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Hi Blog. Let me forward this first and then comment:
Subject: My experience allowing the cops to be called after refusing to show my passport at a hotel as a foreign resident of Japan
Date: March 22, 2019
If you like, you can publish anything I have written here that feels useful, but please don’t publish my name.
Just now I tried using your website to avoid having my passport scanned at a hotel after it escalated all the way to the police. The short story is:
1. Just don’t do it, it won’t work. It’s not worth it at all.
2. The thing they finally got me with is that the hotel can scan (yes, scan) the driver’s licenses of Japanese citizens as well. I don’t know if this place actually does it but that’s actually a fair argument in my mind.
Since this was clearly a very serious case, three officers showed up, one head guy, one lower ranking guy who watched me while the head guy was on the phone, and one lady who took the report of the lady behind the reception desk before coming to watch over me as well. We went through part of the script for the residence card thing but I decided that that was a fight for another day.
The main officer showed me where it says 日本国内に住所を持たない外国人 in the law (actually the exact text of the law uses 有しない, I copied that from the MHLW website), and then I pointed out the obvious problem with that: I have an address in Japan. He said that the hotel had a right to refuse me if I didn’t identify myself.
I showed him the three reasons that hotels can refuse service. He tried to make an argument that it fell under the “public morals” part of clause 2, but when I pressed him on that even he agreed that it was a stretch. He went and talked on the phone for a while, but not before talking about searching my possessions, which I said was no problem. When he came back, he had written down the name of a certain law, which I’m sorry I don’t remember the name of, but it apparently allows hotels to scan IDs of its customers.
I gave up at that point, and my possessions were never searched. I gave my passport to be scanned and apologized to the police and apologized more profusely to the receptionist.
I have the feeling that if the cops that showed up were less nice, they would have found some reason to take me to the station. So I’m currently feeling very lucky. I won’t roll the dice again.
Thanks for standing up for foreigner’s rights in Japan. I did it because as a white dual citizen exchange student at a prestigious university, I have a higher standing in society than a Filipino migrant worker out in the countryside.
COMMENT: At the risk of appearing like I’m rubbing salt in a wound, it’s a pity that Submitter XY didn’t get the name of the law the cop cited. Prepare for the next round of counterarguments for NJ Residents to use at check-in.
But the point still stands: When it comes to dealing with hotel check-ins, Japan’s police have been bending the law (if not simply making it up) for well over a decade. As recently reported on Debito.org (moreover reported to me off list by a NJ AirBnB owner friend), they’re also doing it now with AirBnBs allegedly under the new Minpaku Law. Yet the cop above was, according to XY, clearly making the case that the hotel had the legal right to refuse service someone who didn’t show ID, which is simply not true under the law. The law: If you have an address in Japan, you don’t have to show ID, regardless of citizenship.
(And if you want to carry a file substantiating that you don’t have to show any ID as a resident of Japan, download it from here: https://www.debito.org/newhotelpassportlaw.jpg)
As Submitter XY would probably argue, the issue is now whether or not you are willing to stare down the police at the risk of being detained. (Under Japan’s system of arbitrary arrest and “hostage justice” brought to light by the Carlos Ghosn Case, no less.) I would. But it’s not for everyone, so be advised from XY’s experience what the stakes may be.
With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics around the corner (and the reflexive fearmongering that Japan’s officialdom reflexively does before they invite foreigners in for a visit), it’s clear Japan’s law enforcement and hosteling industry are amping up the enforcement regardless of the unlawfulness. They are now on a mission to racially profile all tourists, especially those who “look” like tourists. And this is how racism becomes further embedded. Debito Arudou PhD
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