Mark in Yayoi on cop checkpoint #123, and TV show transcript


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 Japansourstrawberriesavatar

Hi Blog. Turning the keyboard over to Mark in Yayoi, who has just been stopped for the 123rd time by the Japanese police for an ID Check.

This time, however, he was stopped and demanded a bag search. Although NJ are not protected against random ID checks (if he shows, you must show), random searches are in fact something protected against by the Constitution (Article 35) if you don’t feel like cooperating.  But tell the cops that.  He did.  See what happened.  Arudou Debito in Tokyo



Hey Debito, interesting thing the morning March 20 at 4:46 AM on the way home, in Azabu. Cop car pulls up along side me and I know what’s coming next. Extremely patronizingly-voiced young cop talking to me like I’m five years old while his senior, stepping out of the car a few seconds later, looks on.

I tell him that my bicycle is registered to the company (under its former name, which has already been a problem once), and he comes out with「じゃ、いいです。結構です。」 I’m about to ride off, full of pleasant thoughts about how enlightened the police are becoming, when he demands instead to see what’s in my bag. I point out that it’s private and not suspicious, and he insists again. I couldn’t remember which article in the constitution forbids this (turns out it’s Article 35), and wish I’d had it with me!

I keep trying to say no, and his voice turns on a dime from patronizing to interrogating (while still using childlike grammar: 「危ないもの!薬!刃物!」

Then the senior guy tells him to stop. He asks me if I’m a Hanshin fan (I was wearing their white pinstriped home hat, for increased visibility), and I say I am. Questioning over.

I tip my hat to the older guy and ignore the young guy, who says サンキュー as I ride off. Ass.

So today I go on the internet to see which law it was, and I stumble upon Japan Probe, with a recording of a “Cops” style TV show, which finds a foreign overstayer on the street:

…full of comments from people. Did you get to see this show? As Level3 mentions in the comments, it was an amazing stroke of luck that they managed to spot this guy just when a cameraman was present. And he’s got a very obviously fake alien card with him! (Check out the font used for the “2010” date; it and the alignment of the characters are not even close to real).

I can only imagine how many innocent people were harassed in order to catch this guy for the cameras. Who knows, maybe there was one in the cop car that hassled me Friday morning!

Here’s the transcript of the TV show, translated by yours truly. Mark in Yayoi


INTRODUCTORY COMMENTS FROM MARK: I noticed a few more interesting things about the video.

– The cops invariably use the word “gaijin” while the announcer’s script and subtitles have “gaikokujin”, but in one instance the subtitles reflect what the cop actually said.

– The cops’ tone seems downright friendly *after* they’ve caught the guy red-handed *and* chased him long enough to be winded. Is that normal? I get ruder tones from them as soon as they see me.

– Also, the announcer never fails to refer to the suspect as a “Chinese man”, with emphasis on how he’s going to be sent back “to China” at the end. If I were a legally-resident Chinese, I’d be enraged — the man is a criminal who made use of forged documents, and not any kind of representative of China.

Now for the translation! Things in parentheses are spoken by the announcer or shown on the screen; things in brackets are added by me for clarification.

TV show at


(Announcer: The patrol car moves down Dogenzaka, in Shibuya. Officer Nakazato is looking for suspicious people [“fushinsha”] in the crowd.


(Announcer: Then, they see some interesting movement. A young person, who had been standing still, suddenly began walking in the other direction when the police car passed by.)

Cop: Let’s go have a look. [runs over to side of street]


Cop: Sorry to stop you; do you mind? Japanese? Where [do you come from]?

(Announcer: He seemed to be Chinese. [The police] demand to see his Alien [“gaikokujin”] Registration Card. (Graphic: “Alien Registration Card”))


Cop: What does this say? “Long-Term Resident” Suspect: Yes. Cop: [The alien card is valid] until 2010? Suspect: My Japanese is, uh… Cop: Difficult? You can’t [speak/understand]? Suspect: Yes. Cop: Ah ha… so you were watching a movie today? Say, could you let me see… Suspect: My bag? Cop: Your bag, your bag… Suspect: Quickly, then. Cop: OK, quickly. Suspect: Here you go.

[01:11; camera angle shifts] (Graphic: “Inspection of Personal Effects” Announcer: After getting permission [shoudaku no moto] from the suspect, the inspection begins.)

Suspect: It’s fine; go ahead, open it; open it. Cop: Then your wallet when we’re done with the bag. Suspect: OK. The wallet, you don’t need to worry about.

