Various respondents: Police crackdowns in Roppongi and elsewhere, Olympic Bid cleanup?


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Hi Blog.  I’ve been receiving bits and pieces of information from people who frequent Roppongi, with rumors of police cracking down on this foreign enclave.  If not nationwide at places of business. If others have more experiences to share, feel free to comment.  The US Embassy has indeed warned people to stay out of the area.  Read on.  Three posts follow.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


May 15, 2009

(identifying details redacted upon request)

Big heads up to any of you who may be inclined to stray into Roppongi and sample the more exotic mind-altering products…      

A friend a friend who is a bilingual, long-term resident has just found himself in the clink facing down a multi-year jail sentence for simply testing positive (urine test) to a “Class A substance” … whatever that means. Apparently a couple of weeks ago 100 police raided a regular nightclub (not a rave or trance party or anything like that) and dragged out 100 people and held them for testing.

Also, apparently, the police are on a drive to “clean up” Roppongi as a part of the Olympic bid (OK, we are getting into big-time hearsay/rumour there, but that is what my friend heard), and before this incident the US Embassy had issued a warning to all its staff to simply stay away from Roppongi. Even if you are completely clean, getting caught up in one of these raids could cost you several days of liberty before you are processed, cleared and allowed to go. No apologies, nothing.      

So, be warned, tell any of your friends who may have a predilection for such activities.

From: American Embassy Tokyo []
Sent: Tuesday, March 17, 2009 12:36 PM
Subject: Warden Message ・Roppongi Security Notice      

Date: March 17, 2009

This is to inform the American community that the U.S. Embassy has
recommended that the embassy community avoid frequenting Roppongi bars and clubs in Tokyo due to a significant increase in reported drink-spiking incidents.  American citizens may choose to avoid frequenting drinking establishments in this area as well.

The number of reports of U.S. citizens being drugged in bars has increased significantly in recent weeks.  Typically, the victim unknowingly drinks a beverage that has been secretly mixed with a drug that renders the victim unconscious for several hours, during which time large sums of money are charged to the victim’s credit card or the card is stolen outright.  Victims sometimes regain consciousness in the bar or club, while at other times the victim awakens on the street.

Because this type of crime is already widespread in Roppongi bars and is on the rise, the U.S. Embassy has recommended that members of the embassy community avoid frequenting drinking establishments in this area.  American citizens may consider this recommendation as it applies to their own behavior.  If you, nevertheless, choose to participate in Roppongi night life, we urge you to remain extra vigilant of your surroundings and maintain a high level of situational awareness.  Establishments in the area of Roppongi Intersection (Roppongi Dori and Gaienhigashi-dori) have had the highest level of reported incidents.

For further information please consult the Country Specific Information Sheet for Japan, available via the Internet at U.S. citizens living or traveling abroad are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site at so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security.  Americans without Internet access may register in person with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  By registering, American citizens make it easier for the embassy or consulate to contact them in case of emergency.

U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance, be aware of local events, and take the appropriate steps to bolster their personal security.  For additional information, please refer to “A Safe Trip Abroad” found at

For further information or any emergencies involving American citizens, please contact the American Citizens Services (ACS) Unit of either the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo or one of the U.S. Consulates in Japan listed below:

U.S. Embassy in Tokyo
American Citizen Services
1-10-5 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-8420
Tel: 03-3224-5174
Fax: 03-3224-5856



May 17, 2009

Dear Debito, I enjoy reading your blog as always!

These days I have been going to bed early but I happened to find my way to a Roppongi club for the birthday party of a friend. The club is called Muse and is quite popular in the area. I always go there and have no problems with the staff, but I noticed an interesting sign in English. It said something to the effect of “To all foreign customers, we are checking Japanese government issued ID of all foreigners on the advice of the police. Thank you for your cooperation”. 

I in fact did not experience a check in spite of the sign, but the sign seems to indicate to me that the police are pressuring places to make alien card checks on foreigners. This wouldn’t be the first time, even today. Earlier in the day I went to Nissan Rentacar when I often rent cars and for the first time was asked for my alien card. I said “nande?” in Japanese and the staff member promptly said “Umm… ohh.. never mind, actually you live in Japan right? So no problem.” The same sort of thing has happened to me at a hotel in Mie prefecture where the guy specifically asked for my alien card before promptly withdrawing the request when I questioned it.

