MC on new Minpaku Law and NJ check-ins: Govt. telling AirBnB hostels that “foreign guests” must have passports photocopied etc. Yet not in actual text of the Minpaku Law. Or any law.


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Hi Blog.  It seems the GOJ is up to its old tricks:  Reinterpreting the law to pick on “foreigners” again.  This was seen previously on to encourage racial profiling at hotel check-ins, and now with the new Minpaku Law affecting AirBnB-style private homes opened for public accommodation (minshuku), it’s more of the same.  Read on from Reader MC:


From: MC
Subject: An experience with the new minpaku law that might interest your readers
Date: February 11, 2019

Hi Debito,

This might interest you and your readers. Feel free to post it if you think it might be appropriate. Sorry for the length, but it’s a bit of a complicated story.

I had an experience recently that raises a new aspect of the recurrent hotel registration problems that some people have. I have to admit I’ve rarely had problems at Japanese hotels, and on the few occasions I’ve been asked for ID, my polite refusal (aided by Debito’s very useful legal information -thanks Debito) has always been accepted. However the recent experience was a little different.

I was catching an early flight from Kansai, too early for the trains from home, so I decided to stay the previous night at a minpaku close to the airport, PLUS 9 Station Inn in Izumi Otsu, booked through booking dot com. They emailed information before check-in, among which they said “This is a staff-less guest house. You have to get your key at the accommodation and check in yourself.” No problem. The instructions for getting the key were clear. A later email, though, told me that there was an ipad in reception, and could we please scan and send copies of our passports, or in the case of Japanese people, driving licences (no mention of resident foreigners). Obviously realising that not everyone carries a driving licence, they asked for people without photo ID to photograph themselves on the iPad and upload the photo.

It was close to our departure day, and not having time to argue and possibly be asked to find somewhere else, I decided to simply ignore this. Arriving there, we retrieved the key from the key box, and stay went fine, with no contact from the company to ask why we hadn’t checked in through the iPad.

Afterwards I wrote to them with an explanation of the problematic nature of their system in regards to Non-Japanese customers. I also put a similar comment on their booking dot com page. First, they had no right to ask for photographs of anyone, resident or not, Japanese or not. The idea of requiring guests to upload a scan of a driving licence or passport, or even just a face shot, is just asking for identity theft, and is certainly illegal.

I explained the law on this as follows:  The Japan Hotel Laws are quite clear on this: If the guest is NOT a resident of Japan you DO have the right to ask for a passport number (not a copy of the passport). But if the guest IS a resident of Japan, on the other hand, whatever the nationality, they have no responsibility to provide any kind of copy of an official document or any photograph. It’s a gross invasion of privacy.”

They replied, saying that the new Minpaku Law of 2018 allowed for online check-in, and required photographic ID. The former is true, but I didn’t think the latter was. However, I checked out the wording at the Minpaku system portal on the MLIT (Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism) site, and it looks to me as though there is some cause for worry.

I’m not sure whether these pages quote the actual law, or whether they are simply guidance for owners regarding the effects of the law.  The main MLIT portal site is here:
(The page links to an English translation, but only of part of this section.)

[Ed:  For the record, the MLIT portal page is a reinterpretation of the legal writ in plain language.  For example, one of the main subject headers from MLIT is(1)本人確認の方法, or “Method for Confirming Identity”. Yet nowhere in the actual text of the law did I find the word “本人確認”.  To check for yourself, here’s the actual text of the Minpaku Law in Japanese, word-searchable here online and here as a .txt file.]

Section 4 of the MLIT reinterpreted version deals with the requirement on minpaku owners to keep a register and to be able to provide it to the police on request. There’s no ambiguity in the first paragraph. Owners have to keep a record of the name, address, occupation and dates of stay for all guests. If the guests do not have a Japanese address, the owner also needs to record the nationality and passport number. All good so far.

Part (1) of this section, though, is a bit more worrying. First (A and B) it says that a photograph of the guest’s face or passport should be clearly confirmed to be accurate, and that this photograph should be identifiable as having been taken at or close to the premises. It suggests that a video phone or tablet in the minshuku could be used for this. There’s no mention here of Japan residency. Or of what sort of ID would be suitable for ALL guests (not just foreign guests), since not all guests carry passports.

