On-Site Briefing: Summit seeps into Sapporo on little cat feet…


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

Good morning blog. I’ll just put up a brief entry for today, as things are so hectic and full of distractions that it feels like the first week of college. Out every night with journalist friends, corresponding every day with a number of projects (including stringer stuff) both Summit-related and non.

For now, here’s an on-site report from a Sapporo resident (me) re the final days before the Toyako Summit:

The feeling right now is one of holding one’s breath, waiting for the Summit to come in like a great fog and enshroud us for a few days. Media has the perfunctory reports about goals, logistics, and the occasional voice from the curbside decrying inconvenience. But it at times almost feels like the journalists are taking a deep breath for a few days before exhaling.

Security, naturally, is pretty tight. Friend Olaf reports from Chitose (where he works, and where everyone flies in for the Summit) that there are dozens of cops standing guard around bridges, intersections, sidewalks, traffic arteries, you name it. He’s been stopped at the airport for ID checks (same as all foreign-looking passengers), but so far, even when cycling to work, no stoppages so far. He anticipates that will change once the bigwigs fly in, understandibly.

Around Sapporo and environs, the trainspotter-types are playing “collect the cop cars”, i.e. police vehicles from all over Japan (their prefectural affiliations are written on their sides) are now careening, lights flashing, around Sapporo city streets, Hokkaido toll expressways, and all the arteries between Tomakomai and Sapporo (including cities in between of Kitahiroshima and Eniwa). And we aren’t even talking about going into the mountains (something I will be doing tomorrow) where the Summit is being held. One friend remarked about how the pilferers around the rest of Japan must be having fun with the reduced police presence elsewhere.

Police are guarding every corner nearby Sapporo’s five consulates (US, South Korea, Russia, China, and Australia), and are no doubt keeping an eye on the honorary consulates and trade missions. Nearby parks have either daystick-brandishing cops, or else the occasional private-security watchdogs on alert (the Subway between government buildings and Odori has carried marshalls on either end of the car, for one stop only). And of course, major train stations have our boys in blue in reasonable riot gear. Traffic delays are starting to appear (one of my students reported he would be late to class this morning due to them), and yesterday, the toll roads indicated that the security forces would be carrying out a drill to seal off on-ramp entranceways (I missed it, fortunately.)

This is, of course, Sapporo, 70 kilometers as the crow flies from Toyako. I shudder to think what’s happening in Tokyo (700 kms away), Osaka (even further), and elsewhere (where reports in the comments section to Debito.org indicate similar developments).

Naturally, racial profiling continues at Chitose Airport unabated, with all of my NJ journalist friends (and only them, they say) so far being stopped by police and ID-ed as they exit baggage claim. My complaint seems to have had no effect. All any terrorist group has to do is send an Asian and they pass unscreened.

Final word for now: It seems the Japanese police are more concerned about giving the appearance of security than creating actual security. A friend of mine, trained in undermining infrastructure and assassination (yes, I talk to a lot of people) due to his stint in a foreign military, has eyewitnessed numerous flaws in the Chitose security (such as being able to drive a van into Chitose with tinted windows–and not be stopped! Could have brought in all manner of subversive elements that way). And that any trained assassin is capable of coming months before the event and hiding out in the woods until needed. He doubts that we’re significantly more secure after all this expense, public inconvenience, and precedent renewed of subverting Japan’s civil society.

Forget these summits. How about a video conference for world leaders? Stop putting overreactive societies like Japan through these sorts of things. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

10 comments on “On-Site Briefing: Summit seeps into Sapporo on little cat feet…

  • They’d never agree to a video conference. The real purpose of these jaunts is sightseeing and being wined and dined at public expense. And everything in Japan is about tatemae, not honne, so of course the appearance of security is more important than real security.
    What can you expect of a morally bankrupt culture in which racism is not a crime?

    –Problem is, especially given the corruption behind these Summits (see today’s blog entry), I’m not sure one can zero in on Japan for moral bankruptcy…

  • I have to go through Tokyo station every friday,I mean walk from Yeasu to marunouchi, and see many of the “boys in Blue” and a lot of security types but so far I have not been stopped.

    My main question is though, With so many extra police running/standing/lazing around Tokyo station, How the Hell did someone get into the shinkansen area and graffiti a train with the rather large letters “HACK”?
    That must have taken at least 30 minutes! imagine how many bombs could have been placed in that time. I am so glad the Police are protecting me and not wasting my taxes…oh wait got that wrong didn’t I.

  • The police presence in Tokyo is totally reactionary. They heavily patrol Akiba after the stabbings, and they now patrol Shibuya a lot more since the protests last weekend… but there’s isn’t a cop in sight in say, Harajuku, which has just as many people pouring through it. Despite stopping the pedestrian days in Akiba, they still do it in Shinjuku and Ginza! (I admit Ginza has a large police presence… though a lot of the police I’ve seen there are female officers who wear slip-on shoes with inch heels more suited to matching a suit to wear to the office than chasing after a criminal! The male police wear boots, at least…)

  • >With so many extra police running/standing/lazing around Tokyo station, How the Hell did someone get into the shinkansen area and graffiti a train with the rather large letters “HACK”?<

    Answer to your question is simple 🙂 It likely was Japanese person who made shinkansen as other trains on the world. Such person doesn`t look suspicious at all. “Us (wa) is Us (wa)” untouchable angels.

