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DEBITO.ORG NEWS FLASH
JAPANESE POLICE NOW DEMANDING URINE SAMPLES
FROM FOREIGNERS ON THE STREET
RECOMMEND JOURNALISTS AND OTHER CONCERNED PARTIES
READING THIS INVESTIGATE FURTHER
Released July 1, 2009, freely forwardable
By Arudou Debito (www.debito.org, firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter arudoudebito)
Sapporo, Japan. Freely forwardable.
Debito.org has received a number of reports that police in Roppongi and Shibuya are rounding up Non-Japanese exiting bars, and bringing them in police wagons for drug testing.
They are demanding urine tests from their detainees.
This is an act of extremely questionable legality.
This was confirmed at 3PM July 1, 2009, when I telephoned the Azabu Police Department (http://www.keishicho.metro.tokyo.jp/1/azabu/index.htm) phone 03-3479-0110 (dai) and talked to an Officer Teshima, who refused to give more details about his official rank in the police department, what sort of methods are being used, their criteria for selecting their detainees, what they do if detainees do not cooperate, and if they have warrants. Our conversation in paraphrase below. Further links to sources also below.
If true, this could be the dawn of new practices and extensions of police power in Japan. This author believes that racial profiliing, already standard operating practice for bicycle checks and ID checks on the street (https://www.debito.org/?p=1802), is now involving more invasive methods– bodily fluids.
The testimonials of eyewitnesses to these raids in Roppongi and Shibuya are blogged and linked at Debito.org at
The conversation I had with Mr Teshima today went approximately as follows:
ME: My name is Arudou Debito, calling for Human Rights Group Ippan Shadan Houjin FRANCA (I gave the full official translation of the group (http://www.francajapan.org), and I have heard that there are police stopping foreigners exiting bars and asking them for urine tests.
TESHIMA: Who is this and why are you asking?
ME: (repeats name and details about FRANCA).
TESHIMA: We have been doing more policing.
ME: Are you doing urine tests (nyou kensa)?
TESHIMA: Depends on the situation (toki to baai ni yoru).
ME: But are urine tests happening?
TESHIMA: Depends on the situation.
ME: But they are happening.
ME: Are you doing this as part of clamping down on drugs?
ME: Are you targeting foreigners?
TESHIMA: We are testing people. We are not just testing foreigners.
ME: What are your criteria for choosing people for testing?
TESHIMA: I don’t have to answer that. (kotaeru hitsuyou ga nai)
ME: Would you answer me if I asked the question as writer for a newspaper?
TESHIMA: I am under no obligation to answer.
ME: Do you have warrants to ask for urine samples?
TESHIMA: I don’t have to answer that. Depends on the situation.
ME: But you can’t ask for urine samples without a warrant, right?
TESHIMA: We don’t always need a warrant. Depends on the situation.
ME: What situations do you not need a warrant?
TESHIMA: I don’t have to answer that.
ME: But if they give you their permission for a sample, you don’t need a warrant?
TESHIMA: If they cooperate, we don’t need a warrant.
ME: What if they don’t cooperate?
TESHIMA: I’m not going to answer that.
ME: Can they be charged under the Interference of Duties–?
TESHIMA: Look, I’m busy.
ME: Understood. Could you please tell me your position in the police department, Mr Teshima?
TESHIMA: I don’t have to answer that.
ME: Okay, thank you for your time.
Give Mr Teshima a call yourself at 03-3479-0110 (dai) and see if you can get any clearer answers.
In recent months, there has been a lot of scandal about sumo wrestlers (Japanese and Non-Japanese) using cannabis, and media (including Japan Times, see http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/ss20080903a1.html) have reported them saying they procured the substance from Roppongi foreigners. There are police raids continuing on Roppongi bars (https://www.debito.org/?p=3305), most recently last Friday (http://www.japanprobe.com/?p=11055). Plus stoppages on the street, according to commentators to Debito.org, and searches of bags and pockets for being of foreign extraction.
This indicates that the Japanese Police seem to be targeting areas with high foreigner concentrations. Foreigners may be being singled out on the street as more likely to be possessing. Given that Japan has no right of habeas corpus (https://www.debito.org/whattodoif.html#checkpoint), no clear checks against interrogational abuses (https://www.debito.org/whattodoif.html#arrested), and few recourses against wrongful arrest, police with this much power using racial paradigms against Non-Japanese and people who look foreign will result in racial profling — with innocents being targeted, detained, and subject to police practices of interrogation under questionable legality. Such as the circumstantial evidence of exiting a bar while looking foreign.
