Japan Times: Japan Post Office unilaterally decides old “Gaijin Cards” no longer acceptable ID, despite still valid under MOJ


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Hi Blog. Debito.org Reader MMT writes in (he says it all, really, so I won’t comment further):

September 30, 2012: An interesting bit of news that was on the JT homepage this week. It seems that although the alien registration card is considered equal to the new zairyu card until July 2015 by the government, it appears not for certain government agencies. Japan Post has a notice on their homepage stating that foreign residents can no longer use the alien registration card as of July 9th, 2012 (or in other words, the same day the zairyu card became available). How the post office can reject ID which is still valid and basically force longer-term residents into changing over their cards immediately is beyond my comprehension.



JT:  “Even though alien registration certificates are valid until 2015, Japan Post decided effective July 9, 2012, to no longer accept such cards. Please see this website,” he writes.

“I found this out when needing to show identification for receiving a restricted delivery mail service document. I am a permanent resident. I find it odd, perhaps discriminatory, and certainly a bureaucratic overreach on the part of the postal service.”

We confirmed this with Japan Post; it’s true that they are now only accepting the new resident cards (zairyūkādo), which have replaced alien registration cards, despite the fact the latter are still valid until renewal or 2015 (whichever comes first). If you have another form of picture ID, such as a driver’s license, this should work, or a passport if your address doesn’t need to be confirmed.

October 1, 2012: As a further bit of news regarding this story, I called the immigration help line on October 1, 2012, to see if they were aware of this development. The staff informed me that yes, the alien registration card is still valid, as stated and acts as one’s zairyu card until July 9th, 2015. When I asked if they were aware that the Japan Post officially began rejecting the alien registration card the very same day the zairyu card became available, they replied that perhaps in cases such as with banks and the post office, you may have to switch over to the new card in order to have acceptable ID. I quickly pointed out that since the government (namely, the Ministry of Justice, no less) has deemed this ID to be equal to the zairyu card for a further three years, shouldn’t it be unacceptable (unlawful?)  for any any semi-government agency or private business to reject it? They agreed that my argument “made sense.”

The immigration staff then suggested that if my alien registration card is rejected by the post office or other place of business that I should give them the number for the Tokyo Immigration administration office (03-5796-7250) so that the post office can call them and get a clarification. It was at that point that I hinted that perhaps it was the job of the immigration department to inform all relevant agencies to stop making arbitrary rules regarding which government-issued ID they will choose to accept: to which I got no answer. Strange, indeedCheers,  MMT

Okay, I’ll comment:  It’s just evidence of how secondarily the concerns of NJ are taken in Japan.  Even the bureaucracy that governs and polices them won’t fight for them when one branch of it arbitrarily denies them privilege or assistance.  Arudou Debito

16 comments on “Japan Times: Japan Post Office unilaterally decides old “Gaijin Cards” no longer acceptable ID, despite still valid under MOJ

  • “Even the bureaucracy that governs and polices them won’t fight for them…”

    Especially when the bureaucracy that governs and polices you tells you something is valid because the authorizing law provided for longer switchover time than the bureaucrats would have liked, they may be tacitly using another branch of it which arbitrarily denies them privilege or assistance with the likely purpose of forcing you into the new system immediately.

    There, fixed it for you.

    And yes, I found it necessary to obtain the new card, after being told that while the old one was ‘technically’ valid and that I shouldn’t have trouble, that if I changed it within two weeks (!) that I just might be ok. But not to try and use it again. This by an angry immigration officer at exit who at seems was likely telling at least the guy in the line ahead of me the same thing…

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Can’t receive your mail because your old gaijin card in no longer accepted by the PO, and you don’t have a Japanese drivers license, and your passport doesn’t have a Japan address? May be the PO doesn’t want to bother trying to read those pesky NJ written addresses with ‘beautiful’ Japanese place names so crudely rendered in the English alphabet (that is to say, postie gets stressed having to summon up his high school English to verbalize the pronunciation so he can understand it).
    Either way, with the MOJ’s stance, it’s just another less than subtle ‘we don’t want you’ message.

  • Baudrillard says:

    As usual, the GOJ passes a law and private businesses think they are above the law. Its this mindset that makes Japan essentially lawless in terms of individual rights and why,for example, your private employer can deny NJs health insurance etc when in fact by law, thery must provide it.

    The GOJ pass laws, but these only tend to be enforced within the public sector (not even so in the case of the Post Office but I daresay this is just incompetence). A similar example is how regional governments stated they would not implement votes for NJs even if passed, or how the tax office in Saitama said I could file returns online, only to have some Ojisan at City Hall tell me I could not.

    The history of modern and postmodern Japan is basically different bureaucracies competing with each other for power and resources. We see this with WW2 and Japan’s aggression in China; basically initiated by the Black Dragon Society and the Kwantung Army, despite J-government oppopsition-until Tojo came to power.

    Therefore it will not matter what laws Japan passes, what treaties it signs; various entities will carry on regardless.

    Just like whats going on in postcommunist China, actually. They are more similar than either would care to admit.

