XY on being racially profiled–by a designated police task force looking for “bad foreigners”–for a traffic fender bender caused by someone else!


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Hi Blog. I found this experience online a few days ago from someone I trust, who has extensive Japanese experience and knowledge. The author had an interesting experience with a traffic accident (which wasn’t the author’s fault) and it resulted in being racially profiled.

But what makes this a Debito.org Issue is that the Japanese police are now apparently dedicating a special unit just to investigate “bad foreigners”, even those involved in traffic fender benders!

(Making the story even more authentic is the part about the cop afterward asking for further cooperation in the racial profiling.  It happened too me to on the day I naturalized!)

Read on. Reproduced with the permission of the author. Debito Arudou Ph.D.

XY: I had a bitter but enlightening experience today.

Returned to a supermarket parking lot this morning to find my car surrounded by a small group of Japanese police and onlookers. Apparently a lady backed into my car when I wasn’t there and had called the police to file a report. I think they were all quite surprised to learn that the car was driven there by an American and even more surprised that the American could speak Japanese. Everyone was very kind and both the cops and the woman who hit my car took the time to speak over the phone to my boss and apologize for the incident.

Things got strange when the regular uniformed police called in their racial profiling specialist unit for backup. This was a man wearing a plain white polo shirt who told me I needed to stick around after letting the woman who had hit my car go, did not present a badge, and introduced himself only when I asked him who he was as a man whose job it is to catch “bad foreigners.” He explained that he wanted to check if my visa card and drivers license were fake because “it’s very easy to make fakes these days.”

If the prevalence of fakes was the only issue at hand, one would wonder why he let the woman who had hit my car go without also checking to see whether her license was also a fake, but I didn’t bother pointing this out because it was obviously taken for granted that only “bad foreigners” would make fake IDs and conduct whatever nefarious activities they were potentially looking for beyond the ID pretext.

I stood around for 30 minutes in the heat batting around irrelevant questions until I was cleared to go. The racial profiling unit explained to me without a smile that catching “bad foreigners” is hard work and told me to keep an eye out and let him know if I saw anything in the future. I told him I’d do my best.

Altogether, the issue was resolved without any incident, other than the bullshit that I went over the meter time in the parking lot because my car was hit, and that they made me pay this out of my own money. I left with only a small dent and a learning experience.

Coming from the U.S., it’s an interesting experience as a white person with blonde hair to become an ethnic minority in another country, and to get a few molecules of a taste of the kind of shit ethnic minorities in the U.S. and other countries have to put up with on a regular basis.

It also adds a bit of perspective to experience firsthand that racial profiling and mistrust of “foreigners” isn’t a uniquely American concept, but that human beings do the same shit the whole world over, even in countries like Japan that are often stereotyped as nations grounded in respect for others.
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14 comments on “XY on being racially profiled–by a designated police task force looking for “bad foreigners”–for a traffic fender bender caused by someone else!

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    There’s an NJ involved? Default setting; check for visa crimes!
    They are driving? WTF?!? How can they have a license? Must be fake!
    Special anti-bad NJ squad with no ID? Yeah, that sounds legit (rolls eyes).
    Reminds me of the time the cops rang my doorbell on a Sunday to ask if I was ‘having any trouble if any sort’ in the neighborhood. I said no. Then they asked for my name. I asked why, they said they wanted to write it down on their form and keep a record ‘in case something happens’.
    I declined. They asked where I was from (pen poised), I asked why? Does nationality make a difference as to whether the police will help me ‘if something happens’?
    J-cop then asked what my birthday was, just for his records. Again I declined and asked him if he wanted to send me a birthday present?
    Then he asked for my employment details. I told him that this seems awfully like shokomoshitsumon.
    Then he asked me if anyone else lived here. I told him my wife did. He heard and saw he behind me and asked ‘are you his wife’. I asked him what he was going to do if it wasn’t.
    Then he asked me to confirm the names of my neighbors, I declined and said I’d never spoken to them beyond aisatsu, so the chances of him being able to get my name from them was also pretty small.
    To wrap I told him that the ward office knew who lived at this address and immigration knew my visa details, and if the police legally need that information, they’d be able to legally get it from there, so why all the Nazi germany routine on my doorstep?
    He became extremely apologetic and went next door (presumably to see if they knew who I was).
    Whole episode just underlines that there is virtually no understanding of human rights in Japan which is why the police are so blasé about violating them in their ignorance, and in a very ‘Stanford Experiment’ kind of way, ordinary Japanese see the uniform and have a Pavlovian reaction to authority.