[01:34; after a cut]

Cop: Can we see your wallet? Suspect: OK, OK, OK. There’s nothing [unusual].

(Announcer: But for some reason, the Chinese man doesn’t want to show the police his wallet.)

Cop: What does it say here? Suspect: I can’t [read] it at all. Cop: Your name is XX-san? Suspect: Yes. Suspect: There are no problems, so… Cop: Can I see that again? Suspect: I’m not carrying [(unclear)]; OK, open it, open it. No, that’s not… Cop: Let us see… Suspect: Wait, open this first… Cop: No, no, that comes last… Cop 2: What? There’s nothing to be worried about! Cop: (slightly angry voice) Hey, why are you suddenly… Suspect: Open that; it’s fine. Cop (speaking at the same time): Hold on, hold on. Cop: Hey, what are you– what are you shaking for!?


(Announcer: The Chinese man had been cooperative with the questioning, suddenly doesn’t want to let go of his wallet. And he’s carrying two Alien Registration Cards. Suspicious!)


Cop: Hey, what are you– what are you shaking for!? Suspect: That’s, uh, um… Cop: Why do you have so many [“ippai”] of these? Cop: Let me see that Alien [here and after “gaijin” spoken by cop; “gaikokujin” in subtitle] Registration Card. Let me see that. This is strange [“hen”] Cop: Why are you looking nerv– (suspect suddenly bolts)


(55-second montage of the suspect sprinting away and the cops chasing him) (Announcer: During the questioning, the Chinese man suddenly runs away in a sprint!)


(Announcer: The camera couldn’t get the moment when he was caught. But… officer Nakazato caught him in Center-Gai!)

[The two cops lead the suspect away, each holding him on one side.]

Cop: I run the marathon; I’m fast.

(They lead him to the patrol car.)

Suspect: I’m not going in– Cop: Yes, you are! [“Dame da!”] Suspect: I’m going in.


(Announcer: The suspect had tossed his bag aside, and run away. [Bystanders scream and shout “kowai!” (scary!)] Was he attempting to destroy the evidence [shouko inmetsu]? The two alien cards, however, reveal what he is!)

[04:37; back in the patrol car]

Cop: This is fake. A fake alien [“gaijin” both spoken and in subtitles] card. Cop 2 (into radio): Police 100 to base. Cop: How long have you been using this? Base (from radio): Go ahead, Police 100. Cop 2 (into radio): We’re in XX, Shibuya. Handling an overstay. Please send a Shibuya car as backup. Cop (to suspect): This is fake. Base (from radio): Describe the suspect? Cop 2: Male, one; we have him in the PC [patrol car]. Base (from radio): Is he violent or anything? Cop 2: He attempted to escape, but we caught him. Backup, please. Base (from radio): Understood.

Suspect: I don’t have anything. (cop seems to be searching him again) Cop: Nothing? (voice rising) You’re not carrying a knife, are you? (To other officers) Admitted by the suspect; another alien (“gaijin”) card. He has two. Cop 2: Here’s the second one. Cop (to cameraman, holding up two cards): This is the fake one. This is the real one.


(Announcer: An alien card forged in fine detail. Both are in the suspect’s name. The one on the left is the real one; the one on the right is a fake.)

[05:43; closeup of the status and period of stay; fake one has a different, finer but misaligned, number font]

(Announcer: The real one has “trainee” as the suspect’s status; the fake one has “long-term resident”. And the fake one has the period of stay extended for three years! The Chinese man has been staying illegally for approximately a year)


Cop: How much did you pay for this? Suspect: 50,000 yen. Cop: You made this fake one for 50,000 yen. Suspect: [My period of stay] finished after a year, and I wanted work. Cop: Is that so? And you stayed here using this? But you can’t! You have to go through the proper procedures; this is a fake. You can’t be in Japan using a fake Alien Registration Card.

(Announcer: The backup patrol car arrived from Shibuya.)

Cop 2 (into radio): Patrol car entering on the right.

(Announcer: The Chinese man will be asked more detailed questions at the police station. He arrived in Japan two years ago, and earned money working at a restaurant. He is being arrested on suspicion of “yuuin koubunsho gizou dou koushi” [“forgery or use of a stamped public document”? Seems to be covered in Part 17, Article 155 of the Criminal Code, here: He will be deported to China.)


