“Pinprick Protests” #1: GOJ authorities finally telling hotels correct enforcement procedures for NJ check-ins. Pity it only took five years.


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Hi Blog.  I would like to launch a new type of campaign, something I will call “Pinprick Protests”, an activity done on the individual level to protest injustice and unfair treatment in Japan.  Less visible than picketing and petitions, it is no less effective over time:  Enough individual protests nationwide, and it becomes “mendoukusai” for the authorities to have to deal with the issue anymore, and things shift for the better as GOJ attitudes and enforcement mechanisms change.

Case in point:  I received a good news from a translator yesterday in Debito.org’s comments section:


JayIII Says:
April 22nd, 2010

I work as a translator and often get jobs from the local government and I thought I would share a little bit of good news.

A request came across my desk today for updating the english phrasing recommended for hotels to display for foreign guests. The Japanese was changed from requiring “foreign visitors” and “display their passport or gaijin card” 外国人宿泊者 and 旅券もしくは外国人登録証明書を提示 to

Non-Japanese visitors without a permanent Japanese residence and display their passport 日本国内に住所を有しない外国人宿泊者 and 旅券を提示

So it’s one little step in the right direction.


Yes, quite. The law, when it took effect on April 1, 2005, said that NJ guests who had no addresses in Japan (as in tourists) would have to show their passports at all hotels in Japan (this was an “anti-terrorist and contagious disease measure“, problematic in itself; Japanese guests, then as now, need show no ID). The NPA and the MHLW then, deliberately and repeatedlydespite articles in the media, an inquest by the US Government, and various “pinprick protests” by individuals at check in who are aware of the letter of the law — bent the laws to say that all NJ (as in “foreign guests“), must be IDed, and some hotels (such as Toyoko Inn) used this as an excuse to refuse NJ customers entry. As determining who was a “foreign guest” was a matter of physical appearance to many hotels, this led to nationwide racial profiling, inconvenience, and insult (as not all people who look NJ are tourists, naturally).  All sponsored by authorities refusing to enforce their own laws properly.

Now, it seems, cops and ministries are finally giving hotels the correct information, and no longer bending the laws to target all NJ. Good. Pity it only took five years for the GOJ to knock it off.  And I bet it’s not a universal thing at hotels yet, so expect a bit more harassment at check-in.

Download the hotel laws here and continue the “pinprick protests” whenever necessary.  It works.  Over time.  What it takes is informedness, tenacity, and patience.   And the will to believe that we are not merely “foreign guests”, but rather people who have rights in Japan and the will to claim them.  For it is people who do NOT protest who get walked all over by the powers that be, as this case study demonstrates.

More suggestions for “pinprick protests” later.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

16 comments on ““Pinprick Protests” #1: GOJ authorities finally telling hotels correct enforcement procedures for NJ check-ins. Pity it only took five years.

  • Hi Debito:

    I believe that a positive reinforcement campaign (e.g. “Atta Boy, GOJ!”) is needed along side the “pinprick protests” so that the powers that be can see NJ are not just a bunch of complainers.


  • MMT added to the comments section yesterday re this topic:

    That’s good news, JayIII. One thing though, I hope that the translation in English doesn’t say “permanent” Japanese residence specifically, since that may confuse guests thinking they need some form of long-term visa (永住権) to be exempt, when in fact any old residence will do (even those living between two countries).

  • I wonder at what level of government this correct translation request came from. If it came from just from one municipal tourism department in one small city, then don’t look for this ‘correct’ version spreading out across Japan to the places that need it any time soon.

    I am truly amazed that the problems inherent with enforcing a top-down order like “All foreigners must be ID’d when checking-in” hasn’t been challenged at some level: by hotel management, local tourism boards, local governments, there by exposing the incorrect interpretation.

    It seems everybody, at all levels in Japan, are just happy to comply with this incorrect reading and act like it can be easily implemented (i.e., based on appearance, one’s nationality can be determined) and act like it isn’t racist (why must ALL foreigners hand over all their personal information to be photocopied again?).

    Throughout my stay in Japan, time and time again I am reminded of Japan’s simple dichotomic world view: Japanese or Foreigner, one or the other, with no in-between. The mistaken idea that ALL foreigners must hand over ID when checking into a hotel is obviously a result of this simplified view of society.

