Onur update: Ibaraki Pref. Police lying on posters requiring hotels to inspect and photocopy all foreign passports; gets police to change their posters!


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Hi Blog. Debito.org Reader Onur updates his post here last month about discrimination at Japanese hotels being, in one case, coin-operated (where all “foreign guests” are unlawfully forced to provide photocopies of their passports, moreover at their own expense) at police behest. Now he gets to the bottom of police chicanery in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, where he catches them in an outright lie. Three lies in one police notice, as a matter of fact. Read on:

April 12, 2016
Hello Dr. Debito,

I have some news on the passport copy rule in the hotels, which shows the role of the local police in the unnecessary checking and copying of ID cards of foreigners living in Japan. Last weekend I stayed at Mimatsu Hotel in Mito City, Ibaraki Prefecture. I wrote my Japanese address to the guest registration form during check-in.

However, the reception asked for my passport. I said I don’t carry my passport and they said any ID card like driver’s license is OK. Although showing is not necessary, I showed them my residence card with my address and permanent resident status on it. They said that they must copy the card. I asked the reason. They said that it is the rule of the hotel(!) and also the law of Japan to copy the ID of all foreigners. I was surprised to hear that also the hotel has such rule in addition to the law of Japan! I said that according to law it is not necessary and they are not allowed to copy my card, but they insisted they must copy.

They showed me a poster on the wall. The poster prepared by the Mito City Police Department Security Division was saying that “Japanese law requires that we ask every foreign guest to present their passport, photocopy of which we keep on file during their stay with us”. I said that the real law is different and showed them the copy of https://www.city.shinjuku.lg.jp/content/000062471.pdf . After seeing the document, they reluctantly allowed me to stay.

I said that I will inform this incident to Mito City Public Health Department (保健所), which has authority over the hotels regarding the implementation of laws. The next day during the check-out I asked the receptionist of the hotel to take a photo of the poster prepared by the Mito City Police Department to check it in detail. The receptionist gave permission so I took the photo of the poster and printed it at an Internet Cafe. I am sending the poster as an attachment.


[CAPTION COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  Note the three official lies in this official poster issued by the Ibaraki Police:  1) Japanese law requires every foreign guest to present their passport (no:  every foreign tourist without an address in Japan); 2) the requirement of photocopying (which is stated nowhere in the law), and 3) their citation of the Hotel Business Law, which states none of this.]

It was Sunday and all public offices were closed, so I cancelled my bus reservation by paying cancellation fee and stayed one more day in Mito, which cost me lots of money. In Monday morning, I went to Mito City Public Health Department (保健所), because when I had called the Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry to learn more about the law, they had told me to inform the Public Health Department of the city in case a problem occurs in a hotel.

The officers at Public Health Department were very helpful. They said that as I have an address in Japan, I do not have to present my ID to the hotel. I showed them the poster of the police department. The officers were very surprised. They said that they have never seen this poster before and also the police did not contact the Public Health Department regarding the poster. They said that the explanation in the poster is clearly different from the real law, especially the English translation which says “every foreign guest”. They commented that the police is becoming more and more strict since last year because the G7 Summit and Tokyo Olympics are approaching. Finally, they said that they will check the hotel and inform me about the result.

As a final step, I went to the Mito City Police Department. I said I want to learn more about their poster. Two police officers from the security division came. I told them the incident at the hotel and informed them about the result of my call to Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry and my visit to Public Health Department regarding the law. They listened without making any comments. I showed them the official announcement of the ministry at https://www.city.shinjuku.lg.jp/content/000062471.pdf and said that their poster is clearly different. They took notes like the number of the law as if they are not aware of the law and they read the announcement of the ministry. They asked questions like “Do the other hotels in other parts of Japan ask your ID card? Isn’t checking the ID card necessary to confirm that a foreigner really has an address in Japan?” I answered their questions and asked them to contact the ministry for detailed information. I said I called the ministry, so I can give the phone number of the ministry if they want. They said it is not necessary. Finally, I said please fix your poster. They said they will check the law and behave accordingly.

In the afternoon, I had phone call from the Public Health Department. They said they went to the Mimatsu Hotel to check it and saw that the poster on the wall of the hotel has changed. It seems that the police department printed a new poster and distributed to all hotels only in a few hours after I left the police department! They said the new poster clearly states “foreign nationals who do not possess an address in Japan”, so complies the regulations. They said they informed the hotel about the laws and regulations and warned the hotel to not to the same mistake again. Finally, they thanked me for informing them about this problem.

[REQUEST FROM DEBITO:  Any readers near or in Mito who can drop by a hotel and take a picture of the new notice for us?  Thanks.]

In short, if you ever encounter such a problem with a hotel, go to the local Public Health Department (保健所). They were very helpful and quick. If the problem is due to the police (not a misunderstanding of the hotel management), do not hesitate to go to the police department.

