Onur on Fukuoka hotel check-ins in: Police creating unlawful “foreign passport check” signs in the name of (and without the knowledge of) local govt. authorities!


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Hi Blog.  Onur, our local watchdog on Japan’s hotel policies towards “foreign guests”, has submitted another report, this time on hotels in Fukuoka.  The last case he submitted exposed how police in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, were deliberately lying about the law to create notices requiring the racial profiling of all “foreigners” at hotel check ins.  Now in Fukuoka the same thing is happening, only worse:  Fukuoka Prefectural Police are creating erroneous signs in the name of local government authorities without the knowledge of those local authorities!

This is odious.  Given the recent Debito.org report about racist check-ins at Sakura Hotel in Jimbocho, Tokyo (done according to the hotel itself “to provide safety for our guests“, whatever that means), and the fact that I uncovered this unlawful practice more than ten years ago in my Japan Times columns (“Creating laws out of thin air,” Zeit Gist, March 8, 2005; “Ministry missive wrecks reception,” ZG, Oct. 18, 2005, and “Japan’s hostile hosteling industry,” JBC, July 6, 2010), it seems the problem is nationwide and systemic.  Our police forces continue to enlist the public in their racial profiling of “foreigners” (whether or not they are tourists or residents of Japan), whether or not the law or the local authorities permit them to. (It doesn’t.)

Read on for Onur’s latest.  Well done.   Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


Date: Nov. 17, 2016
From: Onur
Hello Dr. Debito,

I am Onur, who sent the poster that Ibaraki Police distributed to the Hotels. I had a similar experience in Fukuoka. I stayed in S.B Hotel Hamanomachi. I saw the attached poster on the reception desk. I asked permission and took a photo it. It clearly says that they ask every foreigner to present his/her passport.


However, I just wrote my Japanese address to guest registration form during check-in and the reception did not ask me to show a passport or a card. The check-in was smooth.

Later I stayed in Hotel New Gaea Hakata-Eki Minami. The reception asked my passport. I said I don’t carry it. Then they asked my residence card. I don’t have to show it but I showed my residence card to reassure them. Then the receptionist took my card and went to another room without saying anything. I was shocked. I asked what are you doing? He said he is copying my residence card. I said no. According to the law as I am a foreigner with an address in Japan, no copying is necessary. Then the receptionist was shocked when I said no. He did not say anything and gave my card back to me.

I decided to solve this problem by contacting the people in charge. At the bottom of the poster, it is written “Health Center in Fukuoka Prefecture and Fukuoka Prefectural Police”. Therefore, first, I went to Central Health Center (中央保健所) in Fukuoka City. I talked with the person in charge for the hotels. He was very friendly and helpful. I showed the poster in the first hotel and told the incident in the second hotel. He said that even though the poster says “Health Center in Fukuoka Prefecture” at the bottom of the poster, the poster is not prepared by the health center and he has never seen this poster before. He said the information in the poster is definitely wrong and the poster may have been prepared by the hotel. He said they will contact to those two hotels and warn them.

Then I went to Fukuoka Prefectural Police Headquarters. I showed the poster and asked to talk with the officer in charge. As the prefectural headquarters is very big, it took a long time to find out the officer in charge. Three officers came. They were friendly and willing to solve the problem. First I showed the poster. They accepted that the police printed the poster and distributed to the all hotels in Fukuoka prefecture. I showed the official announcement of the Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry at https://www.city.shinjuku.lg.jp/content/000062471.pdf and said that their poster is clearly different. They were very surprised. It seems that they did not know the details of the hotel law and regulations well. They could not understand what is wrong in their poster. I gave a long speech about the law and the guidelines of the ministry. They finally understood the problem and apologized. They said they will check it in detail and fix the poster.

A few days later I got a phone call from the police. They apologized again. They said they will print a new poster, but it may take a long time to replace all the posters in the prefecture. They said they will ask the hotels to check only the residence card without copying it to verify the address, if the foreigner guest says he has an address in Japan. I said it is wrong again. I said “I called the ministry and they told me that there is no need to check the residence card or passport if a foreigner says he is living in Japan and writes the Japanese address to check-in form. Please call the ministry for the details and follow their guidelines exactly”. Later the Central Health Center in Fukuoka called me. They said they talked with those two hotels and also the police headquarters and warned them about following the rules. They said please call us if you experience such a problem again.

In short, if you experience such a problem in a hotel, I think the best way to solve is to contact the local Health Center, which is the local authority over the hotels, and also the police headquarters if they are involved.