A 宿泊者の顔及び旅券が画像により鮮明に確認できること。
B 当該画像が住宅宿泊事業者や住宅宿泊管理業者の営業所等、届出住宅内又は届出住宅の近傍から発信されていることが確認できること。

Then (Part (1), 2) is where it seems to require, or at least suggest, photographing the passports of non-resident foreigners. (Here it does specifically mention residence.) It even suggests that this photograph can be submitted as an alternative to filling in the guest register columns relating to nationality and passport number. (Part (1), 3) says that in cases where the guest refuses to provide a copy of their passport, they should be told that this is a government requirement, and if they still refuse it is possible that they do not have the passport on them, and therefore the police should be informed. 

1 宿泊者に対し、宿泊者名簿への正確な記載を働きかけること。
2 日本国内に住所を有しない外国人宿泊者に関しては、宿泊者名簿の国籍及び旅券番号欄への記載を徹底し、旅券の呈示を求めるとともに、旅券の写しを宿泊者名簿とともに保存すること。なお、旅券の写しの保存により、当該宿泊者に関する宿泊者名簿の氏名、国籍及び旅券番号の欄への記載を代替することもできます。
3 営業者の求めにも関わらず、当該宿泊者が旅券の呈示を拒否する場合は、当該措置が国の指導によるものであることを説明して呈示を求め、さらに拒否する場合には、当該宿泊者は旅券不携帯の可能性があるものとして、最寄りの警察署に連絡する等適切な対応を行うこと。

[Ed:  Which means that if a NJ resident of Japan (who is not required to carry a passport; that’s why Gaijin Cards exist) shows up without a passport, under these directives he’s likely to have the cops called on him by careless or overzealous clerks.  And as the Carlos Ghosn Case shows quite plainly, you do not want to be detained for questioning by the Japanese police.

[Moreover, after doing a word search of the actual text of the law, I CANNOT find the word 本人確認, or the words passport パスポート/旅券 or even photo/image 写真/画像.  What section of the Minpaku Law (or of any law — the Japanese police have lied about the nonexistent photocopying requirement before) is the MLIT-reinterpreted version referring to?]

MLIT’s official English translation of the law is:

Private lodging business operators need to verify identity according to the following contents:
1. Keep an accurate record of guests on the guest list.
2. For foreign guests who do not have an address in Japan, accurately record the name, nationality and passport number in the appropriate column for each guest, request that each guest present their passport and save copies of each passport together with the guest list. By saving a copy of the passport, you can accurately record the name, nationality and passport number on the guest list.
3. If a foreign guest who does not have an address in Japan refuses to present their passport despite the request of the private lodging business operator, explain that the measures are based on national government regulations. If the guest continues to refuse, and there is the possibility that the guest is not carrying a passport, take the appropriate action such as contacting the nearest police station.

More worryingly, there is a link from this page to a model of a guest register. It’s here:

The model has a list of categories that need to be filled in: name, date etc. The last two are ‘nationality’ and ‘passport number’. Under ‘passport number’, it clearly says “If the nationality is other than Japanese, passport number must be entered.” There’s nothing, though to say a) that Japanese nationality does not need to be recorded, and b) that neither does nationality for foreigners with Japanese addresses.

[Ed:  As MC notes, this is misleading. In the opening part of Section 4 of the MLIT-reinterpreted version, it says, as is proper, that “lodgers that are foreigners without addresses in Japan need to give nationality and passport number”: 宿泊者が国内に住所を有しない外国人であるときは、その国籍及び旅券番号.  So why is this not continuously pointed out in this section?  Again, as before, this encourages racial profiling of all guests who look “foreign”.]

So there are several inconsistencies here. On the one hand the guidance (if that’s what it is) confirms the requirement of the hotel law to date, namely that passport numbers (not copies) are required from non-resident foreigners, and only from them. On the other hand since they clearly want to allow for places to operate without any check-in staff, the distinction between providing a passport number and providing a copy of the passport, and the distinction between resident and non-resident gets blurred, and it’s easy to see how owners trying to keep up with this legislation will not be too conscientious about it.

