Japan Times May 20, 2009: “IC you: Bugging the Alien” article on new Gaijin Cards


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Hi Blog.  Here’s the JT version of my article yesterday, with links to sources. Enjoy!  Debito in Sapporo

IC you: bugging the alien

New gaijin cards could allow police to remotely track foreigners


When the Japanese government first issued alien registration cards (aka gaijin cards) in 1952, it had one basic aim in mind: to track “foreigners” (at that time, mostly Korean and Taiwanese stripped of Japanese colonial citizenship) who decided to stay in postwar Japan.

Gaijin cards put foreigners in their place: Registry is from age 16, so from a young age they were psychologically alienated from the rest of Japanese society. So what if they were born and acculturated here over many generations? Still foreigners, full stop.

Even today, when emigrant non-Japanese far outnumber the native-born, the government tends to see them all less as residents, more as something untrustworthy to police and control. Noncitizens are not properly listed on residency registries. Moreover, only foreigners must carry personal information (name and address, personal particulars, duration of visa status, photo, and — for a time — fingerprints) at all times. Gaijin cards must also be available for public inspection under threat of arrest, one year in jail and ¥200,000 in fines.

However, the Diet is considering a bill abolishing those gaijin cards.

Sounds great at first: Under the proposed revisions, non-Japanese would be registered properly with residency certificates (juuminhyou). Maximum visa durations would increase from three years to five. ID cards would be revamped. Drafters claim this will “protect” (hogo) foreigners, making their access to social services more “convenient.”

However, read the fine print. The government is in fact creating a system to police foreigners more tightly than ever.

Years ago, this column (“The IC You Card,” Nov. 22, 2005) examined this policy in its larval stage. Its express aims have always been to target non-Japanese in the name of forestalling crime, terrorism, infectious diseases and the scourge of illegal aliens. Foreigners, again, are trouble.

But now the policy has gone pupal. You might consider helping chloroform the bug before it hatches. Here’s why:

The “new gaijin cards,” or zairyuu kaado (ZRK), are fundamentally unchanged: The usual suspects of biometric data (name, address, date of birth, visa status, name and address of workplace, photograph etc. — i.e. everything on the cover of your card) will be stored digitally on an embedded computer chip. Still extant is the 24/7 carrying requirement, backed by the same severe criminal punishments.

What has changed is that punishments will now be even swifter and stricter. If you change any status recorded on your chip and don’t report it to the authorities within 14 calendar days, you face a new ¥200,000 fine. If you don’t comply within three months, you risk losing your visa entirely.

Reasonable parameters? Not after you consider some scenarios:

• Graduate high school and enroll in college? Congratulations. Now tell the government or else.

• Change your job or residence? Report it, even if your visa (say, permanent residency or spouse visa) allows you to work without restrictions anywhere.

• Get a divorce, or your spouse dies? Condolences. Dry your eyes, declare the death or marital mess right away, and give up your spouse visa.

• Suffering from domestic violence, so you flee to a shelter? Cue the violins: A Japanese husband can now rat on his battered foreign wife, say she’s no longer at his address, and have her deported if she doesn’t return to his clutches.

Foreigners are in a weaker position than ever.

Now add on another, Orwellian layer: bureaucratic central control (ichigen kanri). Alien registration is currently delegated to your local ward office. Under the new system, the Ministry of Justice will handle everything. You must visit your friendly Immigration Bureau (there are only 65 regional offices — not even two per prefecture) to stand in line, report your changes and be issued with your card.

Try to get there within what works out to be a maximum of 10 weekdays, especially if you live in a remote area of Japan (like, say, Hokkaido or an Okinawan island). Then try to explain away a lost workday in this corporate culture.

Now consider refugees. They don’t even get an ID card anymore. They won’t be able to open a bank account, register to attend schools, enter hospital, or qualify for social insurance anymore. No matter; our country accepts fewer than a few dozen refugees every year; they shouldn’t have come here anyway, thinking they could impose upon our peaceful, developed country.

That’s still not the worst of it. I mentioned that embedded computer chip. The ZRK is a “smart card.” Most places worldwide issue smart cards for innocuous things like transportation and direct debit, and you have to swipe the card on a terminal to activate it. Carrying one is, at least, optional.

Not in Japan. Although the 2005 proposal suggested foreign “swiping stations” in public buildings, the technology already exists to read IC cards remotely. With Japan’s love of cutting-edge gadgets, data processing will probably not stop at the swipe. The authorities will be able to remotely scan crowds for foreigners.

In other words, the IC chip is a transponder — a bug.



