal pace aloud today and it came about sixteen minutes. Eight pages, 2500 words, written in a conversational style. FYI. Thanks for your support, and see you at the upcoming FRANCA meetings this Sunday and next Saturday. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Statements to Mr Bustamante, Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, in Tokyo, March 23, 2010, by ARUDOU Debito, Chair, Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association (FRANCA, www.francajapan.org), regarding racial discrimination in Japan.

This document may be downloaded at http://www.debito.org/ArudouBustamantestatement032310.doc

The powerpoint accompanying this presentation may be downloaded at http://www.debito.org/FRANCABustamantepresentation032310.ppt

Table of contents for the belowmentioned “blue folder” with links to sources at http://www.debito.org/?p=6201

First, let me thank Mr. Bustamante and the United Nations for their attention to the situation of minorities and disenfranchised peoples in Japan.  There are very few effective forums in Japan for us to take our grievances, and we all very much appreciate the Special Rapporteur hearing as many sides of the story as possible.

I wish to focus on the situation of peoples of “foreign” origin and appearance, such as White and non-Asian peoples like me, and how we tend to be treated in Japanese society.  Put simply, we are not officially registered or even counted sometimes as genuine residents.  We are not treated as taxpayers, not protected as consumers, not seen as ethnicities even in the national census.  We not even regarded as deserving of the same human rights as Japanese, according to government-sponsored opinion polls and human rights surveys (blue folder items I-1, I-6 and III-6).  This view of “foreigner” as “only temporary in Japan” is a blind spot even the United Nations seems to share, but I’ll get that later.

Here is a blue 500-page information folder I will give you after my talk, with primary source materials, articles, reference papers, and testimonials from other people in Japan who would like their voice heard.  It will substantiate what I will be saying in summary below.

To start off, here is an overview of our presence in Japan.  According to official figures, the number of Non-Japanese on 3-month visas and up in Japan has grown since 1990 from about one million to over two million.  The number of Permanent Residents has reached record numbers, of over one million.  In other words, about half of all registered Non-Japanese in Japan can stay here permanently.  I would like to point out here how difficult it is to receive Permanent Residency in Japan.  It takes about five years if you are married to a Japanese, ten years if you are not.  The point is, a million Non-Japanese Permanent Residents are not a “temporary” segment of Japanese society.

Moreover, this does not count the estimated 300,000 to 500,000 naturalized Japanese citizens since the 1960’s.  I am one of those naturalized Japanese citizens.  Nor does this count the international families from Non-Japanese marrying Japanese.  We have about 40,000 international marriages every year, a significant increase from the 30,000 per year a decade ago.  If each couple has two children over their lifetime, which is not an unreasonable assumption, eventually that means 80,000 ethnically-diverse Japanese children.  Over ten years, that adds up to 800,000 – almost a million again.  However, not all of these children will “look Japanese”.

Sadly, we don’t know how many children, or people, of diverse backgrounds with Japanese citizenship are out there, because the Japanese Census does not survey for ethnicity.  The Japanese Census only surveys for nationality, despite our repeated requests for the census to reflect Japan’s diversity.  Meaning, when I fill out the Census, I write down “Japanese” for my nationality, but there is no way for me to indicate that I am a “Caucasian Japanese”, or an “Japanese of American extraction” (amerika kei nihonjin).  I believe this is by design, because the politics of identity in Japan are “monoculturality and monoethnicity”.  This is simply a fiction.  It wasn’t true in the past, and with modern Japan’s emerging immigration, assimilation, and ethnic diversity, it’s even less true now.  The official conflation of Japanese nationality and ethnicity is incorrect, and our government is willfully refusing to collect any data that would correct that.

The point is, the lines have blurred to the point where we cannot tell who is “Japanese” any more just by looking at them.  This means any time we have any distinctions made between “foreigner” and “Japanese”, be it police racial profiling or “Japanese Only” signs, it will also affect some Japanese citizens too.  This is why we need a law against racial discrimination in Japan – not only because it will help non-citizens assimilate into Japan, but also it will protect Japanese against xenophobia, bigotry, and exclusionism.  Discrimination that is “deep and profound”, and “practiced undisturbed in Japan”, according to UN Rapporteur Doudou Diene in 2005 and 2006[1].

At this point, I would like to show some differences in standpoint, between my esteemed colleagues and minorities being represented today, and the people I am trying to speak for.  The minorities in Japan as defined under the CERD, including the Ainu, the Ryūkyūans, the Zainichi Special Permanent Resident ethnic Koreans and Chinese, and the Burakumin, will be speaking to you this week and next as people who have been here for a long time, much longer than people like me, of course.  They make their claims based upon time-honored and genuine grievances that have never been properly redressed.  For ease of understanding, I will call some of them the “Oldcomers”.  I am here on behalf of what I will call the “Newcomers”, people who have come here from other countries relatively recently, to make a life in Japan.  Both “Oldcomers” and “Newcomers” contribute to Japanese society, including taxes, service, and culture.  But it is we “Newcomers” who really need the protections of a Japanese law against racial discrimination, because we, the people who are seen because of our skin color as “foreigners” in Japan, are often singled out and targeted for our own special variety of discriminatory treatment.

Here are examples I will talk briefly about now:

1) Discrimination in housing and accommodation

2) Racial Profiling by Japanese Police, through policies officially depicting Non-Japanese as criminals, terrorists, and carriers of infectious disease

3) Refusal to be registered or counted as residents by the Japanese Government

4) “Japanese Only” exclusions in businesses open to the public

5) Objects of unfettered hate speech

All of these examples are substantiated in the blue information folder, but again, words in brief about each item.

1) Discrimination in housing and accommodation

One of the first barriers many Newcomers face in Japan is the daunting prospect of finding an apartment.  According to the Mainichi Shimbun (Jan 8 2010[2]), on average in Tokyo it takes 15 visits to realtors for a Non-Japanese to find an apartment.   Common experience — and this is all we have because there is no government study of this problem — dictates that the agent generally phrases the issue to landlords as, “The renter is a foreigner, but is that okay?”  This overt discrimination happens with complete impunity in Japan.  One Osaka realtor[3] even advertises apartments as “gaijin allowed”, thus an option at odds with the status quo.  Again, there is no national government body collecting information on this problem, or hearing grievances.  The people who face discriminatory landlords can only take them to court.  This means years, money for lawyers and court fees, and an uncertain outcome, when all you need is a place to live, now.

Another issue is hotels.  They are expressly forbidden by the Hotel Management Law Article 5 to refuse customers unless rooms are full, there is a clear threat of contagious disease, or a clear threat to “public morals” (as in pornography).  However, government surveys, according to CNN et.al, (Oct 9, 2008[4]), indicate that 27% of all Japanese hotels don’t want foreign guests.  Not to be outdone, the Fukushima Prefecture Tourist Information website until last January advertised, as per their own preset options, that 318 of their member hotels were all refusing Non-Japanese[5], even though this is clearly illegal.  Thus even when a law technically forbids exclusionism, it is not enforced.  Excluders even get promoted by the authorities.

2) Racial Profiling by Japanese Police

Another rude awakening happens when you walk down the street.  Japanese police will stop you in public, sometimes rudely demand your ID card (which all foreigners – only — must carry at all times or face incarceration and criminal prosecution), and record your personal details.  This can be for walking while White, cycling while foreign-looking, using public transportation while multiethnic, or standing waiting for arrivals at airports while colored.  In one person’s case, he has been “carded”, sometimes through physical force, more than 50 times in one year, as of today exactly 125 times over ten years (blue folder item I-2).

The police claim they are hunting for foreign criminals and visa overstayers, or there are special security measures or campaigns in place, etc.  However, you can see in the blue folder, this is an extension of the depiction of Non-Japanese in official government policies as “terrorists, criminals, and carriers of infectious diseases” (items II-9 through 11).  None of these things are contingent on nationality.  Consequently, after 2007 all non-citizens must be fingerprinted every time they re-enter Japan.  This includes the “Newcomer” Permanent Residents, which goes farther than its model, the US-VISIT program this, which does not refingerprint Green Card holders.  The epitome of bad physical and social science must be the National Research Institute of Police Science, which has received years of government grants to research “foreign DNA”, for more effective racial profiling at crime scenes (see blue folder item II-2).

In sum, thanks to national policy justifying racial profiling, the Japanese police are seeing non-Japanese as “foreign agents” in both senses of the word.  They are systematically taking measures to deal with them as a social problem, not a fellow resident or immigrant.  Furthermore, it goes without saying that enforcement depends upon personal appearance, as I too have been racially profiled on several occasions by police in public.

3) Refusal to be counted as residents by the Japanese Government

It is too complicated to talk about fully here (see blue folder, item III-1), but Japan’s registration system, meaning the current Koseki Family Registry and the Jūminhyō Residency Certificate systems, refuse to list Non-Japanese as “spouse” — or even “family member”.  Because they are not citizens.  In sum, officially Non-Japanese residents are not “residents” (jūmin), even though they pay Residency Taxes (jūminzei) like anyone else.  Worse, some local governments (such as Tokyo Nerima Ward[6]) do not even count Non-Japanese in their population tallies.  This is the ultimate in invisibility, and it is government-sanctioned.

4) “Japanese Only” exclusions in businesses open to the public

Since Japan has no law against racial discrimination, there have been signs up nationwide at places open to the general public, saying “Japanese Only”, “No Foreigners allowed”, etc. (blue folder item III-1).  Places enforcing exclusionary rules include stores, restaurants, hotels, family public bathhouses, bars, discos, an eyeglass outlet, a ballet school, an internet café, a billiards hall, a women’s boutique, and a newspaper subscription service.  Nevertheless, the government has said repeatedly to the UN that we don’t a racial discrimination law because we have an effective judicial system.  That is untrue.  In the Otaru Onsens Case (1999-2005, blue folder items III-1 and III-7), where two Non-Japanese and one naturalized Japanese were excluded from a public bathhouse, judges refused to rule that this activity was illegal due to racial discrimination.  They called it “unrational discrimination”.  Moreover, they refused to enforce the CERD as law, or sanction the negligent Otaru City government for not taking effective measures against racial discrimination.  The Supreme Court even refused to hear the case.  Furthermore, in 2006, an African-American was refused entry into an eyeglass store by an openly racist owner, yet the Osaka District Court ruled in favor of the owner!   We need a criminal law, with enforceable punishments, because the present judicial system will not fix this.

5) Objects of unfettered hate speech

The blue folder talks more about cyberbullying of minorities and prejudiced statements made by our politicians over the years.  Other NGOs will talk more about the anti-Korean and anti-Chinese hate speech during the current debate about granting local suffrage rights to Permanent Residents.  I would instead like to briefly mention some media, such as magazine “Underground Files of Crimes by Gaijin [sic]” (Gaijin Hanzai Ura Fairu (2007), blue folder item III-2), or “PR Suffrage will make Japan Disappear” (Gaikokujin Sanseiken de Nihon ga Nakunaru Hi) (2010[7]).  Both of these books stretch their case to talk about an innate criminality or deviousness in the foreign element, and “Underground Files of  Crimes” even includes things that are not crimes, such as dating Japanese women.  It even includes epithets like “nigger”, racist caricatures, and ponderings on whether Korean pudenda smell like kimchi.  This is hate speech.  And it is not illegal in Japan.


To summarize, the Japanese government’s stance towards the CERD is simple (blue folder item VI-1).  The Ainu, Ryūkūans, and Burakumin are citizens, therefore they don’t need CERD protection because they are protected by the Japanese Constitution.  However, the Zainichis and “Newcomers” are not citizens, therefore they don’t get protection from the CERD.  Therefore, our government effectively argues, the CERD does not cover anyone in Japan.

Yeah, well what about me?  Or our children?  Are there really no ethnic minorities with Japanese citizenship in Japan?

In conclusion, I would like to thank the United Nations and their Rapporteurs for investigating our cases.  The CERD Committee on March 16, 2010 (CERD/C/JPN/CO/3-6), issued some very welcome recommendations.  However, and I would like to go back to something I said in the beginning, that the UN has a blind spot in these negotiations.

In the CERD Committee’s discussions with the Japanese government in Geneva on February 24 and 25, 2010, very little mention was made of the CERD’s non-enforcement in Japan’s judiciary and criminal code.   Almost no mention was made of Japan’s “Japanese Only” signs.  These are the most indefensible violation of the CERD.

The problem is, both sides, both Japan and the UN, have a blind spot in how they perceive Japan’s “minorities”.  Non-Japanese were never couched as residents of or immigrants to Japan, but rather as “foreign migrants”.  The unconscious assumption seems to be that 1) “foreign migrants” have a “temporary status” in Japan (particularly when Japan’s reps portrayed ethnic schools for Non-Japanese as for “foreign children in Japan only for the short stay”), and 2) Japan has few “ethnically diverse Japanese citizens”.

Look, it’s time for an update.  Look at me.  I am a Japanese.  Like any other.  Because the government put me through a very rigorous and arbitrary test for naturalization and I passed it.  People like me are part of Japan’s future.  Please, when you make your recommendations, have them reflect how Japan has changed, and how Japan must face up to its multicultural society already in place.  Please, recognize us “Newcomers” as a permanent part of the debate.  The Japanese government still will not.  They say little that is positive about us.  And they allow very nasty things to be said by our politicians, policymakers, and police.

It’s about time we all recognized the good things that we “Newcomers” too are doing for our home, Japan.  Please help us.


[1] www.debito.org/rapporteur.html

[2] www.debito.org/?p=5703

[3] www.debito.org/?p=723

[4] www.debito.org/?p=1940

[5] www.debito.org/?p=5619

[6] www.debito.org/?p=1972

[7] www.debito.org/?p=6182


Table of Contents of FRANCA information folder to UN Spec. Rapporteur Bustamante, Mar 23. Last call for submissions from Debito.org Readers.


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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
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Hi Blog.  What follows is the Table of Contents for an information packet I will be presenting Special Rapporteur for the Human Rights of Migrants Jorge A. Bustamante, who will be visiting Japan and holding hearings on the state of discrimination in Japan.  Presented on behalf of our NGO FRANCA (Sendai and Tokyo meetings on Sun Mar 21 and Sat Mar 27 respectively).

It’s a hefty packet of about 500 pages printed off or so, but I will keep a couple of pockets at the back for Debito.org Readers who would like to submit something about discrimination in Japan they think the UN should hear.  It can be anonymous, but better would be people who provide contact details about themselves.

Last call for that.  Two pages A4 front and back, max (play with the fonts and margins if you like).  Please send to debito@debito.org by NOON JST Thursday March 18, so I can print it on my laser printer and slip it in the back.

Here’s what I’ll be giving as part of an information pack.  I haven’t written my 20-minute presentation for March 23 yet, but thanks for all your feedback on that last week, everyone.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo



To Mr. Jorge Bustamante, Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants:

Date: March 23, 2010  Tokyo, Japan

Thank you for coming to Japan and hearing our side of the story.  We have a lot to say and few domestic forums that will listen to us.  –ARUDOU Debito, Chair, FRANCA Japan (debito@debito.org, www.debito.org)


Referential documents and articles appear in the following order:

I. On Government-sponsored Xenophobia and Official-level Resistance to Immigration

This section will seek to demonstrate that discrimination is not just a societal issue.  It is something promoted by the Japanese government as part of official policy.

  1. OVERVIEW:  Japan Times article:  “THE MYOPIC STATE WE’RE IN:  Fingerprint scheme exposes xenophobic, short-sighted trend in government” (December 18, 2007).  Point:  How government policy is hard-wiring the Japanese public into fearing and blaming Non-Japanese for Japan’s social ills. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20071218zg.html
  2. Japan Times article, “Beware the Foreigner as Guinea Pig“, on how denying rights to one segment of the population (NJ) affects everyone badly, as policies that damage civil liberties, once tested on Non-Japanese residents, eventually get applied to citizens too (July 8, 2008). http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20080708zg.html
  3. Japan Times article:  “THE BLAME GAME:  Convenience, creativity seen in efforts to scapegoat Japan’s foreign community” (August 28, 2007), depicting foreigners as criminal invaders, and thwarting their ability to assimilate properly. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/print/fl20070828zg.html
  4. Japan Times article: “VISA VILLAINS: Japan’s new Immigration law overdoes enforcement and penalties” (June 29, 2004) http://search.japantimes.co.jp/print/fl20040629zg.html
  5. Japan Times article, “Demography vs. Demagoguery“, on how politics has pervaded Japanese demographic science, making “immigration” a taboo for discussion as a possible solution to Japan’s aging society. (November 3, 2009) http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20091103ad.html
  6. Japan Times article: “HUMAN RIGHTS SURVEY STINKS:  Government effort riddled with bias, bad science” (October 23, 2007), talking about how official government surveys render human rights “optional” for Non-Japanese, and downplays the discrimination against them. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20071023zg.html
  7. Japan Times article: “WATCHING THE DETECTIVES: Japan’s human rights bureau falls woefully short of meeting its own job specifications” (July 8, 2003), on how the oft-touted Ministry of Justice’s “Jinken Yōgobu” is in fact a Potemkin System, doing little to assist those with human rights issues in Japan. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20030708zg.html
  8. Japan Times article, “Unlike Humans, Swine Flu is Indiscriminate“, on the lessons to be learned from Japan’s public panic from the Swine Flu Pandemic, and how to avoid discrimination once again from arising (August 4, 2009). http://search.japantimes.co.jp/print/fl20090804ad.html
  9. Japan Times article, “Golden parachutes for Nikkei only mark failure of race-based policy“, on the downfall of Japan’s labor visa policies, e.g., the “April 2009 repatriation bribe” for the Nikkei Brazilians and Peruvians, sending them “home” with a pittance instead of treating them like laborers who made investments and contributions to Japan’s welfare and pension systems. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20090407ad.html

II. On Abuses of Police Power and Racial Profiling vis-à-vis Non-Japanese

This section will seek to demonstrate that one arm of the government, the National Police Agency, has had a free hand in generating a fictitious “Foreign Crime Wave of the 2000s”, by characterizing Non-Japanese in the media as criminals, exaggerating or falsifying foreign crime reportage, bending laws to target them, engaging in flagrant racial profiling of minorities, and otherwise “making Japan the world’s safest country again” by portraying the foreign element as unsafe.

  1. Japan Times article: “DOWNLOADABLE DISCRIMINATION: The Immigration Bureau’s new “snitching” Web site is both short-sighted and wide open to all manner of abuses.” (March 30, 2004), on how online submission sites (which still exist) run by the government are open to the general public, for anonymous reporting of anyone who “looks foreign and suspicious” to the police. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/print/fl20040330zg.html
  2. Japan Times article: “FORENSIC SCIENCE FICTION: Bad science and racism underpin police policy” (January 13, 2004), how the National Research Institute for Police Science has received government grants to study “foreign DNA” (somehow seen as genetically different from all Japanese DNA) for crime scene investigation.   http://search.japantimes.co.jp/member/member.html?fl20040113zg.htm
  3. 3. Japan Times article:  “FOREIGN CRIME STATS COVER UP A REAL COP OUT:  Published figures are half the story” (Oct 4, 2002), indicating how the National Police Agency is falsifying and exaggerating foreign crime statistics to create the image of Non-Japanese residents as criminals. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/print/fl20021004zg.html
  4. Japan Times article: “HERE COMES THE FEAR: Antiterrorist law creates legal conundrums for foreign residents” (May 24, 2005), showing nascent anti-terrorist policy introduced by the Koizumi Administration specifically targeting Non-Japanese as terrorists. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/print/fl20050524zg.html
  5. Debito.org Website:  “Ibaraki Prefectural Police put up new and improved public posters portraying Non-Japanese as coastal invaders” (November 20, 2008), and “Ibaraki Police’s third new NJ-scare poster” (July 29, 2009), showing how the Japanese police are putting up public posters portraying the issue as defending Japanese shores from foreign invasion, complete with images of beach storming, riot gear and machine guns.  www.debito.org/?p=2057 and www.debito.org/?p=3996
  6. Japan Times article: “UPPING THE FEAR FACTOR:  There is a disturbing gap between actual crime in Japan and public worry over it” (February 20, 2007), showing the Koizumi policy in full bloom, plus the media’s complicity in abetting the National Police Agency’s generation of a “foreign crime wave”. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/print/fl20070220zg.html
  7. Japan Times article: “MINISTRY MISSIVE WRECKS RECEPTION: MHLW asks hotels to enforce nonexistent law” (October 18, 2005), http://search.japantimes.co.jp/print/fl20051018zg.html and
  8. Japan Times article: “CREATING LAWS OUT OF THIN AIR: Revisions to hotel laws stretched by police to target foreigners” (March 8, 2005), both articles showing how the Japanese police use legal sleight-of-hand to convince hotels to target foreigners for visa and ID checks. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/print/fl20050308zg.html
  9. Japan Times article: “‘GAIJIN CARD’ CHECKS SPREAD AS POLICE DEPUTIZE THE NATION” (November 13, 2007), showing how extralegal means are being used to expand the “visa dragnets” to people who are not Immigration Officers, or even police officers. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/print/fl20071113zg.html
  10. Japan Times article, “IC You:  Bugging the Alien“, on the new IC Chip Gaijin Cards and national protests (May 19, 2009), how RFID-chipped ID cards (of which 24/7 carrying for Non-Japanese only is mandatory under criminal law) can be converted into remote tracking devices, for even better racial profiling as technology improves. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/print/fl20090519zg.html
  11. Japan Times article, “Summit Wicked This Way Comes“, on the Japanese Government’s bad habits brought out by the Hokkaido Toyako 2008 G8 Summit (April 22, 2008) – namely, a clampdown on the peaceful activities of Japan’s civil society, with a focus on targeting people who “look foreign”. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/print/fl20080422zg.html
  12. Japan Times article, “Forecast:  Rough with ID checks mainly to the north“, focusing on a protest against Hokkaido Police’s egregious racial profiling during the G8 Summit, and how the police dodged media scrutiny and public accountability (July 1, 2008). http://search.japantimes.co.jp/print/fl20080701ad.html
  13. Japan Times article, “Cops Crack Down with ‘I Pee’ Checks“, on the Japanese police stretching their authority to demand urine samples from Non-Japanese on the street without warrants (July 7, 2009). http://search.japantimes.co.jp/print/fl20090707ad.html
  14. Japan Times article, “PEDAL PUSHERS COP A LOAD ON YASUKUNI DORI: Japan’s low crime rate has many advantages, although harassment by bored cops certainly isn’t one of them” (June 20, 2002), demonstrating how arbitrarily Tokyo police will nab people at night ostensibly for “bicycle ownership checks”, but really for visa checks – if they are riding while “looking foreign”.