I haven’t yet replied to the minshuku about this. I’d appreciate any advice, or any information anyone has about the new law, that I might have missed or misinterpreted.

Sincerely, MC


COMMENT:  Interestingly enough, and on the plus side, there’s a special section in the Minpaku Law that specifically says that minpaku accommodations must aim for the comfort and convenience of “foreign tourists”.  Clearly, none of these damned refusals of NJ reservations on the grounds of “we only have futons, not Western-style beds” or “we don’t speak any foreign languages” (as has happened to me on various occasions, even when I’m speaking Japanese).


第七条 住宅宿泊事業者は、外国人観光旅客である宿泊者に対し、届出住宅の設備の使用方法に関する外国語を用いた案内、移動のための交通手段に関する外国語を用いた情報提供その他の外国人観光旅客である宿泊者の快適性及び利便性の確保を図るために必要な措置であって国土交通省令で定める者を講じなければならない。

Now, on the MLIT plain-language site, this is reinterpreted more clearly as follows:


Boldface added to item (3) because it includes information from a different clause (such as the one just before it on disaster information):

第六条 住宅宿泊事業者は、届出住宅について、非常用照明器具の設置、避難経路の表示その他の火災その他の災害が発生した場合における宿泊者の安全の確保を図るために必要な措置であって国土交通省令で定めるものを講じなければならない。

which says nothing about rendering it in a foreign language.  Commonsensibly, this would be nice to do.  But portraying translation as something required by law is another stretch.

So this seems to be a freewheeling interpretation of the law being made by MLIT (as keeps happening by Japanese officialdom, particularly the Japanese police, over-interpreting the law for their convenience to target foreigners).  Again, I’m not sure where MLIT is getting the bit about passport numbers (and by extension and hotel interpretation, passport copies and mugshots).

But where is this going?  Towards more rigmarole, policing, and official harassment of NJ-resident customers who just want to get a berth for the night.  And I have been hearing (thanks SC) of other Japan-lifers now finding it harder to check-in while foreign.

Bottom line:  The new Minpaku Law hasn’t fundamentally changed anything in regards to NJ resident customers.  You are still not required to show ID, passport, or photo if you have an address in Japan.  Debito Arudou Ph.D.


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13 comments on “MC on new Minpaku Law and NJ check-ins: Govt. telling AirBnB hostels that “foreign guests” must have passports photocopied etc. Yet not in actual text of the Minpaku Law. Or any law.

  • I ran into this “show ya your zairyuu card for copying” BS recently at Crystal Hotel in Osaka for a conference … Glad these violations are still be stood up to, but worried they are growing.

  • Who is going to bother jumping through all this BS? People will just go somewhere less ‘North Korea’ than Japan for a holiday.

    —- Tourists will oblige. As self-selected guests, they’re used to obeying passport checks like these.

    • That may be so, but on the other hand, the kind of tourists that use AirBNB are tech savvy and identity theft/fraud wise, and generally wary of diving away information like that, aren’t they?

  • As Debito has correctly pointed out, the new Minpaku statute does NOT require 本人確認 or パスポート or 旅券 or 写真 or 画像 at all:

    So once again, the government workers are committing FRAUD by lying about non-existent “requirements” in their summaries:

    The new Minpaku statute does NOT require copying, but “the summary” fraudulently claims copying is required, thus many people are being fooled by “the summary.”

    Just as the new Hotel statute did NOT require copying, but “the summary” fraudulently claimed copying is required, thus many people are being fooled by “the summary.”

    Just as the ARC laws never did give police the legal ability to stop foreign-looking-people randomly WITHOUT reasonable suspicion of a crime.

    “The summary” (which even the top human rights activists assumed to be true) said that any ForeignResidentCard / ZairyuuCard holder “must show the card whenever a police officer asks for it” thus many people were fooled by “the summary.”