Now imagine these scenarios: Not only can police scan and detect illegal aliens, but they can also uncover aliens of any stripe. It also means that anyone with access to IC chip scanners (they’re going cheap online) could possibly swipe your information. Happy to have your biometric information in the hands of thieves?

Moreover, this system will further encourage racial profiling. If police see somebody who looks alien yet doesn’t show up on their scanner (such as your naturalized author, or Japan’s thousands of international children), they will more likely target you for questioning — as in: “Hey, you! Stop! Why aren’t you detectable?”

I called the Immigration Bureau last week to talk about these issues. Their resident experts on ZRK security said that data would be protected by PIN numbers. The bureau could not, however, answer questions about how police would enforce their next-generation gaijin card checkpoints. Those police are a different agency, they said, and there are no concrete guidelines yet.

Come again? Pass the law, and then we’ll decide law enforcement procedures? This blind faith is precisely what leads to human rights abuses.

One question lingers: Why would the government scrap the current alien policing system? For nearly six decades, it effectively kept foreigners officially invisible as residents, yet open to interrogation and arrest due to a wallet-size card. What’s broke?

Local government. It’s too sympathetic to the needs of its non-Japanese residents.

Remember Noriko Calderon, whose recently deported parents came to Japan on false passports? Did you ever wonder how she could attend Japanese schools and receive social services while her parents were on expired visas?

Because local governments currently issue the gaijin cards. At their own discretion, they can even issue ID to visa overstayers. Rendered as zairyu shikaku nashi (no status of residence), the card can be used to access social services. They can live relatively normal lives, as long as they avoid police gaijin-card checkpoints.

Why are local governments so sweet? With high concentrations of non-Japanese residents, many see foreigners as human beings needing assistance. After all, they keep local factories humming, pay taxes and add life to local infrastructure. Hamamatsu in Shizuoka Prefecture and Yokkaichi, in Mie, have long petitioned the national government for improvements, such as facilitating foreign access to public services and education, and easing registry and visa applications.

After years of deaf ears, the central government took action. Under the rhetoric of “smoking out illegal aliens,” Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in 2005 pledged to “make Japan the world’s safest country again” by halving the number of visa overstayers by 2010.

Never mind that the overall trend in Japan is toward devolving power to the provinces (chiho bunken); Japan now wants to rein in local governments because they poke holes in their dike. It’s still a shame the proposed plugs make life impossible for refugees, and harder for any law-abiding non-Japanese resident with a busy life.

Still, did you expect the leopard to change its spots? Put immigration policy in the hands of the police and they will do just that — police, under a far-removed centralized regime trained to see people as potential criminals.

This is counterproductive. As we’ve said in this column many times before, an aging Japan needs immigration. These new gaijin cards will make already perpetually targeted foreigners (and foreign-looking Japanese) even less comfortable, less integrated members of society.

Why stop at bugging the gaijin? Why not just sew gold stars on their lapels and be done with it?

Fortunately, a policy this egregious has fomented its own protest, even within a general public that usually cares little about the livelihoods of foreigners. Major newspapers are covering the issue, for a change. The opposition Democratic Party of Japan wants the bill watered down, vowing to block it until after the next general election.

The coalition group NGO Committee against Resident Alien Card System (www.repacp.org/aacp) has as its banner “Less policing, more genuine immigration policy that promotes multiethnic co-existence.”

On Sunday afternoon, there will be a demonstration in Tokyo against the new gaijin cards. Do attend if so inclined.


A public assembly against the new IC-chip gaijin cards will take place Sunday, May 24, 2-5 p.m. at the Koutsu Building, Shimbashi 5-15-5, Tokyo. For further information,see www.repacp.org/aacp/pdf/MultiLang/20090420LeafENv01.pdf or contact Amnesty International Japan via www.amnesty.or.jp or by mail at ksonoko@amnesty.or.jp. Send comments to community@japantimes.co.jp

28 comments on “Japan Times May 20, 2009: “IC you: Bugging the Alien” article on new Gaijin Cards

  • An RFID chip is the least problem. Get yourself a shielding wallet and your ZRK is invisible to any scanner. And don’t forget about the same bug in driving licenses and passports.

    — Sure. Understood. But you don’t have to carry a driver license or passport 24-7. Or even have one. (And not all regions are issuing IC driver licenses. Sapporo didn’t, last time I got one.)

    People keep missing the point. It’s not a matter of whether the technology is defeatable (as in, get a shielding wallet). It’s not a matter of whether it’s already widespread (reductio ad adsurdum: plenty of countries have nuclear weapons; that doesn’t give license for other countries to have them; it’s not something you want to proliferate). It’s whether we want the continued spread of the surveillance society. In a country with few checks and balances to the powers of the police forces.