    Take the current suffrage controversy. Anti-suffrage groups are NOT stating ‘eijuken o motteiru gaikokujin’ like they should, but simply using ‘gaikokujin’ when engaging in their fear-mongering. This is either purposeful or ignorant, but in any case, perhaps this is one reason why there is such a backlash against this proposal to instill the false idea that “Foreigners, like ryugakusei, will be voting in elections!!”. We can’t have that, can we?.

    Dear Japan, there can be foreigners living in Japan who are not tourists. Please don’t treat them as such.

    Sorry for the tangent/rant (rangent?).

  • I was asked at the Comfort Hotel at Centrair first for my passport, then for my alien registration when I checked in last December. When I stated why that such identification wouldn’t be necessary, (my address is in Japan) the clerk became agitated and quite obstinate. I continued to refuse until she brought another clerk out to the front. She scanned my address quickly and said it would be okay this time.

    In the morning, I asked to speak to the manager. Although he was apologetic, he remained firm that all foreign guests, regardless of address, need to show their passport or ARC. He did, however, say that he would investigate further. He took my information down, and I left.

    He contacted me a few weeks later, and apologized for his error. He said that he has instructed his staff on the proper procedures, and that from now on they will deal properly with these situations.

    I returned last month for an overnight stay. True to his word, the manager’s staff followed through and accepted my address as proof of identity.

    I will continue to use the Comfort Hotel at Centrair, and will also continue to stand fast against this sort of thing if and when it comes up again. It is through Debito’s website that I learned how to properly state my case in such situations. I hope others will do the same.

    Thanks Debito,

    SJM in Nagoya

  • Mark Hunter says:

    This area is one (of quite a few) where Debito’s site has been a catalyst for real change in people’s perception of racism. It’s nice to see positive outcomes for all his and our efforts. Way to go people!

  • Just a quick addition to my last post

    I wrote my last comment in quite a hurry, in part because I was in the middle of a long discussion with a co-worker about this very topic when this fell on my desk. The final version didn’t have the word “permanent” included. Sorry about the sloppy translation = p

  • Wayback machine dates the latter to Feb 1 2008 at the latest, but it may have been earlier.


    (There was a minor correction to the kanji in April 2008, which suggests the page is probably not much older than that.)

    — Thanks for that! However, Gaijin Card checks for me and others happened at hotels numerous times after that, so it’s not at all clear this was widely dispersed then.

  • Hi,
    I recently came to know that Softbank requires and stores the alien card details for foreigners though there are other alternatives mentioned in the form for consultation at the Softbank Shop in Ikebukuro. When I asked them why particularly foreign customers had to provide only their alien card, they said it was their rule. The galling thing is it`s not during taking a new connection only, it`s for every case when a customer seeks consultation from them.

    The above seems to be in direct contradiction to the laws regarding demanding production of the alien card by non government officials any time they want.

    — Yep. Try AU.

  • Wow, that has never happened to me and I wouldn’t allow it to. Whenever I am asked for ID I just give my driver’s license.

    Given how much money softbank has made off me in the last eight years, it’s in their interests to keep it that way 😉

  • SPDinMiyagi says:

    I’ve dealt with Softbank since I first got a mobile way back 15 years ago when they were still Tsuuka, and I’ve kept with them since their various face changes since then. I am the contract party for not only my own phone, but also those of my wife and 2 children. However, I don’t ever remember being asked to produce my ARC. All I’m ever asked for is my driver’s license, which the people on the counter take a quick look at, write down its number and then they hand it back to me. I don’t know, but maybe it’s because I’ve been in their records for such a long time.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    KaZ, visit another office, or change providers. The companies will want to see some kind of ID if you’re making a change to your contract; I use Docomo, and I always have my health insurance card ready. I’ve never been given any problems with it. Protect your valuable personal information — all they need to confirm is a name and address, which is on the health insurance card. They don’t need all that extra info on the alien card.

  • SPDinMiyagi says:

    Just been to my local Softbank shop to pick up a new mobile for my daughter (the dog ate the last one). I had to show my driver’s license as usual. Once I had finished my business, I asked the person on the counter whether they have a rule that NJ customers have to show their ARC, but he said that if the customer (even if NJ) has some other ID issued in Japan such as a driver’s license or health insurance card, that is enough. He said that all they have to check is the customer’s name, address and date of birth. KaZ, next time try showing your driver’s license or insurance card. If they put up a fuss, I would then ask to see the “rule” written down in their manual or whatever, and then ensure that it is a company-wide rule, which I understand they don’t have.