III. On Racism and Hate Speech in Japan

This section talks about other activities that are not state-sponsored or encouraged, but tolerated in society as “rational” or “reasonable” discrimination, or natural ascriptive social ordering.  These unfettered acts of discrimination towards minorities, decried by previous Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene as “deep and profound”, are examples of why we need a law against racial discrimination and hate speech in Japan.

1. OVERVIEWNGO Report Regarding the Rights of Non-Japanese Nationals, Minorities of Foreign Origins, and Refugees in Japan (33 pages).  Prepared for the 76th United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Japan, submitted to UNCERD February 2010.  Compiled by Solidarity with Migrants Japan.  Particularly germane to this information packet is Chapter 2 by Arudou Debito, entitled “Race and Nationality-Based Entrance Refusals at Private and Quasi-Public Establishments” (3 pages). http://www.debito.org/?p=6000

2. Japan Focus paper (14 pages):  “GAIJIN HANZAI MAGAZINE AND HATE SPEECH IN JAPAN:  The newfound power of Japan’s international residents” (March 20, 2007).  This academic paper talks about how a “Foreign Crime Magazine” deliberately distorted data (to the point of accusing Non-Japanese of criminal acts that were not actually crimes), and portrayed Chinese and other minorities as having criminality as part of their innate nature. http://www.japanfocus.org/-Arudou-Debito/2386

3. Japan Times article, “NJ Suffrage and the Racist Element” (February 2, 2010), on xenophobic Japan Dietmember Hiranuma’s racist statements towards fellow Dietmember Renho (who has Taiwanese roots), and how it lays bare the lie of the xenophobic Rightists demanding people take Japanese citizenship if they want the right to vote in local elections – when it clearly makes no difference to them if they do. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20100202ad.html

4. Japan Times article, “The Issue that dares not speak its name“, on the suppressed debate on racial discrimination in Japan (June 2, 2009), where the term “racial discrimination” itself is not part of the Japanese media’s vocabulary to describe even situations adjudged “racial discrimination” by Japanese courts. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/print/fl20090602ad.html

5. Japan Times article:  “HOW TO KILL A BILL:  Tottori’s Human Rights Ordinance is a case study in alarmism” (May 2, 2006), on how Japan’s first prefectural-level ordinance against discrimination was actually unpassed months later, due to a hue and cry over the apparent dangers of giving foreigners too many rights. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/print/fl20060502zg.html

6. Academic Paper (Linguapax Asia, forthcoming) (14 pages):  “Propaganda in Japan’s Media:  Manufacturing Consent for National Goals at the Expense of Non-Japanese Residents”, on how government policy, political opportunism, and the Japanese media fomented a fictitious “Foreign Crime Wave” in the 2000s, and how that caused quantifiable social damage to Non-Japanese residents.

7. Japan Focus paper (2 pages): “JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hotspring Case and Discrimination Against ‘Foreigners’ in Japan” (November 2005), a very brief summary explaining Japan’s first case of racial discrimination that made to the Supreme Court (where it was rejected for consideration), and what it means in terms of Japan’s blind-eying of discrimination. http://japanfocus.org/-Arudou-Debito/1743

8. Debito.org Website:  “Tokyo Edogawa-ku Liberal Democratic Party flyer, likens granting Permanent Residents the right to vote in local elections to an alien invasion”.  (February 24, 2010)  Seventeen local politicians of the formerly-ruling LDP lend their names against the ruling Democratic Party of Japan’s liberalizing policy, illustrated with a UFO targeting the Japanese archipelago. http://www.debito.org/?p=6182

9. Debito.org Website:  “More anti-foreigner scare posters and publications, linking Permanent Resident suffrage bill to foreign crime and Chinese invasion”. (March 15, 2010)  Anonymous internet billeters are putting propaganda in home post boxes in Nagoya and Narita, and bookstores are selling books capitalizing on the fear by saying that granting NJ the vote will make Japan “disappear” by turning into a foreign country. http://www.debito.org/?p=6182

10. Debito.org Website:  Anti-foreign suffrage protests in Shibuya Nov 28 2009. The invective in flyers and banners: “Japan is in danger!” (December 4, 2009).  An overview and summary translation of the invective and arguments being put forth by the xenophobic Far-Right in public demonstrations. http://www.debito.org/?p=5353

IV. On the Disenfranchisement of the Non-Japanese communities in Japan

This section touches upon how Non-Japanese minorities are shut out of Japan’s debate arenas, public events, even court rooms, making them largely unable to stand up for themselves and assimilate on their own terms.

1. Trans Pacific Radio:  “RUMBLE AT THE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS – A hearing on human rights is disrupted by right wingers” (September 10, 2007), demonstrating how the government will not stop hate speech from Right-wingers even when it willfully disrupts their official fact-finding meetings. http://www.transpacificradio.com/2007/09/10/debito-rumble-at-moj/

2. Japan Times article, McDonald’s Japan’s “Mr James” campaign:  Why these stereotyping advertisements should be discontinued. (September 1, 2009), showing how McDonald’s, an otherwise racially-tolerant multinational corporation overseas, is able thanks to lax attitudes in Japan to stoop to racial stereotyping to sell product, moreover not engage in constructive public debate about the issues. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/print/fl20090901ad.html

3. Japan Times article: “ABUSE, RACISM, LOST EVIDENCE DENY JUSTICE IN VALENTINE CASE: Nigerian’s ordeal shows that different judicial standards apply for foreigners in court” (August 14, 2007), where even foreigners’ testimony is overtly dismissed in court expressly because it is foreign. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/print/fl20070814zg.html

4. Japan Times article: “TWISTED LEGAL LOGIC DEALS RIGHTS BLOW TO FOREIGNERS:  McGowan ruling has set a very dangerous precedent” (February 7, 2006), in that a store manager who barred an African-American customer entry, expressly because he dislikes black people, was exonerated in court on a semantic technicality. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/print/fl20060207zg.html

5. Japan Times article: “SCHOOLS SINGLE OUT FOREIGN ROOTS: International kids suffer under archaic rules” (July 17, 2007). An article about the “Hair Police” in Japan’s schools, who force Non-Japanese and ethnically-diverse Japanese to dye their natural hair color black. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20070717zg.html

6. Japan Times article: “A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD?: National Sports Festival bars gaijin, and amateur leagues follow suit” (Sept 30, 2003), on Japan’s National Sports Meets (kokutai), and how Japan’s amateur sports leagues refuse Non-Japanese residents’ participation: http://search.japantimes.co.jp/print/fl20030930zg.html

7. Asahi Shimbun English-language POINT OF VIEW column, “IF CARTOON KIDS HAVE IT, WHY NOT FOREIGNERS?” (Dec 29, 2003).  A translation of my Nov 8 2003 Asahi Watashi no Shiten column, wondering why cartoon characters and wild sealions (see #9 below) are allowed to be registered as “residents” in Japan under the government’s jūminhyō Residency Certificate system, but not Non-Japanese. http://www.debito.org/asahi122903.jpg

8. Japan Times article, “FREEDOM OF SPEECH: ‘Tainted blood’ sees ‘foreign’ students barred from English contests” (Jan 6, 2004), with several odd, blood-based rules indicating a belief that foreign ancestry gives people an advantage in terms of language ability – even if the foreign ethnicity is not Anglophone! http://search.japantimes.co.jp/print/fl20040106zg.html

9. Japan Times article on “SEALING THE DEAL ON PUBLIC MEETINGS: Outdoor gatherings are wrapped in red tape.” (March 4, 2003), on the sealion “Tama-chan” issue and demonstrations over the issue of family registry exclusionism (see #7 above).  Why is it so difficult to raise public awareness about minority issues in Japan?  Because police grant permission to public gatherings. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/print/fl20030304zg.html

V. On What Japan should do to face its multicultural future

This section offers suggestions on what Japan ought to be doing:  Engaging immigration, instead of retreating further into a fortress mentality and defaming those who wish to emigrate here.

1. Japan Focus paper:  “JAPAN’S COMING INTERNATIONALIZATION:  Can Japan assimilate its immigrants?” (January 12, 2006) http://www.japanfocus.org/-Arudou-Debito/2078

2. Japan Times article, “A Level Playing Field for Immigrants” (December 1, 2009), offering policy proposals to the new DPJ ruling party on how to make Japan a more attractive place for immigration. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/print/fl20091201ad.html

3. Japan Focus paper:  “JAPAN’S FUTURE AS AN INTERNATIONAL, MULTICULTURAL SOCIETY: From Migrants to Immigrants” (October 29, 2007) http://www.japanfocus.org/-Arudou-Debito/2559

4. “Medical Care for Non-Japanese Residents of Japan: Let’s look at Japanese Society’s General ‘Bedside Manner’ First“, Journal of International Health Vol.23, No.1 2008, pgs 19-21. http://www.debito.org/journalintlhealth2008.pdf

VI. Japan and the United Nations

1. Academic paper (forthcoming, draft, 21 pages):  “Racial Discrimination in Japan:  Arguments made by the Japanese government to justify the status quo in defiance of United Nations Treaty”.  This paper points out the blind spot in both United Nations and the Japanese government, which continues to overlook the plight of immigrants (viewing them more as temporary migrant workers), and their ethnically-diverse Japanese children, even in their February 2010 UNCERD Review of Japan (please skip to pages 18-19 in the paper).

2. Japan Times article: “PULLING THE WOOL:  Japan’s pitch for the UN Human Rights Council was disingenuous at best” (November 7, 2006), talking about the disinformation the government was giving the UN in its successful bid to have a leadership post on the newfound HRC. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/print/fl20061107zg.html

3. Japan Times article: “RIGHTING A WRONG: United Nations representative Doudou Diene’s trip to Japan has caused a stir” (June 27, 2006). http://search.japantimes.co.jp/print/fl20060627zg.html


Topics:  Daycare center teaching “Little Black Sambo” to preschoolers despite requests from international parents to desist, Anonymous statement regarding professional working conditions in Japan for professional and expatriate women (issues of CEDAW), Discriminatory hiring practices at English-language schools (2 cases), Racial profiling at Narita Airport, Harassment of foreign customers by Japanese credit agencies, Hunger strikers at Ibaraki Detention Center, Politician scaremongering regarding a hypothetical  “foreign Arab prince with 50 kids claiming child tax allowance”


Comfort Hotel Nagoya unlawfully tries Gaijin Card check on NJ resident, admits being confused by GOJ directives


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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
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Hi Blog.  Writing to you jetlagged from Sapporo, just back from Canada.  I had a wonderful trip and if I can get my next Japan Times column (out Tuesday March 2) out in time (my topic I had been writing about got bumped with the sumo stuff I blogged about yesterday) I might write some impressions.

Meanwhile, pursuant to the discussions we’ve had recently on Debito.org about exclusionary hotels, here’s an email I got last month regarding Comfort Hotel Nagoya’s treatment of a NJ customer, and how Debito.org empowered her to stand up for herself.  Well done.  Even the management says the administrative guidance offered by the authorities, as in the law requiring ID from NJ tourists vs. the official (but erroneous) demands that all NJ show ID, is confusing them.  And since I’ve pointed this out several times both in print and to the authorities (and the US Government itself has also asked for clarification) to no avail, one can only conclude that the GOJ is willfully bending the law to target NJ (or people who look foreign) clients just because they think they can.  Don’t let them.  Do what SM did below and carry the law with you.  And stand up for yourselves when you check into a hotel.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


From: SM
Subject: Asked For Passport & Alien Registration – Comfort Hotel Nagoya Airport
Date: January 13, 2010
To: debito@debito.org

Hello Debito,

We met in September at the Writers Conference in Kyoto. I enjoyed your presentation, and I am a regular reader of your website.

Below is a letter I received from the management at the Comfort Hotel Chubu Airport. If you would like to use my story as well as the letter below on your site, feel free to add it. If you do decide to use it on your site, could you remove my name and email address? Thanks.

The background:

For Christmas vacation, I decided to avoid the morning rush to the airport and spend the night at the Comfort Hotel, conveniently attached to Chubu International Airport. When I checked in, I was immediately asked for my passport. I let the clerk know that I was a long-term resident of Japan, and would be giving her my home address rather than a passport. She then said that if I would not give her the passport, I would have to show her my Alien Registration card. I told her that as a resident with a permanent address, this would not be necessary. She said it was the law, and that to stay in the hotel, I would have to show her my card. I once again refused, telling her that she did not have the authority to ask for an Alien Registration card. She became quite flustered. I continued filling out the form, including my full name and address. When I passed her the form, she stood her ground and said I must show her my card. I asked to speak to a manager. She left, and I waited in the lobby for ten minutes. She returned with another woman who did not say a word to me. She told me the amount to pay, gave me my change and sent me on my way. I was too tired to pursue it, and just happy that I had a room to go to.

In the morning, I returned to the lobby and asked to speak to a manager. A man came out, and I explained the law to him and showed him the English/Japanese version of the law provided on Debito’s site (I had it displayed on my iPhone). He was polite, but quite insistent that the law stipulates that all foreign residents are required to show their Alien Registration. I asked him to research it further and gave him my business card. (By the way, he was Chinese. I asked him if he was ever required to show his Alien Registration when he stayed at hotels. He answered honestly that he wasn’t. He then gave me his business card which indicated that he had taken a Japanese name. When I pointed this out to him, and asked whether his name may be the reason he is never asked to show his identification, he smiled and agreed that that was probably the case.)

He did research the law, and wrote the following letter to me:


From: “コンフォートホテル中部国際空港”
Subject: Thank you stay
Received: Friday, January 8, 2010, 7:48 AM

Dear SM

Thank you for having stayed at Comfort Hotel Central Intl. Airport at the end of Last year.

I am ashamed that our staff’s imperfect knowledge of non-Japanese residents made you unpleasant when you registered at our hotel due to the lack of my training as the manager.

The reason was the staff had been confused the registration procedure for non-Japanese residents with the one for foreign visitors. The Hotel Business Law under the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare says hotel staffs must see and copy the foreign visitors’ passports.

I looked over the Law concerning this case.
The Alien Registration Law under the Ministry of Justice says, in Art. 3, paragraph 1,2 and 3, non-Japanese residents cannot refuse to show their alien registration cards when government officials demand to do it. It means we, hotel staffs, don’t have the right to ask non-Japanese residents for their alien registration cards as you said.

I learned from this case and gave directions to our hotel staffs. I keep on training them so that they understand the Laws concerning the registration procedure for non-Japanese guests well and provide good service.

I would like you to know the reason for this case was that the guidance by the two Ministries confused the staff and she didn’t understand well.

We hope we have a chance that you stay at our hotel.

Comfort Hotel Central Int’l Airport
Eisho Hayashi


Needless to say, I was very pleased that he had followed up on the problem, and accepted responsibility for the mix-up. As I travel quite a bit, I am going to give the Comfort Hotel another chance. I’ll be heading out of Nagoya in late February ~ I’ll let you know how it goes at that time.

Thanks, Debito, for keeping me in the know of my rights. I’m not sure I would have had the nerve to push it as far as I did without having the knowledge that you supply on your site. SM


Mainichi: Rwandan Refugee applicant jailed for weeks for not having photograph on GOJ-issued document


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Hi Blog.  Here’s a case of how the GOJ can be incredibly insensitive towards how the J cops police NJ:  Not issuing them documents properly just in case they get snagged for Gaijin Card checks.

There was the threat of this sort of thing happening when a friend of mine accidentally overstayed his visa back in 2004, and after he went in, owned up, and was forgiven by Immigration, they issued no physical proof that his visa was now legal and could have been deported anyway had he not avoided Police Boxes for the following few weeks:


Visa villains
Immigration law overdoes enforcement, penalties

…A university professor, who has worked in Japan for more than a decade, discovered his visa was three weeks overdue. He went to Immigration to own up — which, until recently, would have resulted in a lot of bowing and a letter of apology. But this time, after being questioned, photographed, and fingerprinted, he was told that he was now a criminal, warranting an indefinite period of background investigation.

Problem is, officials refused to issue any evidence that his visa was being processed. Outside Immigration, he was still as illegal as when he walked in. Their advice? “Stay out of trouble. And remember your case number.”

Contrast that with how Japan processes other forms of identification, such as driver licenses. The government mails all bearers a reminder before expiry. During processing, you get a temporary license to keep you out of jug in case you get stopped by the cops.

But if the professor gets snagged for a random Gaijin Card Check, he might just disappear. With detentions short on legal advice or contact with the outside world, what’s to stop another summary deportation?

Things haven’t changed.  Read on.  This negligence on the part of otherwise thorough policing in Japan is worse than ironic.  It should be unlawful — harassing, even incarcerating, otherwise law-abiding NJ just because they got zapped by racial profiling in the first place.  Arudou Debito in Edmonton


Rwandan refugee held by prosecutors over visa status
(Mainichi Japan) January 23, 2010, Courtesy of M&M


NAGOYA — A Rwandan man seeking refugee status in Japan has been held in custody for over two weeks, on suspicion of violating the Immigration Control Law.

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and refugee relief organizations are requesting his release, police said.

The 30-year-old was arrested on Jan. 7 for failing to present valid identification after stopped by local police in the Aichi Prefecture city of Kita-Nagoya, according to his lawyer. He was carrying a copy of the receipt for his refugee status application, but the document was deemed invalid without a photograph.

On Jan. 13, the Nagoya District Public Prosecutors Office was informed by the Ministry of Justice that the man filed for refugee status with the Nagoya Regional Immigration Bureau in 2008. However, public prosecutors have decided to keep the man in custody until Jan. 28, and the local summary court has approved the decision.

“We cannot comment on the matter as we are in the middle of an investigation,” said public prosecutors.

The man, a member of the Tutsi ethnic minority from southern Rwanda, fled to Uganda in 1994 to escape persecution. He was 14 years old. He lost contact with his family and returned home in 2003. In April 2005, he arrived in Japan on a fake passport.

After working in Aichi and Mie prefectures for a couple of years, the man applied for refugee status in November 2008. However, despite three interviews with immigration authorities he has yet to be granted refugee status. He also applied for a foreign resident certificate in Kanie, Aichi Prefecture, in October 2009, but the municipality says they cannot verify the applicant’s identity.

According to the Foundation for the Welfare and Education of the Asian People’s Refugee Assistance Headquarters, foreigners who have been arrested for illegal overstaying or nonpossession of passport are often released if only their application for refugee status is confirmed.