  • Another John says:

    Just to keep a balance here – Japan is not the only place going nuts about worthless security. For a similar dose of bureaucratic bumbling on a grander scale, just take a short jaunt over to our large, clumsy neighbor to the west – China.

    China is cranking up security due to the Olympics. Bags are X-rayed coming INTO the country, and foreign passports are now given two checks coming into Shanghai, instead of the cursory one. My computer bag had some portable memory (USB drives) in it and those attracted attention during the screening. The customs folks in Shanghai insisted I show them what was on the USB drive. Very selective and a little odd…they were not interested in the least about what was on my main hard drive, just the USB drive. I asked why, and the customs guy was very nice – he explained it was for “security” purposes. China being China, I thought the best course of action would be to shut up and NOT say a word about the logical loophole in their search criteria. If they want to think any terrorist will keep their data on USB drives, then, well, fine. So, I took all 3 drives (8GB each) and showed them my MP3s, notes and docs related to my job, and a breathtaking number of pictures of data centers, computers and other mundane areas. Oh, and one (only one) snap of a girl in Tokyo I saw a few weeks ago who had next to nothing on. That one resonated with the boys in blue. They liked that.

    Coming back, I have one thing to report, and you can file this one under “insanely lucky.” I was in Shanghai last week and, while there, misplaced my gaijin card. I needed it for ID when making a credit card transaction at a restaurant, so I gave both my credit card and gaijin card to the waitress. At the time, I was also serving as a sherpa for several rowdy and (quite) drunk US/European co-workers. In the chaos, I forgot to check for my gaijin card when the bill returned. I put my credit card in my wallet while trying to prevent one of my more drunken charges from hitting on a girl who was with a large and mean-looking guy. Actually, I didn’t even notice until I was at the airport, filling out my departure paperwork.

    Long story short, I landed at Narita and was paranoid that I would be detained over its absence if they decided to spot-check me. There were a fair number of cops in place. With only 3 patently non-Asians on the flight (i.e., white), I thought for sure the cops would decide to give us a quick shakedown. In actuality, they couldn’t have been more disinterested. I whizzed through passport check, got my bags, and even the Narita customs guy was in a very good humor, asking me if I ate any frozen gyoza in Shanghai when I told him I was there on business. I was on the street 30 minutes after my flight touched down.

    – John

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    Another John, you had your passport with you when you returned to Japan, didn’t you? Do most people carry [i]both[/i] the passport and the alien card when travelling outside Japan? I always leave the alien card safely in Japan in case my passport gets lots or stolen abroad and end up having to return to Japan with a replacement that doesn’t have my visa details on it. In such a situation, being able to have someone bring the alien card to the immigration desk to prove that I have a valid visa would probably shorten whatever delays would be created by showing up with a replacement passport and claiming that in fact I already live in Japan.

  • Another John says:

    I had my passport? Atarimae.
    Well, I’m lazy (if not downright lethargic) by nature, so a spot wallet check to remove any cards, etc., is usually not on my list of to-dos before leaving the country. Tell me it’s not safe, and, yep, I lost my card this go around, but it is what it is. I do have photocopies at home of all docs, though, FWIW.
    However, late last year, I went through Chubu instead of my usual Narita. I was asked to provide identification when I wrote my Kanto address on the embarkation form and the identification Immigration asked for specifically was my gaijin card. A Kanto-addressed foreigner going through Nagoya must have raised a red flag. I complied, and immigration was satisfied I wasn’t trying to smuggle myself out of the country and dupe the authorities by switching airports.
    At any rate, your idea is OK, but I would bet that immigration already has your visa status on file. While presenting your gaijin card to immigration in this scenario gives you extra credit, I doubt it would serve to lessen any visa re-issuance delays.

  • Wow, I had no idea that I could go through Narita without my alien card. Ever since my first time using a re-entry permit, years ago, when the passport control officer asked to see my alien card, I have just presented both the Alien Card and Passport to immigration officials.

  • scott lucas says:

    As far as I’m aware, you have to show your Alien Registration card on leaving the country and on returning, which entails taking it with you when you travel overseas.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    Another John, I’m the opposite; before leaving the country, I make sure to remove anything I know I’m not going to use abroad and would be a hassle to replace, such as my Japanese health insurance card and company ID. Making a 24-hour journey through various trains, airports, etc. means many opportunities to drop your wallet or have it stolen, so

    I suppose we’ve just had different people behind the immigration desks, because when leaving Japan I’ve never handed over anything but the passport and have never been asked for anything else. Once, upon returning (1/1/08; fingerprinting in effect; first person off the plane) I was asked for it, and I pointed out that I had all the visas, and proof of alien registration, and address, in my passport. The young lady said that a police officer might ask me for the alien card while in the airport, and I said I’d have my passport ready, and that was the end of it.

    I have a renewed passport now, and carry the old cancelled one with me also so that they can see the original visa stamp. Sometimes they’ll flip through that expired one also.

    The embarkation slip that you fill in has a field for the alien card number, but you don’t need the original for that. When you obtained your alien card, you should have had the number stamped into your passport (something like “土井中町役場 外国人登録 (B) 123456789”, so you can copy the number from that stamp.

    It was my understanding that the alien card system was conceived as a substitute for having people carry their real passports. Why carry both and put yourself in big trouble if you get pick-pocketed? If you’re carrying the ‘stronger’ one, leave the weaker one in a safe place.


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