Shibuya Police asking local “minpaku” Airbnb renters to report their foreign lodgers “to avoid Olympic terrorism”. Comes with racialized illustrations


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Hi Blog. Buzzfeed News’s Hatachi Kouta wrote up a report dated June 26, 2016, where he found the following Shibuya Police poster in a residential area:

Courtesy of Hatachi Kouta of Buzzfeed.
Courtesy of Hatachi Kouta of Buzzfeed.

The poster reads:



“Minpaku” is defined as the service of offering paid accommodation using empty rooms etc. from individual homes.

To prevent terrorism and for the success of the Olympics, we need information from everyone.

We are especially asking for information from individually-standing homes doing Minpaku.

Please call the Shibuya Police Department, Head of Crime Prevention, at 3498-0110 ext 2612.


That’s the literal translation of the text.  Note how there is no reference whatsoever textually about foreigners.  However, contextually, in the margins there are illustrations of eight racialized “foreigners” of ostensibly European, African, and Middle-Eastern extractions complete with differentiated eye color, hair color, skin color, and facial hair.  Note how there is no representation of “Asian” foreigners, even though they make up the majority of Japan’s tourists.  I guess they’re not the type that Shinjuku cops are looking for.

My comments about this are seasoned to the point of predictably:  1) Once again, Japan’s police are using racial profiling to determine who is a foreigner as well as a terrorist.  2) Japan’s police are rallying the public to do their bidding on unlawful activities (i.e., scaring them with the threat of terrorism into reporting their foreign lodgers to the police, which neither minpaku nor actual hotels are required to do).  3) The use and proliferation of racialized caricature seems to be normalized standard operating procedure with Japan’s police.  (Why not?  Nobody’s going to stop them when they keep Japan’s public constantly afraid of foreigners to the point of normalized targeting.)  And 4), as I have written before, Japan is not mature enough as a society to host these international events, for the National Police Agency whips everyone up into a frenzy about foreign crime, hooliganism, and/or terrorism.  And then the NPA uses the events to clamp down on civil liberties for everyone.  Thus there is insufficient check and balance to keep these bunker-mentality bureaucrats from exaggerating their mandate.

The Tokyo Olympics are still more than 4 years away.  Expect even more of this embedded racism to surface into full-blown state-sponsored xenophobia in the meantime.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

PS:  The Buzzfeed article in itself is interesting, as the author tries to hold the Shibuya Police accountable for their poster, and (citing inter alia his lack of membership in the Press Club) they evaded answering written questions about the poster’s contents, intent, or how it reflects police attitudes or official policy towards foreigners.  (As they did with me here when they were taking urine samples for drug tests only from foreign-looking customers on the streets in Roppongi back in 2009.)  According to the article, Shibuya Police also denied any ill-will towards foreigners, claiming that the foreign caricatures appeared “so foreigners can also have more relaxed stays too” (gaikokujin no katagata mo, anshin shite taizai shite itadaku shushi de, gaikokujin fuu no irasuto o mochiita mono).  Oh, so being racially profiled is for NJs’ own peace of mind?  Makes perfect sense — in NPA Bizzarroworld.

Read the article for yourself here.


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12 comments on “Shibuya Police asking local “minpaku” Airbnb renters to report their foreign lodgers “to avoid Olympic terrorism”. Comes with racialized illustrations

  • A. Trotter says:

    I contacted the Shibuya police at the number on the poster. They said they ceased distributing the poster in April. I encourage others to call the number and express concern over the blatant racial profiling.

  • Don’t let them forget – most of the major terrorism in Japan (Tokyo subway sarin attack, Japan Airlines Flight 351, Hara Hara Tokei etc.) has been committed by Japanese. Therefore to stop terrorism you must re-educate Japanese. Targeting foreigners is pointless.

    They hate that fact.

  • baudrillard says:

    This is invasive like Communist China- your home is NOT your castle. E.g. When the Communist cadres want to drive past your apartment block on a parade, all residents are “asked” to vacate their homes for the duration, for “security” reasons. Similarly, you have to register foreigne guests of more than 3 days with the police.

    Here we have the police asking home owners to let them know if they have foreign guests, basically.

    Pot, meet kettle! Post Fascism, meet Post Communism! You have more in common than you care to admit…..

  • Baudrillard has a point about the way that ownership of home and apartments seems to be an issue here. It is a much deeper issue as well.

  • @TJJ

    It doesn’t matter whether it’s for good or bad reasons, Japanese culture always emphasize the distinction between J and NJ.
    It’s everywhere, foreigners on TV with a big stickers on their chest with their name and country, the cool NJ who speaks Japanese very well, the hard-worker NJ who’s doing well at his/her job etc; And now the Shinjuku police with these posters that aim for the public to associate “crime” with “foreigners” (hence distinction)

    In any case you rarely see (if ever) a NJ portrayed just like a “guy” or a “gal” who does good (or bad) things.
    Integration, as in, removing the word “foreigner” and substituting it with just the person’s name is something unheard of.

  • Could you imagine the backlash if the police in america posted a sign like this with only asian faces on it? oops this is japan! the irony

  • Darkrider says:

    Ah, you beat me to the punch TJJ. I also recall the subway sarin gas attacks but I wasn’t aware of the other two incidents. I find it ironic that while Japan is busy rolling out the red carpet for foreigners in time for the 2020 olympics the police are asking citizens to start monitoring their foreign guests. So now they’re profiling the very people they’re supposed to be accommodating. Of course there’s no news reporting this.

  • 12 years in Japan married with Japanese for many years.
    refused immigration office the permanent residence due to different residences in Japan…

    Anyway, I went last June 20 and 21 to Shibuya Nisseki hospital, so that I preferred to book an hotel room near Nisseki Shibuya, due to another probable CT huge scan allergy contrast.