I encourage readers to read, investigate, and report these developments.
Arudou Debito in Sapporo
www.debito.org, email@example.com, twitter arudoudebito
July 1, 2009
41 comments on “NEWS FLASH: Roppongi cops confirm subjecting NJ to urine tests”
What are a person’s (foreign or native) rights in Japan if we are “randomly selected” and asked for a urine sample? I know the police have the right to ask us for ID but can they actually demand bodily fluids?
— They need a warrant. But not if you cooperate and agree to the test.
Not long ago I had a conversation with a couple of Tokyo cops who were doing a bag search. In short they admitted they had no right to search people’s bags without cause, so they “request” a person cooperate by allowing them to search their bags, and only proceed with permission. But, if a person refuses to give permission for a search, the police regard that as “suspicious”, which gives them cause to search the bag anyway. Sadly this pseudo-logic survives because people generally don’t complain. Such is life in the friendly neighborhood police state.
its this a rather grey area though?
what if you refuse..
cant you be accussed of obstructing an officer in the course of his duties??
what sort of pressure is being put on people to comply??
(agree though would be complete madness to agree to give a test though..)
Debito, it’s just appalling. Everybody must refuse, simple as that.
Debito here. Reporter friend of mine wants to know if anyone has undergone the urine test. If so, contact me here or offlist (your anonymity will be respected) at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
This is, to me, the most appalling abuse of power and disregard for human rights I have heard of since coming to Japan, and is in my mind far worse than fingerprinting at the border. It cannot possibly be legal for the police to stop someone and force them to undergo a urine test for… well, for what? For being foreign? For going out drinking in one of Tokyo’s major party areas?
I’m hoping for more updates from people who have actually been asked (if that is indeed the proper word) to undergo urine tests. Japanese or foreign, this is an outrage.
Amazing. I really hope this hits the news in a big way. Not only is the tactic a violation of rights, but it also raises certain questions: What exactly happens if a urine sample is positive for drugs? Also, how is the urine being tested? Is a doctor or lab actually looking at the results? How many times is the sample being tested and through what method? Is there any control at all for eliminating false-positives or is there just some old guy in the back of the koban dipping a litmus strip into the sample? Are records of the negative tests kept on file somewhere?
Also, who ordered this to start up and why? Is this an MOJ operation going on without anyone knowing? If politicians aren’t aware of this practice, then it shows a lack of oversight on the government’s behalf. If politicians somewhere are aware of the practice, then it’s time to make some phone calls to that person’s office.
This has the potential to be a major story. I don’t know of any developed country in the world where it’s routine for police stop people in the street without PC and conduct random drug tests.
I would think that polite letters to bars and restaurants in Roppongi, alerting them to the situation and informing them that you will not be going out in Roppongi while this kind of thing is going on, along with some kind of campaign informing people, would have the effect of having the local business associations protesting loudly to the police about having their customers harrassed.
Brad: “Also, who ordered this to start up and why?”
I think this is a key point. This is clearly some kind of ‘campaign’ by the police or someone behind the police. The question is, what is the goal of the campaign? It could be to find a scapegoat (‘major foreign drug dealer caught in roppongi’) , or it could be to get some nice statistics to support something (‘x% of drug crimes in tokyo last year were by foriegners’, ‘too much drug crime in roppongi so lets close down some bars/impose restrictions so bars go out of business and my backhander buddies can move in’). Whatever it is, personally I would avoid roppongi until this campaign is over.
Well, this is all part & parcel of living in police state Japan.
Nothing new here. If you don’t like it, get out.
Compared to other Southeast Asian countries, Japan is more “humane.” For example, in Thailand the police have been urine testing “farangs” coming out of bars for years, and you automatically go to jail for 45 days if there is any trace of drugs in your system. You spend time in a filthy jail, where conditions are far worse than in Japan’s notorious prison system. Bribes, corruption & downright insanity reign supreme in the jails of countries like Malaysia, Indonesia & Brunei. It’s rough for a weed smoking criminal.
In those countries, its better to worship Allah, have a couple of wives & toe the governments edicts, than allow people to use harmful drugs.