    I’m proud to have been the first person ever to have noticed that the actual ARC law has limiting qualification, thankfully written into the law by the actual legislators of Japan, which limits when one actually needs to show that to a very specific rare situation: “WHEN the police officer is actually acting within the strict confines of the police duties law (the police duties law which requires reasonable suspicion of a crime having been done, or currently being done, or about to be done, or known about, by this individual, before stopping any individual for questioning) THEN the card holders must show the card when the asking police officer is indeed obeying that strict Police Duties Law.

    That strict Police Duties Law: Police Duties Law Article 2 (KeiHo DaiNiGo) outlaws random stops (again, random stops are any stops without reasonable suspicion of a crime having been done, or currently being done, or about to be done, or known about, by this individual.)

    And the Police Duties Laws protect all individuals, not just limited to Japanese citizens, it protects ALL INDIVIDUALS, according to Police Duties Law Article 162 (KeiHo Dai162).

    So, “the ARC summary” fraudulently claim police officers can randomly stop any foreign looking person and demand proof of visa validity, but the law states: police officers first need reasonable suspicion of a crime to initiate a stop of any individual, and only WHEN the police officer has that reasonable suspicion of a crime, the police officer is THEN obeying police duties law, so the card holder would THEN be required to show the card in that specific rare situation.

    Don’t let fraudulent “ARC summaries / Hotel statute summaries / Minpaku statute summaries” fool you, don’t wave around such “summaries” written by biased malicious non-elected bureaucrats who fraudulently insert their police state fantasies into their “summaries”, instead one should: print out the ACTUAL STATUTES and ACTUAL LAWS written by the elected legislators themselves. 🙂

    • Why don’t we call the mlit then and kindly ask to remove misleading information from the website?
      I can’t really speak so well and i’m not 100% informed on the law part, maybe there will be a volunteer?

  • From a friend who travels Hokkaido a lot:

    Hokkaido is really changing. One thing is the tourists. Japan is blinded by greed. Jimintou is only opening the doors, such as asking for foreign workers, as a money maker to put them in low skill jobs. The tourists are economically welcome, but culturally undesirable. And now, every hotel harasses me about my passport at check in. When I refuse, some let it go, some then ask for my zairyu card, which I also refuse. The fight got so bad in Obihiro last year, that I offered to call the police myself, when they initially refused to check me in. It’s become a fucking headache. The assumption is we are all tourists, even though I’m speaking Japanese to them. I’ve started handing them my meishi at check in to circumvent them. Sorry to gripe. I’ve worked hard to get where I am. I’m not backing down.

    • I live on Hokkaido and it’s really bad now. Can confirm it wasn’t like this a couple of years ago.
      It also happens when I’m with some Japanese friend but not so often. And the clerks try to make up stuff from thin air when I’m talking plain japanese to them, mentioning the actual laws, they give me a printout of random advices from “boss”.

      • I rented an apartment in Niseko and they asked for all our passports. Given my sons and wife are Japanese, and I am a permanent resident, there was no need for us to have passports for domestic travel. The receptionist was confused by this, and then asked for other ID. The boys don’t carry any though, and she settled on our Japanese driver’s licenses. They cater mostly to Australians and don’t normally have Japanese guests, so they were at a loss as to what to do.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    Since Minpaku is something new(I myself did not stay at guest-house style lodge or equivalent until May 2017.), I can only provide my case of using a furnished apartment in the US (BCA in Atlanta, GA) as a contrast. Similar to many guest-houses in Japan, BCA requires all guests to provide ID for registration. However, here’s the difference.

    Unlike Japanese Minpaku or guest-houses, what BCA asks for registration is as follows:

    – valid credit card
    – two images of Photo: One for ‘Government Issued Photo ID'(e.g., photo attached on a passport or driver’s license) and the other for the selfie of Photo holding Government Issued Photo ID.

    And that’s it. Scan all these above and upload them on their online registration form. It may be a bit of hassle for photo-scanning and video-cam(especially, making sure that the two photo faces would be visible in one picture frame). But compared to Minpaku, there’s nothing more than that. All they need is your face pictures for matching. That’s common requirement for all future guests–regardless of their nationality or residency. They don’t ask your passport number. Definitely not for photocopying. That’s not gonna happen unless they are contacted by ICE agent for racial profiling of undocumented immigrants.

