Happy New Year 2019! Annual Top Ten Human Rights list forthcoming


Hi Blog. Happy New Year 2019 to everyone! May you accomplish your goals and do what makes you happy.

Speaking of, my annual Top Ten Human Rights Issues that affected NJ residents of Japan is forthcoming. Any ideas from Debito.org Readers about what should have made the list? –Debito

UPDATE JANUARY 27:  Here it is: https://www.debito.org/?p=15528

SendaiBen on “Anytime Fitness” Sports Gym Gaijin Carding him, and how he got them to stoppit


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Hi Blog.  Here’s an instructive post from Debito.org Reader and Contributor SendaiBen.  He was told (like so many people are) that he had to surrender his Zairyuu “Gaijin Card” in order to register for service.  But as he (and many other veterans of this silliness) know, you only have to present it when asked by a member of Japan’s policing or Immigration officials to do so.  Otherwise, any form of ID (such as a Japanese driver license) that works for Japanese should work for NJ too.  

But some companies don’t know or don’t care, so they push NJ around.  Here’s how SendaiBen successfully pushed back, in the case of a sports gym (a notorious business sector towards NJ members) called Anytime Fitness.  And so can you.  Follow his footsteps.  Dr. Debito Arudou (still getting used to the new WordPress format, so please pardon some formatting creakiness).


To: Debito.org
Date: November 24, 2018
From: SendaiBen

A few of my friends joined Anytime Fitness recently. They are a gym franchise that allows 24-hour access via a key card and have decent facilities and reasonable fees. They are expanding rapidly in Japan.

I went to check them out with my wife. There were a lot of things I liked, including the fact that you can work out in your street shoes (so no need to bring special shoes just for the gym), the fact they had two squat racks (very rare in Sendai), and the reasonable fees and ability to use other Anytime Fitness gyms in Japan and worldwide.

As we were going through the explanation of how to join, the guy showing us around said that my wife would need ID and her bank card to sign up, and (after confirming I was not a Japanese national — which was a nice touch, I thought) said I would need my ID, zairyu card, and bank card.

My wife gasped slightly (she knew what was coming).

I asked whether I could sign up with my driver’s license instead, and the guy said no, foreign nationals needed to provide their zairyu card.

We left soon after that without signing up. I was a bit put out as I don’t like it when companies make up unnecessary discriminatory rules. It’s not the most important thing in the world, but I think it is important to push back in these situations to prevent this kind of thing from spreading.

I went home and sent an email to the Anytime Fitness main office. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to get it checked, so it is in my fairly poor Japanese:

It basically says ‘I went into the local Anytime Fitness today and was told I need to present a zairyu card as well as other ID to sign up. I presume the staff member I talked to is working off your manual, so didn’t want to argue with them. I have three questions:
Is it actually necessary for me to present my zairyu card (cannot sign up with driver’s license)?
If it is true what is the reason? A zairyu card is an important document that can only be demanded by the police or immigration. It contains important personal information.
If it is true for what purpose will you use this personal information and how will it be managed?

I got a reply back the next day that was basically a cut and paste: we’re sorry you had an unpleasant experience and the local branch will be in touch to explain:

I replied saying that my questions were not about how the branch handled things but rather regarding their policies for signing up for membership. I then got the following the next day:

Basically it says that in order to sign up for membership you need to have one form of ID from the list (driving license, passport, health card, zairyu card, copy of jyuminhyo, my number card) and your bank card. Some bank accounts can’t be used (this actually happened to me, they were unable to use my Shinsei account so I used another one instead).

I then got an email from the gym itself:

This basically says that ‘it is not absolutely necessary to present the zairyu card’ but they use it to check the names of people that break the rules so that they can’t sign up for membership after they have been kicked out.

Of course this doesn’t make much sense as they could use a driver’s license to do the same thing, eh? 😉

I then emailed back asking if I could sign up with just my driver’s licence after all:

And got this reply shortly afterwards:

This very short email says ‘yes, you can sign up with your driver’s license’ (and doesn’t say, but I guess includes the sentiment ‘please don’t send me any more emails’).

Today I went back to the gym to sign up. I talked to a different guy and not once did the zairyu thing come up (although I noticed the first guy was in the office so presumably was instructing his colleague not to trigger the argumentative customer). I filled in some forms, showed my driving license, scanned my bank card (Shinsei didn’t work so used a different one), got my key, worked out, and went home.

Hopefully in the future they will be more careful how they phrase things. I have heard from friends in other areas of Japan that they have also run into the zairyu card thing with Anytime Fitness, so hopefully this post will give some ideas of how to push back in a calm and constructive fashion.

To be honest I wasn’t expecting the gym to back down, so I am kind of impressed with how they dealt with the situation. Obviously it would have been better if they had just taken my driver’s license in the first place, but failing that listening to my complaint and changing their stance was the best outcome I could have hoped for.

It seems more and more companies are becoming aware of the zairyu card, not just as another form of acceptable ID, but sometimes as the only form of ID they will accept from non-Japanese citizens. I personally believe that is unacceptable, so will continue to push back in this way to prevent it from spreading. I don’t want to be asked for my zairyu card by random companies as I go about my daily life. — SendaiBen

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