    And one that only targets foreigners, no matter how long they’ve been in Japan, for reasons that are categorically flawed and discriminatory (as criminals, terrorists, carriers of infectious diseases, and potential overstayers even if they have unexpirable visas). You are in the cross hairs. Is this what you want?

  • The authoritarian British government has been pushing for something similar; IC-chipped ID cards for everyone in the UK, so the police can remotely scan peaceful demonstrations and protests to see who’s in attendance. Truly Orwellian. At least in the British case, the Labour government will be out of office next year.

    — Ironic is that the Labour govt (not the Tories) was the one who wants this; even Blair wanted to extend habeas corpus for suspects to, what was it, 45 days? Britain’s always been overreactive about terrorists (hence subject in the movie IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER), and political scientists blame it on the lack of a clearly-delineated Bill of Rights to make the govt=public contract clearer.

  • Sounds like something done purely for political profit, to make voters feel like the government is protecting them against whatever fantasy they’ve conjured up in media propaganda to make it look like NJ are on a crime rampage

    Hopefully most people will see through it

    — Not sure they will. Even some NJ are saying they want this new policy. (Some just because I’m against it, but what can ya do…)

  • Of course I can see your point. And I support your actions in general. I, too, don’t like being looked at as a gaijin and not as a person.

    I’m pointing out exaggerations. I’m not saying that the new cards are not a problem only because they can be shielded. But in my view you are painting a bit too much an Orwellian picture. Even if a card is not shielded, the transmitter in it is too weak, and antenna is too small, so you would need a very powerful electromagnetic wave to induce enough electricity to power the chip and a very sensitive receiver to pick up the signal. Have you seen the setup needed to achieve the world-record 20 meters result? Still, you are making this one of the top stories in your article, and I can imagine unsophisticated readers picturing some sort of radar with blinking dots on the map…

    You also seem to imply that local governments are doing a good job helping illegal immigrants–you are illustrating their friendliness to non-Japanese residents with that absurd practice of issuing ARC to people without visa. Again, I am not saying that they should not be friendly, but it is one thing to care about legal residents, and it’s quite another to provide official services to offenders–not criminal, but offenders nevertheless. They knowingly violated the law, and I don’t see why any country should offer a lawbreaker access to social services (Noriko is a different story, of course, because she wasn’t the one willfully violating the law, so she was rightfully allowed to stay, and her parents were rightfully departed).

    — Thanks. Re the first paragraph: Understood. For now. But once you have ANY possibility of remote reading, it’s only a matter of degree. And a matter of time. Technology will expand to make it possible. This sort of thing is not in permanent stasis.

    As for the local govt thing, I’m just explaining how the system works. Does not mean I support it. But I certainly do not conversely support the centralization of immigration behind the policing forces. We need an immigration ministry, not the current Immigration Bureau. One that facilitates assimilation, not tries to criminalizes newcomers merely as default. So yes, there’s a problem with offering free unrestricted passes to people on expired visas. But this new policy is not the answer. For the reasons I wrote.

  • Oscar_6 mate, you’re missing the point. If you get that shielding wallet, the police will definitely stop and question you, as the foreign face they don’t appear to be able to scan. Having one is even worse than not having one in this case.

  • “I don’t see why any country should offer a lawbreaker access to social services”

    I don’t think that statement should be left unchallenged. A civilised society should obviously offer a range of social services to essentially all residents, although I would agree that these may be restricted in some cases.

    I also don’t believe that local govt has the remit or ability to determine who is a law-breaker – this, and the resulting penalties (which may include forfeiture of some social services) are primarily a matter for the courts. I am surprised that they will issue ARCs in this way but I don’t think it’s appropriate to say it’s absurd or even wrong without hearing their reasons.

    As for remote reading, yes that does seem remote. But swipe gates could easily be installed, which is almost as bad.

  • Thanks to Oscar6 for the link to the remote RFID detector setup.

    But it just proves debito’s point about remote sensing. If such a setup can be built with what looks like about $500 of parts, a soldering iron and a laptop, and could easily fit in/on a patrol car when built by hobbyists, then the J police can build them faster, smaller, better, and cheaper (or at least 3 out of the 4, as NASA staff like to joke)

    In cramped Japanese cities a 20 meter range is PLENTY to setup a whole-street checkpoint. It wouldn’t be beyond imagination if such checkpoints were placed at major rail sation ticket gates, surreptitiously, as an “anti-terror” measure. But hey, call me paranoid. J cops standing guard at train station gates? Never happen?
    Did everyone forget the G8 summit here just a year ago?