Regards, Onur


COMMENT:  Ibaraki sure seems to have it in for foreigners.  Check out these past notices from their police forces:

From “Update: Ibaraki Police’s third new NJ-scare poster”
Debito.org, July 29th, 2009


From “Ibaraki Pref Police put up new and improved public posters portraying NJ as coastal invaders”
Debito.org, November 20th, 2008



And how about these Debito.org entries?

Kyodo: Foreign trainee slain, colleague wounded in rural Ibaraki attack, in oddly terse article (UPDATED with news of another underreported NJ death)

Debito.org,  Thursday, February 26th, 2015

Nikkei: Another Japanese nabbed for being like a “suspicious foreigner” in Ibaraki. Adding it to the collection

Debito.org, Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

Oh that’s right.  Ibaraki is home to a really mean foreign detention center:

AFP: Another hunger strike in Immigration Detention Center, this time in Ushiku, Ibaraki

Debito.org, Monday, May 24th, 2010

Japan Times on Ibaraki Detention Ctr hunger strikers: GOJ meeting because of UN visit?

Debito.org, Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Japan Times & Sano Hiromi on violence towards NJ detainees at Ibaraki Detention Center, hunger strike

Debito.org, Friday, March 12th, 2010

There’s also a mention of a death in detention in Ibaraki at that detention center, mentioned in the following Reuters expose.

Reuters: Death toll mounts in Japanese Detention Centers (aka “Gaijin Tanks”) as NJ seek asylum and are indefinitely detained and drugged

Debito.org, Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

Ibaraki Police have also notified the public about how “foreign crime groups” behave, courtesy of http://www.pref.ibaraki.jp/kenkei/a01_safety/security/infra.html

NPA “Crime Infrastructure Countermeasures” campaign also targets “foreign crime” anew. Justifies more anonymous anti-NJ signs

Debito.org, Thursday, June 20th, 2013, which included the following racialized illustration:


It would seem the officially-sponsored xenophobia runs deep in Ibaraki.  Put a nasty Gaijin Detention Center in an area, allow the police to project their bunker mentalities by lying on public posters, and you get panicky residents who sic cops on “people who look suspicious” because they look foreign (even if they are Japanese).  Are you seeing what happens when you give the police too much power to target people?  Ibaraki Prefecture is developing into a nice case study.

Well done Onur for doing all this great detective work.  I did some investigative work like this more than a decade ago.  Remarkable that despite having this pointed out again and again, the NPA continues to lie about the laws they are supposed to enforce.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


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16 comments on “Onur update: Ibaraki Pref. Police lying on posters requiring hotels to inspect and photocopy all foreign passports; gets police to change their posters!

  • Excellent posting and result.

    A clear case of the policing of NJs by the back door that occurs everywhere. Companies issuing “laws/rules” to their staff telling them they must obey their company policy and thus must get copies otherwise said service is not given. Despite contravening the law. I get feed up arguing with travel insurance/hotels/WU/airport staff etc etc…as this is the same MO time and time again.

    This really must stop. But it wont..because that is what the Police want…more scrutiny of NJs when the real law does not permit it.

  • Jim di Griz says:

    Ibaraki; the paranoid, red-neck, back-water of Japan that NJ should quite rightly seek to avoid. Why bother?

    But more seriously, this is an interesting and excellent example of one of the irreconcilable conflicts dragging Japan down;
    The police feel it is absolutely correct and natural for them to ramp up anti-NJ paranoia since it reinforces ‘we Japanese are honest’ and ‘Japan is a country of law’ national identity myths (after all, if NJ are the source of all crime, we Japanese must be special, like we always say we are, right?) EXCEPT that Japan’s recently invigorated by the Olympics surge to be more internationally popular (increased tourists, increased international good impression) omotenashi, is in direct conflict with the goals of the police!

    What Japan tells itself, and what it tells outsiders, are again two different and mutually exclusive things. No wonder this society doesn’t know if it’s coming or going, and is paralyzed by chronic inability to change.

  • Baudrillard says:

    About Ibaraki and Kawaguchi/Saitama having it in for NJs- could it be that gaijins are supposed to know their place, that is, in Big Bad Tokyo specifically Roppongi, and that “homeland Japan” is an unspoken no go area? Ayako Sono’s Japartheid dream is partly descriptive of current reality.

    Just my take on it, but it could be that inaka is seen as the “real” Japan where people come from, a kind of “uchi” writ large and therefore private, whereas Tokyo is the shouganai international zone where Japanese interact with NJs.
    This anti NJ propaganda could also explain the “timid rabbit” syndrome of recently arrived “inakamono”, e.g. clutching their handbags or crossing the street whenever they see a visible NJ as their communities and poster4s like these drilled into their psyches about Tokyo and “foreign crime” -resulting in the lack of a real community feel in most Tokyo neighborhoods- i.e. everyone is a stranger, from different parts of Japan, and therefore a lack of trust and communication.