“It is unlawful that police and public prosecutors keep him in custody knowing his status,” said lawyer Naoya Kawaguchi.



毎日新聞 2010年1月23日









Odd treatment of “naturalized” people (guess who) by Air Canada/Canadian Government at Narita Airport


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Hi Blog.  Writing to you from Calgary, Canada.  As a tangent that might not be all that tangental, let me tell you about an odd experience I had at Narita Airport yesterday.

It was a breeze for a change getting out of Hokkaido and going overseas (which generally means, if you don’t go through Seoul, that you go through KIX or Narita), as my bags were checked all the way through to Vancouver (meaning I didn’t have to get my bags and go through long-lined Immigration procedures again at Narita).  And no, there were no double-takes at my Japanese passport at any stage of the game.

That is, until boarding.  I had a ten-hour layover in Narita (!! — it was longer than my actual flight to Canada), so I holed up in the United Airlines lounge (the ANA lounge idiotically won’t take non-members willing to pay 50 bucks at United or Delta) for the duration and got stuff done (free beer and internet, not bad at all).  Then when I was heading back for the gate about fifteen minutes before boarding, I was paged along with about four other people to come to the Air Canada desk at the gate.

They asked to see my passport.  I obliged.  Then they asked (whole exchange in Japanese):

“You’re naturalized, right?”  Yes.

“What was your nationality before?”

I double-took and told them that was unessential information.

“So you are unwilling to say?”

I asked what this information was necessary for.

“We’re just asking.”

“No you’re not.  Who needs this information?  You as the airline?”

“No, the Canadian Government wants it.  They’re an immigration country.  They’re trying to avoid faked passports.”

Me:  “Erm, I don’t get it.  I’m not on a faked passport, obviously.  And it’s not a Canadian passport anyway.  Why are naturalized people more suspicious?”

“I don’t know.”

“Were any of the other four people you paged called up for a passport check?”

“No, different business.”

“So you’re only singling out the naturalized people for extra identity checks?”


“This is, frankly, annoying and insulting.  And unCanadian.  I went over there in 2006 and was not subjected to this.  When did this start?”

“I don’t know.  I’ve only been working here about a year.”

“Well, I’m not telling you my birth nationality.  It’s unnecessary.  And I don’t see how knowing that helps you smoke out any faked passports.  Okay?”

That was fine.  They pursued it no further.

I got through YVR and other checkpoints just fine, again, with no double takes.

Any thoughts from people out there?  Anyone with connections to the Canadian government willing to ask around and see if this is actual policy?

Arudou Debito in Calgary

Ariel updates experience with not-random Gaijin Card and Passport Checks by Narita cops


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Hi Blog.  On this day of heading for Narita, here’s an update from a Debito.org Reader on how the Narita Airports Not-Random Gaijin Card Checks are continuing unabated.  I hope for their sake they don’t stop me; not in the mood.  Arudou Debito in transit


January 31, 2010.  Author:  Ariel

Hi Debito, I’m not sure whether you’re interested in an update on what’s going on at Narita, but I’ve noticed the topic cropping up in the comments lately.

My work takes me to Narita airport an average of once a month, and I’ve been noticing an increase in “random” police checks since last September. In my first three years living/working in Japan I was never once stopped by a policeman, but I was stopped three times in a row recently. I’m a caucasian woman in her mid-20’s by the way.

Early September: I was in the arrival lobby waiting to pick up some college-aged interns when I was approached by a uniformed policeman who asked for my passport in English. I explained in Japanese that I lived in Japan, so he asked for my ARC. I asked why, and he gave the standard explanation of catching overstayers. I didn’t want my new interns’ first impression to be of me arguing with an officer, so I gave in and let him take down my info.

Early November: I was sitting in the departure lobby filling out some paperwork before heading through security to catch a flight. Two officers came up and once again asked to see my passport in English. I asked why, and this time they said it was an anti-terrorism thing. Since I didn’t want to risk being late for my flight I let them take down my info (they even asked for my phone number) but gave them a hard time about how kibishii and mendou Japan is getting. They actually laughed and agreed.

Early January: I was standing in the departure lobby with another female caucasian coworker when two officers approached and started the standard conversation (I actually saw them eyeing us, and predicted to my coworker that we were going to get carded…sucks to be right). Once again, when asked why they were doing the check they blamed it on anti-terrorism procedures, though they were quick to assure us that of course they didn’t think the two of us were terrorists, but they needed to go through the motions. I responded that I felt it was an invasion of privacy, which caused them to get a bit stone-faced. I then asked “shinakutemo ii desu ka”, and they hemmed and hawed a bit, but eventually walked away.

Late January: I didn’t get stopped this time, but I also had a Japanese coworker with me in addition to my caucasian coworker. We were in the departure lobby most of the time, and we didn’t notice any patrolling officers.

Today [January 31]: I was picking up yet another intern, and decided to do a bit of informal research. I stood by where people exit from customs, but well away from the general flow of traffic, while holding a sign with the intern’s name on it an my headphones securely over my ears. I think my general location and demeanor discouraged any officers from coming over to check me, every other time I had been stopped I was in a high traffic area and did not have any “barriers” to starting a conversation. However, I was in a great spot to observe what the three officers posted in the area were doing for the half an hour I was waiting.

One or two of the officers would periodically search for someone to check. They were most certainly not being random, they would stand in the flow of traffic and scan those passing by until someone caught their fancy and then they’d make a bee-line for them. I saw them stop a total of 11 people, ALL of whom were caucasian, and all of whom were walking alone or in pairs. None of the 11 protested, but then again they all had luggage and/or had just exited customs, so it’s quite possible they were mostly tourists. I did not see them stop any other NJs (black, latino, etc), but strangely there seemed to be only caucasians and asians in the terminal at the time (yes, I looked). The only time I saw the officers speak to an asian was when a young woman approached an officer and asked for directions.

Granted this is essentially all anecdotal evidence, but it seems pretty clear that the police at Narita have been instructed to engage in active racial profiling. The oddest thing to me though is that these officers don’t seem to care about finding dangerous people, rather they seem to be targeting people who seem to be easy to approach and won’t make a fuss in order to make a quota and give the appearance that they are doing something to combat crime and terrorism. Is it just me, or is this the opposite of what the goal of airport security should be? Instead of keeping an alert watch out for legitimately suspicious people they are wasting half of their time stopping people they don’t think pose any threat!  Ariel


Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column with my top ten NJ human rights issues for 2009


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Human rights in Japan: a top 10 for ’09

JUST BE CAUSE Column 24/ZEIT GIST Column 53 for the Japan Times Community Page

The Japan Times January 5, 2010


They say that human rights advances come in threes:  two steps forward and one back.  2009, however, had good news and bad on balance.  For me, the top 10 human rights events of the year that affected non-Japanese (NJ) were, in ascending order:

10) “Mr. James”

Between August and November, McDonald’s Japan had this geeky Caucasian shill portraying foreigners to Japanese consumers (especially children, one of McDonald’s target markets) as dumb enough to come to Japan, home of a world cuisine, just for the burgers.  Pedantry aside, McDonald’s showed its true colors — not as a multinational promoting multiculturalism (its image in other countries), but instead as a ruthless corporation willing to undermine activists promoting “foreigner as resident of Japan” just to push product.  McD’s unapologetically pandered to latent prejudices in Japan by promoting the gaijin as hapless tourist, speaking Japanese in katakana and never fitting in no matter how hard he shucks or jives.  They wouldn’t even fight fair, refusing to debate in Japanese for the domestic media.  “Mr. James’s” katakana blog has since disappeared, but his legacy will live on in a generation of kids spoon-fed cultural pap with their fast food.



9) “The Cove”

Although not a movie about “human” rights (the subjects are sentient mammals), this documentary (www.thecovemovie.com) about annual dolphin slaughters in southern Wakayama Prefecture shows the hard slog activists face in this society.  When a handful of local fishermen cull dolphins and call it “Japanese tradition,” the government (both local and national), police and our media machines instinctively encircle to cover it up.  Just to get hard evidence to enable public scrutiny, activists had to go as far as to get George Lucas’s studios to create airborne recording devices and fit cameras into rocks.  It showed the world what we persevering activists all know:  how advanced an art form public unaccountability is in Japan.

8) The pocket knife/pee dragnets (tie)

The Japanese police’s discretionary powers of NJ racial profiling, search and seizure were in full bloom this year, exemplified by two events that beggared belief.  The first occurred in July, when a 74-year-old American tourist who asked for directions at a Shinjuku police box was incarcerated for 10 days just for carrying a pocket knife (yes, the koban cops asked him specifically whether he was carrying one).  The second involved confirmed reports of police apprehending NJ outside Roppongi bars and demanding they take urine tests for drugs.  Inconceivable treatment for Japanese (sure, sometimes they get hit for bag searches, but not bladder searches), but the lack of domestic press attention — even to stuff as egregious as this — shows that Japanese cops can zap NJ at whim with impunity.



7) “Itchy and Scratchy” (another tie)

Accused murderer Tatsuya Ichihashi and convicted embezzler Nozomu Sahashi also got zapped this year.  Well, kinda.

Ichihashi spent close to three years on the lam after police in 2007 bungled his capture at his apartment, where the strangled body of English teacher Lindsay Ann Hawker was found.  He was finally nabbed in November, but only after intense police and media lobbying by her family (lessons here for the families of fellow murdered NJs Scott Tucker, Matthew Lacey and Honiefaith Kamiosawa) and on the back of a crucial tip from plastic surgeons.

Meanwhile Sahashi, former boss of Eikaiwa empire NOVA (bankrupted in 2007), was finally sentenced Aug. 27 to a mere 3.5 years, despite bilking thousands of customers, staff and NJ teachers.

For Sahashi it’s case closed (pending appeal), but in Ichihashi’s case, his high-powered defense team is already claiming police abuse in jail, and is no doubt preparing to scream “miscarriage of justice” should he get sentenced.  Still, given the leniency shown to accused NJ killers Joji Obara and Hiroshi Nozaki, let’s see what the Japanese judiciary comes up with on this coin toss.



6) “Newcomers” outnumber “oldcomers”

This happened by the end of 2007, but statistics take time to tabulate.  Last March, the press announced that “regular permanent residents” (as in NJ who were born overseas and have stayed long enough to qualify for permanent residency) outnumber “special permanent residents” (the “Zainichi” Japan-born Koreans, Chinese etc. “foreigners” who once comprised the majority of NJ) by 440,000 to 430,000.  That’s a total of nearly a million NJ who cannot legally be forced to leave.  This, along with Chinese residents now outnumbering Koreans, denotes a sea change in the NJ population, indicating that immigration from outside Japan is proceeding apace.


5) Proposals for a “Japanese-style immigration nation”

Hidenori Sakanaka, head of the Japan Immigration Policy Institute (www.jipi.gr.jp), is a retired Immigration Bureau mandarin who actually advocates a multicultural Japan — under a proper immigration policy run by an actual immigration ministry.  In 2007, he offered a new framework for deciding between a “Big Japan” (with a vibrant, growing economy thanks to inflows of NJ) and a “Small Japan” (a parsimonious Asian backwater with a relatively monocultural, elderly population).  In 2009, he offered a clearer vision in a bilingual handbook (available free from JIPI) of policies on assimilating NJ and educating Japanese to accept a multiethnic society.  I cribbed from it in my last JBC column (Dec 1) and consider it, in a country where government-sponsored think tanks can’t even use the word “immigration” when talking about Japan’s future, long-overdue advice.



4) IC-chipped “gaijin cards” and NJ juminhyo residency certificates (tie)

Again, 2009 was a year of give and take.  On July 8, the Diet adopted policy for (probably remotely trackable) chips to be placed in new “gaijin cards” (which all NJ must carry 24-7 or risk arrest) for better policing.  Then, within the same policy, NJ will be listed on Japan’s residency certificates (juminhyo).  The latter is good news, since it is a longstanding insult to NJ taxpayers that they are not legally “residents,” i.e. not listed with their families (or at all) on a household juminhyo.  However, in a society where citizens are not required to carry any universal ID at all, the policy still feels like one step forward, two steps back.


3) The Savoie child abduction case

Huge news on both sides of the pond was Christopher Savoie’s Sept.28 attempt to retrieve his kids from Japan after his ex-wife abducted them from the United States.  Things didn’t go as planned:  The American Consulate in Fukuoka wouldn’t let them in, and he was arrested by Japanese police for two weeks until he agreed to get out of Dodge.  Whatever you think about this messy case, the Savoie incident raised necessary attention worldwide about Japan’s status as a safe haven for international child abductors, and shone a light on the harsh truth that after a divorce, in both domestic and international cases, there is no enforced visitation or joint custody in Japan — even for Japanese.  It also occasioned this stark conclusion from your columnist:  Until fundamental reforms are made to Japan’s family law (which encourages nothing less than Parental Alienation Syndrome), nobody should risk getting married and having kids in Japan.



2) The election of the Democratic Party of Japan

Nothing has occasioned more hope for change in the activist community than the end of five decades of Liberal Democratic Party rule.  Although we are still in “wait and see” mode after 100 days in power, there is a perceptible struggle between the major proponents of the status quo (the bureaucrats) and the Hatoyama Cabinet (which itself is understandably fractious, given the width of its ideological tent).  We have one step forward with permanent residents probably getting the vote in local elections, and another with Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama saying at the APEC Summit on Nov. 14 that Japan should “create an environment that is friendly to [NJ] so they voluntarily live in Japan.”  But then we have the no-steps-anywhere: The DPJ currently has no plans to consider fundamental issues such as dual nationality, a racial discrimination law, an immigration ministry, or even an immigration policy.  Again, wait and see.


1) The “Nikkei repatriation bribe”

This more than anything demonstrated how the agents of the status quo (again, the bureaucrats) keep public policy xenophobic.  Twenty years ago they drafted policy that brought in cheap NJ labor as “trainees” and “researchers,” then excluded them from labor law protections by not classifying them as “workers.”  They also brought in Nikkei workers to “explore their Japanese heritage” (but really to install them, again, as cheap labor to stop Japan’s factories moving overseas).  Then, after the economic tailspin of 2008, on April Fool’s Day the bureaucrats offered the Nikkei (not the trainees or researchers, since they didn’t have Japanese blood) a bribe to board a plane home, give up their visas and years of pension contributions, and become some other country’s problem.  This move, above all others, showed the true intentions of Japanese government policy:  NJ workers, no matter what investments they make here, are by design tethered to temporary, disposable, revolving-door labor conditions, with no acceptable stake or entitlement in Japan’s society.


Bubbling underNoriko Calderon (victim of the same xenophobic government policies mentioned above, which even split families apart), Noriko Sakai (who tried to pin her drug issues on foreign dealers), sumo potheads (who showed that toking and nationality were unrelated), and swine flu (which was once again portrayed as an “outsiders’ disease” until Japanese caught it too after Golden Week).

2009 was a pretty mixed year.  Let’s hope 2010 is more progressive.

Debito Arudou coauthored “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants.”  Twitter arudoudebito.  Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month.  Send comments to community@japantimes.co.jp


1538 WORDS

DR on dealing with GOJ border fingerprinting: sandpaper down your fingers


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Hi Blog.  As this week leads into Xmas, I will be slowing down a bit on postings (who wants to read this kind of stuff during vacation time, anyway, right?), making them less frequent until the new year starts in earnest.  Meanwhile, DR sends me this post for blogging, food for thought.  Arudou Debito in snow-inundated Sapporo


Sanding Down Your Fingerprints.

Incensed by the Japanese government’s slavish following of the US fingerprinting program, I decided to take charge of my own biometrics.

(1)  The temptation to use harsh, large grit sanding paper was my first impulse, but I settled on a very fine black glass paper for the huge amount of 85 Yen at Jumbo Encho. Usually the packages have a window so the grade of paper can be felt without opening it.

(2)  I started sanding on my outbound journey. It was a Nagoya to Frankfurt trip, 12 hours and lots of time to gently sand all my finger and thumb prints lightly. The secret is lightly.

(3)  I was to be in the EU for almost three weeks, so about ten minutes per day I would sand a little, lightly. Even sanding lightly it’s easy to break the skin and to expose muscle fibres, causing bleeding. Any distinguishing mark makes a fingerprint more identifiable, and defeats the whole purpose. After about a week I felt like a safe-cracker. Everything I touched was more pronounced; heat, cold, textures. Everything. I couldn’t touch the strings on a guitar as my fingers were too sensitive. I could distinguish the dots on Braille texts much better than before! Eventually the fingers callous-over and, with time, the surfaces become harder.

(4)  Then I started to test what my fingerprints would leave behind using a simple, plain drinking glass. It’s almost impossible not to leave a print on a clean glass. So, one by one over the next two weeks of my stay, I systematically sanded down the spots on each finger individually until I was satisfied that I left only an indistinguishable smudge on the clean drinking glass. After that, I made a paste of white sugar and water and soaked all my fingers in the small dish of that paste for a few minutes a day. The carbonic acid in sugar puts a nice polish on fingerpads, almost “sealing in” the plain surfaces, and erasing any signs of visible alteration. (That trick I learned of a very old episode of Hawaii 5-O!)

(5)  On arrival in Chubu, Nagoya I handed in Debito’s tract protesting the fingerprinting, and the drone on the desk just sighed and went through the speech. I put my two index fingers on the pads, and he gave a “Hehhhhh!” He asked me to try all of my fingers in pairs. I did, also sighing and rolling my eyes. After they ALL came back smudges, he asked for the first set of indexes. “Sho-ga-nai!” he said, pushed the record button, snapped a very impatient looking face. With one swift motion he handed back my stamped passport, gaijin card and new in-out form, and I was on my way.

(6)  I’ve used this every time, but the last two they didn’t go through all the digits, just took the first and sent me on my way. I guess they figure I’m just a smudgy gaijin!


Kyodo: GOJ responsible for hardship facing Ainu, incl racial profiling by J police on the street!


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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
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Hi Blog.  Here’s a little article about how other minorities have it in Japan — the Ainu indigenous peoples, for one.  According to this, people of Ainu descent are even being racially profiled by police on the street just like NJ!  Anyone still want to argue that the NPA is not training the police to target foreigners (defined as “foreign looking”, hence the Ainu getting snagged)?  Even the police themselves below justify their actions as ferreting out NJ overstayers.  Read on.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Former panel member says state responsible for hardship facing Ainu
Kyodo News/Japan Today Sunday 06th December 2009,
Courtesy SC
A member of a disbanded government panel on policies related to the Ainu said Saturday that the panel wanted to send a message to the government and the public that state policy has imposed hardships on the indigenous people and caused discrimination against them. ‘

‘We wanted to make it clear and tell the people in our report that the state was responsible for the suffering imposed on the Ainu and the disparities (between them and the majority group),’’ Teruki Tsunemoto, head of the Hokkaido University Center for Ainu & Indigenous Studies, told a symposium on Ainu policy in Tokyo.

Tsunemoto was one of the eight members of the panel, which was set up after Japan recognized the Ainu as an indigenous people last year and issued the report in July this year. The panel urged the government in the report to take concrete steps to improve the lives of Ainu people and promote public understanding of them through education.

Stressing the need to take specific measures for the Ainu, Tsunemoto, also a professor in constitutional law, said, ‘‘The Ainu have existed uniquely as an indigenous people and they have become a minority group not because they wanted to be but because the majority group of the Japanese advanced into their native land.’‘

‘‘The Ainu did not agree to become minority, so the state must take responsibility for driving them into their current status,’’ he said. ‘‘The panel did not propose providing ‘benefits’ to the Ainu but enhancing Ainu policies, based on the state’s political responsibility.’‘

A survey has shown that Ainu people still lead underprivileged lives, with their income levels and university advancement rate remaining low, compared with the national averages.

At the symposium, some Ainu people living in Tokyo and its vicinity shared their experiences of discrimination and expressed hope for future policy.

Akemi Shimada said, ‘‘People do not know much about the Ainu. Some people in Tokyo said to me when they saw me wearing traditional Ainu clothes, ‘Do the Ainu still exist?’ and ‘Are you from the Ainu country?’ I responded, ‘Where is the Ainu country?’‘’

Tomoko Yahata said she was stopped and searched in Tokyo nine times over the six months through October. ‘‘Responding to my question as to why they had stopped me, the police officers said it is because there are many overstaying foreigners,’’ she said.

Many Ainu must be facing similar difficulties as they now live nationwide, she suggested.

The Ainu at the meeting said they want sufficient support to improve their livelihoods while seeking their own space where they can pursue cultural activities such as traditional dancing, embroidery and cooking.