    Still, if such thing were set up, do you think the J cops would pass up the chance to also track every person, including Japanese, who have chosen to RFID-chip themselves by getting e-rail-passes and such? This angle should be pushed. Forcing gaijin to carry RFID 24/7 makes it tempting to also track Japanese who carry RFID 24/7 (out of conveneince) in their wallets.

    And just as some J cops stop people for “riding a bicycle while gaijin”, that type of cop will surely stop you for “not emitting a RFID signal while gaijin” if you shield your card.

    Add in that the extra level of “security” with the password just means an extra chance for bureaucratic screw ups in which the person who pays the price is not the civil servants who fucked up, but YOU, the innocent law-abiding citizen(as always in such cases). Some data entry clerk inputs your password wrong and the cops can’t unlock your card? Or you are used as “practice” for the local koban’s new RFID reader, and they don’t know how to use it right? The only question is how long you’ll be sitting in the koban until someone figures out the mistake. Would that mean getting stopped on a Friday night means you have to endure interrogations, miss work, maybe get fired before the following Monday when someone gets around to fixing the error at the Immigration Office? Better hope it’s not a 3-day weekend.

    — Thanks for taking the time to elaborate further, level3.

  • I truly, truly appreciate the work you’ve been doing and the information you continue to keep us up to date with. I agree with you that it is the principle of the law and not the enforcement itself that is the problem. I was recently stopped by the police (my 11th time) while hurrying to the train station. I had a 1:00pm lunch appointment which was going to cost me 3,000 yen whether I made it or not. I had two minutes to catch my train and I was within 300 meters of the train station when the police man kept trying to get me to stop. I waved back and kept walking to the train station like the dozens of other Japanese people around me. Finally he grew tired of me ignoring him and rode his bike in front of me, got off and asked me for my gaijin card.

    Fortunately after my 10th time being stopped by the cops (my dark skin doesn’t help) I found your site and printed the laws governing the request for ID. The police man read it and I asked him why he stopped me, since I wasn’t doing anything suspicious. He said it was because I was walking and talking on my cellular phone and he insisted he still wanted to see my ID. My pitiful language skills were exhausted by this time so I called my school (I am an ALT) and one of my friends there explained that I was employed to the school and was a good worker. The Police man explained to him that he thought I was lost since I was walking and talking on my phone. The fact that the train station was 300 meters away didn’t seem to make a difference. By now my anger was approaching dangerous levels. I was now going to be either late or miss my lunch date and would be 3,000 yen poorer. So I explained to the police man that either he give me a ride to where I was going (one hour away) or he needed to give me 3,000 yen. I also proceeded to take his badge number and informed him that I would also be meeting a member of the city government who was a friend of mine and he would be sure to hear about this incident.

    The Police man promptly took me to the train station and spent the next few minutes checking with the station master about the quickest way to get me to my destination. The sad part of all this was there was a line forming behind us and all it did was to make it seem as if the silly foreigner couldn’t find his way to where he was going and the nice policeman was taking his precious time to help him. On reflection I am glad I didn’t get my ass thrown in the clink, but despite my anger I was careful to keep my voice level and my gestures non threatening.

    Until the laws and treatment concerning foreigners change, despite my love for many of the things in this country I fear I would not live here for all the rice in the kanto area.

  • The worst thing about this, is for single guys like myself who are working in the school system, 8am to 4pm, in a municipality different to the one i actually reside in, and do private classes and training for a company after hours, Its almost impossible for me to get to city hall to take care of these residency paperwork issues as it is. Make it necessary for me to have to visit the immigration office in Nagoya to do so? It would be impossible to not renege on contractual work commitments risking pay penalties. The morons who relocated the Nagoya immigration office to the horribly difficult to access location it is in now are probably the same moronic bureaucrats who proposed this new policy. It is as ignorant and xenophobic a policy as it is impractical for anyone who does not live nearby the immigration bureau. They really dont want us here do they?

    Unless they open the immigration office 7 days until 10p.m. Good luck with that…..

  • Why would a single person on this planet believe its okay to be tagged like cattle? Foreigners are specifically being singled out and once again being separated from the general Japanese public. The reasons for implementing such a system have not been clearly defined, such power in the hands of so few is very dangerous for the people involved.
    The reasons such divisions in ministries, policing, and law-making exist is so no one entity can have manipulative control. In this case the Ministry of Justice, and the NPA will have total access to this information. Two groups that have a poor track record of keeping track of their information, and transparency.