Bottom line, Asia is very anti-drug.
Even though Japan needs to wake up, and decriminalize drugs, just like Spain, Portugal, the Czech Republic & most recently Mexico have done, this will never happen. Not in Japan.
Have sent this thread to every journalist I know in my home country.
Will not let the racist J Police get away with it.
Quarterly updated stats for ‘Number of Penal Code offenses known to police’ at S7 here…
Apologies my knowledge of kanji is not enough to provide a legitimate breakdown.
Can we confirm that they are only testing NJ? Are they testing anyone who they suspect including Japanese or only NJ? If only NJ, someone needs to file a complaint or a lawsuit right away.
— Officer Teshima denied that the police were only targeting NJ. Just like the Hokkaido Police denied that they were only targeting non-Asians during the G8 Summit. I was an eyewitness to the lie of the latter.
And whilst I am on a search per se… some background…
NPA ‘Crimes in Japan 2007’
“(2) Arrests of non-resident foreigners for drug offenses increased. Three foreign nationals (Iranian, Filipino and Brazilian) constituted 51.6% of all the
non-resident foreigners arrested for offenses related to illegal drugs including
methamphetamine, cannabis, etc… ”
and what to expect, again courtesy of the fiendly neighborhood NPA…
This is absolutely astonishing. Just when I was planning to head back to Japan this summer….
I’m wondering, are they targeting _all_ non-Japanese-looking people? Or a particular race/ethnicity? Are they going after one gender more than another?
And if there’s any coverage in Japanese about this astonishing abuse of power, I’d appreciate it if you could post links.
This is unlike Fingerprinting, which is dangerous enough to anyone who doesn’t want
their identity misused. This puts your future in the hands of a low level person who
may be racist or not like how you look. These are the practical considerations, not
the moral or ethical ones, that those who say “part and parcel of living in Japan/Asia”
really misunderstand… it is arbitrary, dangerous and can change your life (not positively)
if you are the victim if such an Abuse of Power crime.
It would be useful to put together the arguments as to why this is a problem concisely.
Here’s a start.
1. It’s a violation of Basic Human Rights, no matter who the victim is (J or NJ).
2. Racial Profiling is an international crime. Japan is a signatory to treaties disallowing this.
3. It is against Japanese Law. (someone will need to find the applicable laws and post them)
4. It will damage Japan. (This has the makings of Jet outrage all over it, forget about us long term NJ)
5. There is no reason to trust the Police. If they can’t follow the law for Probable Cause, they can’t
be trusted to not produce fake results. There is ample precedent for this.
6. What is the false positive ratio, both from the test or lab error?
If you discount the rest as just “unfortunate, must live with” which is wrong, everyone should be
safe where they choose to live, numbers 5&6 are perhaps the most practical problems for those of
us compelled by our business to go drinking with colleagues.
Oops! Wrong place, Wrong time, Wrong Pee Cup…
Your Life, Career, Future, Reputation, Home, Family… You name it gone.
Debito-san – Thanks for following up.
Regarding Comment 10 – Venlo. Sorry your comment does not make sense to me – I am lucky, I can get out. I am not married to a Japanese, no kids in Japan, etc. Maybe you are in the same situation.
HOWEVER, there are others here who are not so lucky, that stay in Japan to keep a relationship with their kids, have kids of mixed race that could be targeted, married to a Japanese wife, etc.
Yes Japan is very anti-drug. So am I. But, the potentials for abuse if this is allowed to continue are enormous. It is one thing for a customs guy to search bags, have dogs sniff bags, etc. This is reasonable. Random sampling of bodily fluids based on one’s physical appearance alone is not reasonable and fascist. I do not live in Thailand and do not see making comparisons as validating what is going on here.
Debito-san….this is definitely a righteous cause. I shared this with some Japanese friends and they were truly mortified. This story should be pursued as far as reasonably possible. I think this is the one issue that is set apart from all other issues you have covered here as it has the potential to bring alot of Japanese support over to Franca and other Foreigners rights groups.
however we dont actually have any hard evidence and what basis its being done on yet,so hard to get reporters involved.