GS on Michael Moore’s rights to complain about being fingerprinted at Japanese border


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Hi Blog.  I received this very thoughtful email from GS after Michael Moore’s visit to Japan, where he was perturbed by the border fingerprinting.  According to GS, he has every right to be.  Read on.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


December 14, 2009
Dear Debito-san,

Thank you for the heads-up I got on Mr. Michael Moore’s comments regarding fingerprinting.

As you know from our previous e-mail conversations, I am concerned about some aspects regarding the safety of fingerprint verification in general and J-VIS in particular.

Following-up on your article, I have taken the liberty of writing a long message to the website feedback form on Mr. Moore’s website, summarizing my concerns. Please find below a copy of my writing. I hope you find it useful.


“Dear Sir, Madam,

Through the blog of Mr. Arudou Debito (www.debito.org), I’ve read part of Mr. Moore’s interview in Japan, in which he reported his fingerprinting experiences at the border (see http://www.debito.org/?p=5347). Though through this web form my message probably gets to the inbox of a webmaster, I hope you may find my response interesting enough to patch through to him. I would like to provide him with some hopefully interesting food for thought about fingerprinting in general, and the J-VIS (Japanese border check) system in particular.

Mr. Moore apparently got the hostile response that if he refused, he would be deported back to the United States on his question why he would have to be fingerprinted. I guess a good introduction to my story would be to point his attention to Article 4 of the Japanese “Act on the Protection of Personal Information Held by Administrative Organs” (see http://www.japaneselawtranslation.go.jp/law/detail/?ft=1&re=02&dn=1&x=0&y=0&co=01&ky=personal+data+administrative+organs&page=15, elements in Japanese writing have been deleted but can be seen in the original):

“Article 4 When an Administrative Organ directly acquires Personal Information on an Individual Concerned that is recorded in a document (including a record made by an electronic method, a magnetic method, or any other method not recognizable to human senses [referred to as an “Electromagnetic Record” in Articles 24 and 55]) from the said Individual Concerned, the Administrative Organ shall clearly indicate the Purpose of Use to the Individual Concerned in advance, except in the following cases:
(i) Where the acquisition of Personal Information is urgently required for the protection of the life, body, or property of an individual
(ii) Where clear indication of the Purpose of Use to the Individual Concerned is likely to cause harm to the life, body, property, or other rights or interests of the Individual Concerned or a third party
(iii) Where clear indication of the Purpose of Use to the Individual Concerned is likely to cause impediments to the proper execution of the affairs or business of state organs, Incorporated Administrative Agencies, etc. (which means incorporated administrative agencies prescribed in Article 2, paragraph 1 of the Act on the Protection of Personal Information Held by Incorporated Administrative Agencies, etc. [Act No. 59 of 2003; hereinafter referred to as the “IAA Personal Information Protection Act” ]; the same shall apply hereinafter), local public entities, or Local Incorporated Administrative Agencies (which means local incorporated administrative agencies prescribed in Article 2, paragraph 1 of the Local Incorporated Administrative Agencies Act [Act No. 118 of 2003]; the same shall apply hereinafter)
(iv) Where the Purpose of Use is found to be clear in light of the circumstances of the acquisition”

I am not a lawyer (disclaimer), but it would seem to me that when Mr. Moore asked “why?”, he made a lawful request under article 4, while the answer that if he wouldn’t, he would be deported, doesn’t appear to me to be in the spirit of this article. Not to mention that the Immigration Bureau, the responsible party in this scheme, states in their FAQ: “we will properly store and protect your data, according to the basic law for the protection of personal data, the Act for the Protection of Personal Information Retained by Administrative Institutions.” (http://www.moj.go.jp/NYUKAN/nyukan64-2-1.pdf, note by the way the spelling differences in the title…). Right……

Privacy laws generally have a common ancestor and a common purpose. In 1980, a workgroup within the OECD (http://www.oecd.org/home/0,2987,en_2649_201185_1_1_1_1_1,00.html) published the “OECD Guidelines on the Protection of Privacy and Transborder Flows of Personal Data” (http://www.oecd.org/document/18/0,3343,en_2649_34255_1815186_1_1_1_1,00.html), with eight key principles that form the basis of privacy laws worldwide. Contrary to both the statements: “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” and “Big Brother is watching you”, these guidelines (roughly said) recognize the general legitimacy of using personal information, provided that such use is safe, sane and sensible.

Safe, sane and sensible… One is left to wonder about this when it comes to fingerprinting schemes worldwide… From what I understand, the key reason for implementing such schemes is the assumption that fingerprints provide a ‘silver bullet’ solution to identifying people, being unique, impossible to forge, and impossible to misidentify. However, by now it’s safe to say that fingerprinting schemes are not the ‘silver bullet’ hoped for, and that they are creating problems which might easily lead to grossly unfair treatment to individuals being unfortunate enough to become victims of such a problem.

Leaving all kinds of other problems aside, I would like to react to the assumption that fingerprints are impossible to forge first. One can find plenty of proof that fingerprints can be copied. The University of Yokohama (http://www.lfca.net/Fingerprint-System-Security-Issues.pdf) has published it’s groundbreaking article on this now almost 8 years ago, the Chaos Computer Club in Germany (http://dasalte.ccc.de/biometrie/fingerabdruck_kopieren), and the Mythbusters (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MAfAVGES-Yc) have spectacularly shown that it is possible. But the proof of the pudding is that in fact at least one person has been caught in Japan after defeating the J-VIS system (among others: http://archives.chicagotribune.com/2009/jan/02/nation/chi-090102-faked-fingerprint-japanese-airport). Some food for thought, the woman bought her fingerprints, so not only is it possible, but there are people out there making money on it. More food for thought in a few questions: Were the original prints from which the copies were made stolen? Were the copies registered as unreliable? And will the rightful owner get into trouble because someone else stole her/his fingerprints and did something unlawful? The answer is a triplicate: “We don’t know”. What we do know is that someone who is the victim of such identity theft is in for some serious trouble in those places where the assumption is still that it can’t be done…

The assumption that it’s impossible to misidentify people based on fingerprints is also incorrect. In this respect it may be the most interesting to follow the trail of the J-VIS devices.

On at least one of the airports, the devices used are from the company NEC. NEC is not very secretive about the tests proving the quality of it’s devices, they post links to the test results on their own website, with the headline NIST(= (US) National Institute for Standards and Technology)-Proven Accuracy (http://www.nec.com/global/solutions/biometrics/technologies/nist.html). But what is this accuracy?

Only the FpVTE2003 appears to test the kind of verification that is in use for J-VIS. On this, NEC says: “The FpVTE2003 was an international benchmark test of fingerprint matching, identification, and verification systems, conducted in the United States in 2003 under the control of one of the US’s most respected government authorities, the NIST.” So what does this test say? The Summary of Results (http://fpvte.nist.gov/report/ir_7123_summary.pdf) says:

“The most accurate fingerprint system tested (NEC MST) using operational quality single fingerprints:
• 99.4% true accept rate @ 0.01% false accept rate
• 99.9% true accept rate @ 1.0% false accept rate”

It is good here to explain the technical language. In the context of US-VISIT or J-VIS, fingerprints are checked against a list of unwelcome people, while NIST uses the standard terms for checking against a list of authorized (= welcome) people. This creates confusing language, but it can be explained fairly easily. A True Accept in the spirit of the US-VISIT or J-VIS system means that an unwelcome person (say, Mr. X) shows up and is recognised because of a fingerprint match. A False Accept means that a welcome person (say, Mr. Michael Moore) shows up, but is incorrectly recognized as Mr. X because of a false fingerprint match.

At this point, I would like to entertain Mr. Moore with a little side step, to which I get back later. What would a False Accept Rate of 0.01% mean? That’s infinitely small, right? Well, the J-VIS system went into operation on November 20th, 2007. I don’t have day-by-day figures on the number of visitors, but I can tell that in the year from December 1st, 2007 to November 30th, 2008, 8,513,909 visitors were registered in Japan (http://www.tourism.jp/statistics/xls/JTM_inbound20091027eng.xls). I would therefore expect 851 false alarms based on a False Accept Rate of 0.01%. It is not infinitely small.

So the question comes up: “Is fingerprint verification a form of Russian Roulette?” The answer is: “Not necessarily”. No system is perfect against theft or mistakes. But if the people running the system are well-trained and thorough, it is likely that they can spot and correct the problem before serious damage is done to the victim of either problem above. But for that to work and the people subjected to such a system to be safe, one principle is vital: Every person in the organization must have the capabilities of being able to take criticism, and also a healthy dose of self-criticism. That is never easy, and the more damage already done, the more difficult it becomes.

…And right at that point is where the comparison the officials from Japan’s Immigration Bureau made to Mr. Moore ends. One of the officials apparently told him: “But you do this in the United States, when we visit the United States.” True, they do undeniably verify fingerprints. They also undeniably verify and correct false alarms. In the words of Mr. Neil Latta, US-VISIT IDENT Program Manager at the time of writing of the following document (http://fingerprint.nist.gov/standard/archived_workshops/workshop1/presentations/Latta-LessThan10.pdf): “1:many Accuracy For a 2-finger Search Against a 6M Subject Database is 95% With a False Hit Rate of 0.08% (Exceeding US-Visit Requirements)”. And: “0.4% FAR Results in (0.4% x 100K Trxs/Day) = 400 Examiner Verifications”. Again in less technical terms, they verify false alarms, they know how many false alarms there are, and so on. Granted, given the reputation of ‘outstanding customer friendliness’ that Homeland Security has carved out for themselves, this is still likely to be a rather unpleasant experience, and there is almost certainly room for considerable improvement. But at the end of the day, here is the written proof that the Department of Homeland Security is capable of admitting mistakes.

Is this also the case on the Japanese borders? The answer is again: “We don’t know”. But in itself, this is an answer too. Just some food for thought, there’s nothing in the quoted FAQ, and the incident Mr. Moore had is not exactly the first one where the organization reacts with hostility to something that sounds remotely like criticism. It’s not exactly reassuring to have to depend for your own safety on the ability of an organisation to take (self-) criticism, while on less important details the same organisation shows a distinctive lack of that same ability.

And one detail gives more food for thought that is not very reassuring. Remember the 851 false alarms I would expect if there was a false accept rate of 0.01%? On November 29th, 2008, the Japanese Ministry of Justice (of which the Immigration Bureau is a part) made a press release stating that they had deported a total of 846 people based on fingerprint matches in the first year of operation (http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D94NKV182&show_article=1). That is only five off that number… Or differently put, 846 people is 0.00994% of 8,513,909 visitors. The difference with a false accept rate of 0.01% is only 0.00006%… Is this proof that there is a Russian Roulette situation? Certainly not. From the same sources we also have the numbers for South Koreans (297 people deported, total visitors – from both Koreas, admittedly leaving a margin for doubt: 2,483,288, percentage = 0.01196%), Chinese (90 people deported, total visitors 1,000,228, percentage = 0.008998), and Filipino’s (155 people deported, total visitors 82,473, percentage = 0.18%, way off the mark). But some food for thought: Out of four groups of visitors, only the smallest group is way off the mark. The other ones are groups of more than one million visitors. And the larger the group of visitors, the closer we get to the mark of 0.01%. That is a curious set of coincidences…

And yet more food for thought. With almost every other identifier and keys, from physical keys to credit cards to drivers’ licenses to passports, the reason we have them is that we can replace them when the legitimate user gets into trouble because something goes wrong. We would find it unacceptable to hear: “Sorry, we found out your car key / credit card / passport has been copied / isn’t accepted as well as it should be / doesn’t fit / …, but you can’t replace it, so you just have to live with the problem.” Why then do we accept that with fingerprints…?

I’m sorry for this long message. I hope it has been worthwhile reading though.

Kind Regards, GS”


And of course the kind regards are for you as well.


Michael Moore lambastes GOJ for being fingerprinted at border during his first Japan trip


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Hi Blog.  What follows is an excerpt of a transcript of Michael Moore’s press conference at the Tokyo Stock Exchange, dated November 30, 2009.  He too doesn’t like being fingerprinted at the border.  Fortunately, he speaks up about it, unlike most celebrities that want to bask in the lucrative glow of celebrity in Japan.  I make no claims about some of the other stuff he says, of course.  Text follows, courtesy of Philip Brasor.  (NB:  The transcript does not include the questions, only the answers Mike gave.)  FYI.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo



-This is my first day ever in Japan. I’ve always wanted to come here, so I’m grateful for the opportunity to do that. I’d hoped for many years that the island of Japan would float a little closer to America so that it wouldn’t be such a long trip, but that didn’t happen so I decided to finally come here.

-Can I explain why I’m dressed this way? The airline lost my luggage. It’s one of the two Japanese airlines, I don’t want to mention any names. OK. It begins with J and ends with L. I essentially decided to wear pajamas on the plane to sleep, and I got here with no clothes. So where in Japan am I going to find clothes that fit me? Anyway, they took to a place where sumo wrestlers buy their clothes, so i’m dressed partly in my pajamas and partly in sumo clothing. My apologies. I usually don’t look that much better anyway, so you won’t tell the difference.

-They asked me if I would share some of my impressions of my first 24 hours in Japan. The people are very friendly and nice. Well, actually, I landed at the airport and the customs people asked me for my fingerprints. I’m 55 years old and I’ve never been fingerprinted in my life, partly because I’ve never figured out the right kind of crime to commit, and partly because there’s no reason to fingerprint me. So I stepped up to the counter and they said please put your fingers here. And I said, Why? I didn’t refuse, I just asked why. And they immediately called in a supervisor and took me away. They told me, You have to be fingerprinted. And I said, I’ve never been fingerprinted. I have privacy rights, this is a democracy, right? They said, OK, so you want to be deported to the United States. I said, No, so they took me into a room and brought in another supervisor, even higher, and he said I could either voluntarily give my fingerprints and enter the country or they would forceably put me back on a plane back the US. So it’s a lose-lose situation, I said, and he said, But you do this in the United States, when we visit the United States. And I said, Well, that’s wrong. You have a passport, you took my picture, you X-rayed me. I don’t understand the fingerprint. It’s like, if no one stands up and says every now and then, we have rights as individuals. This is a privacy issue. I’ve not committed any crime, so therefore you’re not deserving of my fingerprints. So we went back and forth and they read me my rights, which I brought along. They had me read in English. I read that. My wife had already gone through the line and my friends were waiting, so I reluctantly gave in, but I gave them a different finger than my index one. I was allowed in the country at that point.

-No need to make any apologies about immigration. It was all comedy. We’re not robots, we’re human beings. I didn’t expect it to happen in Tokyo. I would expect it in Washington D.C.

-I’ve tried to film many times at the New York stock exchange, including inside the stock exchange for this film. And large news organizations in the states have requested that I be allowed there so that they can interview me on the stock exchange floor. And they’ve all been refused. So when they said to me this morning that we were going over to the Tokyo Stock Exchange, the Nikkei, I thought it was a joke. And we walked right in. No fingerprinting. I’m grateful, and thank you for allowing me in here to discuss “Capitalism” and business and the global economy. So you’ve seen me outside the New York stock exchange in the movie. I’ll tell you a funny story. At the end of the movie when I’m wrapping the stock exchange in crime scene tape, I was very afraid that I might be arrested–and fingerprinted. And sure enough, I see the police coming toward me, and I think: this is it, they’re coming to arrest me. And then I see the police officer and I said, I’ll be out of here in a minute. I promise to clean all this up and be out of your way. I won’t be any trouble. And the officer says to me, That’s OK Mike. The guys in this building have lost a billion dollars of the New York City Police pension fund. You take all the time you want. So that’s how I shot that scene.

-Generally, someone who holds some power, if they see me coming they don’t want to talk to me, and it just makes it harder. On the other hand, because so many of the people in the US see me as somebody who has not been bought by the establishment, and I’m going to do what I think is the honest and right thing to do, it’s easier for me to get the stories because the stories come to me. At the beginning of the movie, with the family that’s being evicted, and the police show up to bang in the door? The family filmed that themselves, and they sent me the videotape. So one day I just got this package in the mail and opened it up and there was a tape. Because they thought I might show what happened to them. There was one place where they could send it and perhaps someone would see what has happened to them. So in some ways it’s easier for me because I’m seen as someone who stands up to power, so people send me documents from work and things like that. But I have to say it’s not an enjoyable place to be public enemy number one for the Republicans or the conservatives or the business establishment, because it creates a lot of turmoil and hatred toward me. It’s not easy. I wouldn’t apply for this job if I had to do it over again.

-I’ve often spoken admiringly of Japan in my books and my movies. I believe that there are many things you do that are right. I know that if I lived here I would find many things that are wrong, but I don’t live here. For some strange reason you believe that if someone in Japan gets sick that person should be able to see a doctor without worrying about losing their savings or their home. Why do you do that? I’m guessing it’s because you’re all Japanese and you’re all in the same boat, and if you let some people fall out of the boat then what’s the purpose of the boat if people are drowning? An American family is evicted from their home once every seven and a half seconds. The number one cause of people losing their homes, the number one cause of bankruptcies are medical bills. People get sick and don’t have health insurance, or the right kind of health insurance, and they lose everything, including their home. The total number of Japanese who were kicked out of their homes last year because they couldn’t pay the doctor? None. Zero. Why not? Why have you decided to treat each other that way, to help each other, when you get sick, or lose your job? You’ve built a safety net. Why have you done that, and why don’t we do that? This is the eternal question in all my films, because I love the US. I love being an American. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. So the question I’m constantly posing to my fellow Americans is: Why do we treat each other this way, when no other civilized country that I’ve seen believes that we should punish you because you get sick, or we should punish you when your factory goes out of business. Why is that? You’re not better than us. We’re all human beings, right? Why have you structured your society in such a way that this is not allowed to happen? Why don’t you kill each other? Oh, I know, you think the murder rate has gone up, but there have been years in the past when you had zero handgun murders. You have just a few gun murders each year, compared to what we have in the US. In some years we have 15,000 murders with guns and then another 15,000 suicides with guns. So why don’t you kill each other? Because you’re better than us? I don’t think so. But in the last 20 years you started to change, because you had a series of conservative prime ministers, starting around the time of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, Kohl in Germany, Mulrooney in Canada, and a series of prime ministers here all through the Elvis impersonator. No disrespect. So now you’re getting more of the problems we have in America. There is more crime now. More murders. When people lose their jobs… I remember as a young man, the thing about Japan was that it was shameful for a company to lay people off. Is that correct? That’s the way it used to be. So your conservative governments started to cut away at the social safety net that you created for your people. Cut money for health care. Cut money for education. Throw people out of work. Make life harder for people who don’t make as much money. Punish them for being poor. So the more you’ve done it the American way, what have you ended up with? More crime. Less educated young people, who don’t know as much as they used to know, right? So to answer your question, as much as I love America, quit being like us. Be the Japan you created after 1945, a Japan that valued education, a Japan that would not throw you out of work. A Japan that would never invade another country, and which would not support a country that would invade another country. And let me tell you, when you supported George W. Bush in his endeavors, you gave him legitimacy, because he was able to say to the American people, The Japanese, they’re with me. Prime Minister Elvis-san is with me. Tony Blair is with me. The Italians are with me. Even the Danish. It’s a legitimate war. If the Japanese prime minister, and the British prime minister, and the Italian and the Spanish and the Danish had all refused to give him his cover, I don’t know that he would have gotten away with it. So the responsibility that these countries shared by supporting anything that George W. Bush did, it made it not only difficult for people in the US, but for people who suffer in this world as a result of the foreign policies of that individual. I’m so sorry to put it this way. Please don’t take personal offense, but you asked me what would I say to the Japanese people, a society I think highly of, a society structured on peace and respect, and you’ve started to go down the other road. And my humble plea is to get off that road with your new prime minister and return to the road you used to be on.


-My father is 88 years old and I told him I was coming to Japan. He was in the first marine division in the South Pacific in WWII and fortunately survived and had me. When I told him I was coming here he was very happy. He said to me when we were discussing the wars last year, the reason Bush got us into these wars is because he’s never known war. If he had known war he would never have wanted war again. He spent part of the war on Okinawa and I said I might go there to lay some flowers for all who died there, Japanese and Americans. His brother, my uncle, was killed in the Philippines during the war. And my dad has such a loving heart–you saw him in the movie. His best friend at church is a Japanese man. And both of them, 88 years old, go to the gym together every morning and work out together. As sad and difficult as this world can be, it does eventually get better. And I have always been filled with enormous hope and optimism that we will know war no more. Tomorrow evening Pres. Obama will announce if he will expand the war in Afghanistan, and I have passed on to him a personal request from my father and his Japanese friend: Mr. Obama, you do not know war. People who know war want it no more. I’m honored to share this message of peace with you, the people of Japan, who have been beacons of peace for the past 60-plus years.