    Overall, it would be very uncomfortable having all my personal information on a scan-able chip, that could be used fraudulently.

  • I find it kind of odd to say the least that in this technological age that they could not make the updating of information possible via the Internet using a form on the appropriate site. Why in this day and age should it be done in person?

    Say my wife dies and I want to go back to Canada to grieve with my family but instead I have to stick around and go hang out at some office filling in paperwork lest I be in trouble. Not compassionate to say the least. The spousal visa should be unaffected until at least the visa expires.

    I agree with the point that Japan needs a proper immigration ministry. Having an immigration bureau under the Ministry of Justice is a sad unwelcome mat.

    There are some good parts to the proposed changes IMHO so alas it is not all bad.

    — Quite so. I acknowledge the benefits of the new policy in my essay, but didn’t have enough space to get into them.

    Still, the benefits are far outweighed by the demerits, in that policing only gets tougher. Policing to a degree that even Japanese have not wanted or tolerated in the past.

    So do not take the bait. By loading in a few concessions, the GOJ divides those affected by the policy by tempting NJ parts of the policy they don’t want to lose.

    But ultimately the policy will make it far easier to lose the visa status you so carefully earned over the years due to circumstances beyond your control. As I argued, it only makes NJ weaker legally.

    That’s why there’s so much protest against it. By people who generally care little about what happens to foreigners. Including the DPJ. Good, but you have to protest too. It’s going to pass if people don’t show their opposition in impressively big numbers.

  • “you have to protest too. It’s going to pass if people don’t show their opposition in impressively big numbers.”

    OK but how? I’m not dragging my family to Tokyo this weekend. Is there any online petition for this?

  • darridge, Level3, I’d rather be stopped for not reading on police scanner than have my card scanned without my knowledge. This way, I’ll be able to give the policeman some hard time and at least write down his personal data before divulging mine to him.

    Other points taken, but I just don’t like panic-spreading around RFID technology, because (ironically if you will) it provides for better protection of user data than magnetic cards, once you solve the remote reading problem. That is one of the reasons I don’t think it would be abolished.

    As for that remote scanner setup, no matter how neatly you’ll build it, you just can’t hide that big ass antenna (which must be pointed directly to the card, by the way), and imagine the reaction of public if such scanners were to appear at every major station or on top of every police car.

  • “Moreover, this system will further encourage racial profiling. If police see somebody who looks alien yet doesn’t show up on their scanner (such as your naturalized author, or Japan’s thousands of international children), they will more likely target you for questioning — as in: “Hey, you! Stop! Why aren’t you detectable?””

    I assume they won’t be giving these cards out to tourists, so you’re going to get asked for your passport, no doubt!

  • AJ – “The morons who relocated the Nagoya immigration office to the horribly difficult to access location it is in now are probably the same moronic bureaucrats who proposed this new policy.”

    This is just plain wrong. The office in Marunouchi is very easy to get to. It’s a one minute walk from Marunouchi underground station in between Nagoya Station and Sakae. Dead easy. But getting to the old office near the Shiyaksho wasn’t that difficult either.

    By the way, I read somewhere (can’t remember where, but maybe on the Japan Times website or Japan Today) that we would not need to go to the immigration office every time because you would be able to register changes of address etc. with your local city office, and they will pass it on to immigration. Did anybody else see this? I definitely read it somewhere.

  • Mameha

    I printed out the article in the Chunichi that Debito linked too and gave it to all my family and friends. They all said that the new measures were too strict.

  • Oscar_6 – point taken as well – in that nothing to hide nothing to fear, and if hassled, then you can do something about it. However as a dedicated conspiracy theorist I do not like the idea that anyone can read anything of mine. Ask me to see it, and have a reason to. Or, expect me to say “no”.

    It seems to me that this talk of having an immigration ministry vs bureau is the point.

    An immigration ‘ministry’ is charged with making sure inappropriate people don’t enter the country to begin with, or are kept track of when they get there. They are entitled to protection under the law while their situation is clarified – as with refugees are in most countries. Appropriate people aren’t a problem, otherwise they wouldn’t have gotten in.

    Japan however actually needs people to keep entering, so it can’t be seen to have an immigration ‘ministry’ that is hard on people wanting to enter. Far better to let them enter – “we are not against foreigners” and put their problems down to when they get here – and then get rid of them. This ensures the turnover – people are not scared off going to Japan in the first place.

    As long as it looks like Japan welcomes people with open arms, and no one has to find out what it actually might mean to live there, then no problem.

    The sad thing is – what a great place Japan is! Otherwise the depth of argument found here wouldn’t exist. People would just go home.