    So back to the issue, this Minpaku scheme is a new dirty trick that empowers housing managers to deceptively profile NJ guests, by taking advantage of its legal loopholes. It’s not surprising to see the practice of racial profiling remain undetected due to the absence of powerful watchdog organization or civil rights legal powerhouse like ACLU. What makes it more challenging is that many tourists don’t necessarily have accurate information about Japanese law on hotel/lodging. Unlike those who live in Japan for certain period of time, they would probably never come to think about any privacy issue, unless they have a plan to stay longer in the future. I hope there would be some undercover operation by scholars, activists, and journalists to investigate this issue.

    • Loverilakkuma, you still don’t get it. The problem is the SCANNING of the ID, an action which is NOT required by the actual law.

      So Loverilakkuma please stop pushing your “scanning is OK” idea, because other posters here have already spent time explaining to you: scanning is NOT OK.

      The Hotel Law itself, and the new Minpaku Law itself, agree: only non-residents need to write their passport number. That’s it. According to those Laws themselves, NOBODY needs to allow any copying/scanning/photographing, because NOBODY needs to show ID ever.

      We get it Loverilakkuma, you somehow felt forced in America to allow scanning, and you didn’t check the actual Law in America to find out if that scanning you allowed was actually required or not.

      Loverilakkuma, your posts on this subject keep inserting the idea that “I allowed my ID to be scanned in America, and so non-residents of Japan should allow their ID to be scanned in Japan” which is a soft form of whataboutism and apologism.

      Loverilakkuma, you also illogically stated that the problem with Japan’s new Minpaku rule requiring non-residents to write down their passport number. No, no, no! That requirement is perfectly logical, it agrees with the Hotel law, and is fine because it does NOT require scanning/copying/photographing.

      Loverilakkuma, you incorrectly stated “the law requires non-residents to allow scanning” three years ago:

      And Loverilakkuma you incorrectly implied “the law requires non-residents to allow scanning” now:

      Please Loverilakkuma, stop spreading misinformation/disinformation here at Debito’s source of actual Law posting.

      • Loverilakkuma says:


        I have never said “it[scanning] is ok.” I made it very clear the case I brought as a contrast to Minpaku system. Obviously, you didn’t bother to read it through.

        Just because what happened to me contrasts with your information does not mean that I am suggesting the former. That is patently false.

        Your accusation based on the fallacious assumptions like this flies nowhere but on your face.

      • Loverilakkuma says:

        Regarding the previous comments related to the hotel ID issue, yes, I encountered some dissent. I made a hypothetical case for possible solutions to defuse confrontation by assuming I was a hotel owner. I admit that I wasn’t aware that Japanese hotels use their standard different from the US hotels with respect to ID policy. The latter for verifying credit card transaction(They are required to do so by the state/federal law because credit card fraud is very common in the states). I don’t hear the news about people getting arrested for credit card fraud in Japan very often, but clearly that skepticism got the better of me. That is, some J hotels might or might not consider the risk of credit card fraud or suspect-in-pursuit (even though it will be very remote) for justifying their ID policy. It’s the matter of debate because first-time travelers and temporary guests don’t usually have a residential address in Japan. You’ll surely see disagreements.(i.e., photo ID, passport number, or any reference.) when you start a conversation about the form of ID. Almost everyone, including a poster who openly disagreed with me at the time, understood what the issue is all about.

        Anonymous OG, if you still believe that I am deliberately misleading or twisting the issue, that’s your prerogative. I am free to write whatever I want/need/believe is very important and meaningful to the blog. I don’t write my comment to curry favor with anyone–regardless of position, and certainly not you.

        If you want to argue with me over any issue in the future, you should try it harder instead of making a snide, obnoxious remark and the lines of fallacious assumptions.

  • I had the previous version of the law printed in my wallet (courtesy of Dr. Arudou’s blog). If anything significant has changed in the 2018 law regarding showing ID, could we have another printable text stating the law? It would be helpful.

    — Nothing has changed.


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