Post #1500!: Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column Dec 1 2009 on making Japan more attractive to immigrants (with links to sources)


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Hi Blog. Indulge me a sec: I’m pleased to announce that this marks my 1500th post since the Debito.org blog first began its daily updates in June 2006. Because 365 days times the 3.5 years since 2006 equals 1278 posts, that means we’ve been posting an average of more than one blog entry a day, consistently, for a third of a decade. Not bad. Carrying on — with my latest column today in the JT. Enjoy. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Policy suggestions to make Japan more attractive to newcomers
By Arudou Debito
JUST BE CAUSE Column 22 / ZEIT GIST Column 51
Published in the Japan Times Tues Dec 1, 2009

DRAFT ELEVEN, as submitted post revisions to the Japan Times
Version with links to sources

For the first time in Japan’s postwar history, we have a viable opposition party in power, one that might stick around long enough to make some new policies stick. In my last column for 2009, let me suggest how the Democratic Party of Japan could make life easier for Japan’s residents — regardless of nationality.

My proposals can be grouped into four categories: immigration, policing, human rights protections and public relations. Each in turn:

I) Immigration. Despite Japan’s looming demographic disaster — you know, the aging society and population drop due to low birthrates and record-long life spans — we still have no immigration policy. No wonder: The people charged with dealing with Non-Japanese (NJ) — i.e. the Ministry of Justice’s Immigration Bureau and sundry business-sector organizations — just police NJ while leeching off their labor. Essentially, their goal is to protect Japan from the outside world: keep refugees out, relegate migrant workers to revolving-door contracted labor conditions, and leash NJ to one- to three-year visas. For NJ who do want to settle, the Justice Ministry’s petty and arbitrary rules can make Permanent Residency (PR) and naturalization procedures borderline masochistic.

This cannot continue, because Japan is at a competitive disadvantage in the global labor market. Any immigrant with ambitions to progress beyond Japan’s glass ceiling (that of either factory cog or perpetual corporate flunky) is going to stay away. Why bother learning Japanese when there are other societies that use, say, English, that moreover offer better lifetime opportunities? It’s time we lost our facile arrogance, and stopped assuming that the offer of a subordinate and tenuous life in a peaceful, rich and orderly society is attractive enough to make bright people stay. We also have to be welcoming and help migrants to settle.

Suggestions: 1) We need a new immigration ministry, independent of the Ministry of Justice, to supplant the Immigration Bureau. It would decide clear and public standards for:

● what kinds of immigrants we want

● how we can give immigrants what they want, and

● how to make immigrants into Japanese, both in law and in spirit.

2) We need to loosen up a little. This would mean implementing policies often standard in countries with successful records of assimilating immigrants, such as:

● less time-consuming and arbitrary standards for awarding PR and citizenship

● faster-track PR and job-finding assistance for graduates of our schools and universities

dual (or multiple) nationality

citizenship granted by birth in Japan (not just blood)

● equal registration as “residents” (not merely as foreigners on separate rosters to police and track)

● equal access by merit to credit and loans (most credit agencies will not lend to NJ without PR)

● stable jobs not segregated by nationality (and that includes administrative-level positions in the civil service)

● qualifying examinations that allow for non-natives’ linguistic handicaps, including simplified Japanese and furigana above kanji characters

visa programs that do not split families up

● periodic amnesties for long-term overstayers who have been contributing to Japan in good faith, and

● minority schools funded by the state that teach children about their bicultural heritage, and teach their parents the Japanese language

It’s not all that hard to understand what immigrants need. Most want to work, to get ahead, to make a better life for their children — just like any Japanese. Recognize that, and enforce equal access to the fruits of society — just like we would for any Japanese.

II) Policing. As in any society, police are here to maintain law and order. The problem is that our National Police Agency has an explicit policy mandate to see internationalization itself as a threat to public order. As discussed here previously, NPA policy rhetoric talks about protecting “citizens” (kokumin) from crimes caused by outsiders (even though statistics show that the insiders, both in terms of numbers and percentages, commit a disproportionate amount of crime). This perpetual public “othering and criminalizing” of the alien must stop, because police trained to see Japan as a fortress to defend will only further alienate NJ.

Suggestions: To make the NPA citadel more open and accountable, we must:

● create clear guidelines for the NPA to stop racial profiling in basic interactions, and create an agency for complaints about police that is not managed by the police

● amend laws (particularly the Foreign Registry Law; NJ should also be covered by the Police Execution of Duties Law, which forbids searches without probable cause) so that NJ are no longer more vulnerable than Japanese vis-a-vis random street investigations

● make NPA manuals public (to see how police are being trained to deal with NJ), then revise and retrain so that police see their mandate as protecting everyone (not just citizens)

● hire non-native speakers as police to work as interlocutors in investigations

● create “whistleblower status” to protect and shelter NJ who provide evidence of being employed illegally (currently, overstayers reporting their exploitative employers to the police are simply arrested, then deported to face reprisal overseas)

● take refugee issues away from the Justice Ministry and give them to a more flexible immigration ministry — one able to judge asylum seekers by conditions in their countries of origin, and by what they can offer Japan

III) Human rights protections. Once immigrants become minorities here, they must be protected from the xenophobes found in any society.


● Grant the Bureau of Human Rights (or an independent human rights bureau within the proposed immigration ministry) enforcement and punitive powers (not to mention create an obligation to make the results of their investigations public).

● Strengthen labor laws so that, for example, abusive and unlawful contracts are punished under criminal law (currently, labor disputes are generally dealt with by time-consuming civil courts or ineffectual labor tribunals).

● Create and enforce laws upholding the spirit of pertinent United Nations treaties, including the Conventions on Civil and Political Rights, the Rights of the Child, and the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

● Most importantly — and this underpins everything — create a criminal law against racial discrimination. Include criminal penalties to stop all those places we know so well (businesses, hotels, landlords etc.) enforcing “Japanese Only” rules with impunity.

Of course, some of these proposals are practically impossible to adopt now, but we had better get the public softened up to them soon. The smart migrants won’t come if they know they will remain forever second-class residents, even if they naturalize. Their rights are better protected in other countries, so that’s where they’ll head instead of our fine shores.

IV) Public relations. This is the easiest task, because it won’t involve much tax outlay. The government must make clear statements, as Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama did last month at an APEC summit, indicating that immigration is a good thing for Japan, and stress the positive contributions that NJ have made so far. The media have focused too heavily on how NJ can’t sort their garbage. Now it’s time to show the public how NJ will sort us out for the future.

We are about to start a new decade. This past one has been pretty rotten for NJ residents. Recall the campaigns: Kicked off by Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara’s “Sankokujin Speech” in 2000, where he called upon the Self-Defense Forces to round up foreigners in the event of a natural disaster, we have had periodic public panics (al-Qaida, SARS, H1N1, the G8 Summits and the World Cup), politicians, police and media bashing foreigners as criminals and terrorists, the reinstitution of fingerprinting, and increased NJ tracking through hotels, workplaces and RFID (radio-frequency identification) “gaijin cards”. In other words, the 2000s saw the public image of NJ converted from “misunderstood outsider” to “social destabilizer”; government surveys even showed that an increasing majority of Japanese think NJ deserve fewer human rights!

Let’s change course. If Hatoyama is as serious as he says he is about putting legislation back in the hands of elected officials, it’s high time to countermand the elite bureaucratic xenophobes that pass for policymakers in Japan. Grant some concessions to non-citizens to make immigration to Japan more attractive.

Otherwise, potential immigrants will just go someplace else. Japan, which will soon drop to third place in the ranking of world economies, will be all the poorer for it.


1381 WORDS

Debito Arudou coauthored the “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants.” This article with links to sources at www.debito.org/?p=5295. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Send comments on this issue and story ideas to community@japantimes.co.jp

NPR interview with Jake Adelstein, author “Tokyo Vice”, on how police and laws do not stop NJ human trafficking in Japan


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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 JapansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog. Jake Adelstein, whose new book TOKYO VICE just came out, was interviewed on America’s National Public Radio program “FRESH AIR” on November 10, 2009. What follows is an excerpt from their podcast, minute 23:45 onwards, which talks about how domestic laws hamstring the NPA from actually cracking down on human trafficking and exploiting NJ for Japan’s sex trades. Jake’s work in part enabled the US State Department to list Japan as a Tier-Two Human Trafficker, and got Japan to pass more effective domestic laws against it.

Read on to see how the process works in particular against NJ, given their especially weak position (both legally and languagewise). If NJ go to the police to report their exploitation, it’s the NJ who get arrested (and deported), not the trafficker. And then the trafficker goes after the NJ’s family overseas.  Glad people like Jake are out there exposing this sort of thing.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


DAVE DAVIES: On a more serious note, you became aware of some women who were working in the sex industry, who appear not to be there of their own free will. There was human trafficking going on. How did it work in the cases that you found?

JAKE ADELSTEIN: Japan is much better than it was than the time I started writing about this. But essentially it works like this: You bring foreign women into the country, often under false pretences — that they would be working as hostesses, or working as waitresses in a restaurant. You take away their passports. You put them in a room. You monitor their activities so that they can’t leave. And then you take them to the clubs where they have sexual relations with the customers. And, aren’t paid. The women have no freedom of movement. They’re told, after they’ve slept with a customer, or been forced to sleep with a customer — sometimes they were raped first, so they’d get used to the job — that if they go to the police, since they’re in Japan illegally, that they would be deported and they would still owe money for their travel expenses to Japan. And very often these traffickers would have agents within the countries where they were recruiting these women, often Eastern Europe, and contact the families of the women under various pretexts, to let them know that if they disobeyed, or did something in Japan or ran away, that their families back home would be menaced or killed.

DAVE DAVIES: You worked really hard to develop sources, and get enough on the record to write a story about this going on, and identify some of the people who were operating these human trafficking sex joints. What was the reaction among the police and other authorities when you exposed this?

JAKE ADELSTEIN: The reaction was that they asked me to introduce them to some of the women who were victims, so that they could *arrest* them, and have a pretext to raid these clubs. An officer there I really liked a lot named Iida-san said, “I’d love to put these places out of business. But you have to understand that these women, while they are victims, that we can’t protect them. We have to prosecute them under Japanese law. There is no provision in the law that allows us to keep them in the country while we do the investigation. So, I *could* do the investigation, and I could put these people out of business, but in order to do that, I’m going to have to have you put me in contact with some of the women, and I’m not going to be able to take a statement from them without arresting them.” And I couldn’t do that.

I went to another division of the police department and asked them, “Can you do anything about that?” And they said, “We can do something about it, but first of all, we don’t have enough people who speak foreign languages to do a very competent investigation right now. And we’ve got a lot of other things on our plate. While your article is good, it is not something that is immediately actionable for us.”

DAVE DAVIES: Which was enormously frustrating for you.

JAKE ADELSTEIN: It was *enormously* frustrating. And when I realized of course was that, while the cops have problems with this and would like to do the investigations and put these people out of business, that essentially the law wouldn’t let them do it. That’s why I began writing about the flaws in the law, the whole legal system, and I also began taking studies and information and stories that I had written up as a reporter to the US State Department representative at the Embassy in Tokyo.

DAVE DAVIES: In effect, by embarrassing the government, you were able to get some reform?

JAKE ADELSTEIN: Yes. I can’t take total credit, but I would like to take some credit for supplying the US Government with enough information that they could embarrass Japan enough so that Japan felt compelled to actually put some laws on the books that trafficking harder to do. One of the things I was most proud of was, the International Labor Organization did a very scathing study of human trafficking problems in Japan — pointing out the victims weren’t protected, the traffickers were lightly punished, fined, and rarely did jail time. Which the Japanese Government, which sponsored this study, told them “never release”. I was able to get a copy of that report and put it on the front page of our newspaper as a scoop, while the Japanese Government was still getting ready to announce their plan of action. And I think that had a very positive effect of making them put together a plan that was actually effective.

Speaking tomorrow, Thurs Nov 5, Sapporo Gakuin Dai 「法の下の平等と在住外国人」


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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
Hi Blog. Speaking in Japanese tomorrow, FYI, at Sapporo Gakuin.
Thursday November 5, 2009 1PM. 札幌学院大学法学部公開講座リレー講義「人権・共生・人間の尊重 あらためてその理念と現実を考える」第7回「法の下の平等と在住外国人」。札幌学院大学D202教室にて。

Powerpoint here.

Have a look! Or come see. Debito

Colin Jones in Japan Times: How J media is portraying J divorcees and child abductors as victims, NJ as perps


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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 Japansourstrawberriesavatar
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  Lawyer Colin Jones has hit us with a one-two punch this week in the Japan Times — first by explaining what Christopher Savoie’s arrest and recent release for “kidnapping” his own kids has brought to light, and now about how the domestic media is reacting to it.  Predictably, portraying  Japanese as perpetual victim, NJ as perp and victimizer.  I’ve mentioned the biased NHK report on the subject before (so does Colin below in his article). Now, here’s a deeper roundup and some crystal-balling about how this might affect NJ particularly adversely, as wagons circle and the GOJ protects its own. Excerpt follows. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2009
Foreign parents face travel curbs?


…While Japan signing the Hague Convention is certainly a desirable goal, it is probably convenient for everyone on the Japanese government side of the issue for foreigners to be the bad guys. That way they appear to be dealing with a “new” problem, rather than one that they have already ignored for far too long. From there, the easiest way to prevent further abductions is to require foreign residents seeking to exit Japan with their children to show proof that the other parent consents to the travel. This requirement, I believe, will be the most immediate tangible result of Japan signing the Hague Convention (if in fact it ever does).

If such a requirement is imposed, will it apply to Japanese people? Probably not: Japanese citizens have a constitutional right to leave their country. And foreigners? They apparently lack this right — the re-entry permit foreigner residents are required to have is proof that they are not equally free to come and go as they please!

Full article at

Query: Driver License schools now doing Immigration’s job too, checking NJ visas? (UPDATE: Also at Postal Savings)


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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 Japansourstrawberriesavatar
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog. I got this email on October 5, 2009 from a reader who asks if Driver License schools are requiring three items of proof of valid visas from NJ before letting them take their driver’s ed classes?   I said this is the first I’ve heard.  Anyone else out there hearing that?  Anyone even heard of the document called a “Kisai Jikou Shoumeisho”.  Read on:  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

UPDATE:  Passport checks also happening at Postal Savings too.


XY writes:

Hi there Debito, I live in Aichi Prefecture and am married to a Japanese man. Recently we decided that I should get my Japanese drivers license as I have a 1 year old and live in an inaka, etc, etc. My [North American] license had expired some years ago so there was no switching (shoot). Rather than hyperventilating or having ill-timed road rage at the Police testing centre, we decided that I should go to driving school, even though they charge a small fortune (IMHO).

While I speak passable Japanese, the thought of sitting down in a typical classroom and being bewildered by kanji and terms that I know I’m not going to be familiar with really had me anxious so I was delighted when I heard about [a private driving school’s] new English program. Same as the Japanese program, except all lessons in English, books in English etc. Of course it was more expensive, but only about 2man more.

As I understand it, for a Japanese national, only a copy of your juminhyo is required to register for driving school. Under the new English program, NJ are required to submit THREE separate forms of identification. Your Alien registration card, your passport and a “Kisai Jikou Shoumeisho”. Now, I can understand one form of ID, with your address, etc on it, but three? The only thing I can figure is that they are triple checking that your visa is not expired, or that all three forms of ID have the same name and contact info. I dunno. As for the Kisai Jikou Shoumeisho, this is the first time I’ve even heard of this thing, same for my hubby, and in-laws. My father in law was so curious to see what it was that he drove me to City Hall himself so that he could look at it.

I guess my question for you is: Is this legal? Do I HAVE to submit this much ID? To register for a driving course? Are they somehow in co- hoots with the government to check for visa overstays? Have I been watching too many conspiracy movies? Sincerely, XY.


I replied:

On Tue, Oct 6, 2009 at 7:52 AM, Arudou Debito wrote:

Hi XY. Thanks for this. First I’ve heard of it too. Ask them why they’re asking for information only Immigration is entitled to, and where it says in writing (a GOJ directive?) that this is required. Get a copy of that if possible, and send it to me. I will anonymize and blog, to see if it’s helping elsewhere. Thanks! Debito


XY replied:

Hi there,  I’ll do my best. I don’t go back until next week and at least I’ll be going alone as whenever I ask questions like this with my husband around, he just wants me to, well for lack of a better term “shut up and give them the info, stop asking so many questions, this is Japan, it is different”. I’m seriously curious if this is some sort of trade off with the immigration office – let them run an English course, but triple check visa status of NJ. As we have a large population of NJ in Aichi due to the car manufacturing AND the fact that pretty much ALL of them have lost their jobs due to the economic downturn… just too many coincidences. Or maybe they’re just triple covering their behind. Either way, I`ll ask away next week. Thanks for the mail, XY


Terrie’s Take on Tokyo’s 2016 Olympic bid, decision due Oct 2. Debito.org wa hantai.


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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 Japansourstrawberriesavatar
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  Something coming up next week of surprising interest to Debito.org:  Guv Ishihara’s pet project to bring the 2016 Olympic Games to Tokyo.  We’ll hear the decision on October 2.  Here’s where Debito.org stands:

While understandable a sentiment (what booster wouldn’t want to bring such a probable economic boon home?), Debito.org has been unflinching in its criticism both of Ishihara (for his xenophobic rantings over the years, start here) and of the Tokyo Police (keishicho), who will no doubt be given charge of the security at the event.  As history has shown repeatedly (G8 Summits, overt and unapologetic racial profiling — even public scapegoating of NJ, border fingerprinting justified on bigoted grounds, deliberate misconstruing of crime data to whip up public fear, even spoiling one of the last Beatles concerts!), you don’t want to hand over matters of public security to a police force without proper checks and balances — because as even Edward Seidensticker noted, Keishicho will convert Tokyo into a police city if the event is big enough.   The Olympics is just that, and it really complicates things by bringing in foreigners, for the police get particularly carrot-arsed when they feel the outside world is watching.  As I wrote for the Japan Times some months ago:

Point is, international events bring out bad habits in Japan. And now we have Tokyo bidding for the 2016 Olympics? Cue yet another orgiastic official fear and crackdown campaign foisted on the Japanese public, with the thick blue line of the nanny state the biggest profiteer.

Conclusion: I don’t think Japan as a polity is mature enough yet to host these events. Japan must develop suitable administrative checks and balances, not to mention a vetting media, to stop people scaring Japanese society about the rest of the world just because it’s coming for a visit. We need to rein in Japan’s mandarins converting Japan into a Police State, cracking down on its already stunted civil society. (Zeit Gist, SUMMIT WICKED THIS WAY COMES, Japan Times April 22, 2008).

Terrie below (understandably) hopes Tokyo gets the Olympics.  I, for the record, hope it doesn’t.  It’s not because I live in Sapporo (I would have mildly supported Fukuoka’s bid, even despite the NPA, simply because Fukuoka never had the chance — unlike Sapporo — to be an Olympic host).  But the fact remains, as Terrie alludes to below, this is just a vanity project for one mean old man, working through Japan’s elite society to get what he wants, who feels as though he’s got one good deed to redeem all his bad works and ill-will over the years.  Other rich elites in their twilight years, such as Andrew Carnegie, have historically felt the same impetus.  But this Olympic bid certainly seems far more half-baked and far less philanthropic than, say, Carnegie’s legacy attempts.

O IOC, don’t fall for Ishihara’s ego.  Spare Tokyo, its tourists, and its ever-more-policed international residents yet another fear and social-control media blitz.  Give the Olympics to somebody else.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E ‘S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, September 27, 2009 Issue No. 535


On October 2nd an important overseas decision will be made that will determine the future of Tokyo as a city of international standing. That decision will be made by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), whose members will convene in Copenhagen to decide which of Rio de Janeiro, Chicago, Tokyo, or Madrid will get to host the 2016 summer Olympic games. All the big wigs involved with trying to get the Games for Tokyo, from Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara on down, flew out to Copenhagen on Saturday (Sep 26th) for their date with fate.

They won’t have to wait long.

