Dejima Award #8: NJ resident returnees from abroad officially treated like contagion, barred from reentry unlike Japanese returnees. And unlike any other G7 country.


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Hi Blog.  There’s a joke going around to describe this weird era we’re living through.  Where somebody is fretting in bed about how things are, and his partner says, “Go to sleep, dear.  It’ll be all worse tomorrow.”

Another development that qualifies for that would be the Japanese government’s decision to treat all foreigners as more contagious than Japanese, and bar all foreigners only from re-entry from overseas.  Excerpt from The Japan Times (May 19, 2020):


JT:  Foreign residents stranded abroad by Japan’s coronavirus controls
Japan is the only Group of Seven member denying entry to long-term and permanent residents

“…The coronavirus pandemic has prompted authorities worldwide to introduce entry restrictions on border traffic. But regulations in Japan have sparked a particularly strong reaction from its international community, as it is the only Group of Seven member denying entry to long-term and permanent residents and has set no clear criteria for their return.

The approach has left many foreign nationals in limbo — those who had headed overseas in earlier stages of the pandemic are now stuck abroad and face uncertainty about their careers and lives in Japan, whereas those who remain here fear that leaving the country would jeopardize their future as well.

Amid the restrictions, a decision about whether to cross the border due to a medical emergency in one’s immediate family can be agonizing. For Kvien, joining his grieving loved ones and paying tribute in person was an obvious choice. When he left, the travel ban was not yet imposed.

“Let’s say it had happened one week later, I would have (faced) a huge dilemma knowing that if I went (to Denmark), I couldn’t return,” said Kvien, who has a valid working visa in Japan but remains stuck in Copenhagen, on Thursday.

As the virus continued to spread, causing more than 4 million confirmed infections, some countries such as India have even banned their own citizens from returning home in hopes of limiting transmission. But most developed countries, while urging locals to refrain from nonessential travel, have exempted legal residents alongside citizens from their travel bans, albeit under mandatory quarantine.

In contrast, under Japan’s regulations imposed April 3, all foreign nationals, including those with permanent residence status and their non-Japanese spouses, and those who are married to Japanese nationals, will be subject to the measure if they try to return to Japan from any regions affected by the pandemic…”

Read the full article at


The GOJ could have said (as India did, according to the above article) that re-entry was forbidden by anyone regardless of nationality.  Or else they could have put all re-entrants regardless of nationality in 14-day quarantine, as they did for the first several weeks of quarantine.  But no.  Instead, the Ministry of Justice decided that only foreign residents don’t have lives, families, occupations, etc. in Japan that matter and just shut them out.  As if foreigners are somehow more contagious or less worthy of concern than members of The Tribe.  Naturally, if foreign residents have some urgent matter that happens to be overseas, say, oh, the illness/death of a family member from the very pandemic that closed the borders in the first place, tough shit.  (You see, family tragedies only matter if someone in The Tribe dies.)

For that reason, awards a coveted “Dejima Award” (only its eighth so far) to the Ministry of Justice (particularly Justice Minister Mori Masako).  Dejima Awards are reserved for only the most eye-blinkingly obvious and inexcusable examples of racism perpetrated by Japan’s racists and authorities.  Thanks for deciding once again that foreigners’ lives simply don’t matter to you.  Only foreign residents have to make the choice between exiting Japan and losing their livelihoods here or staying in Japan missing a life event there.  How callous and inhumane.  And oh so very typical of the cold-blooded Japanese bureaucracy.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.


PS: Reader Sven Kramer has notified me that he has created a bilingual petition against this stupidity that you can sign.  In his words:内閣総理大臣-安倍晋三-日本に生活基盤を置いている中長期滞在の外国人一律入国拒否を見直してください?recruiter=1094515521

Change the policy of generically denying entry to all foreign residents of Japan, including permanent residents, family members of Japanese citizens, and other mid- or long-term foreign residents who have their livelihood in Japan

An open petition to Prime Minister Abe Shinzō and Minister of Justice Mori Masako

Initiated by Sven Kramer, long-term foreign resident of Japan and spouse and father of Japanese citizens

As a measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, many countries have implemented restrictions on international travel. This includes a generic entry denial of foreign nationals and requiring virus testing and a subsequent two weeks long quarantine from the country’s own citizens upon entering. In most counties, especially developed ones, at least permanent residents and eminent foreign relatives of citizens (spouses and children) are exempt from those entry bans, but not so in Japan.

Since April 3rd, 2020 Japan is implementing a very strict limitation on who can enter the country, after spending even a few hours in the by now more than 100 countries and areas which are designated by the Ministry of Justice of Japan. Only people with Japanese citizenship and special permanent residents (mostly ethnic Koreans and Chinese who lost Japanese citizenship in 1945 and their descendants) are admitted under the condition to test for COVID-19 and go into a two weeks long self-quarantine if tested negatively. Every other foreign national, including even permanent residents who have lived nowhere else but in Japan for decades and long-term foreign relatives holding spouse visas, is subject to the current generic entry ban. Foreign residents with their livelihood in Japan basically get the same treatment as short-term tourists and business travelers at the border now.

