“Pinprick Protests”: Chand Bakshi fights back against “NJ ID Checkpoint” hotel, gets apology


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Hi Blog. Here is a report from Chand Bakshi on how he called “basta” to a hotel that was racially profiling its customers, demanding all visually-looking NJ submit to an ID check and copy — claiming erroneously that this was required by law. Chand followed up on this to the point where he got capitulation and an apology. Well done.

This is actually pretty effective. The hotel I usually stay at in Tokyo has on various occasions (depending on how I was dressed) tried to Gaijin Card me too. I told them (and later followed up with an explanation to the management) that this only applied to tourists; NJ with Japanese addresses are not required to show ID. Of course, that’s not what the NPA would have hotels believe — they have explicitly instructed hotels to inspect and photocopy ID of ALL NJ. Which is why we must fight back against this invitation to racial profiling, as Chand has below.

In my case, my Tokyo hotel yesterday asked me if I had a domestic address upon check-in (which I’m fine with). I pointed to my name on the check-in card and said, check your records — I’m not only a Japanese, but also a frequent customer. Got a deep apology. But at least now my hotel chain is more sophisticated in its approach.

Read on for Chand’s report. Thanks Chand. Arudou Debito in Tokyo


October 7, 2010

Dear Debito,

I’d like to share a recent experience I had with a hotel that was discriminating against NJ and it’s somewhat positive outcome.

I live in Kyushu and took a trip to Nagasaki with a Japanese friend; we decided to stay at the Richmond Hotel in Nagasaki. It’s one of a countrywide chain.


When we checked in the staff asked for my passport or gaijin card. Now, since living in Japan I’ve had my share of bad hotel experiences, refused service etc, but I tend not to get too upset when asked for my gaijin card as I realize its often a communication error and what the staff really want is any ID from all customers and they just presume NJ are unlikely to have Japanese driving licenses etc. So I offered the staff my Japanese driving license instead. However they wouldn’t accept it. They wanted a gaijin card or passport only. I explained to them that as a resident of Japan it wasn’t required that I show my gaijin card to a hotel and any ID should suffice. They continued to insist I had to give them my gaijin card and I refused. I brought up the topic of discrimination and the staff seemed to have an automatic English response,

‘It is not discrimination, it is required by law, please understand.’

Finally they accepted my driving license, as ID and all seemed ok, check in completed they handed over our keys and wished us a happy stay. I then realized they hadn’t asked my Japanese friend for any ID. I asked them why they hadn’t checked my friend. Their reply was ‘only gaikokujin need to show ID, please understand.”

I started telling them off again much to the embarrassment of my Japanese friend, a supervisor came and said rudely the now all too familiar line. ‘It is not discrimination, it is required by law, please understand’

I asked what law, and was told ‘the Ryokan Gyouhou, please understand it is not discrimination.’

As an avid debito.org reader I was pretty sure this was incorrect, but there was the chance the law had changed and more importantly my Japanese friend was becoming frustrated/embarrassed and wanted to get on with sightseeing so I let the issue drop.

When I returned home I check with Debito that the Ryokan Gyouhou hadn’t changed and contacted the hotel again via telephone.

I got explained my unhappiness to various staff who where much more friendly over the phone than they had been in person. The lobby staff still kept saying it was required by law, but when I asked them if they had actually read the Gyouhou as I had they passed me up the management chain.

Finally I got to a lady who told me it wasn’t actually the law but was in fact a request from the Nagasaki police, she listened to my concerns that I basically summarized as:

* NJ are particularly sensitive to discrimination in hotels as we are sometimes refused service.

*NJ aren’t required by law to give their gaijin cards to hotel staff, they should ask for ID only, insisting on the gaijin card could be discrimination and ideally the word ‘gaijin card’ should never come out of hotel staff’s mouths.

* Requiring ID from NJ and not Japanese is discrimination, no argument about it.

*Its racial profiling as my children could look NJ despite holding Japanese citizenship. And why wasn’t my Japanese friend checked in case they were Zainichi Korean as they too hold gaijin cards.

*If they’re collecting this data on NJ what is being done with it?

She said she understood, and that they were just following the police’s instructions. Nothing was done with the copies of the IDs and they were shredded after a month.

I told her as the copy of my ID had been copied under a discriminatory policy I would like it returned to me.

The lady said she couldn’t approve that but would get her boss to call me in a few days.

A few days later the manager, a Mr. Motoyama contacted me, he was very apologetic. They said that they were sorry they had offended me, and they would return the copy of my ID.

I told him I was concerned that this was going to happen again and what was their hotel was going to do about it. Mr. Motoyama said he would inform head office of the error and in his own hotel advise the staff to follow the Gyomhou not the instructions of the police and that this shouldn’t happen again.

I asked him if this was because of the 2005 memo. (previously discussed on debito.org at https://www.debito.org/japantimes101805.html and www.debito.org/newhotelpassportlaw.jpg)

However Mr. Motoyama informed me that the police had asked for the information to be collected in 2007 when they visited the hotel in person.

They had been collecting copies of all ‘gaijin’s ‘ cards since then but hadn’t actually been passing them to the police, just shredding them after a month.

A few days later the copy of my ID and an apology letter arrived in the post. (see JPEG attached.)