Ishihara is trying his best to swing things Tokyo’s way, and reportedly has even asked newly elected PM Yukio Hatoyama and Seattle Mariners batter Ichiro Suzuki to attend the Copenhagen vote. However, he may have left his final run for the finish line too late. In its report released earlier this month (September), the IOC Evaluation Commission had some criticisms for Tokyo after their visit in April to examine the city’s facilities and planning. They particularly referred to a February poll that the IOC commissioned itself and which found that Tokyoites who “Support Strongly” the Games was just 25.2% — a surprisingly low number compared to any of the other three contenders. Strong support in Madrid, for example was 57.9%.

Indeed, as a result of the poll, the IOC Evaluation Commission specifically noted that Japan’s bid had the strong support of government but correspondingly lacked support by the public. Put another way, we have a classic case of those in charge of the local bid trying hard to get Japan’s “establishment” on board so as to provide sufficient financial support, which was indeed forthcoming, but they somehow forgot to involve the little people — the general public.

When the results of the February poll became public, we don’t know, but the Bid Committee finally “fixed” their PR problem a few days ago (in September, months too late), when a moving, talking 20-meter Gundam character robot was parked in Odaiba to pull in a reported 400,000 people who came to demonstrate their support for the Games bid. As a result, the public support in Tokyo for the Games is now supposed to be around 70%. The only trouble is that few members of the IOC can actually read Japanese newspapers or watch Japanese TV, and so these last minute efforts are unlikely to have much effect.

Indeed, this lack of reach by Japanese media to a world audience is frequently lost on Japanese politicians and governmental organizations, who think that because they can view the media, everyone can. This, in our opinion, is a good reason why Japan fails so frequently in its international bids for just about anything. A good example of this very domestic thinking can be found in the recent “Yokoso Japan” (Visit Japan) campaign. As far as we understand, almost all of the billions of yen allocated by the government to promote tourism were spent in Japan in the Japanese media.

It’s true that domestic tourism was also part of the agenda but foreign tourism was the main target, as proven by setting a high target for increased foreign visitor numbers. As it happened, luckily a short-lived economic boom in China and Korea in 2005-2007 helped pulled in several extra million Asian tourists, but despite some mutual back-patting this was largely accidental, and was certainly not the result of the almost non-existent overseas PR campaign.

Back to the local Bid Committee. In our view, not only did they forget to get buy-in from the man-in-the-street, but they seem have also bypassed 10% of those people who will be paying extra taxes to pay for the extravaganza (Minato-ku, Shibuya-ku, Chiyoda-ku, etc.). We refer, of course, to the invisible foreign community.

Yes, there is an English-language website, which from the dates of the photos and videos we presume was mainly put together for the benefit of the visiting IOC evaluation committee in April to show how cosmopolitan Tokyo is. But frankly it’s embarrassing to look at. Take the the section that carefully provides one and one-only restaurant (well, OK, there are two French establishments) representing 12 different national cuisines. Why couldn’t they make a proper effort to garner support of those hundreds of English-speaking venues that will actually be called upon to look after tens of thousands of non-Japanese speaking guests if we actually win the games?

You can see the Olympic bid English site at http://www.tokyo2016.or.jp/en/. You can see the IOC Evaluation Commission’s report, which includes the Tokyo bid at: http://multimedia.olympic.org/pdf/en_report_1469.pdf

As a further comment to the Bid Committee’s lack of awareness that the Olympics might actually be an international affair, if you go to the site’s organization chart, you will quickly notice that of the 19 officials named on the site, not one is a non-Japanese, and of the 56 “advisors” not one is a non-Japanese either. So we can only assume that foreigners will be asked to keep a low profile while Japan hosts the Games… and to pay their taxes on time.

OK, enough of the sour grapes. It’s not like Tokyo has no chance of winning, although with the Beijing Olympics only just done here in Asia, and there never having been a Games in South America before, the odds are apparently on Rio taking the honors for 2016. You won’t read that fact in the Japanese press, since they’re all saying Tokyo will win.

But it’s not a shoe-in for Rio. In their review, the IOC evaluation commission was concerned about the fact that Rio’s games facilities are spread out over hilly terrain, and the city will need an overhaul of its public transport systems to get guests around. There was also concern about violent crime.

Chicago also has a strong chance according to observers, but it has the problem of whether or not it can really afford the expense of the Games, given the poor shape the local economy after the meltdown of the U.S. auto industry. Also some of the Chicago venues are apparently a long way out of the city and not currently well serviced by public transport.

The other contender, Madrid, got a reasonably negative response that they may not fully appreciate the complexity of management required to host the Games.

Thinking positively, though, if we do win the right to host the Games, it will give the Tokyo metropolitan government a worthy project to focus on, and will cause them to finally do something with those ugly vacant lots built during the bubble era, that they are stuck with out at Odaiba. The venue plan for Tokyo calls for substantial planting of greenery in the area, as well as making the entire athlete’s village ecologically sound — with the latest solar, waste processing, and transport technologies being employed to give Japan a showcase to the world.

To wrap up, we do in fact hope that by some miracle Tokyo wins the 2016 Olympic Games. It would be a blast to be in the middle of all the buzz that will come with such an event. It will also significantly ramp up the world’s awareness of what a great place Tokyo is to live and visit — doing wonders for tourism.

But, in our heart of hearts, we fear that those handling the city’s bid may not have realized that to play a global game, you need to have a world-class team, not just money and government support. We’re not sure that such a team was brought to bear, and so we’re betting that Rio will probably win the hearts of IOC members — especially since South America is long overdue to host what should be a global event.

SUBSCRIBE to, UNSUBSCRIBE from Terrie’s Take at:

http://www.japaninc.com/terries_take, or,

The Corbett Report interview on the new RFID Gaijin Cards


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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 Japansourstrawberriesavatar
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog. Turning the keyboard over to James Corbett, with whom I interviewed on August 30, 2009.  Comment follows embedded video.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


September 19, 2009 1:15:41 PM JST
Debito, thank you once again for taking time out of your day in Okayama to talk with me about the fingerprinting and IC card issues. The documentary itself is of course still in production, but I have extracted a few minutes from our interview and put it on YouTube. You can watch the video directly here:


Also, I’ve written an article that incorporates that video and some of your comments on the IC chip-enabled ID issue. That article is available from the “Articles” tab of the corbettreport.com homepage and the direct link is:


Thank you again for sharing your insights on these issues. As far as the documentary goes, I have been trying to get an interview with someone from the Immigration Bureau regarding this practice, but have had no luck whatsoever getting anyone from the Ministry. If you could be of any assistance at all in this regard it would be very much appreciated, whether you can help to set up an interview or even provide some contacts or suggestions for getting in touch with someone who might be able to arrange something like that.

James Corbett
corbett AT corbettreport DOT com

(NB follows embedded video below:)

NB:  I’m not as articulate about the issue in this interview as I would have liked to have been; I wasn’t sufficiently aware in advance what we would be talking about, so my facts and figures are coming off the top of my head.  For my points articulated more clearly, see:

The Japan Times May 19, 2009, Zeit Gist column:
“IC you: bugging the alien”


Updates as RFID technology develops and police avail themselves of it. Debito.org, July 30, 2009


Narita cops allegedly stopping newly-arrived “foreigners” for passport checks before boarding Narita Express trains


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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 JapansourstrawberriesavatarUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  Just got this from someone who wishes to remain anonymous:  Cops in Narita are carding and passporting people trying to take trains into Tokyo after arriving and going through Immigration (i.e. not in any security zones).

Anyone else experiencing this in Japan’s airports?  Of course, I have on several occasions (one here and another here).  Others, please pipe up.  As the author says, this passport checkpoint coming so fast on the heels of Immigration checks is a bit much.  And if you want to do something about this, click here.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


September 16, 2009 11:26:32 AM JST

Don’t really want to open a can of worms here, and would prefer that this stay anonymous if blogged, but I was stopped by the police in Narita airport after returning from a two-week trip to the states yesterday.

There were many officers deployed in a couple of lines to catch anyone comming off the escalators to the trains out of the airport.  They were carrying clipboards and stopping anyone who looked foreign for a “passport check.”

The officer stopped me also looked at my gaijin card and asked for my phone number.  I went along with it uncomplaining, not much I could have done, but I thought it was particularly egregious comming so shortly after immigration had checked my passport (and gotten my picture and fingerprints) not half an hour before.

I’ve lived in Japan for four years, gone abroad many times, always take the train to and from the airport, but this was the first police “passport check” I’ve ever had.

Saddened, Anonymous NJ Resident of Japan



Freeman offers specific dialogs to deal with J police during Gaijin Card Check


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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 JapansourstrawberriesavatarUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog. Turning the keyboard to Freeman in Japan, who offers advice on what to do if the cops decide to do a Gaijin Card Checkpoint for being visible while foreign.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Dear Debito,
I have read all of your great advice, thank you for kindly sharing.
Please share this easy-to-remember summary with your readers.

Are you a human being here in Japan who appears to be Non-Japanese?
Do you want to avoid being coerced into interrogations by police officers?
Then here is how to respond when a police officer asks to speak with you:

#1  Silently show your Alien Registration Card.* **

#2  Say, “Ittemo ii desu ka?
Repeat this exact sentence,
without adding any other words,
until the police officer admits, “Hai.

#3  After hearing “Hai.” you are free to leave.

The police officer might try to fool you into speaking further.
They might give a variety of clever, rehearsed, responses.
For example, “Where are you in such a hurry to go?”
“Where did you learn such good Japanese?”
“We just need to ask a few questions, OK?”
“How did you learn about Japan’s laws?”
“You may go after we visit the Kouban.”
“How long have you been in Japan?”
“We just need to visit the Kouban.”
“Why don’t you want to answer?”
“What do you think of Japan?”
“Do you like Japanese food?”
“Are you guilty of something?”
“What country are you from?”
“Your country is so beautiful.”
“You’ll be on your way soon.”
“Just a few more questions.”
“Can I check your pockets?”
“You can go in a little while.”
“Can I just check your bag?”
“Will you just chat with me?”
“Can you just pee in here?”
“Sure is nice weather, eh?”

Don’t let the police officer fool you.
Simply calmly repeat your mantra.
Ittemo ii desu ka?
(Am I free to go?)
Ittemo ii desu ka?
(Am I free to go?)
Ittemo ii desu ka?
(Am I free to go?)

* If you are a Japanese National who just appears to be Non-Japanese
just replace #1 with the sentence “Nihon Kokuseki Shutokusha Desu.”

** If you have the time, energy, and will, to lengthen the detainment process,
feel free to attempt to educate the police officers about your various rights.
Risk: the police officer might decide to find (or invent) a reason to arrest you.
Reward: your Rosa Parks speech might help make Japan better in the future.
For example, before moving to #2, feel free to try saying the following sentences:

Keisatsukan mo,
mibun o shimesu shouhyou o
keiji shinakereba narimasen.

(Police officers also have to show their I.D.)

Kousoku sare mata wa,
Renkou sare moshiku wa,
Kyouyou sareru koto wa nai.

(You can’t force me to stay here,
you can’t force me to go with you,
and you can’t force me to answer.)

Keisatsukan shokumu shikko hou,
dai ni jou, dai ni kou to dai san kou.

(Police Execution of Duties Law
Article 2, Clause 2 and Clause 3.)

Kyodou fushinsha DAKE ni,
shokumu shitsumon suru koto
dekimasu, guttaiteki ni donna
fushin na koui o shimashitaka?

(You can only question suspicious people,
exactly what suspicious action did I do?)

Reijou ga arimasuka?
(Do you have a warrant?)

Jinken no ihan desu node kouben shimasu.
(This is a violation of human rights so I protest.)
At this point one can calmly sit down as a protest.

Watashi wa taiho sarete imasu ka?
(Am I under arrest?)

Donna yougi de taiho sarete imasu ka?
(Under what charge am I under arrest?)

(All inspired by Debito’s great summary.)

Thank you again Debito, for your important human rights work.

The bottom line is, all conversations are completely voluntary!
If you want to remain free, simply repeat, “Ittemo ii desu ka?

Freeman in Japan

PS – If anyone has a more effective sentence, please share.
Also, if anyone has a success story using this, please share.

Update putting the pieces together: upcoming IC Gaijin Cards, RFID hackability, next generation police walkie-talkie, and NPA access to TASPO information


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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 JapansourstrawberriesavatarUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog. Last May I put out an article in the Japan Times about the (now approved) IC Chips in revamped Gaijin Cards. How they would enable the police forces to remotely track foreigners in a crowd, and how data would be less secure from hackers.

Not unsurprisingly, I was told I was exaggerating. But it’s hard in this day to exaggerate the reach and rate of development of technological advances (who would have thought we would have this very medium to communicate through a little over ten years ago?). So here are some sources showing how 1) ID Chips and RFID technology is eminently hackable and remotely trackable, 2) how police already have IC scanning ability in their walkie-talkies, and 3) how the Japanese police in particular are using ID cards beyond their originally-intended purpose to track crime. I don’t think I was exaggerating at all. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Chips in official IDs raise privacy fears (excerpt)
Associated Press
Posted on San Jose Mercury News: 07/11/2009 09:37:12 AM PDT, courtesy TJL.

Complete article at http://www.mercurynews.com/breakingnews/ci_12816946

Climbing into his Volvo, outfitted with a Matrics antenna and a Motorola reader he’d bought on eBay for $190, Chris Paget cruised the streets of San Francisco with this objective: To read the identity cards of strangers, wirelessly, without ever leaving his car.

It took him 20 minutes to strike hacker’s gold.

Zipping past Fisherman’s Wharf, his scanner detected, then downloaded to his laptop, the unique serial numbers of two pedestrians’ electronic U.S. passport cards embedded with radio frequency identification, or RFID, tags. Within an hour, he’d “skimmed” the identifiers of four more of the new, microchipped PASS cards from a distance of 20 feet.

Embedding identity documents — passports, drivers licenses, and the like — with RFID chips is a no-brainer to government officials. Increasingly, they are promoting it as a 21st century application of technology that will help speed border crossings, safeguard credentials against counterfeiters, and keep terrorists from sneaking into the country.

But Paget’s February experiment demonstrated something privacy advocates had feared for years: That RFID, coupled with other technologies, could make people trackable without their knowledge or consent.

He filmed his drive-by heist, and soon his video went viral on the Web, intensifying a debate over a push by government, federal and state, to put tracking technologies in identity documents and over their potential toerode privacy.

Putting a traceable RFID in every pocket has the potential to make everybody a blip on someone’s radar screen, critics say, and to redefine Orwellian government snooping for the digital age.

Mark Roberti, editor of RFID Journal, an industry newsletter, recently acknowledged that as the use of RFID in official documents grows, the potential for abuse increases.

“A government could do this, for instance, to track opponents,” he wrote in an opinion piece discussing Paget’s cloning experiment. “To date, this type of abuse has not occurred, but it could if governments fail to take privacy issues seriously.”

Imagine this: Sensors triggered by radio waves instructing cameras to zero in on people carrying RFID, unblinkingly tracking their movements.

Unbelievable? Intrusive? Outrageous?

Actually, it happens every day and makes people smile — at the Alton Towers amusement park in Britain, which videotapes visitors who agree to wear RFID bracelets as they move about the facility, then sells the footage as a keepsake.

This application shows how the technology can be used effortlessly — and benignly. But critics, noting it can also be abused, say federal authorities in the United States didn’t do enough from the start to address that risk.

The first U.S. identity document to be embedded with RFID was the “e-passport.”

In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks — and the finding that some of the terrorists entered the United States using phony passports — the State Department proposed mandating that Americans and foreign visitors carry “enhanced” passport booklets, with microchips embedded in the covers.

The chips, it announced, would store the holder’s information from the data page, a biometric version of the bearer’s photo, and receive special coding to prevent data from being altered.

In February 2005, when the State Department asked for public comment, it got an outcry: Of the 2,335 comments received, 98.5 percent were negative, with 86 percent expressing security or privacy concerns, the department reported in an October 2005 notice in the Federal Register.

“Identity theft was of grave concern,” it stated, adding that “others expressed fears that the U.S. Government or other governments would use the chip to track and censor, intimidate or otherwise control or harm them.”

It also noted that many Americans expressed worries “that the information could be read at distances in excess of 10 feet.”

Those concerned citizens, it turns out, had cause.

According to department records obtained by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, under a Freedom of Information Act request and reviewed by the AP, discussion about security concerns with the e-passport occurred as early as January 2003 but tests weren’t ordered until the department began receiving public criticism two years later.

When the AP asked when testing was initiated, the State Department said only that “a battery of durability and electromagnetic tests were performed” by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, along with tests “to measure the ability of data on electronic passports to be surreptitiously skimmed or for communications with the chip reader to be eavesdropped,” testing which “led to additional privacy controls being placed on U.S. electronic passports … ”

Indeed, in 2005, the department incorporated metallic fibers into the e-passport’s front cover, since metal can reduce the range at which RFID can be read. Personal information in the chips was encrypted and a cryptographic “key” added, which required inspectors to optically scan the e-passport first for the chip to communicate wirelessly.

The department also announced it would test e-passports with select employees, before giving them to the public. “We wouldn’t be issuing the passports to ourselves if we didn’t think they’re secure,” said Frank Moss, deputy assistant Secretary of State for passport services, in a CNN interview.

But what of Americans’ concerns about the e-passport’s read range?

In its October 2005 Federal Register notice, the State Department reassured Americans that the e-passport’s chip — the ISO 14443 tag — would emit radio waves only within a 4-inch radius, making it tougher to hack.

Technologists in Israel and England, however, soon found otherwise. In May 2006, at the University of Tel Aviv, researchers cobbled together $110 worth of parts from hobbyists kits and directly skimmed an encrypted tag from several feet away. At the University of Cambridge, a student showed that a transmission between an e-passport and a legitimate reader could be intercepted from 160 feet.

The State Department, according to its own records obtained under FOIA, was aware of the problem months before its Federal Register notice and more than a year before the e-passport was rolled out in August 2006.

“Do not claim that these chips can only be read at a distance of 10 cm (4 inches),” Moss wrote in an April 22, 2005, e-mail to Randy Vanderhoof, executive director of the Smart Card Alliance. “That really has been proven to be wrong.”

The chips could be skimmed from a yard away, he added — all a hacker would need to read e-passport numbers, say, in an elevator or on a subway.

Other red flags went up. In February 2006, an encrypted Dutch e-passport was hacked on national television, with researchers gaining access to the document’s digital photograph, fingerprint and personal data. Then British e-passports were hacked using a $500 reader and software written in less than 48 hours.

The State Department countered by saying European e-passports weren’t as safe as their American counterparts because they lacked the cryptographic key and the anti-skimming cover.

But recent studies have shown that more powerful readers can penetrate even the metal sheathing in the U.S. e-passport’s cover.

John Brennan, a senior policy adviser at the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, concedes it may be possible for a reader to overpower the e-passport’s protective shield from a distance.

However, he adds, “you could not do this in any large-scale, concerted fashion without putting a bunch of infrastructure in place to make it happen. The practical vulnerabilities may be far less than some of the theoretical scenarios that people have put out there.”

That thinking is flawed, says Lee Tien, a senior attorney and surveillance expert with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which opposes RFID in identity documents.

It won’t take a massive government project to build reader networks around the country, he says: They will grow organically, for commercial purposes, from convention centers to shopping malls, sports stadiums to college campuses. Federal agencies and law enforcement wouldn’t have to control those networks; they already buy information about individuals from commercial data brokers.

“And remember,” Tien adds, “technology always gets better … ”

With questions swirling around the e-passport’s security, why then did the government roll out more RFID-tagged documents — the PASS card and enhanced driver’s license, which provide less protection against hackers?

The RFIDs in enhanced driver’s licenses and PASS cards are nearly as slim as paper. Each contains a silicon computer chip attached to a wire antenna, which transmits a unique identifier via radio waves when “awakened” by an electromagnetic reader.

The technology they use is designed to track products through the supply chain. These chips, known as EPCglobal Gen 2, have no encryption, and minimal data protection features. They are intended to release their data to any inquiring Gen 2 reader within a 30-foot radius.

This might be appropriate when a supplier is tracking a shipment of toilet paper or dog food; but when personal information is at stake, privacy advocates ask: Is long-range readability truly desirable?

The departments of State and Homeland Security say remotely readable ID cards transmit only RFID numbers that correspond to records stored in government databases, which they say are secure. Even if a hacker were to copy an RFID number onto a blank tag and place it into a counterfeit ID, they say, the forger’s face still wouldn’t match the true cardholder’s photo in the database, rendering it useless.