This unnecessarily strict policy leads to some dire dilemmas. For example, you live in Japan permanently or long-term as a foreigner while having still close relatives like parents in your home country. If one of your parents dies, you should be able to attend his or her funeral without losing your livelihood, but since Japan denies entry to all foreigners without reasonably defined exceptions, you lose your livelihood if you attend the funeral. If you want to protect your livelihood for sure, you have to make the hard choice of staying away from the funeral of some of your closest relatives. Cases in which long-term and permanent residents of Japan had been denied reentry after attending the funeral of a parent were reported recently by the “Japan Times” and “Tōyō Keizai Online” (links below)

There is one more major problem, and that is the separation of families because of applying the entry denial to foreign spouses and parents of Japanese citizens. If a foreign spouse or mother/father of Japanese citizens has to travel internationally for a very good or unavoidable reason (e.g. the above-mentioned funeral), he/she cannot return to his/her family in Japan because of the ban. If he/she was accompanied by his/her Japanese family members (because other developed countries do not only admit their own citizens, but also their foreign relatives at least when well defined exceptional cases apply), the current border policy of Japan can lead to family separation at the Japanese port of entry. This unnecessary and cold-hearted acceptance of forced family separation by the Japanese government is a major human rights violation and has to be stopped immediately. Japan is reportedly the only G7 member who does this.

To be fair, the official documents published by the Ministry of Justice state that in rare special circumstances or for humanitarian reasons foreigners might be admitted into Japan. However, those “circumstances” or “reasons” are nowhere well, reasonably, and comprehensively defined, leaving that caveat so vague that it becomes meaningless. Even attendance of one own parent’s funeral is not generally seen or being defined as a reasonable exception.

For the main reasons stated above, I think that the inclusion of permanent and long-term foreign residents, including even family members of Japanese citizens, into the current entry ban at the Japanese ports of entry, is just unnecessarily cruel and cannot be reasonably justified with the intention of preventing the international spread of COVID-19. It also has the potential to seriously damage Japan’s reputation in the world as a major developed country. I and the supporters of this open petition therefore strongly request to the government of Japan, and especially to Prime Minister Abe Shinzō and Minister of Justice Mori Masako, to immediately lift the generic entry ban on permanent, long-term foreign residents and non-Japanese family members of Japanese families, who have their livelihood in Japan and have to travel internationally for very good or unavoidable, well-defined reasons, and applying the exact same conditions to them, that are applied to Japanese citizens and special permanent residents.内閣総理大臣-安倍晋三-日本に生活基盤を置いている中長期滞在の外国人一律入国拒否を見直してください?recruiter=1094515521

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27 comments on “Dejima Award #8: NJ resident returnees from abroad officially treated like contagion, barred from reentry unlike Japanese returnees. And unlike any other G7 country.

  • 日本が外国人の「一律入国拒否」を貫く大問題 長期滞在者や外資系企業からは批判の声






    日本と同様に、ほかのG7諸国も自国の移民に厳しい規制を課しているが、それぞれの国に生活基盤を持っている外国人が帰国することを許可している。カナダでは、永住者の家族でも入国できる。 日本とは異なり、外国人の経済的価値ではなく、こうした人たちの生活がまず考慮されているのだ。外国人の運命を決定するうえで、法務省にあたる省庁の裁量権も、日本よりもはるかに限定されている。

















  • As far as I know, Japan is the only country showing such blatant posture of racism !

    No Government in the American continent (from Canada to Argentine) is doing something similar.

    It is a 21’s century self-imposed “sakoku” that hopefully will send a clear message to everyone and people become aware of Japan’s tribalism and absurd widespread xenophobia !

    International students beware !

    • Bill Holden says:

      In point of fact, the ban applies to all foreign nationals, making it ethnonationalist rather than racist. Some might see that as splitting hairs, but it’s not strictly speaking based on race. Are readers aware of anyone who’s naturalized and travels on a Japanese passport who’s been refused reentry?

      • Anonymous2 says:

        Here is the definition of “racial discrimination” for your convenience:

        “… any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.”

      • David Markle says:

        I have received mail from the U.S. about two weeks from it being sent from the U.S. on about the first of May. I have also sent mail to the U.S. from Japan assuming it will be delivered based on assurances from post office officials that it will be, albeit a delivery date can’t be assured.

        • Brooks Slaybaugh says:

          I sent a letter to Vermont. It took seven weeks. I read that letters, postcards and mail for the blind can be sent to the US but that is it. I did get my COVID check in May.