  • AdrianK – oh dear. I’m self-employed and have chosen to just use private insurance rather than the expensive J system (for my income level). What should I do?? Even a large percentage of Japanese are not enrolled.

    Does this mean I won’t be able to renew my spousal visa???

    Anyone else in my situation??

  • Good article below.
    “Italy approves harsh anti-immigration bill”
    The difference between Italy and Japan is that Italy crack down on illegals and Japan crack down on legals thinking that this will make less illegals. While punishment and fines from 5 to 10thousands euros are to be on illegal, again, in Japan prison and 200,000yen fine will be to legal residnet who ONLY have forgotten card. Not mention interrogation room.
    I would advise Berlusconi to target illegal Japanese first. There are many in Europe as they cannot get visa easy.
    EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – The Italian lower house on Wednesday (13 May) approved legislation which criminalises irregular immigration, sets up citizen anti-crime ‘patrols’ and sentences landlords to up to three years of prison if they rent to undocumented migrants.

    The legislation, which still has to be approved by the Senate, makes entering or staying in Italy without permission a crime punishable by a fine of €5,000 to €10,000.

    A provision to triple the time irregular immigrants can be detained in holding centres also forms part of the security package, approved by 316 votes for to 238.
    Silvio Berlusconi, who last year made irregular immigration the core of his successful re-election campaign, linked the bill to a vote of confidence for his government. The move ensured that more liberal-thinking members of the ruling coalition would not vote against it and so bring down the government.
    “This is a fundamental step to equip law enforcement officials and mayors with the means to combat crime in general,” interior minister Roberto Maroni from the hard-right anti-immigrant Northern League party said following the vote.

    Italy’s centre-left opposition, the Catholic Church and human rights activists have slammed the criminalisation of immigrants and said the citizen-patrols would soon turn into vigilante groups likely to harass foreigners and minorities such as the Roma.

    In reply, Mr Maroni said the patrols would mostly consist of unarmed, retired police officers.
    Earlier this week, Italy already came under fire from the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) and the Vatican after it started returning boatloads of migrants to Libya before they could claim asylum.
    The action was in breach with international law on refugees, the UN warned.

    “You should listen to the voice of the United Nations, you should listen to the authoritative voice of the Church, people can not ignore this. This government seems to be made up of supermen who have no respect for the UN,” said the Democratic party’s Marco Minitti.

    Mr Berlusconi seems determined to stick with the vote-bringing anti-immigrant policies, however. In defence of his new bill he said that he does not support a multi-ethnic Italy.

    “The left’s idea is of a multi-ethnic Italy. That’s not our idea, ours is to welcome only those who meet the conditions for political asylum,” he told a news conference last weekend.

    For now, the EU has kept silent over the new measures as they still need to be approved by the Senate. Last October, though, the Berlusconi government was forced to back down on some draconian anti-Roma measures, after the EU commission threatened to start legal proceedings against Rome.

  • John-

    I am on a spouse visa as well, but I can’t see any reason why you would go with a private insurance group since you are married to Japanese. The NHCS(National Health Care System)is not any more expensive than getting denied-claims, and hospitals charging you over-priced fees. Your employer has to pay a certain percentage (40% sounds about right) of the NHCS fee, and most care in Japan has standard fees. Moreover, someone has to pay for all the cash handouts, welfare payments, and countless other government programs that are taken from tax-payer money, might as well be foreigners.

    As for cash handouts, have a look at where its going to be spent:


    — Let’s get back on topic.

  • Sean, the Nagoya Immigration office moved to near Nagoyakeibajyomae on the Aonami line over 15 months ago. Ive renewed my VISA there twice since. I guess you havent had to visit there lately.

    I hope you’re right about being able to go to city office still. I’ll be screwed otherwise.

    We have to PROVE we’re on Shakai hoken to renew VISAs now? Im not retiring here. I dont want it. My company doesnt want me to have anything to do with it. Im between a rock and a hard place now! I earn less than 3 million yen a year and got taxed double this year in city and prefectural taxes what i did when i was earning 3.2 million a year 3 years ago (been in Japan for 6). Where do they think this money is coming from? These bereaucrats at all levels are scum who dont know or care about what its like to live in the real world.

  • AJ – OK. Apologies. The last time I went there was in November 2007 to get my PR. If it has moved I’m glad I don’t have to go back (for a while at least).

  • “Ironic is that the Labour govt (not the Tories) was the one who wants this; even Blair wanted to extend habeas corpus for suspects to, what was it, 45 days? Britain’s always been overreactive about terrorists (hence subject in the movie IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER), and political scientists blame it on the lack of a clearly-delineated Bill of Rights to make the govt=public contract clearer.”

