Kyodo: J airport “random body searches” start October. On “int’l passengers”, naturally, so not so random, considering police precedents of racial profiling


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Hi Blog. A policy trial balloon floated last December by the Transport Ministry has become a full-fledged policy measure:

Japan to start random body searches at airports in October
Kyodo News, Friday, September 14th 2012, courtesy of MD

The transport ministry said Thursday it will start conducting random body searches on international passengers at 29 airports across the country in October to prevent explosives from slipping through metal detectors.

At present, body searches are only performed on passengers who set off metal detectors before boarding, the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry [sic]. The ministry did not elaborate on how the body searches would be carried out or by whom.

The ministry is taking the step because terrorist plots involving the use of liquid or solid explosives have been reported in Britain and the United States. It did not say if it was referring to recent events.

The International Civil Aviation Organization recommends that countries conduct random contact inspections or full-body scans on passengers to enhance security.


COMMENT:  Well, the ministry might well use the word “random”, but precedent dictates that enforcement of any policing operation in favor of “security” tends to see anyone who “looks foreign” as the security threat.  Examples are Legion here on, but see a few here, here, here, here, and here.  My point is that we’re just making racial profiling, which is standard procedure in policing operations in Japan, ever more systematic and justified under formal policy.  After all, without the “probable cause” of a metal detector alarm, the procedure has now become completely discretionary.

Remember, this policy is from the same set of Keystone Kop travel authorities that have engaged in such unprofessional activities as planting boxes of cannabis (“randomly”, of course) in NJ bags to test their sniffer dogs.  Problem was, not only was the act of planting their drugs in actual people’s bags formally prohibited, airport authorities did so without notice 160 times over the course of eight months between 2007 and 2008!  We only know about this because one time the fools lost track of the bag they had spiked, and the owner went all the way to downtown Tokyo and checked into his hotel before he realized what was going on.  Now what if he had faced that “random” search while en route?  “Gee officer, I don’t know how that got there,” will certainly convince flinty-eyed NPA representatives trained to target “foreigners”.  Sources:

CNN: Narita Customs spike HK passenger’s bag with cannabis

Narita Customs Cannabis and Sniffer Dog Training part 2: Kyodo says it’s happened 160 times since last September

So attention all you transit passengers going through Japan to other points in Asia:  Even though you haven’t formally been “admitted” into Japan’s Constitutionally-governed territory (such as it is), you’re still going to be treated as an internal security threat, and subject to searches for the sake of preventing terrorism.  Because after all, under Japanese laws and policies, only foreigners are potential terrorists (and carriers of infectious diseases, too).  Enjoy your trip.  Youkoso Japan!  Arudou Debito

12 comments on “Kyodo: J airport “random body searches” start October. On “int’l passengers”, naturally, so not so random, considering police precedents of racial profiling

  • I was (as a native white Australian) subjected to one of these random checks at Sydney International airport a few years ago.

    The check was accompanied by a professional attitude and friendly conversation by the checker who politely explained the process to me as we proceeded.

    Despite the Japanese penchant for polite customer service, I don’t expect that those hired to do this job will be able to master the necessary people skills to undertake these checks either at “random” or in a way that might make the subject of examination feel at ease, especially if they are a foreigner.

    It’s too bad, really, as I know plenty of Japanese with the English and people skills to do so.


  • Will non-Yamato J be treated like foreigners through this process?

    Will J now be recruited by yakuza (who are unquestionably also J) more intensively to carry contraband?

    would be amongst the questions that I would ask, at a start.

  • And on internatioal flights only?
    Sorry, Japan, but you have no friggin’ idea!! And as I recall, the last incident remotely reminding of terror was the hijack of an ANA plane on a domestic (yep, DOMESTIC, as in WITHIN Japan!) flight. The pilot got fatally stabbed in the process. The perp was a mentally disturbed Japanese passenger (forgot details, as date & flight no., but perhaps Debito can help…).
    On Chitose Airport I have noticed the cop on the other side of the security gate asleep on top of his desk. Eyes wide shut, and it was on more than one occasion.
    Even Haneda Airport has lots of security leaks. Three trained men can jack a plane on the ground at any given time, they just have to look Japanese. But even as a foreigner, the… eh… “security searches” I’ve been subjected to so far on domestic airports in Japan would have allowed me to get a sharp object, or even a Glock thru the gates…

  • … and I guess the question that comes up (even if the answer might appear obvious), what if I question the reason, and refuse on the grounds that there is no reason to conduct a search?