          • Zig Justice says:

            I’ve mailed my tax returns at the beginning of April, and a Mother’s day card in early May. Neither have arrived yet. They are clearly lying on their site about what outgoing mail is affected.

            . o O (Yes, anecdote, but still.)

  • Apparently business people will be the first group allowed in when Japan reopens; then students and researchers, and finally tourists.
    No mention of permanent residents, long term residents or spouses.

    — Source please.

    • Sven Kramer says:

      That was an official press release statement by the ministry of justice some days ago. It’s also mentioned in the 東洋経済オンライン article.

  • This article from the Nikkei Asian Review lists the three categories of people allowed with businesspeople and researchers getting priority followed by students and then tourists.

    The Mainichi article quotes the Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi stating that businesspeople will be the priority but that it will be: “a step-by-step process with essential personnel coming first.”

    Long term residents are obviously not seen as essential to Japan.

    On a sidenote Japan Today has this headline::

    -but for some reason the article is no longer available.

    — Thanks.

  • Kudos Debito!!!! This is definitely deserving of the Dejima award. I reread all of the previous 7 awards which are indeed gross violations of basic human rights however I would argue this is the worst; by far. This codifies into law the separation of families who are legal residents in Japan. In addition in many cases people who run businesses, have invested in the country, and pay taxes are faced with this dilemma.
    Abe and his cronies desired to recruit “Highly skilled foreigners” to Japan. No “highly skilled” foreigner will bother investing in or working in Japan from here forward. There is simply too much risk and Japan is no longer reliable.

  • Just for transparency, I wanted to inform you that I’ve corrected a minor error that sneaked into the English text of the petition. In the original version that is also quoted here, I wrote that the SPR lost Japanese citizenship in 1945, which is of course not correct. I changed it to the correct year of 1952.

    A great shout-out to for supporting my petition. Let’s make it matter.

    • John, good work! If you have time and interest, I’d like to ask you if you could make a follow up video advertising my petition. All support no matter how small is very much appreciated.

  • Once again, for the sake of transparency, I wanted to inform you that I have added the following points of argumentation to both language versions of the petition. The last point is especially based on the constitutional guaranty of pursuing happiness, which I’d argue is unnecessarily impaired by the current reentry ban on family. I hope that this will give the petition a little bit more momentum.

    – The number of foreign long-term residents, permanent residents and foreigners who live as relatives of Japanese citizens, is more than 2 million people.
    – They are equal to Japanese citizens in regard of being part of Japanese society, and contributing daily to Japan as employees, teachers, business owners, or tax payers, to name a few of their contributions.
    – Because of this, if they have to travel abroad for a very good or unavoidable reason, they must not be subject to the generic entry ban like short-term visitors and should be granted reentry into Japan under the same conditions that apply to Japanese citizens and special permanent residents immediately.
    – One part of Japanese society must not be treated like random visitors even under the intention to prevent the international spread of COVID-19.
    – Especially the reentry ban on foreign relatives of Japanese citizens is a huge problem, which is not only a human rights violation, but probably a violation of Japan’s constitution, too.

    • @Sven Kramer

      “The last point is especially based on the constitutional guaranty of pursuing happiness”

      I thought it was already established that the constitution of Japan does not cover foreign residents of Japan, only “Kokumin” – Japanese people. Is that not correct?

      — Correct when the Japanese Goverment wants it to be. But not when the outside world is watching, of course (as in GOJ reports to the UN). It’s a matter of timing and venue.

      • Sven Kramer says:


        That’s why I limited the constitution claim to the last point, where kokumin are indeed affected. The current regulation shamelessly impairs some kokumin’s guaranteed pursue of happiness of being with their family who just happen to have a different passport.

        • oh, OK, I see. But if they are safe in Japan and surrounded by other Japanese people then is it really that much of a hardship just because some gaijin are out of the picture? (I’m sure some people think that way)

  • I didnt ever bother getting permanent residence as I thought it wouldnt mean much, and now we see that in a bit of a crisis, it certainly doesnt.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Well, for a country that is desperate for NJ to come and pick their vegetables and toil in their convenience stores, Japan sure knows how to appeal…
    MOJ is just looking at this as an opportunity to keep out NJ they couldn’t keep out before.

  • I don’t understand why anybody who is not Japanese would ever choose to live in Japan. I left after living in Sapporo for 10 years because, for a person who is not of Japanese heritage, living in Japan was not really “living”. All the things that Debito has catalogued over the years were abundantly clear to me and I made a decision that I have never regretted.

  • This is simply awful.
    I’m by means a died-in-the-wool bleeding heart ‘lefty’ but I will say this.
    Do unto others!
    Australia ensured that its permanent residents could return, particular if they had immediate family in Australia. Why should Japan bar me from returning? It’s simply unfair!


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