    Several points – first the UK did suffer from terrorist campaigns from the late 60s – but seems to have been vastly surpassed by the US in the space of just a few years – the US Bill of Rights does not seem to have made a difference there. I’ll not the House of Lords also struck down the 42 day detention attempt of the Labour governments.

    Second, I have a suspicion that if something similar to the Guildford Four case (the subject of the Hollywood movie) had occurred in the US the defendants would be long dead – courtesy of the state.

    Third, the UK does have a Bill of Rights, inherited from that passed by the English parliament in 1689 – guaranteeing freedom of speech, Parliament, freedom from cruel and unusual punishment and excessive bail, and freedom from fine or forfeiture without a trial. Granted, we also have a largely unwritten constitution based on law – but it seems to have served us well so far.

    Fourth – did the US Bill of Rights protect people from Witch Hunts in the 50s? Considering the ‘three strikes’ laws – does it protect people from cruel and unusual punishment? Considering the recent case of Black people transiting the Texan town of Tenaha being made to forfeit their hard earned cash does the US Bill of Rights protect people from forfeiture without a trial?

    Lastly, not trying to diss the US – just pointing out that all systems have their minuses as well as their pluses.

    — Sorry, I wasn’t dissing, or even really comparing all that seriously, either. Sorry if I raised a hackle. I acquiesce, if that helps.

  • Have you seen this?

    Amendments to the new card. Maybe.


    Koreans in Japan not required to carry special permit under amendment
    Friday 22nd May, 06:37 AM JST Kyodo News

    TOKYO —
    Japan’s ruling coalition and major opposition party agreed Thursday to scratch from a bill to revise the immigration law an article that requires permanent residents of Korean descent to always carry a special certificate to live permanently in Japan, Diet sources said. The move came after the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan proposed the removal to the Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, the New Komeito party, during talks over the bill.

    The three parties are scheduled to discuss the details of whether to remove another article that requires other foreign nationals to carry a card if they stay in the country, and are expected to reach an agreement on the amendment as early as Friday, according to the sources.

    The parties also agreed on other topics including clarifying the responsibilities of a company that accepts foreign nationals as trainees and strengthening measures to prevent the use of foreign nationals’ information for purposes other than stated.

    The bill, currently under deliberation at a committee in the House of Representatives, could pass the full lower house and be enacted during the current Diet session, the sources said.

    The bill for amending the current immigration law would abolish the alien registration card that municipalities currently issue and instead require the state to issue a special certificate to permanent Korean residents and a card to other foreigners staying in the country, in a move to unify measures pertaining to foreigners into a single task undertaken by the central government.

    It also introduces penalties against companies that fail to pay wages to foreigners.

    The primary purpose of the amendment is to strengthen government measures to prevent foreigners from staying in Japan illegally, and opponents of the bill say it will enhance government control over foreign residents in general and pose problems related to human rights.


  • E.P. Lowe says:

    – Sorry, I wasn’t dissing, or even really comparing all that seriously, either. Sorry if I raised a hackle. I acquiesce, if that helps.

    Wow! Kudos to you Debito – that kind of even-handedness and honestly is little seen on the web today.

  • I am surprised there are still arguments over RFID capabilities i.e. Oscar_6’s comment, “But in my view you are painting a bit too much an Orwellian picture. Even if a card is not shielded, the transmitter in it is too weak, and antenna is too small, so you would need a very powerful electromagnetic wave to induce enough electricity to power the chip and a very sensitive receiver to pick up the signal. Have you seen the setup needed to achieve the world-record 20 meters result? Still, you are making this one of the top stories in your article, and I can imagine unsophisticated readers picturing some sort of radar with blinking dots on the map…”

    The first problem is the website article he referred to was from 2005! Back then 60′ was an interesting result under optimal conditions and tag orientation along with that monstrosity of an antenna; however, 2005 is ancient history for RFID and the technology world in general. Let’s fast-forward a few years where next generation RFID cards and readers exist. Carl Brown’s Simply RFID company sells hand-held RFID readers with a 20′ working range from an antenna 2-3″ long (that is 20′ with 100% reads in real-world conditions i.e. RFID bunching, node interference, and material shielding.)[2] But second generation cards are taking over. “We have been testing the new 224 RFID chip since April 2008 and, as far as Passive Generation 2 RFID technology goes, it is superior in performance an durability to anything on the market. Our tests show the new 224 averages over 40′ effective useful range. This means, we can create reliable solutions within that ‘zone’.” Further, “We typically deploy/test in difficult [situations] because the environment will change over time. With the 224, we can plan to have an effective working range of 40′ and be confident we will achieve 100% reads.”[3] Waddaya know, thechnology does move forward. I remember 5 years ago when I was first required to use RFID thechnology at work and couldn’t get 100% reads at 1”, but now 40′ is going to be an effective range. That’s 480% improvement over what I was using 5 years ago. Looking specifically at RFID cards in the type if situation what we are discussing, Washington driver’s licenses (approved by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security) are under some kind of voo-doo because its RFID cards have an optimal read range of 150′.[4]