    Next nearby Apa hotel was fine, they had my JP wife reservation, and they asked an ID card.

    I gave them my gold JP driving license showing my JP address.

    They asked “Do you mind we take a copy?”
    I said: “take my driving license number data, and do not make any copy”
    They right went to their copy machine, and made a copy of my driving license.
    The clerk came back telling: “thank you, now you have to pay for the room”

    I have been already Apa and other hotels, never have been copied my ID card, and if my JP wife is with me, I have never asked to show my ID or her ID.

    Is understandable when you pay with JP credit/debit cards?

    Need to copy a long resident ID card?

    In my country you are allowed to write/copy ID data, not to make any photocopy.

    Then they had a registered website (JP) reservation, and I am paying with JP banking cards.

    In a country where Japanese people do not need to bring/show any ID card, is nice to see the difference for forever gaijin.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Speaking of the police, right-wing Fuji Sankei media group owned English language Japan ‘news’ website Japan Today shared this article from pap site Rocket News 24;

    In which they tell you;
    That the police, ‘they also stop Japanese people and ask to see their IDs as well’. Really? What ID would that be? The Japanese aren’t legally required to carry any, which is why the J-cops in Inaraki keep busting Japanese with poor social skills by mistake.

    But here’s the clanger right here, a total lie;
    ‘If a police officer asks for your ID, you are legally obligated to show it.’
    Oh no, no, no! Only if he has reasonable suspicion that I have committed a specific crime, and not (as the article says) because to the police man, I’m ‘an unfamiliar face in their patrol area, they may just want to know what you’re doing there’, because there sure as hell are gonna be a lot of ‘unfamiliar faces’ come the Olympics.

    Inaccurate article that even lies about the law, in order to apologize for Japanese police institutional racism’.

  • hennagaijin says:

    Hey, thanks for catching this up Jim. I noticed the complete dissonance with my own experience (and I’m sure with that of many others like me) when initially reading the article in another thread. Then when watching the actual video with this Yuta guy’s childish, self-blinded, clumsy manipulation of data, couldn’t avoid feeling anything but repulsed.
    I guess I’m one of these “mysterious” outlier cases. As for me, depending on how active and/or visible I’m being (such as just hanging outside more or biking to work rather than taking the train) and perhaps the time of the day, but mainly whether I’m or not with a Japanese handler (at which the incidents are drastically reduced to ZERO), I get harassed at the very least once a month, give and take. Sometimes it could happen more than once in a week.
    This guy could save lots of time and resources on further research just with the willingness to look in the right direction and ask the right questions. The primary reason (for this relatively higher rate) is simply that in this “highly advanced” society of shinkansen, kimonos and Murakami, those who don’t look superior or respectful or decent enough easily become the first targets for police prejudice and bullying. The same police that runs pachinkos and are never there when taxi drivers are about to or literally rolling over me when crossing a pedestrian walk e.i. So, In my case, I am a non-white male, middle age foreigner ( I’m guessing other instances could also be: long hair & tattooed white male, or even wearing a turban nowadays or any other possibility also related to the gaijin factor) .
    There is no fake apologetic and “afraid to ask” attitude or silly robotic excuses, such as: “this is a dangerous area” or “just to make sure you are not carrying anything dangerous”, that can cover up for the blatant racism which emanates right from the initial eyeballing to the final bowing in such experiences, neither to alleviate from the humiliation and sense of frustration that lingers on together with the ensuing paranoia which ends up overcoming every aspect of life in japan for those who have to constantly endure this indignity.
    It is only thanks to Debito and the information available in this site that I, even with my very limited Japanese, had been little by little educating myself and gathering the courage to fight these abuses, and started savouring the personal successes every time I get to see the expression of shock and confusion mixed up with disgust in their faces whenever a gaijin like me dares to ask back for their identification or even worst to mutter out words such as “reijou” or “okotowarishimasu” to refuse the unlawful frisk and search requests. Because at the end it’s not much about the How Often or even the Why (initially I even tried to collect my own personal stats btw, but quickly realized what was obvious and it became pointless), but primarily about the DISCRIMINATION imho.

  • Mark October 22, 2016
    The Japanese local autoreoties does not behave like a typical democracy but like a dark regime where the police not only enforce the law but also create it and judge it.

    Seems like the local municipaliies, local police, bldg managements and conservative neighbors all working hand in hand with the hotel industry and making sure to prevent this beautiful country from any possible progress or success. The government -in particular Abe san- and the federal, do understand the need for progress and adjustments even at the expense of “unfamiliar life style” but unfortunately they do not have enough power over local municipaliies.

    And the public? They don’t even understand what’s in their own best interest!
    Go and try to explain to the average neighbor that the tourism industry is one of the only successful sectors in this country right now. Go and try to explain them that there are hundreds of billions of dollars coming from the tourism industry and everyone including themselves are enjoying this income, even if indirectly.
    Go and try to explain that big part of the growth in tourism in japan is due Airbnb and similar networks. Go try to explain them that not everyone think the same and many people prefer private apartment rather than small room in expensive commercial hotel. Go and explain that most travelers also want to stay in the center and not to be sent to Ota ku because this is the only municipally that approved the new regulations. All this doesn’t matter to them, they don’t want tourist in their bldg! And so what if the economy may collapse? As long as I will get my rubbish always 100% separated to 5 different categories. Because this is the most important thing in the world!

    By the way, if instead of fighting Airbnb operator the bldg managements will try to work together with them so the rubbish wouldnt be an issue, it is easily solvable. Everything is solvable really. But when people are narrow minded they are not looking for solutions, they are not looking for progress, they are looking to enforce their habit way of life and enforce it on others.


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