To echo what another poster said: What happens if positive? This seems to be a good point to follow up on. Have there been any successful prosecutions?
you have the right to refuse a urine test and you have the right to refuse a bag search, and the police cant do a damn thing if you refuse. this is your right as a NJ or a japanese for that matter. and you have the right to refuse to show your ID card if the police refuse to show you theres first. these are your rights under current law. [completely incomprehensible sentence deleted]
An alternate thought here – What if a whole bunch of NJs showed up at the Azabu Police station to request that they do a “random” urine test? As a demonstration, this could be powerful. After all, wouldn’t this put the lie to all NJs are criminal?
what i wanna know is
wheres Ho amongst all this?
hes gone very quiet since saying that he didnt believe such a thing was happening..
— Yes, quite. HO, now’s your chance to prove that your perennial theories about law-abiding police are correct. Give Mr Teshima a call and ask him about the laws governing random urine sampling, and what the criteria are for choosing the people they detain and test, for example.
Paul, I like the way you think, however, instead of going down to Azabu Police Station in person what about mailing our samples in? I am searching but cannot find a copy of Japan’s postal regs in English (I cannot read Japanese) to see if urine would be a prohibitted item to post. Anyway, I like the civil (dis)obedience of giving them too much of what they want.
Here we have a couple of dozen posts, and some outrage and some good ideas, but the thing is, not enough people do care about this sort of thing, and so it will happen and will continue to happen more and more.
If our embassies complained forcibly to the Japanese government that would be something, but our embassies are basically business representatives, working for corporations not people. If the Japanese media or Japanese opposition politicians raised a stink, that would be something — but they generally don’t. Who is left to care? The Japanese people, who have little inkling of human rights, and anyway are told constantly by their media and government that “foreigners are a problem”? I think not.
Here we have a couple of dozen posts.
Quote – adamw
“what if you refuse.. cant you be accused of obstructing an officer in the course of his duties?
what sort of pressure is being put on people to comply?”
This is what I’d like to know. As Jim says (#21), if asked to comply with a random bag check, I will refuse to do so in line with my rights but if they say by not allowing their request, you are obstructing their work (公務員執行妨害法), what other option do you have? Are the choices not comply and be arrested or comply and have your rights violated?
It’s easy to say don’t go to Roppongi but if it’s happening there now, how long is it until it happens somewhere else?
Is it actually illegal in Japan to have drugs in your system (if you’re not driving, etc..)? I know that it’s illegal to actually have the drugs themselves… But if someone fails a random drug test when not driving, and that person isn’t found to currently be in possession of drugs, what law have they actually broken?
Debito, I’m extremely grateful for your hard work in the midst of this fracas. The cops have really gone beyond The Pale with this demanding of urine for testing. I’m not sure, really, where this will end. This is the thin end of the fascist wedge. If it were to be reported to Lausanne, I would imagine that the IOC would just freak at this kind of policing, especially if star athletes and coaches were to be stopped and treated like this during an Olympic Games in Tokyo. Given the Toyako fiasco, that would seem all too likely. This by itself is, in my opinion, a reason not to grant the games to Ishihara and his goons. Unflippingbelievable!
Shocking. Truly shocking story. Curious to see how it plays out.
As for drugs in the system, one of the teachers whom I work with was pulled into a police station and failed a urine test. However, the teacher was let go (after a couple months) as the drug in question was injested while outside of Japan. The fact that it can still test positive 6 months later in your system and while on Japanese soil was enough for police to keep the “suspect” for questioning but not enough to convict.
One option is to politely insist that your can only submit to a blood test. A blood test will turn up any drug use in the past couple of days, but will not give them a two month record, as a urine test for cannabis (depending on your level of usage) potentially will. Ibuprofen (Advil) is a notorious false positive for cannabis in urine tests, and in a sane world, this is reason enough to decline anything but a blood test.
(Unfortunately, this is not a sane world)
Here’s another reason not to cooperate: no wishing to be filmed by the police while urinating.
About comments 22/23/24:
What if every day three foreigners accompanied by a foreign journalist walked into Azubu Police Station to see Mr Teshima and ask whether he would like to have a urine sample for testing. Wouldn’t that piss him off (so to say)?
By the way: The Shark is 100% against drugs!
A blood test is still very very invasive. You are still allowing yourself to be detained for no valid reason. I would politely refuse a urine or blood test. When did visiting Roppongi become a crime?