    • …which is why I never answer the door on a Saturday or Sunday morning, when the cops usually come round to the gaijin house to “check who is living here”. I just stay in bed or in the shower.

      I think we concluded here on another thread from the Immigration raid of the Shinagawa gaijin house where they pulled the room door off the hinges, that no one should ever open the door to unexpected calls, ever.

      Omotenashi ha nashi. Welcome to Paranoid Tokyo.

      • And speaking of the hopeless hyper xenophobic and paranoid that is so prevalent in Japanese society, sometimes I can’t help but to compare Japan with these guys.


        If anyone doesn’t know, the Sentinelese tribe are a small population of native islanders that are difficult to communicate with and doesn’t want to communicate with outsiders.

        Though different cultures, the severity of paranoia and xenophobia between Sentinelese and Japanese societies are very similar that I can’t help but to make a comparison.

        What is also interesting is the “prime directive” like international law that forbids outsider contact with Sentinelese, since it is decided that their society will never be willing to mingle with outsiders.

        Like the Sentinelese Islanders, the xenophobia in Japan is so strong and prevalent even to this very day that I sometimes wonder if it was a good idea of Commodore Perry to “open up” Japan. Even if it was for a greater good in the long run, Japan seems thankless and apathetic of NJ contributions to modernizing Japan. Plus, LDP and their supporters who run the show hold modern Japan in contempt and a yearning for a romanticized version of the Edo-era.

        In this way, I feel that opening up of Japan 200+ years ago was more trouble than its worth. Asia would be a very different place without Japanese colonization and will probably turn out for the better. While that is not to say there is no xenophobia in Asia, I just feel that the xenophobia from Japan does stick out more than other Asian countries.

        Like the Sentinelese, part of me feels that Japan is one of those places that should have been left untouched 200 years ago. Hostile to outsiders one way or another and will not sit down and talk, why bother? And geopolitically speaking for the rest of Asia, things might actually turn out for the best that way and the world will move on as usual.

        – A bit hyperbolic in scope, scale, and example, IMHO.

  • AnonymousOG says:

    Hey XY, since you are a longtime poster here who Debito trusts, with extensive Japanese experience and knowledge, it’s too bad you didn’t first at the very start of the encounter film the white-polo-shirt “police officer” being forced to show you his keisatsu-techou for you to record it with your camera: which is both your right and your responsibility, to keep him accountable, because without having done that from the start the Keisatsu-Hou Dai-2-Jou violating officer knew you thus became unable to file a report to the Koan Iinkan and to the Saibankan, about his law-violation of initiating questioning without reasonable cause to believe you committed a crime.

    So step one is you should have recorded him pulling out his keisatsu-techou long enough for you to read out loud carefully and slowly his name, his number, and his specific office location (all three being written down right then by you, or recorded by you with your camera, are essential for a Koan Iinkan report and for a Saibankan lawsuit to be filed later.) You know you should have demanded that first before you agreed to give him even a moment of your time.

    And then, of course, after you properly recorded his keisatsu-techou for the Koan Iinkan and for the Saibankan, then with him properly scared that this encounter will be investigated by the Koan Iinkan and possibly even the Saibankan, with him suddenly feeling properly accountable for his illegal actions, you should have calmly informed him that he already violated Keisatsu-Hou Dai-2-Jou by having attempted to initiate questioning without reasonable cause to believe you had committed any crime.

    Instead, you voluntarily gave up your legal right to record from the start his keisatsu-cho, and you voluntarily gave up your legal right to refuse illegal-questioning (違法な職務質問 ihou na shokumu shitsumon).

    If you had done those two proper steps (recording your demand that he shows his keisatsu-techou’s essential three facts for posterity, and recording your demand that he stop attempting to initiate illegal questioning without reasonable cause of the individual having committed any crime) then:

    even if he subsequently illegally refused on film to show his keisatsu-cho,

    even if he subsequently fraudulently claimed on film that Keisatsu-Hou Dai-2-Jou somehow doesn’t apply to him,

    even if he fraudulently claimed on film that he is somehow allowed to initiate questioning without reasonable suspicion of a crime,

    even if he subsequently were to claim on film that he somehow HAD reasonable cause to believe you committed a crime, even then:

    you STILL could have recorded yourself calmly reminding him that “even LEGALLY-INITIATED-questioning is always voluntary, with absolutely no legal obligation for anyone to stay and answer your questions, so I am free to leave here immediately, unless you are ready to initiate an illegal detention (違法な拘禁 ihou na koukin) and/or an illegal arrest (違法な逮捕 ihou na taiho) and/or an illegal arbitrary confinement (違法な職権乱用 ihou na shokken ranyou – which by the way carries a 10 year prison term for such illegally-acting police officers.)”