    — That’s one hungry dog.

  • Ivor in Osaka says:

    It is just a matter of time before someone robs everybody at the Osaka Immigration Bureau.

    Yesterday I went to the Osaka Regional Immigration Bureau to pick up my visa renewal. A day before Golden Week and the Bureau was full of customers from every part of the world waiting to be served. I lined up and after a while felt relieved when it was finally my turn to be served.

    That is when it started. The lady reaching over the counter to take my passport, did not wear a uniform, was dressed like the pleasant old lady down the street that gives me vegetables from her garden, had no name tag or identification. My first reaction was of course ‘Dear Lady, you should be waiting in line like everyone else and not there behind the counter!’ but I simply asked ‘Who are you?’. To which the middle-aged lady repeated that she would take my passport. Having had my passport stolen twice in Japan, having been asked for identification by people who claimed to have been Police and Immigration officers, I felt it would be appropriate to find out who this person was. I asked her name at least 6 times and each time she responded by asking why I needed to know her name. I asked at least three times if she was an Immigration officer and again she refused to answer. Finally I asked to speak to the supervisor and when she refused to do so for the fourth time, the man sitting beside her, wearing a uniform and a name tag with no picture and that looked as if it was printed off a home computer, stated that he would take my passport.

    I had to ask 5 different people at Immigration, make several trips between the 2nd floor Immigration section and the 4th floor General affairs section before a General affairs representative took me back to the 2nd floor, went to the back room and finally dragged out the real supervisor. I had been told by several different people that they were the supervisor and that they would hear my concerns but were stumped when I asked for their business cards. Then it became apparent they were not in charge at all.

    I asked the ‘supervisor’ for his business card and he told me he had none left to give out but that had some for special occasions when important people came. Well I clearly knew how I was being seen; non-important person. Having spent close to an hour trying to find out who was in charge, getting the royal run around treatment and being so politely insulted, I was at patience’s end.

    ‘How is anyone to know who is an Immigration officer and who is not? You have people walking around and standing behind the counter who are not wearing a uniform or any identification showing that they are Immigration officers, asking for people’s passports. Am I simply to trust any Japanese who in their broken English demands my passport? How do I know that this person is not a thief? Everything is in my passport and on my Alien Registration card, my name, address, age, birthday, place of birth etc. Why would I have to give this to anyone unless they had a legal right to ask for it?’

    The Immigration ‘supervisor’ answered that only they people who wore uniforms were Immigration officers and that the others were part time workers.

    I asked why it had taken such lengths to try to find out who the person asking for my passport was, why they had no identification showing they were an Immigration officer and finally to be able to speak to the one in charge.

    ‘All you had to do was ask the person at the desk their name and ask to speak to me’ was his answer.

    I asked why he did not wear any identification clearly showing that he was indeed the one in charge and he simply responded ‘Well we try to make things as easy as possible for foreigners but what happened might have been done on purpose’.
    Among other surprises were ‘You do not need to know our names or see our identification…’ and his look of disgust when told I was African. It was a shame that this conversation was only in Japanese and no one could simultaneously translate but I suspect many other foreigners realized there was a serious problem here. What is to stop anyone from going to Osaka Immigration wearing a suit and a name tag with kanji and its corresponding romaji, asking everyone for their passports and then disappearing forever? And based on how people at the Osaka Immigration bureau seem to want to hide who is who, not clearly indicate who is an Immigration officer and who is not, who is in charge and who is not, I suspect that if something went seriously wrong that no one would take responsibility for it, and we foreigners would be left to carry the pieces and probably blame.

    Next step will be writing letters to the Immigration bureau and General affairs office.

  • Have to say that I had exactly the opposite experience at a sofbank shop (Shinjuku West).

    New account, produced my drivers licence – the sales woman asked me if I was a Japanese national (no) – Is your visa of the type that lasts more than a year (beyond the end of the contract) (yes) – Thanks…No proof required, just my word.

    Not saying this is the usual, but as we know with various oulets the “rules” change…

  • sendaiben says:

    Just checked into Nikko Hotel, Osaka. One low-key question as I was checking in: “Do you live in Japan, sir?”



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