    I’m HIGHLY opposed to the TSA in the US (I’m not looking forward to when I go back to visit the US and dealing with that crap security and violation of rights) and I’m not looking forward to seeing it spread even further in an already dripping-with-racism country like Japan.

  • I (a Caucasian American) was also subjected to one such search at Sydney Airport a few years ago when taking a domestic flight to Brisbane. I happened to be wearing a t-shirt with the Lao alphabet on it, which must have looked suspicious to the linguistically challenged security staff.

  • Funny, the one time I have been to Australia, (Brisbane) I was subjected to such a search too. They even turned my wallet inside out and dug in the pockets and corners. Obviously looking for drugs. They re really paranoid down there. Shame they failed to notice the offensive weapon I brought in, ostensibly a walking stick!

    Definitely the wrong priorities…as Getchan above, notes.

  • I think these checks have been going for years, only now they are officially confirmed by a document. I remember writing you about being body checked for no apparent reason some 4years ago. And this year in August my 11months old son was body searched, because he couldn’t walk by himself through the security gate. You know, I always try to show understanding towards other people’s problems, culture, etc. but well, there are some limits. I wouldn’t protest if I was body searched now-the world has become more and more dangerous place. But a baby!

  • Of course, this won’t be a problem for the ‘elite 2000’ foreigners that Japan aimed to attract, because none of them actually bothered to come! Yet, still no soul-searching as to the ‘why not’?

  • @ Jim #9, Japan just likes to make these bold statements to appear “international” without following up. Elite 2000 NJs, Hague Convention, International Treaties on Racial Equality, etc the list goes on.

    There is not much point making an agreement with the GOJ. They may even deny they made an agreement later, e.g. Deng Xiaoping’s idea to just share resources of the Sengaku islands now being completely denied it was even once entertained by a previous administration (of course).

    Think of it as tatemae, or postmodernism. J words have no meaning. I have often maintained that language is not for communication in Japan, but to maintain ‘wa”. No need to listen closely, actions speak louder than.

  • When I was flying out of Narita after my very first trip to Japan back in 2002 or so, I distinctly remember being singled out for a search. I was in line for ticketing – not even at security yet – and was the only visible foreigner in the line. A lady in uniform, though not police or customs uniform, came over and asked to inspect my baggage. Being terribly naive I consented, and was then forced to endure having my luggage dumped out on a table right in front of all of the other passengers waiting on line for ticketing. It was incredibly humiliating having all of my belonging, including my underwear, just dumped out for the world to see.

    Naturally, after determining that I did not have any scissors/knives/guns/explosives/drugs, the lady went about her business … and didn’t check any of the other passengers.

    I have absolutely no faith, based upon my past experiences using Japanese transportation, that these new regulations will not be used to further harass foreigners, as precedent has already been set definitively.

  • Forgot to mention, I’ve also been searched without consent at airports before. Going through security at Fukuoka for a flight to Incheon, the lady putting luggage on the conveyor belt to go through the x-ray machine next to the metal detector patted me down (I am a male) while saying – after she had placed her hands on me – ‘sawatte ii desu ka?’ I responded with a very startled ‘chotto matte!’ because, seriously, who just grabs another person without first gaining consent? She also completely ignored my objections as I attempted to chide her for unilaterally placing her hands upon me, though that is par for the course – “don’t want to hear it, then it didn’t happen, just ignore it and proceed”.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    >At present, body searches are only performed on passengers who set off metal detectors before boarding, the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry [sic].

    I hope there’s no exception to some passengers. I’m getting kind of annoyed waiting fo rlike an hour in the line before TSA’s whole body scanner machine at the airport security gate in the US. I just wish the same thing won’t happen at the Narita Airport, at least for now.

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