Best Regards,


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15 comments on “Onur on Fukuoka hotel check-ins in: Police creating unlawful “foreign passport check” signs in the name of (and without the knowledge of) local govt. authorities!

  • Really good to see the authorities not (overtly?) attempting to just hand wave things away and actually doing something about this.

  • What I find so egregious about this, as you said, Debito is that this is a situation that has been going on for more than TEN years, despite numerous complaints from multiple sources. Even the very wording of this new sign is virtually the same wording. Since your first initial posting on this to long ago I’ve made it a point to check every hotel and ryokan I stay in to look at their terms and conditions in the room. Without fail, even today every hotel, in multiple prefectures STILL have the original, erroneous information stated that non-Japanese guests must show their passports as a condition of being given a room. Thankfully, by and large most hotels have gotten rid of the front desk signs and asking people for their passports based on the appearance of the guest. Largely, but not all, since incidents keep popping up time and time again on your site.

    The simple fact is, the police are being unlawful making these signs, and the government is negligent in allowing this to continue despite a clearly-written law limiting these checks to tourists only.

    So much for the Ministry of Health telling you that they would ‘fix’ the error back in 2005.


  • I’ve never had a problem using my Japanese drivers license to check into a hotel. I don’t believe it’s ever been copied, though I wouldn’t have raised much fuss if they did as a DL doesn’t have nearly as much info on it as a residence card. Come to think of it, in Tokyo when I’ve used a few well known brand business hotels late at night, I don’t remember them asking for any ID at all.

  • @MMT and this problem will continue for another 10 years or 100 years because Japan Inc doesn’t have or want a anti discrimination law. So the only way to stop this hate would be to openly boycott this establishments and also use social media to get the word out.

  • Technically, if the poster just added “non-resident” in front of foreign guests, wouldn’t they be in compliance of the law?

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    @Gaijinsan #4 – The law as written by the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare does nor require the presentation of any identification to stay in a hotel if you are a resident of Japan. You may have been able to evade illegal requests for your alien/residence card by carrying your driver’s license, but this is small consolation to those who cannot drive. Would you still be so sanguine about getting in this way if (God forbid) you suffered an eye injury and had to give up your driving privileges?

  • It’s unfortunate that mis-information is still being disseminated even after 10 years, but good to read that use of reasoning can work.

    Not all hotels ask for passports (at least not always). I wonder if there exists a list of hotels in Japan that don’t ask for passports of non-residents of non-Japanese citizenship. Does anyone know of anything like this?

  • @Mark #7 Touch wood I have never shown ID at a hotel in Japan, and don’t intend to. So far all hotels have backed down when: 1) escalate to management immediately (front desk doesn’t have authority to ignore manual), 2) state case clearly and calmly, 3) under no circumstances argue about I don’t want to show ID (I just say I am not going to). So far so good.

  • @KJ – I have never come across a hotel that does not ask for a passport.

    The incident described in the blog post actually sounds like a positive thing to me.

    My experience: I have traveled throughout Japan. I have been asked for my passport numerous times and just say I do not have it with me and that I live in Japan. I would say 80% of the time that it stops right there and I proceed to check in. Otherwise they ask to see the card and I pull it out, quickly show them, and immediately return it to my wallet. That resolves nearly all remaining issues. However, there are still times when someone insists that they must copy it. I then ask them if they are the police or a government official, which results in a perplexed look in return. After explaining they are the only ones who have a right to ask for the card some give up and check me in. For the rest I ask to see the manager. I have never had the card copied or been refused a room. In this way it seems that there are issues with communicating the law and rules down to the employees.

  • As has been discussed here previously, 旅館業法 has a provision stating that foreigners without an address in Japan are required by law to show their passport.
    While that is true, according to Japanese law, even foreigners without an address in Japan actually do have a legal address.
    The details are in 民法23条:

    2  日本に住所を有しない者は、その者が日本人又は外国人のいずれであるかを問わず、日本における居所をその者の住所とみなす。
    For persons without an address in Japan–regardless of if they are Japanese or a foreigner–their “residence” (=place of being) shall be deemed as their address.

    Hence, even foreigners without an address in Japan actually do have a legal address: the hotel where they are staying at.
    So just write down the address of the hotel.
    As a result, this makes the relevant clause in 旅館業法 irrelevant because all foreigners have a legal address, so there should never be a need to show a passport.