    Anyway XY, as you probably are intellectually honest enough to admit to yourself, this time you meekly voluntarily gave up your right to record the encounter, voluntarily gave up your right to record his keisatsu-techou, and voluntarily gave up your right to refuse (お断りする – okotowari suru) that illegal, or even legal, questioning.

    Thanks for the victim report this time, but hopefully next time you will courageously choose to NOT voluntarily allow such victimization attempts to continue. Next time: use the legal lawful self-defense actions which you have learned over the decades here at Debito’s site.

    When even Japanese lawyers tell everyone to “record all encounters with the police and never stop recording no matter what the officers say about their dislike of being filmed, film their keisatsu-techou, refuse to voluntarily answer questions, and calmly leave their fishing expedition” that is exactly what one should do.

    — Okay. But I think you could take a less hectoring tone. Instead of informing, it’s bordering on blaming the victim for being victimized.

    • AnonymousOG says:

      You’re right Debito, I’m sorry I was kinda’ blaming the victim XY for not refusing that illegal questioning. It’s just so sad to see smart folks who are well-trained in karate allowing themselves to be: violated-without-even-attempting-to-say-“NO”, because I worry that each time a person meekly chooses to submit to such illegal questioning today it encourages and emboldens officers to violate the police laws and the constitution even further tomorrow. I just hope all past victims of illegal questioning at least endeavor to say “no” (okotowari) next time, for their own safety and for the safety of all of us. Again, XY, sorry to hear about your experience, thanks for at least having been brave enough to share it openly with the community.


  • What I dislike most about this encounter is that he didn’t give you his name or job title. Just the condescending euphemism that he’s a “bad gaijin finder”. Fuck him.

    • This.
      I totally agree. If you’re just going to let some guy without a uniform illegally grill you for 30 mins without showing I.D., where exactly would you draw the line?

    • ” I am bad gaijin finder”.
      -“You are a bad gaijin?”
      “No, I am a bad gaijin finder”
      -“You are bad at finding gaijin?”
      “No, my job is bad gaijin finder”
      – “Oh, I am good gaijin, so case closed, goodbye”.

  • Sorry to read this, and thanks for informing us XY.
    Now we know that the police have specialists in racially profiling and catching foreigners.

    “Coming from the U.S., it’s an interesting experience as a white person with blonde hair to become an ethnic minority in another country”
    It wears thin when you’re a permanent resident in Japan. It’s not palatable either being “SJWsplained” that
    ‘white privilege is universal and racism is white by definition’.

    • “It wears thin when you’re a permanent resident in Japan. It’s not palatable either being “SJWsplained” that
      ‘white privilege is universal and racism is white by definition’.”

      I feel it is a little bit more complex. Its true that western people do get discriminated in asian countries, but due to historic, sociological and geopolitical issues of asia, I would say it is a little bit better and in some cases being white in asia than being asian in asia.

      Like India for example, because of their caste system, would the middle and upper caste really treat their “untouchables” better than a blonde hair blue eyed westerner? There is also strong dislike of darker skinned people in India.


      Tanned skin may be cool, exotic and hip in the west but not so much in asia. Unfortunately on the flip-side, if you are of ethnic han-chinese, being fair skinned won’t help you in most of asia. Or being light-skinned but being pakistani in India.

      While asian countries are xenophobic and racist, they have a strict hierarchical pecking order that decides who gets to be treated worse than others.

      • Flipside is, if you are a zainichi ethnic Korean or chinese, you could naturalize and pass for a ‘real Japanese”. But if you are part e.g. white or black, i.e. visibly different, you never, ever can.
        Thus, this website.

        Japan is at odds with the countries most ethnically similar to itself, and the ones it respects look too different to be fully accepted. Oh, what a pickle.

  • You make a good point about whiteness in other countries in Asia. The linked article was interesting, I had heard before about fair skin obsession in India.

    The point I wanted to make is white privilege doesn’t hold water in Japan. Nothing shocking, since racists in any country will tend to prefer the majority race (notwithstanding other social influences like in India). Japan has Japanese privilege or North Asian privilege if you will. Racism against black and South Asian people may be even worse that against whites, but I wouldn’t call myself privileged for being refused by 5 landlords instead of 10. Less disadvantaged, sure.

    I might not have put it eloquently, but especially on the Internet I get tired of getting told that as a Caucasian I can only be a perpetrator of racism and never a victim.


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