These three things lead me to the same conclusion. There seem to be multiple campaigns underway by someone (perhaps the police) for a number of establishments to check alien registration cards. For me this is not acceptable. The club was the worst example but the other two are not far behind. Perhaps the police are an organization that can be targeted in a demand for change.  Best Regards, AM

11 comments on “Various respondents: Police crackdowns in Roppongi and elsewhere, Olympic Bid cleanup?

  • Sounds like what happened here in China about this time last year. So, yeah, might be Olympics stuff. I wouldn’t be surprised.

  • Any commercial establishment that provides alcoholic beverage in Japan can ask for an ID to see if the customer is not a minor.

    ID checks at a hotel are nothing new. Debito knows all too well.

    I do not know why they asked a gaijin card at the rent-a-car agent. Usually a driver’s license is enough.

    “Even if you are completely clean, getting caught up in one of these raids could cost you several days of liberty before you are processed, cleared and allowed to go.”
    This is least likely. Japanese police have no right to detain people who are not arrested.

    — HO, after all these years of reading this blog, you still cling to this belief? What about nin-i torishriabe? And you still can’t separate an ID check from a Gaijin Card Checkpoint?

    Sorry to sound mean, but you really need to arouse suspicion in the police some time and see how they treat you.

  • Debito, though I respect you in most cases, I have to disagree with you on this matter, because the readers will not benefit from misunderstanding their rights.

    First, this is what the law says about nin-i torishirabe (voluntary interrogation).
    Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 198
    (1) A public prosecutor, public prosecutor’s assistant officer or judicial police official may ask any suspect to appear in their offices and interrogate him/her if it is necessary for the investigation of a crime; provided, however, that the suspect may, except in cases where he/she is under arrest or under detention, refuse to appear or after he/she has appeared, may withdraw at any time.

    As you see, this is the right of a suspect.
    “The suspect may refuse to appear or may withdraw at any time.”

    In practice, police may use all kinds of dirty tricks to prolong the interrogation, which may take hours, but never days. Police do not have any overnight accommodation facility to keep a suspect who is not under arrest.

    This is what the writer said.
    “getting caught up in one of these raids could cost you several days of liberty before you are processed, cleared and allowed to go.”
    “several days before allowed to go?”
    Such thing could never happen. In the worst case, police may keep you for hours of interrogation and let you go at the end of the day, asking you to come the next day, which you do not have to. They may threat you if you do not cooperate, they may doubt you more, which you do not have to give in. You can see your lawyer at any time who will tell you how to deal with the old tricks of the police.

    I would say the writer is just fear mongering.

    — I’m sorry, HO. I would say you’re just plain ignorant. If not willfully so. We’ve presented all this evidence to the contrary on the blog and you’re still gonna ignore it. Not much else can be done.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    A few weeks ago I mentioned my 123rd police stoppage on my bicycle in which, for the first time ever, a cop demanded to see the inside of my bag. I suppose it’s now worth mentioning that this was in Azabu-Juban, near the tunnel that goes directly under the Roppongi Hills complex.

    At the time I just thought that the older cop was just looking to train the younger cop by picking a relatively clean-cut-looking first-world foreigner to hassle, with the foreigner (me) going along with everything without protest, but now I wonder if there isn’t some kind of police campaign going on there, such as those described in “The Japanese Way of Justice” here:,M1

    HO, would you be satisfied if the author had written “hours” rather than “days”? I think the point is that the police will detain people who aren’t being arrested and who have no reason to be arrested. “Days” may be scaremongering, but it’s an undeniable fact that the police will detain innocent, non-suspicious people, and asserting your right not to be questioned will only get you in more trouble.

    What do you mean by “overnight accommodation facility”? The police stations and their questioning rooms are certainly open in the middle of the night. I’ve been questioned in them outside of business hours.