19 comments on “Mark in Yayoi on cop checkpoint #123, and TV show transcript

  • I watched this. They are checking for drugs,that’s with the bag check. They ruined my package from my family because of such drug check. I wonder if I’ll be able to get reimbruisement or this will go as “overall measures for safer Japan”(i.e treat all foreigners as potential suspects until you catch someone). Whatever, I’m gonna apply the same logic to them.

    — Tell us more about how they “ruined” your package?

  • I’ve been curious about the laws governing personal searches by the police. Last April the cops in Shinjuku decided I fit a certain profile and asked for my Alien Registration Card.

    I’ve read Debito’s tips for what to do at a sudden police checkpoint, but didn’t know what to do when the cops decided to empty my pockets and inspect the contents of my wallet, including counting my money.

    Any tips for what to do when the cops decide verifying identity is not enough? After all, I am American, so I must have a gun on me… or so the police seemed to think.

  • Just wondering how the constitution #35 and #33 relates to going through customs. Since #33/35 stipulates a warrant must be issued. I’m stopped and searched repeatedly going through customs. They don’t issue warrants. So clearly there must be ‘some other’ reference to this too?

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    Debito, forgive a criticism right off the bat, but what happened to all the line breaks? Shall I send it to you again with double line breaks so that they don’t get stripped out by your blog software?

    — I see line breaks. Doesn’t everyone?

  • Thx for props.

    I didn’t even think about the claimed price.
    50,000 yen for a crappy fake ARC?
    Now THAT is criminal. 😉

    He carries the expired ID, acts nervous enough to attract police attention, and paid 50,000 yen for a shitty fake ID? The guy IS a moron. If the police are only able to apprehend this level of idiot, then the illegal community at large has little to worry about.

    But back on track, the transcript looks like the police are asking
    for permission to search belongings, and once the suspect “gives” permission
    then no laws need apply. And since 99% of people will assume that
    if they say “no” they’ll get arrested and searched anyway, they “volunteer”
    the permission to be searched.
    So what happens if you say “no” to a search based on nothing but gaijin-ness, especially AFTER you have already shown a gaijin card as required and proven you are legal?

    We know that being gaijin-looking is basis enough for “suspicion” of being an illegal overstayer (it’s bullshit, but that’s the way it is) and the law DOES require us to show our gaijin cards when asked by a legitimate official, but is being gaijin also basis for “suspicion” of being a machette-toting drug-dealer, and thus legal basis for a search?
    Especially since the only mass-murderers in Japan are Japanese.

    Of course, we know the police will just manufacture imagined complaints from anonymous citizens about “suspicious-looking foreigners in the area” to justify this crap, and the police would always win in court, at least until someone gets a jury with a member or two who are less than happy with J police behavior…shouldn’t take long. 😉

    But, the police stop plenty of gaijin AND Japanese (if not in the proper ratio) for suspicion of bike-theft just on the basis of riding a bicycle. Though plenty of bike thieves, if not most of them, walk most of the time, BECAUSE THEY DON’T HAVE A BICYCLE, start questioning pedestrians!..but that’s another point.

    What serves as legal basis for being suspicious and worthy of a search for any random illegal stuff? And would the Japanese “justice” system uphold the rights of a hypothetical gaijin who refused a search and thus might get arrested for “interfering in the duties of a public offical” even though he is innocent, carrying nothing and guilty only of standing up for his human rights?

  • to me,the whole episode is obviously staged with an chinese actor employed..

    on japan probe which you linked to people seemed to think it was real,does anyone really believe that??

  • Question for Mark:

    When I was stopped by the cops on my way to the train stn. for a couple months and it was really annoying. I kept seeing the same cop taking my information I was more angry than annoyed. I called the precinct and told them my information again and complained that it was really embarrasing and to please not do it to me anymore.

    It stopped after that, at least in Chiba, where I live. Mark, did you try contacting the police department and lodging a formal complaint?


  • >Tell us more about how they “ruined” your package

    The package contained 3 types of medicines, often used in Europe but not on sale in Japan,all of them over the counter stuff for personal use, and a Easter egg decoration kit (dye). The dye was in tablets, 6 colors, from which only 3 arrived, in an open box and fully exposed to air.The other medicines’ boxes were open too.Fortunately the medicines were not exposed. I called just today the customs, where I learned that I should have kept the box with some kind of stamp on it, to see who was in charge and to check for details. They were still willing to pay if proven that the package was damaged in the customs, which is several months long procedure.
    So today my husband, who was the actual addressee, asked me to drop this thing. It is innerving for us both. My family, who was informed about the damage, also said that it is not worth to get stressed over a decoration kit. So I’ll just leave it like this, and…people say we learn from our mistakes. Don’t send drug-looking stuff during drug “witch hunt”.