    • Loverilakkuma says:

      The best way for non-Japanese residents to cope with illegal “foreign ID checkpoints” is to print the Police Execution of Duty and Hotel Management Law–in both English and Japanese. If a hotel clerk stupidly asks a passport/new resident card for photocopying, just show them to the front desk, and say, “what the police inform you is not accurate, and you cannot legally force me to produce it.”

      For the first-timers in Japan, the best way to cope with bogus ID-check establishment is to 1) write down any address(e.g., your friend’s house or a company) in Japan; and 2) bring a copy of your face photo(taken at an instant shooting booth elsewhere)/or a photocopy your face photo in case an ignorant clerk asks.

  • Nice one Mumei. 🙂

    I do kinda’ worry that they could sneakily reply “Well, you’re not checked-in yet, so…” in other words “…a person claiming a hotel as their current ‘place of being / place of residence’ must first have already been checked-in to do so, catch-22, ha-ha.”

    “We’ll let you do that ‘no-show / no-copy’ thing after you check in, like from the second night, but first, for all folks who have verbally or in writing already admitted to not having an address in Japan, yes you can claim this hotel as your place of being / residence, one just needs a receipt in hand first, proving a signed payment contract for the right to ‘be’ here, haha.”

    “So just agree to let us “see copy’ just once, for this first night, your first check-in here, your Passport / Zaryuu Kaado / Menkyou / Kokuho Kaado / Birth Certificate / etc., or else we won’t check you in. The constitution only prevents PUBLIC establishments from denying entry, so private establishments always have the right to refuse service, right?”

    That’s when all such discrimination-attempters should be suddenly reminded about the court-backed fact that, “Wrong, legally, in japan, Hotels and Ryoukans are prevented from denying entry (except for illegal actions or serious disease), period. So, no healthy legally-behaved individual can EVER be denied entry if even one room is empty.”

    But still, I like the vibe of your interpretation very much Mumei. There are indeed many policies and guidelines and seireis and horeis which give the impression of us not having much choice to say no, the impression of not being legally able to say “I refuse to do any voluntary actions. / Nin’i no koto o zenbu okotowari shimasu.” Looking at the laws carefully, they do often admit that we are in fact very free to refuse almost all “official requests” since what they are requesting is almost all voluntary.

    Lack of legal knowledge creates self-imposed chains of assumed limitation, when in fact almost all interactions are voluntary. For example, agreeing to stop and experience an illegal random-questioning-without-probable-cause-of-any-instantly-citable-arrestable-crime. Agreeing to that is totally voluntary. And even LEGAL questioning, meaning non-random questioning-WITH-probable-cause-of-an-instantly-citable-arrestable-crime,
    even then, agreeing to hanging-out at that spot and becoming minutes late for whatever plan you have in your mind to do at that moment, it’s all voluntary so simply choose to say okotowari.

    As long as they lack an arrest warrant, or a search warrant, or evidence, of an actual instantly-citable-arrestable-crime, you are always perfectly legally able to say, “Okotowari shimasu” to all their voluntary requests,. “No to answering questions, no to showing anything, no to touching, no to stopping this important filming for the judge to see illegal shoku-shitsu and illegal koukin, and possibly even illegal arrest, so the judge will need to see this evidence, and very cleary absolutely no to your main request to hang around in this particular spot with you even for a few minutes. No to ALL of your voluntary requests. Legally, do I have the right to I walk away now?”

    Decline all their requests, because: the fact that they can’t physically force you to agree to them… is golden.

    But anyway, yeah, I like your interpretation Mumei, that might work, let’s just all remember that no matter what they claim as their reason to “not allow you to check-in” we can and must smack them instantly with the strong reality that “The Hotel & Ryoukan Law officially prevents ANY denial of entry to basically anyone (except for illegally-behaving or serious communicable disease having folks) meaning no healthy legally-behaved individual can EVER be denied entry if even one room is empty, so yes please give me that empty room key so I can immediately enter my legally-mandated-room, please and thank you.”

    OK, happy holidays to Debito, and all the posters, and all the readers. Looking forward to creating a very happy 2017 and beyond! 🙂

  • Today I was told by vista premio hotel in Kyoto that they need to take a copy of my zairyu card because Kyoto police forces them to do it. Is there a to do list, when I arrive at 11pm?

    • Update: After complaining to the management the next day, the guy at the reception had to come to apologize to me (私の勘違いでした). I let it go with that. It seems we have to educate hotels one by one.


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