  • Yes, overnight police questioning is a pretty well-known phenomenon even for Japanese. I recall it being a major plot point in one of Haruki Murakami’s novels (Dance Dance Dance, I think) where the Japanese narrator gets hauled in for a couple of days based on an issue he doesn’t understand.

    That said, “several days” is probably overblown. I’ve never heard of the police keeping a random nightclub-goer for more than one night unless they have some serious evidence of illegal behavior. Being shot up full of drugs will certainly keep you in the clink for longer than that…

    “Class A” is rather odd. Japan does not have lettered classes of drugs, as far as I know; the drug laws here are a barely-coherent patchwork of statutes. Perhaps this is a confused parallel to the UK system, where “Class A” drugs are the hard drugs that carry the highest penalties for use–heroin, cocaine, intravenous amphetamines and the like. (Link)

  • John Tanaka says:

    It’s not just Roppongi. The police were everywhere around the Shibuya Station area in April. I got stopped and questioned five times over the month, when I was averaging about once a year prior to that.

    I have a feeling it was in an effort to “clean things up” as the Olympic committee visit approached. In fact, the day of the committee’s visit, they had cops standing around in random places — there was one guy standing guard near the door of the post office in my area (near Shinsen).

  • The most important thing is to withstand the pressure from the start. You have to carry the ID, but the police have no right to ask for your ID, even politely (they are always polite in the beginning),except, and that is the beauty, if there is something suspicious (fushin). Now, what I did last time was to tell this to an who asked for my ID out of the blue. I told him: Tell me exactly what is fushin about me. I have the impression that it is only because I look foreign. If so you are being racist, and I will have to report this to the anti-discrimination office in Shinjuku.” I have no idea if there is such an office, but the officer looked very disturbed and finally left me alone.

    Also, in hotels I also refuse to show my card. I am a customer, after all…

  • bravo nn..

    thats what i do..

    if nj snapped back against these people rather than rolling over and acquiescing to racism then these searches would diminish if not desist-you have to make it an unpleasant experience for the policeman to do so (remember they are people to!!) ..
    of course,be careful not to overdo it…

  • A question to Mark in Yayoi:

    – Did you allow your bag to be searched by the police?

    My best advice, once stopped by the police, call a Japanese friend, wife or GF right away and then you can see how they change. No point in arguing with these shitty low level and unprofessional people. And even better, to have a Japanese lawyer friend, I do.

  • No news on this in English as yet other than this from FG…

    “The manager of hostess club Climax in Roppongi has been arrested. Press reports are calling the place a “cabaret club for foreigners” and, in truth, that’s pretty much what it was even though plenty of Japanese customers went there too. Specifically, the police say that the club offered “private dances” where a hostess would go topless in a curtained area of the club. This is in contravention of the laws governing such establishments which has resulted in the rest of five others alongside the manager. Looking at the books, police say that the club took 400 million yen over an eighteen month period. ”

    ホステスの胸を触らせた疑い 六本木の多国籍バー摘発




  • hi! this is a very informative site for foreigners like us living in japan. actually, i just want to share something. i just finished my working contract in a japanese company who also have some problem due to recession. i went to Hello Work in Roppongi, but surprisingly what I get is Hello Discrimination. I can speak Japanese but just in simple words, so everything would sound very simple. Then, I was told, (in japanese), that I shouldn’t go there if I can’t speak Japanese, although we are talking in Japanese. So again, I look at the internet because I thought Roppongi Hello Work is for foreigners who needs assistance in English. I went to Shinjuku Hello Work (actually there is 2, and when the other one in L tower told me they can’t help me, I went to the office near Okubo), only to be told that their office only help foreigners who are either Japanese spouse or descendants, and I should go to Hello Work Roppongi. I already told them what the Hello Work staff told me in Roppongi, but they still say you should go to Hello Work Roppongi. I just want to find work and i thought they really do help foreigners to find work. I really feel bad, and if really not necessary I won’t bother going there either. I hope some foreigners like me won’t become a victim of discrimination acts anymore. It is just so sad, I’m paying taxes and even unemployment pension just to earn discrimination when I need help.

    — Thanks for this. Would you please consider writing this up with details (times, dates, places) in a fuller report and submit to for publication as a blog entry? Thanks.


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