  • Oh jez, those pictures of the old posters just themselves are downright disgusting…

    Glad people are standing up to this sort of thing. However, at the same time I am seeing “news” about a push for Chinese-only zones in the meantime. The general attitude towards foreigners seems to not have the brightest of future, but glad to see people stand up to this sort of awful discriminatory behavior.


    The other piece to this is Personal Information Protection Act. The hotel is supposed to identify the purpose they are obtaining personal information from you, and they are not supposed to retain the personal information beyond what is needed to accomplish their purpose. So if they have to confirm the passport number and nationality (which is not the same as taking a copy), then once they have confirmed that they no longer need to retain the copy. I have fought with hotels over copying my residence card because once they visually confirm you have a residence in Japan the Hotel Act no longer applies.

  • Jim di Griz says:

    @ Baudrillard #3

    Yes, that would explain why Abe’s ‘special economic zones’ where its proposed that rules are ‘relaxed to make it easier for foreigners to come and work and invest’ have failed to materialize after three years;
    Because the real goal is to set up areas where NJ ‘should’ be, therefore making NJ anywhere else automatically ‘suspicious’. Except that they haven’t worked out how to implement that without being called out on it, and how to corral all the NJ already living outside those proposed areas.

  • Jim di Griz says:

    Anyway, this incident proves one thing- that the Japanese police are so institutionally racist that they;

    a) didn’t know this was illegal, but concluded that ‘hey, it must be ok, coz, y’know, gaijin!’. Or,
    b) did know that this was illegal, but concluded ‘hey, we can get away with it, coz, y’know, gaijin!’

    I don’t know which is worse.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    Question for Debito’s lawyer friend:

    “I have fought with hotels over copying my residence card because once they visually confirm you have a residence in Japan ”

    Why would the hotel need to visually confirm that the guest has a residence in Japan? Even having to show them a residence card (or any ID) is backdoor deputy policing and is forbidden by the Ryokan Gyoho.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    I wrote in my previous posting on a similar issue last month, but this is way worse than slacking business. It’s more like a gag order made under deliberate misinformation.

    Mandatory doxxing can become an abusive practice, if employed for malicious objective, such as targeting particular individuals for private information. Naming and shaming the perpetrator of social injustice for this purpose may be one of the very few exceptions–such as when they waive their right for confidentiality of their personal info(example here https://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2015/03/19/doxxing-a-primer/). Never mind. J-police are not the same as teachers who might use doxxing as an effective teaching tool to slam dunk corporate education deformers.

    Clearly, dirty hands of police establishment are at the devil’s workshop for manipulation of legal language.

  • Richard Parker says:

    A poster of six cops in riot gear beating up one defenseless man in overalls.
    When did the Japanese police become so honest about their activities?

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    @Mark in Yayoi

    >Even having to show them a residence card (or any ID) is backdoor deputy policing and is forbidden by the Ryokan Gyoho.

    I am not sure if Travel Business Law has constitutional power to forbid hotels from conducting ID practice–if not denying stay–to anyone who doesn’t have an address(or emergency contact) in Japan.

    What the law makes it clear is prohibition of refusing a room on insufficient ground(three exceptions on the Article 5)–not IDing on particular circumstance(i.e., a tourist, a short-term stayer, and anyone who doesn’t have a valid address on the record).

    There is no single term referring to foreign or NJ in there.

    What bothers me most is one of three exceptions for refusal in the Article 5.

    三  宿泊施設に余裕が ないときその他都道府県が条例で定める事由があるとき。

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see police authority exploit naiveness of hotels by crafting language of surveillance into their input to make ID practice in ordinary hospitality management look like a new law endorsed at prefectural, city, or municipal level.

  • Kirk Masden says:

    The government pronouncement I sited in my previous comment includes the phrase “法令に基づき” (under the relevant laws and regulations) but I can’t figure what laws and regulations they are referring to. Actually, the Japanese gave me the impression that there was one specific law but the English seems to indicate something more akin to “we have the legal power to issue this kind of edict if we want to.”

  • Dale Viljoen says:

    Hotels in Sapporo continue to require Resident Cards to be shown at check in. I have had to show them my drivers’ license to prove I live in Sapporo (even though I speak and write Japanese and have permanent residence). One hotel had a card in three languages that they said they had received from the police to show to foreigners needing to do this. When I returned to this hotel yesterday to get a copy of this they could not find it and implied that, because I had made such a fuss, they had thrown the card away. (I actually believe them.) This card was along the lines of the poster above.


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