Today’s Japan Times (5th July) has a report ‘Student behind stimulant ring sought’. If you read through that article you’ll get the impression that the main drug problem in Japan lies with Japanese citizens and not with foreigners. The article refers to an expelled Waseda student who started a crime syndicate abroad, a Toyo university student who admitted he recruited 15 smugglers on the web and even sent 1 unemployed guy to Malaysia to pick uo some drugs. But that guy got caught at Kansai airport. In South Korea too many Japanese got arrested for drug possession.
In the same Japan Times you’ll read that on Saturday (4th July) in Nara one high school student just killed another high school student at a train station.
The Shark’s point is the following: It’s not that Japanese people are bad. The problem is that problems in Japanese society like these ones are not really addressed. But police should rather shift their forces to universities and high schools and away from Roppongi.
— Oh, but cracking down on NJ is so much easier. You don’t even need probable cause for ID checks if you’re existing while foreign…!
What is the big deal? Don’t do drugs and don’t worry about it, I will piss for them right there on the street if they ask. I am clean and I know it.
Seriously the only people scared of this test are criminals!
— And the people who consider this to be the thin edge of the wedge.
I can’t tell if Randy is being sarcastic or not. You know, saying something totally outrageous just to prove a point. Just in case he’s not being sarcastic let me say a couple of things.
False positives. A friend was telling me about a recent scandal he saw on the news where a Japanese national was arrested for drugs and then was released a few days later because the first test was wrong. Do you think that the police will do a second test for a lowly gaijin? Also, if you’ve eaten anything with a large amount of poppy seeds in it (a poppy seed bagel or poppy seed cake, for example) in the past 24~48 hours, you will test positive for opiates.
Civil liberties. This is an outrageous abuse of police power. Simply outrageous and unbelievable. I couldn’t believe it when I first read about it. It’s bad enough that they can stop you just because they feel like it, now they want your urine? What’s next? You want to come into my house and look around? Maybe read my email or listen to my phone conversations too? Unbelievable. The proper role of police in a society is to protect the population from harm, not going around harassing them.
I’d like to say more, but I feel like I might just start to rant incoherently, these police tactics make me so mad.
Hey Shark… What if three people went… (post 33) I think that someone remembers Alice’s Restaurant. Why it could be a movement!
So lets say you are stopped by the police and freely or by force, they get a urine sample. Then what?? You have to wait for them to process it or are you free to go? Is this a case of, its a positive result they’ll come and arrest you later or they have some lab technicians following them with a truck that can process this right away?
And what if you actually didn’t smoke anything but happen to be in a place where there people doing it? Then what? Will the police haul you away or will they deal like “if you tell us where you were you are free to go.. of course after signing this confession..”
I think the laws in Japan are very clear about Marijuana and other controlled substances, and if people don’t want trouble then they should AVOID using these substances. But to each their own.
Is Japan slowly but surely turning into a Police State?
Damn, I thought I left all that racist junk back in america……
Well, I guess all off you now know how it feels to be a black man in america because over here you`re the nigg## too!
No, they don`t randomly violate your human rights in america but racial profiling is SOP.
As far as the “mandatory” piss tests, that is BS. If you are unlucky enough to get stopped you MUST not agree to this.. The only way they can do it is if you agree to it.
I know from personal experience that the japanese police are very slick when they talk to you and they will make you think that you have to comply, but if you don`t agree to it then it is nothing that they can do except , in worst case , hold you for 72 hrs until you go to see the prosecutor.
The police have 72 hours to come up with evidence that you committed a crime and give it to the prosecutor so you can be charged with something. REMEMBER THIS!!
By refusing a piss test you are not committing a crime or restricting anything (although they will say otherwise) you will not be charged with anything , and the prosecutor will not have enough evidence to take it to court.
Again, I speak from personal experience with the japanese court system in regards to drugs.
If anyone needs a good lawyer who will take care of you as a foreigner contact
Is anyone Twittering about this? We should all Twitter something like “Japan Violates Human Rights By Forcing Foreigners To Give Bodily Fluids” then link back to this page.
Stay Safe Everyone,
“Well, I guess all off you now know how it feels to be a black man in america because over here you`re the nigg## too!”
This reminded me of that line from “Mr. Baseball”:
“Over here I’m gaijin, same as you.”
“It’s like being a black guy back home…only there’s less of us.”
BTW, Debito-san: nice to see you worked a few delicious puns into that article. They say that the side that wins is always the side with the best sense of humor.
— We aim to please!
(sorry, couldn’t resist one more)