Still, computer experts such as Schneier say government databases can be hacked. Others worry about a day when hackers might deploy readers at “chokepoints,” such as checkout lines, skim RFID numbers from people’s driver’s licenses, then pair those numbers to personal data skimmed from chipped credit cards (though credit cards are harder to skim). They imagine stalkers using skimmed RFID numbers to track their targets’ comings and goings. They fear government agents will compile chip numbers at peace rallies, mosques or gun shows, simply by strolling through a crowd with a reader.

Others worry more about the linking of chips with other identification methods, including biometric technologies, such as facial recognition.

The International Civil Aviation Organization, the U.N. agency that sets global standards for passports, now calls for facial recognition in all scannable e-passports.

Should biometric technologies be coupled with RFID, “governments will have, for the first time in history, the means to identify, monitor and track citizens anywhere in the world in real time,” says Mark Lerner, spokesman for the Constitutional Alliance, a network of nonprofit groups, lawmakers and citizens opposed to remotely readable identity and travel documents.

For now, perhaps. Radio tags in EDLs and passport cards can’t be scanned miles away.

But scientists are working on technologies that might enable a satellite or a cell tower to scan a chip’s contents. Critics also note advances in the sharpness of closed-circuit cameras, and point out they’re increasingly ubiquitous. And more fingerprints, iris scans and digitized facial images are being stored in government databases. The FBI has announced plans to assemble the world’s largest biometric database, nicknamed “Next Generation Identification.”

“RFID’s role is to make the collection and transmission of people’s biometric data quick, easy and nonintrusive,” says Lerner. “Think of it as the thread that ties together the surveillance package.”

Courtesy of Ben

Police Service Terminal JT6810-C series (excerpt)
Basic functions:
1 PDA palmtop computer
2 Number pad
3 EDGE 2.75G wireless communication
4 Global Position System(GPS)
5 Geographic Information System(GIS)
6 800 M digital mobile radio line
7 IC card reader
8 Digital vidicon
9 Digital sound recorder
10 Bluetooth
IC card reader
* Read the information of IC card in display screen
* Rewrite data

Radio Frequency Identification(RFID)
* No need to touch against the device


Tobacco maker group hands over taspo user data to prosecutors

Japan Today, Monday 27th July, 05:09 AM JST, Courtesy of DR


Link: http://www.japantoday.com/category/crime/view/tobacco-maker-group-hands-over-taspo-user-data-to-prosecutors

The Tobacco Institute of Japan, the industry body of tobacco manufacturers, has turned over vending machine use logs on cigarette pack purchases by certain individual smokers to public prosecutors when they requested such information for investigative purposes, informed sources said Sunday. Such logs of ‘‘taspo’’ smart cards included records on when and at which vending machines the smokers bought cigarette packs, as well as their dates of birth, addresses and phone numbers, the sources said.

There has been a case in which the provided logs helped investigators find a person who had evaded some fines, the sources said.

The institute issues to smokers in Japan the taspo cards which entitle its holders to buy cigarette packs at vending machines. Taspo cards are issued only to adults aged 20 and over to block smoking by underage people.

This appears to be the first time that the use of taspo logs by criminal investigative authorities has become public knowledge. The use by such authorities of credit card-related information and mobile phone logs has been known.

The institute handed over taspo logs on a voluntary basis in response to prosecutors’ inquiries based on the Code of Criminal Procedure, but users of taspo cards normally do not assume that there is a possibility their taspo logs may be used in criminal investigations.

Some critics question the appropriateness of handing over such records to criminal investigators from the standpoint of the need to protect personal information, arguing that the institute should inform taspo holders beforehand that it may turn over their logs to third parties.

An institute official told Kyodo News, ‘‘We have kept track of purchases-related logs to check if taspo cards that were stolen or for which reports of loss have been filed may have been used illicitly, and we basically would not provide them to third parties.’’

‘‘But we cannot help turning over such logs as well as the addresses, names, dates of birth and contacts of cardholders to investigative authorities as necessary if the authorities request the logs in writing in line with the Code of Criminal Procedure,’’ the official said.

‘‘Since Article 23 of the rules for taspo cardholders stipulates that cardholders consent to the use of their information by the institute if the institute takes necessary measures to protect the information, we assume that the article also covers logs on their purchases,’’ the official added.

The institute has handed over to investigators such information as the dates of birth, addresses, phone numbers and dates of issuance of taspo cards of certain persons, as well as a list of when and where the cards were used, the sources said.

There have been cases where the institute turned over copies of applications filed by taspo applicants, alongside the copies of their identification cards such as drivers’ licenses which the applicants had attached to the applications.

Taspo logs could help their reviewers figure out what areas cardholders live in and what behavioral patterns they have.

Through the provision of the logs, the Saitama Public Prosecutors Office was able to identify a company where a taspo cardholder who has evaded a fine worked as the cardholder used a vending machine on the company’s premises repeatedly, the sources said.

Japan Times et al: Four people snagged for fingerprints over 7 months. No longer an “anti-terrorism” measure. Of questionable effectiveness anyway.


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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 JapansourstrawberriesavatarUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog. Debito.org Reader AS makes the following poignant comment:

Hi Debito, You’ve probably seen this already, but just in case here is a link to a JT article on the “effectiveness” of fingerprinting at airports. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20090630a4.html

Article excerpt:
The Japan Times Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Biometric ID system catches four

NARITA, Chiba Pref. (Kyodo) Immigration authorities have successfully detected four people since January trying to enter Japan illegally by trying to fool the biometric identity system…

The authentication system is designed to detect foreign nationals with a history of deportation from Japan based on fingerprint data…

The biometric identification system was introduced in November 2007 as part of antiterrorism measures under a revised Immigration Control Law.
Full article at

COMMENT FROM AS: Apparently the system has resulted in a grand total of four people getting caught in the last seven months. To me that seems like a massive waste of national resources, especially since there are other ways of detecting illegal re-entrants.

Also, the article drops the pretense that fingerprinting is an anti-terroism measure:

“The authentication system is designed to detect foreign nationals with a history of deportation from Japan based on fingerprint data.”

So now apparently the purpose of the system is cracking down on illegal entry and over-staying.ENDS

Another Debito.org Reader commented thusly on much the same subject:

Dear Debito-San,

Last Monday, June 29th, Kyodo released a press anouncement from the Immigration Bureau that shows that fingerprint evasion happens on a larger scale than previously assumed (see http://www.japantoday.com/category/crime/view/altered-fingerprints-detected-in-illegal-immigration-attempts).

According to a friend of mine, an article on page 29 of the Kobe Newspaper (evening edition) had additional information. Note that I could not confirm the contents personally. But I send you the highlights anyway, with added personal comments.

Apparently one of the Immigration Officers was quoted saying that the machines could not be trusted anymore as so many new ways to attempt to evade them show up.

Comment: If this statement was quoted correctly as an official statement, it took the Immigration Bureau long enough considering that the groundbreaking article from Yokohama National University (http://www.lfca.net/Fingerprint-System-Security-Issues.pdf) on this subject was published more than seven years ago.

For me, two questions follow this anouncement: Did the Immigration Bureau also miss that people can become victims of such identity theft? And did they also miss that the machines can get it wrong even when there is no foul play at all. These two problems form parts of two branches of a fault tree (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fault_tree) where the undesired event of trouble for me as an innocent person is the root. The first step to cutting down this rather unwelcome tree is for the Immigration Bureau to know it’s business…

The article apparently went on to state two measures the Immigration Bureau announced to take against the problem of people trying to fool the system. First of all, they apparently wish to opt for checking the prints visually if the machine gives an error. Second, they apparently wish to install monitors on which the prints can be seen by the officers.

Comments: I will start with the second measure. By default, fingerprint scanners encrypt the captured images on the device itself. This is done as an extra measure of protection, mostly because hacking of computers – even ATM machines.

(http://searchfinancialsecurity.techtarget.com/news/article/0,289142,sid185_gci1357926,00.html) – is so widespread these days. To be able to put the prints on a monitor, that encryption must be turned off, or the images decrypted on the computer.

This is important. Identity systems such as this hinge upon the assumption that the rightful owner has the only key. Mind you, this is already so doubtful (see above) that the focus must be on protecting the owner from the bad consequences of other matching keys instead of beating the dead horse of keeping the key unique.

Nevertheless, removing the encryption opens two new branches in the fault tree of duplicate prints, the computer may not be trusted and the user behind the computer may not be trusted. It is against best practices and about the most irresponsible thing the Immigration Bureau could do. The mere fact that trying to go against a certain flow will not work is not an excuse for making the current run faster…

The good part is that it shows such an action is technically possible. Cybercriminals will find that out anyway, but at least the good willing people can know that too now…

The first measure doesn’t really impact me either way, though I would have preferred to hear something about informing the victims of identity theft as it is discovered and similar things… But it also casts doubt on the Immigration Bureau knowing it’s business, which we have established as a condition for acceptable levels of my safety under this program.

Why does this cast doubt? When someone turns up with fake fingerprints and the machine accepts that the pattern it acquires is not on the searchlist, that is in professional terms a negative. One can argue, depending on whether or not the machine should detect them as fakes, if it’s a true negative or a false one. In a true negative, the machine works as designed, it’s just a very smart attacker. But I digress.

When the machine gives an error, this is most likely a failure to acquire. The machine doesn’t get a useful pattern, or it concludes it’s not offered a live finger.

The two may coincide, but they’re not one and the same. After we already got in the situation where one can conclude that the Immigration Bureau missed a few things, it’s not very hopeful news that they send out an announcement suggesting that they can’t keep their errors apart. I would hope I’m never forced to fly with an airline which has just had a crash due to problems with the ailerons and announce that they are going to fix the flaps, at least not without explaining what they’re doing so that people can verify it was the right decision even though it sounds strange…

When I see things schemes like this fingerprinting, my first question will be: “Am I as an innocent person really reasonably safe with this system, given my overall situation?” The answer to that will almost always be yes, unless there’s a very cynical organization involved. My second question follows just as naturally: “Show me”. To me that’s the issue involved, they declined to show me, and when I started looking myself I increasingly find evidence I would have preferred to point to a different conclusion…

Coupled to this comes the use of a Hobson’s choice to extract the information, give or don’t show. Am I to be blamed that I view the combination of these effects as a sign of desiring not to invest the time and money to counter the risks to me precisely because they are that, risks-to-me (instead of them?). Is it strange therefore that I explain my point of view to people who may consider visiting Japan, and also to people with possibly enough influence to advocate my case, in both situations hurting Japan’s public relations? ENDS

What do Debito.org Readers think? Debito

Follow-up: More on fingerprinting, tracking people electronically, and RFID technology


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\" 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 Japansourstrawberriesavatar

Hi Blog.  Update Three this week.  I put out an article three weeks ago that sparked some controversy, about the prospects of the new Gaijin Cards with IC Chips within them being used to track people and ferret out the foreigners with more effectiveness than ever before.  I was accused of scaremongering by some, but oh well.

As a followup, here are some responses and links to germane articles from cyberspace, pointing out how my prognostications may in fact be grounded in reality.  Along with a critique at the very bottom from friend Jon Heese, Tsukuba City Assemblyman, of that controversial article.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Hi Debito:

Saw these two articles and thought I’d pass them along so that you’re up to date with what nonsense the DHS is up to these days:

Homeland Security to scan fingerprints of travelers exiting the US

Be sure to read the part about the RFID ‘gaijin’ card.

Cancer patient held at airport for missing fingerprint

Welcome to America, Mr. Tan! Sheesh!  -JK


Japanese university to track attendance with iPhone

As a college student I frequently didn’t go to class when I overslept, when I didn’t feel like it, or heck, when it was Friday. I’m imagining that Japanese students are the same. That’s why Aoyama Gakuin University‘s new plan to keep its students in line is pretty freakin’ clever—possibly even bordering on devious.

Reuters, this June all of the university’s 550 students, and some staff in one unnamed department, will receive a free iPhone 3G. Instead of teachers taking attendance, students are asked to input their ID number into an iPhone app—and to discourage fraud, this app apparently has GPS location data and monitors which Internet router students use.

Of course, knowing the lengths students will go to in order to avoid attending class, it wouldn’t be too surprising to find they’d discovered a way around the system. If only they devoted that much time to their schoolwork.

Further the university apparently is going to also be providing video podcasts of lectures, something American universities have been doing for years. No word yet on if they’re going to be making AGU’s material available on iTunes U.



Debito, feel free to use this in the comments section or just for yourself. As you please. -jon heese

Quoting Debito’s controversial article three weeks ago:

Although the 2005 proposal suggested foreign “swiping stations” in public buildings, the technology already exists to read IC cards remotely. With Japan’s love of cutting-edge gadgets, data processing will probably not stop at the swipe. The authorities will be able to remotely scan crowds for foreigners.

It also means that anyone with access to IC chip scanners (they’re going cheap online) could possibly swipe your information. Happy to have your biometric information in the hands of thieves?

God, Debito, you sure do go on. There are plenty of products available to block remote scanning. Googling “rfid protection” got me the link below.


Personally, I’m rather pissed at the lemming-like acceptance of very dodgy tech in a normally tech-savvy country. There is a company in California which makes a RFID card which has a break in the circuit between the chip and the antenna. Pressing a small bubble in the corner of the card completes the circuit but only when you want the info to be read.

Some Canadian provinces have put their implementation of chips on drivers licenses on hold until the privacy issues are properly dealt with. Why are the provinces even trying to force their citizenry to accept RFID’s in their driving licenses? Why goodness, it’s because the US of F-ing A is forcing them to! So if yer gonna clamp on your tinfoil hat, direct your ire towards the source of the problem, not the Japanese who have been cajoled into this by big brother. And BTW, my new drivers license also has a chip. So it’s not just the poor NJ’s who are being put at risk. This is a much bigger issue than a few foreigners getting screwed over.

RFID’s are small potatoes. As far as tracking, though, you are not gripping your hat tight enough. I would point out that your cell phone is actually much better to track you than a chip. An RFID reader is only really useful within 10 feet. Cell phones know where you are at all times. Anyone with the right access can pinpoint you anywhere in the world.

I would also point out that it’s also a great remote listening device. The NSA may have the ability to turn on your microphone without you even knowing it and broadcast anything being said. And turning your phone off may not be enough. Not even taking out the battery! Phones already have built in batteries which normally only provide juice to preserve your data, like the clock and address book, etc. However, there is no reason to not believe that such internal batteries could just as easily power the microphone for short periods. So grab your foil hat tight and wrap your curls in triple layers for extra protection.

Come again? Pass the law, and then we’ll decide law enforcement procedures? This blind faith is precisely what leads to human rights abuses.

I’m with you on this one. However when it comes to abuses, Japan is still a tamago. Just listen to a few NPR podcasts to get a feel of what it’s like “out there.” 怖いよ!

Still, did you expect the leopard to change its spots? Put immigration policy in the hands of the police and they will do just that police, under a far-removed centralized regime trained to see people as potential criminals.

Though the police have a central control, most cops are of the prefectural variety. Not nearly as ominous as you make out.

Why stop at bugging the gaijin? Why not just sew gold stars on their lapels and be done with it?

This is over the top. Shame on you! Besides, it’s not like us Pilsbury dough boys even need stars to be spotted in a crowd.

Fortunately, a policy this egregious has fomented its own protest, even within a general public that usually cares little about the livelihoods of foreigners. Major newspapers are covering the issue, for a change. The opposition Democratic Party of Japan wants the bill watered down, vowing to block it until after the next general election.

Japan just gets curiouser and curiouser. I am so looking forward to voting in this coming election. But don’t expect the RFID issue to go away. The USA won’t let them.


Protest IC Chipped Gaijin Cards Tues June 2 anytime between 9AM-12:30PM, Diet Building, Tokyo


Hi Blog.  Here’s your last chance to protest the proposed IC Chipped Gaijin Cards, before they go through the Diet and bring us one step closer to the surveillance society by race and nationality.  Suggest you do it if you have the time.  Courtesy of NUGW Nambu labor union.  Arudou Debito


A sit-in will be held in front of the Diet Building on
Tuesday, June 2, from 9:00-12:30 a.m., to protest the
changes to immigration law which are being pushed through
parliament with little debate, and no consultation with
those directly affected by the laws.

Shugiin Dai 2 Giinkaikan (Second Members Office Building of
the House of Representatives)
Kokkai gijido mae Station: (Marunouchi line, Chiyoda line)
We will have banners and posters prepared. 
You can come for any length of time, between 9 and 12:30. 

For those who have never been at a sit-in at the Diet
building before: this is a recognized form of political
protest, and does not involve clashes with the police. 

If you would like to observe the Diet Committee meeting
held after the sit-in, please send us your name by noon on
Monday, June 1. 

Volunteers are needed to carry folding chairs and other
gear from Nambu to the Diet building early on Tuesday
morning. If you can help, please be at Nambu by 8:15 a.m.
on Tuesday morning. 

In solidarity,
Catherine Campbell
NUGW Tokyo Nambu



Japan Times May 20, 2009: “IC you: Bugging the Alien” article on new Gaijin Cards


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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 Japansourstrawberriesavatar

Hi Blog.  Here’s the JT version of my article yesterday, with links to sources. Enjoy!  Debito in Sapporo

IC you: bugging the alien

New gaijin cards could allow police to remotely track foreigners


When the Japanese government first issued alien registration cards (aka gaijin cards) in 1952, it had one basic aim in mind: to track “foreigners” (at that time, mostly Korean and Taiwanese stripped of Japanese colonial citizenship) who decided to stay in postwar Japan.

Gaijin cards put foreigners in their place: Registry is from age 16, so from a young age they were psychologically alienated from the rest of Japanese society. So what if they were born and acculturated here over many generations? Still foreigners, full stop.

Even today, when emigrant non-Japanese far outnumber the native-born, the government tends to see them all less as residents, more as something untrustworthy to police and control. Noncitizens are not properly listed on residency registries. Moreover, only foreigners must carry personal information (name and address, personal particulars, duration of visa status, photo, and — for a time — fingerprints) at all times. Gaijin cards must also be available for public inspection under threat of arrest, one year in jail and ¥200,000 in fines.

However, the Diet is considering a bill abolishing those gaijin cards.

Sounds great at first: Under the proposed revisions, non-Japanese would be registered properly with residency certificates (juuminhyou). Maximum visa durations would increase from three years to five. ID cards would be revamped. Drafters claim this will “protect” (hogo) foreigners, making their access to social services more “convenient.”

However, read the fine print. The government is in fact creating a system to police foreigners more tightly than ever.

Years ago, this column (“The IC You Card,” Nov. 22, 2005) examined this policy in its larval stage. Its express aims have always been to target non-Japanese in the name of forestalling crime, terrorism, infectious diseases and the scourge of illegal aliens. Foreigners, again, are trouble.

But now the policy has gone pupal. You might consider helping chloroform the bug before it hatches. Here’s why:

The “new gaijin cards,” or zairyuu kaado (ZRK), are fundamentally unchanged: The usual suspects of biometric data (name, address, date of birth, visa status, name and address of workplace, photograph etc. — i.e. everything on the cover of your card) will be stored digitally on an embedded computer chip. Still extant is the 24/7 carrying requirement, backed by the same severe criminal punishments.

What has changed is that punishments will now be even swifter and stricter. If you change any status recorded on your chip and don’t report it to the authorities within 14 calendar days, you face a new ¥200,000 fine. If you don’t comply within three months, you risk losing your visa entirely.

Reasonable parameters? Not after you consider some scenarios:

• Graduate high school and enroll in college? Congratulations. Now tell the government or else.

• Change your job or residence? Report it, even if your visa (say, permanent residency or spouse visa) allows you to work without restrictions anywhere.

• Get a divorce, or your spouse dies? Condolences. Dry your eyes, declare the death or marital mess right away, and give up your spouse visa.

• Suffering from domestic violence, so you flee to a shelter? Cue the violins: A Japanese husband can now rat on his battered foreign wife, say she’s no longer at his address, and have her deported if she doesn’t return to his clutches.

Foreigners are in a weaker position than ever.

Now add on another, Orwellian layer: bureaucratic central control (ichigen kanri). Alien registration is currently delegated to your local ward office. Under the new system, the Ministry of Justice will handle everything. You must visit your friendly Immigration Bureau (there are only 65 regional offices — not even two per prefecture) to stand in line, report your changes and be issued with your card.

Try to get there within what works out to be a maximum of 10 weekdays, especially if you live in a remote area of Japan (like, say, Hokkaido or an Okinawan island). Then try to explain away a lost workday in this corporate culture.