  • Got love that “it’s no longer our responsibility but yours” mentality that permeates so much of every day life; the MOJ says the cards of valid, but do nothing to inform other agencies, corporations, etc. about it. That’s up to you to give them a ring or have the party who is rejecting your ID give them a ring “for clarification.” I hate this pass the buck crap!
    It’s not related to immigration or anything, but I had a half day of dealing with this stuff yesterday between the store that sold me my mobile phone, the mobile phone maker, and my mobile service provider. Such nonsense.

  • Zig Justice says:

    Maybe I’m reading the site incorrectly, but it looks as though you can’t even use the zairyu card unless it’s the 特定事項伝達型 category.

  • It’s not the Japanese bureaucracies have a monopoly on problems, but often there is a “keystone cop” quality when you run up against the system here that always makes it especially frustrating.

  • Baudrillard says:

    its so postmodern; symbols and signs with conflicting meaning.

    “Here is your ID which cannot be used as an ID!”

  • On second thoughts, this isn’t all bad. Because why should the post office be deputized to see your “gaijin card”? Surely a driving license or other ID would suffice. One time I got a parcel sent to me in my maiden name-which of course was not on the gaijin card, actually the only ID I had then. After a brief dialog with the postie, he let it go and said, OK here you are, even though the name was quite different.

    Sometimes I appreciate the incompetence of Japan and how one hand (or agency) does not know what the other is doing. That is how we could escape paying city tax by moving house, for example.No gaijin card means no forwarding address for the post office to send old bills.

    No taxation without identification!

    — You’re missing the point. It’s not a matter of being set free from using your Gaijin Card as ID (this blog has always advocated NJ use any form of GOJ-issued ID other than the Gaijin Card, such as a driver’s license). It’s being deprived of the CHOICE of using one form (for some, the only form, since not all people drive in Japan) of GOJ-issued ID. And then having the issuer essentially indicate that they don’t care whether or not another government agency will honor the ID (even though the issuer screwed up the situation in the first place).

    Anyway, I doubt the non-delivery of mail is going to enable you to escape being taxed, so let’s keep the issue on track, now, shall we?

  • Just a couple of days ago I went to the post office to get an international postal money order. Those require ID and I used my alien registration card.
    They accepted it and I had 0 problems.
    I guess it depends on the place?

  • Personally, after giving up on trying to get a license here, my only forms of identification are my old alien registration card or my health insurance card. Both have my workplace on them, which I’m kind of loathe to inform random third parties of. Are there any other forms of identification? I find it kind of hard to believe there isn’t some other sort of identification available for non-drivers, though I do remember talk of some sort of card Japanese citizen could get (juki card maybe?).

    — Yes, now that you’re registered on the Juuminhyou system, you should be eligible for one. Try it and tell us how it goes?

  • The post office will still accept the alien registration card for almost all transactions.

    It is just this 「本人限定受取」(delivery confirmation) service that cannot be used. The service doesn’t appear to be that common: I have only had something sent to me once in six years using this service – a bank card from じぶん銀行 (an Internet bank). The local delivery office sent me a letter telling me to come down with my ID: I received the card, the ID copy was sent to the bank, and the enclosed card was activated two days later, after the ID copy was received by the bank.

    Unfortunately, the Juki Card is not available to foreign residents until July 2013.
    See: http://www.city.hachioji.tokyo.jp/koseki/jukinet/jukicard.html

    The words “foreign resident” and, for non S(PR), “period of stay expires …” are likely to be prominently inscribed on the card.

    — Thanks for doing the research.

  • I suppose we can apply postmodern (false) labels to this, being ignored for the sake of pragmatism.(Silly) rules were meant to be bent, meaningless signs ignored.

    The Postmodern Post Office set a rule that contradicts a law. Postie tries to deliver a parcel to NJ whose ID is matches, but its (shock, horror) on the slightly different card. Postie is in a hurry, has a heavy workload, taihen desu ne. Its an NJ at the same address, surely that’s close enough for non governmental work? (^-^)

    As usual, it depends how much a jobsworth the postie is.

  • Just thought I would note that I have received several packages in September and October 2012 from the post office and used the old alien registration card as ID without issue

  • I’ve had a P.O.Box for 11 years, the only NJ to have one at my local P.O.
    I didn’t only get my own mail, but other folks’ mail as well…
    For registered mail, I had a plastic card in the box telling me to pick up those mail items at the counter.
    I handed the card to the clerk on duty, gave him my P.O.Box number, he handed me the receipts to sign and then my mail items. Not even once has anyone ever required to see my ID. The guy who has the P.O.Box key must be the recipient, can’t be otherwise…

    Gawd am I glad I have never lost my key…

  • “The immigration staff then suggested that if my alien registration card is rejected by the post office or other place of business that I should give them the number for the Tokyo Immigration administration office (03-5796-7250) so that the post office can call them and get a clarification. ”

    Problem with this is that many foreigners (like Japanese) can only go to the P.O. (nice initials, eh? Post Office or Pissed Off-ice?) on the weekend, when immigration is closed. So, no phone call would be possible. But obviously the immigration staff who discussed this with MMT failed to realize that.


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