    Then, “As for that remote scanner setup, no matter how neatly you’ll build it, you just can’t hide that big ass antenna (which must be pointed directly to the card, by the way), and imagine the reaction of public if such scanners were to appear at every major station or on top of every police car.”

    I agree that installing a “big ass antenna” in public places is a bit unnerving for the citizenry. I suppose that is what prompted Mojix to develop technology to allow RFID cards to be read from 600′ away (maximum read of 1000′). Small Mojix nodes can cause tags within 30′ to become excited and transmit signals to an area of 250,000 square feet. No “big ass antenna” required.[5] And, since Apr 2008, Mojix also includes non-line-of-site reads that allow location determination.[6] Typical RFID readers have a throughput approaching 1000 reads per second which makes “picturing some sort of radar with blinking dots on the map” less of a picture and more of a reality. But blinking dots on a radar is a bit old-school. The new thinking is to integrate the system with video cameras as the FBI has already hired Simply RFID to do[7]. And there may soon be plenty of cameras to do it with as it appears some people in Japan are trying to drum up suport for an increase in CCTV surveillance[8]

    Level3 made a good point that a “20 meter range is PLENTY to setup a whole-street checkpoint. It wouldn’t be beyond imagination if such checkpoints were placed at major rail sation ticket gates, surreptitiously, as an ‘anti-terror’ measure.” Debito is always nice enough to announce demonstrations days prior to the event. That leaves plenty of time to place 2 or 3 Mojix nodes in the area and allow police to sit back in their koban and monitor every single RFID card (foreigner) attending. Couple that with the proposed public safety laws, police could potentially breakup foreigner demonstrations before they have a chance to begin[8]

    And the argument of nothing to hide and nothing to fear isn’t valid anymore. ID fraud is way too common. RFID reader are so compact and portable that ID theft will be nearing undetectable. A company in China offers readers smaller than a cell phone for sale. In fact, they offer the service of putting them inside a cellphone housing![9] It’s entirely common to stand shoulder to shoulder in the trains each morning and that creates ample opportunity for a cell-phone size RFID reader in your pocket to be within 3 or 4 inches of another person’s purse, bag, or pockets. In 2006 two misfits gave a presentation in New York in which they scanned an RFID implanted into an arm and sccessfully cloned the data ON THE SPOT! The RFID was from a company that claimed the chip was impossble to counterfeit.[10] You and I may not be out commiting crimes, but someone with your cloned ID may be. And, remember, Japan’s criminal code was birthed from the study of Napoleonic code which was plagued by de facto presumption of guilt and excessive remand (the 21 day holding period and the ease of becoming a hostage of the justice system being a holdover from its origins). I’d rather not spend 21 days (or however many years) in jail because my RFID puts me at the scene of a crime (fraud, rape, or murder let’s say) when I was actually at home baking cookies.







    knox system tracking video w/ rfid




    — Thanks for a well-sourced article.

  • The Shark says:

    1) About the remote scanning stuff:
    There are probably more foreign tourists than foreign residents in Japan at any given time. If they really decided to stop all non-detectable ‘foreign looking’ people, they might well annoy many tourists. And that wouldn’t be good for the Japanese tourism industry, would it? At least they could choose between pissing off the government or the tourism industry.

    2) About ward office and immigration office:
    If under the new system you can still report a change of address to the local ward office and they pass it on to immigration … then why can’t they pass on any other changes as well???

    3) About the police and policing:
    All those stories about alien card checks etc. seem to be concentrated in Kanto. In Kansai I have never been asked for my ID and I’ve been here for about 10 years. Nor have I ever witnessed police officers ‘dealing with’ foreign looking people.
    Could ‘group accountabilty’ therefore also have a geographical dimension? Like if you walk around Roppongi at night then you just must be a criminal (otherwise you wouldn’t be there)?

    4) Can you videotape a police officer while he is stopping and questioning you on the street (for your own record)? Like they have a right to see your ID and you have a right to ‘film the environment’?


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