Now consider refugees. They don’t even get an ID card anymore. They won’t be able to open a bank account, register to attend schools, enter hospital, or qualify for social insurance anymore. No matter; our country accepts fewer than a few dozen refugees every year; they shouldn’t have come here anyway, thinking they could impose upon our peaceful, developed country.

That’s still not the worst of it. I mentioned that embedded computer chip. The ZRK is a “smart card.” Most places worldwide issue smart cards for innocuous things like transportation and direct debit, and you have to swipe the card on a terminal to activate it. Carrying one is, at least, optional.

Not in Japan. Although the 2005 proposal suggested foreign “swiping stations” in public buildings, the technology already exists to read IC cards remotely. With Japan’s love of cutting-edge gadgets, data processing will probably not stop at the swipe. The authorities will be able to remotely scan crowds for foreigners.

In other words, the IC chip is a transponder — a bug.



Now imagine these scenarios: Not only can police scan and detect illegal aliens, but they can also uncover aliens of any stripe. It also means that anyone with access to IC chip scanners (they’re going cheap online) could possibly swipe your information. Happy to have your biometric information in the hands of thieves?

Moreover, this system will further encourage racial profiling. If police see somebody who looks alien yet doesn’t show up on their scanner (such as your naturalized author, or Japan’s thousands of international children), they will more likely target you for questioning — as in: “Hey, you! Stop! Why aren’t you detectable?”

I called the Immigration Bureau last week to talk about these issues. Their resident experts on ZRK security said that data would be protected by PIN numbers. The bureau could not, however, answer questions about how police would enforce their next-generation gaijin card checkpoints. Those police are a different agency, they said, and there are no concrete guidelines yet.

Come again? Pass the law, and then we’ll decide law enforcement procedures? This blind faith is precisely what leads to human rights abuses.

One question lingers: Why would the government scrap the current alien policing system? For nearly six decades, it effectively kept foreigners officially invisible as residents, yet open to interrogation and arrest due to a wallet-size card. What’s broke?

Local government. It’s too sympathetic to the needs of its non-Japanese residents.

Remember Noriko Calderon, whose recently deported parents came to Japan on false passports? Did you ever wonder how she could attend Japanese schools and receive social services while her parents were on expired visas?

Because local governments currently issue the gaijin cards. At their own discretion, they can even issue ID to visa overstayers. Rendered as zairyu shikaku nashi (no status of residence), the card can be used to access social services. They can live relatively normal lives, as long as they avoid police gaijin-card checkpoints.

Why are local governments so sweet? With high concentrations of non-Japanese residents, many see foreigners as human beings needing assistance. After all, they keep local factories humming, pay taxes and add life to local infrastructure. Hamamatsu in Shizuoka Prefecture and Yokkaichi, in Mie, have long petitioned the national government for improvements, such as facilitating foreign access to public services and education, and easing registry and visa applications.

After years of deaf ears, the central government took action. Under the rhetoric of “smoking out illegal aliens,” Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in 2005 pledged to “make Japan the world’s safest country again” by halving the number of visa overstayers by 2010.

Never mind that the overall trend in Japan is toward devolving power to the provinces (chiho bunken); Japan now wants to rein in local governments because they poke holes in their dike. It’s still a shame the proposed plugs make life impossible for refugees, and harder for any law-abiding non-Japanese resident with a busy life.

Still, did you expect the leopard to change its spots? Put immigration policy in the hands of the police and they will do just that — police, under a far-removed centralized regime trained to see people as potential criminals.

This is counterproductive. As we’ve said in this column many times before, an aging Japan needs immigration. These new gaijin cards will make already perpetually targeted foreigners (and foreign-looking Japanese) even less comfortable, less integrated members of society.

Why stop at bugging the gaijin? Why not just sew gold stars on their lapels and be done with it?

Fortunately, a policy this egregious has fomented its own protest, even within a general public that usually cares little about the livelihoods of foreigners. Major newspapers are covering the issue, for a change. The opposition Democratic Party of Japan wants the bill watered down, vowing to block it until after the next general election.

The coalition group NGO Committee against Resident Alien Card System (www.repacp.org/aacp) has as its banner “Less policing, more genuine immigration policy that promotes multiethnic co-existence.”

On Sunday afternoon, there will be a demonstration in Tokyo against the new gaijin cards. Do attend if so inclined.


A public assembly against the new IC-chip gaijin cards will take place Sunday, May 24, 2-5 p.m. at the Koutsu Building, Shimbashi 5-15-5, Tokyo. For further information,see www.repacp.org/aacp/pdf/MultiLang/20090420LeafENv01.pdf or contact Amnesty International Japan via www.amnesty.or.jp or by mail at ksonoko@amnesty.or.jp. Send comments to community@japantimes.co.jp

Chunichi Shinbun May 11, 2009 on New IC Gaijin Card debate


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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 Japansourstrawberriesavatar
Hi Blog. Excellent article in yesterday’s Chunichi Shinbun on what’s the problem with the new proposed IC Gaijin Cards, and how the extra policing that NJ will have to endure will just make life worse for a lot of people. Again, the goal is only to police, not to actually help NJ assimilate and make a better life here.

In particular, read the contrarian arguments. Now this is how we proceed with a debate. We get people who know what they’re talking about to express the minority view (for where else is it going to be heard?). As opposed to last night’s terebi bangumi TV Tackle, which basically had the status quo maintained with the same old commentators spouting much the same old party lines. Article courtesy of Dave Spector. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


入管法改正案:反対であす市民団体がデモ 「逆行の動き、納得できない」 /大阪


毎日新聞 2009年5月8日 地方版









Thoughts on tonight’s TV Asahi TV Tackle on NJ issues


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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 Japansourstrawberriesavatar
Hi Blog. Just a few thoughts on tonight’s TV Asahi program “TV Tackle”.

It was, in a word, disappointing.

Maybe that’s par for the course in a 55-minute (minus commercials) show edited for content, and it did try to take on some serious issues.

Eight commentators participated: three academics — a Korean, a Brazilian, and a Chinese — plus two media pundits and three politicians — LDP’s Kouno Taro, plus Koumeito, and DPJ. All people of Asian background (save an overlong and as incomprehensible as ever commentary from Koko Ga Hen TV show bomb-thrower Zomahoun Rufin), all reasonably informed, but all clipped for airtime before much of substance came out.

The show had four segments: 1) the new Gaijin Cards with IC Chips, 2) The historical issue of the Zainichis and other Permanent Residents and their right to vote in local elections, 3) the Nikkei Repatriation Bribe, and 4) the new Tourism Agency and the new tightening of Immigration controls (fingerprinting etc.)

The show gave good backgrounds on the issues (lots of data, historical facts), but what the panelists did with the show was what disappointed.

1) The IC Gaijin Cards was far too short, and fumbled the issue when talking about why NJ have to carry cards 24/7 or face arrest and criminal charges. Nikkei Brazilian Angelo Ishi showed his card for the cameras (thanks; surprisingly few Japanese know NJ have to carry them, or even have them), but there was not enough reportage on why these cards are so controversial (heavy fines and jail time, for example), and why the new cards are even more so (potential remote tracking of IC Chips and and heavier penalties for delayed reporting of changes of status). Even the DPJ rep there admitted he had no problems with the Cards, despite the official party line of opposing them. So much for the debate. Where’s Tanaka Hiroshi when we need him?

There was a decent bit on the Calderon Noriko Case, fortunately, but the hardliners held sway: If her parents hadn’t come in on someone else’s passport, then maybe they could have stayed here together as a family. End of debate.

2) We then got bogged down in the historical issues of the Zainichi Koreans, and how historically they’ve been here for generations yet have no right to vote. Kouno Taro disappointed by saying that if you want the right to vote, naturalize. Even though, as we’ve said time and time again (and I have to him directly), the process is not all that easy and is quite arbitrary. It is not a kirifuda. This segment wound up a waste of time with the Korean academic getting hot under the collar and appearing to talk too much.

3) The best bit was on the Nikkei Repatriation Bribe, where just about everyone there agreed that bribing workers to go home was a national disgrace. Kouno again took a hard line and said that we shouldn’t have imported people because they were Nikkei, but rather because they speak Japanese well (as if people working this hard in factories could have done much about it; you want perfection before entry?). Angelo Ishi got in good points that Japanese companies actually went overseas to RECRUIT Nikkei, with all sorts of false promises about income and conditions, and others pointed out that Japan’s special ties with Nikkei overseas actually did choose people based upon blood and little else. It was portrayed rightfully as a failed policy, but hands were wrung about how to keep the NJ here, sigh.

4) Last bit was on tourism and the fingerprinting issue. Much fearmongering about the Koreans in particular and their ability to come over without visas, and one case of falsified fingerprints was portrayed as the evils of Koreans, not as flaws in the system. No mention at all was made of how it’s NOT MERELY TOURISTS being fingerprinted, but EVERY NJ WHO IS NOT A ZAINICHI.  And that includes Regular Permanent Residents, who too have to suffer the humiliation of being treated like tourists and suspected terrorists.

Therein was the great flaw in the program. Nobody was there who could represent the “Newcomers”. No naturalized Japanese. No non-Asian Permanent Residents. Nobody who could give a perspective (except Angelo, and he did well, but he’s halfway in The Club anyway) of somebody that has been a pure outsider both by race and by face, and show the cameras that Japan is in fact changing with these new kinds of people who are here to stay as immigrants.

Pity. The show meant well. But it fell back into old hackneyed paradigms with few eyes opened.

This synopsis has been written over the 20 minutes since the show ended, all from memory. If people find segments of this show on YouTube, please send this blog entry a link. Keeps me honest. Thanks.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Mainichi: Tourism to Japan plunges by over 40% compared to last year


\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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 Japansourstrawberriesavatar

Hi Blog. Quick tangent for today. We have tourism to Japan plunging, the second-highest drop in history. Of course, the high yen and less disposable income to go around worldwide doesn’t help, but the Yokoso Japan campaign to bring 10 million tourists to Japan is definitely not succeeding. Not helping are some inhospitable, even xenophobic Japanese hotels, or the fingerprinting campaign at the border (which does not only affect “tourists”) grounded upon anti-terror, anti-crime, and anti-contageous-disease policy goals. Sorry, Japan, must do better. Get rid of the NJ fingerprinting campaign, for starters. Debito in Okayama

Number of foreign tourists visiting Japan plunges


(Mainichi Japan) March 26, 2009, Courtesy of Jeff K

The number of foreign tourists to Japan in February declined by more than 40 percent, the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) has announced.

The JNTO said Wednesday that 408,800 foreigners visited Japan in February, a 41.3 percent decrease from the same month the previous year. The rate of decline was the second largest since statistics were first kept in 1961, after a 41.8 percent reduction in August 1971, the year following the Osaka Expo.

The plunge in the number of foreign visitors to Japan is thought to have been caused mainly by the global recession. It is also believed attributable to last year’s leap year and the Lunar New Year holidays in January this year, which were in February last year.



訪日外国人:過去2番目の減少率 2月41.3%減






Japanese also to get fingerprinted, at Narita, voluntarily, for “convenience” (not terrorism or crime)


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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 Japansourstrawberriesavatar

Hi Blog.  A new development on the border fingerprinting front.

As many of you know (or have experienced, pardon the pun, firsthand), Japan reinstituted its fingerprinting for most non-Japanese, be they tourist or Regular Permanent Resident, at the border from November 2007.  The policy justification was telling:  prevention of terrorism, crime, and infectious diseases.  As if these are a matter of nationality.

Wellup, it isn’t, as it’s now clear what the justification really is for.  It’s for the GOJ to increase its database of fingerprints, period, for everyone.  Except they knew they couldn’t sell it to the Japanese public (what with all the public outrage over the Juuki-Net system) as is.  So Immigration is trying to sell automatic fingerprinting machines at Narita to the public (via a handout, courtesy of  Getchan) as a matter of “simplicity, speed and convenience” (tansoka, jinsokuka, ribensei).  

I’m not sure how “convenient” it is, or how much speedier or simpler it can get as things are right now.  As a citizen, I don’t have to fill out a card to leave the country, nor do I really have to wait all that long in line (if at all) to be processed.  Just hand over my passport, get it stamped by an official, and head off to inhale Duty-Free perfumes.  Funny that, really — having to track people going out as well as coming in.  

Japan’s not alone in trying to get everyone coming and going, but that’s what control-freak police will do if they have enough mandate.  In Japan, they do.  They even get budgets to invest in these elaborate automatic fingerprint machines, lookie here:


(illustration courtesy of pdf document link below).  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Original text follows.  Not sure of the date:


(広報用資料) 【日本人用】



1 はじめに


2 利用希望者登録







 再入国申請カウンター(2階)9時~16時(土日・祝日,12 月29 日~ 1 月3 日を除く。)

















3 利用方法







Interior Ministry scolds MOJ for treatment of tourists, also notes member hotels not following GOJ registration rules


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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 Japan
Hi Blog.  Here’s something interesting, courtesy of alert reader M-J:

Japan’s ministries are bickering with each other over an NJ issue (tourism), demonstrating how MOJ and MLITT are stepping on MOIA’s toes and goals.  (Not to worry, alphabet soup defined below.)

Also exposed is how Japan’s hotels aren’t keeping their legal promises.  They’re snaffling tax breaks for registering with the GOJ to offer international service — without actually offering any.  Two articles (AP and Mainichi, E and J) follow.  Comment from me afterwards:


Ministry seeks faster entry procedures for foreigners at airports
March 2, 2009, Associated Press


TOKYO, March 3 (AP) – (Kyodo)—The internal affairs ministry on Tuesday recommended that the Justice Ministry take measures to shorten the time foreign nationals must wait at airports before being able to enter Japan.

The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry recommendation is intended to help Japan attain its goal of boosting the number of foreign travelers to the country to 10 million a year by 2010.

The ministry also proposed that the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry implement steps to improve accommodation services in Japan for foreign travelers.

The Justice Ministry has set the goal of reducing the entry-procedure time for foreign nationals to an average 20 minutes at all airports in Japan.

But the percentage of months during which that goal was achieved came to 0 percent at Haneda and Kansai airports in 2008. The rate stood at 17 percent at Narita airport and 25 percent at central Japan airport the same year.

The latest recommendation calls for the Justice Ministry to review the deployment of immigration control officers at airports to shorten the amount of time foreign nationals must wait.

The recommendation to the tourism ministry includes boosting the number of hotels able to provide foreign-language service.

In 2007, 40 percent of 1,560 hotels where foreign travelers stayed provided no foreign-language service, though they were registered as hotels giving such service in line with the international sightseeing hotel law.

No signs written in foreign languages were posted at 41 percent of those hotels.



Ministry says Japan needs to become more tourist-friendly

Mainichi Shinbun March 3, 2009

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications has made a string of recommendations to other ministries to make Japan more tourist-friendly, including speeding up the immigration process and promoting foreign languages in hotels.

The recommendations are designed to help meet the government’s target of 10 million inbound tourists by 2010.

The Ministry of Justice has been asked to reduce the waiting time for foreign visitors at immigration centers.

Average waiting time targets are 20 minutes at the maximum, but during 2008 those waiting for processing had to wait an average of 30.4 minutes at Haneda, Narita International, Kansai International and Central Japan International airports.

At Kansai International Airport alone, that figure shot up to an average of 49 minutes in one month.

The figures are largely the result of the new photograph and fingerprint entry system, which Japan introduced in 2007. While supposedly reducing the risk of terrorism and illegal entry, it has also served to severely slow down the immigration process for foreign tourists.

Other measures include improving foreign-language services at hotels. A survey of 1,560 hotels and inns registered under the Law for Improving International Tourism Hotels showed that 40.1 percent couldn’t serve customers in a foreign language, and 22.9 percent said they had no intention of providing such a service in the future.

The law is designed to provide tax breaks to hotels catering to foreign tourists.
ENDS  Original Japanese:

外国人観光:入国審査30分、ホテル対応も不備 改善勧告
2009年3月3日 毎日新聞






COMMENT:  First, love those last paragraphs in both the AP and Mainichi articles, about how hotels aren’t enforcing international standards they’ve agreed to.  

Let’s do the math:  40% of 1560 member hotels is 624 hotels with no foreign-language service, whatever that means.  Moreover, according to the AP, 41% of those 624 hotels couldn’t be bothered to put up even a foreign-language sign (how hard could that be?).  That means 256 hotels are accepting the international registry advertising, along with concomitant breaks on property taxes, but not doing their job.

Weak excuse time:   Some accommodations have claimed they turn away NJ simply because they don’t feel they can provide NJ with professional service, as in service commensurate with their own standards (sources here and here).  As if that’s the customer’s problem?  Oh, but this time there’s no excuse for those shy and self-effacing hoteliers.  They’re clearly beckoning NJ to come stay through the International Sightseeing Hotel Law.

But the rot runs deep.  As Debito.org reported last year, we’ve even had a local government tourism board (Fukushima Prefecture) as recently as 2007 (that is, until Debito.org contacted them) advertising hotels that won’t even ACCEPT foreigners.  (Yes, the tourism board knew what they were doing:  they even offered the option of refusal to those shy hotels!)  You know something is really screwy when even the government acquiesces in and encourages illegal activity . (You can’t turn away guests just because they’re foreign, under the Hotel Management Law.)

And that’s even before we get to the MOJ’s ludicrous and discriminatory fingerprinting system (targeting “terrorists”, “criminals”, and carriers “infectious diseases”, which of course means targeting not only foreign tourists, but also NJ residents).   It has made “Yokoso Japan” visits or returns home worse than cumbersome.  The ministries are tramping on each other’s toes.

Do-nothing bureaucratic default mode time:  Honpo Yoshiaki, chief of the Japan Tourism Agency, in an Autumn 2008 interview with the Japan Times and a Q&A with Nagano hotelier Tyler Lynch, diffidently said that those hotels that don’t want NJ (and an October 2008 poll indicated 27% of hotels nationwide didn’t) will just be “ignored” by the ministry.

Yeah, that’ll fix ’em.  No wonder MOIA is miffed.  Sic ’em.  

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

PS:  MJ offers more comments and links below.  He says it best, I’ll just copy-paste.

GOJ claims victory in “halving overstayers” campaign, maintains myth that NJ fingerprinting did it


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「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 Japan

Hi Blog. The GOJ has patted itself on the back for being about to reach its goal of halving the number of overstaying NJ by the target date of 2010.

Congrats. But piggybacking on this cheer is the lie that fingerprinting NJ at the border helped do it.

Wrong. As we’ve discussed here before, fingerprinting and collecting other biometric data at the border does not result in an instantaneous check. It takes time. In fact, the first day they raised a cheer for snagging NJ at the border, it was for passport issues, not prints. And they have never publicly offered stats separating those caught by documentation and those fingered by biometric data (nor have we stats for how many were netted before the fingerprinting program was launched, to see if there is really any difference). So we let guilt by associated data justify a program that targets NJ regardless of residency status and criminalizes them whenever they cross back into Japan. Bad social science, bad public policy, and now rotten interpretations of the data. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Number of foreigners overstaying visas in Japan nearly halves in 5 yrs

Feb 16 2009, Associated Press. Courtesy of Japan Probe.

(AP) – TOKYO, Feb. 17 (Kyodo)—The number of foreign nationals who stayed in Japan after their visas expired nearly halved to around 113,000 from 219,000 in the five years to Jan. 1, according to a survey by the Justice Ministry’s Immigration Bureau released Tuesday.

The number of those who entered Japan illegally in the same period also fell, to around an estimated 15,000-23,000 from 30,000, the bureau said. The estimates are based on information given by foreign nationals caught by law-enforcement authorities, it said.

In December 2003, the government came up with a plan to halve the number of people staying illegally in Japan in five years. The latest figures suggest the goal has more or less been achieved.

The number of people overstaying their visas began rising sharply in the 1990s, peaking at around 300,000 in 1993. The number has gradually been declining since.

The Immigration Bureau said it has stepped up its efforts, jointly with police, to crack down on those overstaying their visas — especially since 2004, when the government’s plan was put into effect.

The introduction of a biometric system has helped immigration officials stem the re-entry of those who have been deported, the bureau said. In the year since it was introduced in November 2007, 846 people have been refused entry on the basis of biometric verification.

By nationality, South Koreans topped the list of those staying longer than allowed as of Jan. 1 at around 24,000, followed 18,000 Chinese, 17,000 Filipinos, 6,000 Thais and 5,000 Taiwanese, according to the survey.








(2009年2月17日10時43分 読売新聞)