  • This seems to be the Japanese version of a move, which is becoming disturbingly common elsewhere, to harness the PR power of Reality TV to show government agencies in a better light.

    While “COPS” is an obvious forerunner to this, the phenomenon has recently moved to border protection and the like and has spread all over the English-speaking world and beyond. The immigration-as-entertainment shows originated in Australia and are moving on from there. Where countries don’t have their indigenous “immigration watch” show, they seem to use one of the others instead.

    And now, it seems Japan. The Chinese gentleman with the fake gaijin card is not the only incidence of a immigrant patrol episode in Japan. Japan Probe posted another recently:

    The reference to Article 35 is pretty tenuous, though. The Chinese man clearly gave the officers permission to search both his bag and his wallet, so as earlier noted, the Constitution did not apply. One might argue that the poor fellow had no choice, because they were – after all – cops, but it is not as if they were molesting him in some dark corridor. He could have easily refused. If he was paying 5-man for a fake ID, you’d think his suppliers would give him a bit of advice as to how to get around the law. Even if you don’t know the law, saying “okay okay check my wallet” when you know you have two gaijin cards in there is pretty dumb.

    But arguing over whether the police had the right to stop this guy and ask to see his bag is not the point. Of course these shows are not going to give you examples of situations where the cops actually break the law. Painting the cops in a bad light would only encourage them to deprive access to the T.V. producers. And thus, shows are edited to make it as though the government never makes mistakes:

    It seems at least one suspect on these shows was willing to challenge the man.

    According to Wikipedia: “An M.I.T. student puts the TSA to the test with his knowledge of passenger rights.”

    The fun starts here at 3:43:

    and continues here at 2:12:

    That’s all I watched. Maybe the immigration authorities took him round the back of the airport and beat him up on national T.V. later, but I doubt it.

    In my mind, the question with these shows is not “were the police legally allowed to search that Chinese guy’s wallet, or feel that MIT student up because he invoked his right not to show ID?”, but “should we even have such shows on TV at all?”

  • Norik

    A bag check in an airport? That kind of check would happen in any country and you certainly should have had it placed in more appropriate packaging.

    I know Canada has probably the strictest customs in the world (only my conjecture though).
    When I went back last year to Canada they asked me `what is your business in canada?`

    me: `I`m coming back`

    them: `Why?`

  • George

    That youtube was a blast from the past. I was stopped detained, held at gun point and then refused entry into the US with my mate from uni, as we tried to cross from Canada into the US in 1988. All because we ‘looked’ like drug runners…..we slept in our car and had not shaved for days….we were travelling around US and Canada on a shoe string.
    Mind you I did say, what is this a communist they searched our car…didn’t go down well with the redneck officer!

    Nice to see things havent changed 🙂

  • Like someone else said, I feel like this video was staged. They wouldn’t even have had to employed a Chinese man because the face is completely blurred out. I have a feeling they made it as a warning to gaijin living in Japan.

    Criminals are idiots, but I don’t think anyone would be so stupid to keep an old visa in their wallet along with the fake one.

  • I think I’ve seen other such episodes of Immigration Japan version of Cops like where they break into factories and chase down mitunyuukoku people. They all go running and the Immigration people are oddly nice about things…then it shows various scenes inside the detention center where everyone is well taken care of and playing with kickballs and things…it’s really wierd blatant propoganda.

  • John Tysome says:


    That is hilarious. Of course, any guilty man would run at the accusation…

    Knowing that you are absolutely within the law, do you play them? Just a little maybe? I think the young ones are worth a go if a more senior guy is present to laugh at him.

    — I doubt “being within the law” is gonna help much if you irk the cops enough to make them want to make your life difficult…

  • I have only been stopped once in 5 years down here in Kyushu, and that was a rural area of Fukuoka.

    I was stopped by a PC (Patrol Car) as I was walking down the street.

    Anyway, when I asked why I was being stopped, they said to check for overstayers as recently there has been many over stayers found in Japan…but he said, `they’re usually Chinese or Korean`.

    So why did they stop me(im Caucasian-Australian)???

    I didn’t get an answer to that, but I guess it was to practice….


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>