So this all had a fairly satisfactory outcome, however it’s frustrating to constantly have hassle when traveling. Here the hotel staff were just being stupid. They had an automatic English response ready with their ‘It is not discrimination, it is the law please understand.” so, they must’ve been getting complaints fairly regularly. They should’ve read the Ryokan Gyouhou.

But the real culprits here are the police, I can understand how a Japanese might be tempted to follow instructions from the police without checking first if it was the law or not. Now I haven’t contacted the police (yet), but this hotel problem isn’t going to be solved one hotel at a time or even one police station at a time. It needs sorting out once and for all and I think we can do it.

We need to create some kind of guide/pamphlet/oshirase explaining the law. Maybe use some cute characters, ‘anti-sabetsu chan or something’. Then we need to get it to every hotel in the country.

So if anyone wants to help out with this project over the next few months, has some ideas, or contacts, especially with how to distribute any notices we make to literally 1000’s of hotels drop me a line at my email address:

chandbakshi AT gmail DOT com

To avoid the spam filters mark it ‘hotels’ or something. I’ll look forward to hearing from people.

33 comments on ““Pinprick Protests”: Chand Bakshi fights back against “NJ ID Checkpoint” hotel, gets apology

  • Well done. I had a similar haggle at a hotel in Miyazaki back in April. In my case, the manager presented his case as wanting to confirm the address I had written down as “insurance” in case I wrecked the room or something like that. I didn’t think to ask if they did the same with Japanese people and showed them my address (without letting a copy be made). The manager’s subsequent slip of the tongue was revealing: “oh, it’s OK, he’s a permanent resident”. Address check — yeah, right. It’s bad enough that cops can legally demand ID for no particular reason; deputizing people who are utterly clueless about legal/immigration matters is simply unacceptable.

  • Through talking with dozens and dozens of other foreigners living here, I get the impression that most happily comply with this request to show ID. “It’s no big deal”, ” It’s just a card”, are typical responses to my exclamation that you don’t need to show ID if you live here and can give them an address.

    I think hotels mostly deal with complying foreigners, so it may just be lip service they give to anyone who makes noise. The two times I have refused to show ID, the clerks talked with the manager, came back and said it was OK. “Why did it just become OK?”, is a question I should have asked at the time. Because of ignorant or impassive foreign residents, I don’t foresee this issue ever changing unless action is taken. Perhaps educating foreign residents here would also be beneficial.

    You would think that a culture that wants to avoid confrontation as much as Japan’s does, an issue like this wouldn’t be stuck in its current blurry state. It is completely random when you get carded and when you don’t, which is also infuriating. You can’t help but wonder if you have a fight waiting for you anytime you set off on a trip.

  • question…what is so bad about showing your alien registration card? I don’t understand the reluctance. I automatically offer mine, as, one, I don’t have a driver’s license, and two, why not?
    Please explain. I am, though a resident of Japan for 28 years, in the dark here.

    — Um, because we don’t hafta? And the people who are demanding this are doing so even though they don’t hafta?

    We’ve discussed this for years on Debito.org. You might want to read around a bit. If you still aren’t convinced after all that, go ahead and show. But that’s not what everyone wants to do and I hope you will respect that.

  • It would be a considerate gesture now for NJ who are not connected to this case, to thank the hotel for the changes they’ve made. So the hotel management and staff might feel that all that effort is appreciated. Well, Debito readers may disagree with this idea, but I submitted an appreciative comment at the hotel’s website form.
    Don’t know how the form is processed. Maybe goes to a central reservation center, so the comments might eventually reach the top management of the company. Or maybe the form gets sent directly to the selected hotel.

  • >question…what is so bad about showing your alien registration card? I don’t understand the reluctance. I automatically offer mine, as, one, I don’t have a driver’s license, and two, why not?
    Please explain. I am, though a resident of Japan for 28 years, in the dark here.<

    Wow, and enter ignorant and passive foreigner.

    Because it is discrimination based on appearance. You are being treated differently (suspiciously) simply because of the color of your skin rather than your residence status, which is what the law dictates, …oh yeah, it is also not in accordance with Japanese law.

    If you feel fine giving this person you don't know all your personal details, like: date of birth, visa status, occupation, work place address, place of birth and nationality, not to mention a photo of your face (all available on your gaijin card), then go for it. Cough it up any time some 20 year-old front desk clerk wants to pretend they work at airport customs, and then hope this information of yours is treated with the utmost care.

    Back to the original poster: it would be better to angle any kind of awareness campaign in a way that had the rights of foreign (tax-paying) residents and their right to protection of personal information (kojin joho) at the forefront (i.e., we should not have to give all this info to a Toyoko Inn reception girl). Japanese would tend to sympathize more this issue than foreigners whining about something like showing ID.

  • I have one answer for anyone who asks to see my ARC (assuming they’re not the police, of course), and that’s “Sorry, I don’t have one of those.” All right, it’s a bit of a cowardly way out of a potential chance to strike a blow for foreigners’ rights, but every time I’ve tried it (three), it’s worked. One bloke in a hotel in Oita was literally spluttering with surprise. And surely it can’t be illegal or anything to fib to a hotel clerk.

  • The night before a trip to Europe a few years ago, I stayed at a capsule hotel in Osaka with a friend. We were both asked to show ID, and I refused at first but finally gave in and let the guy there copy both of our cards. My friend asked me why I didn’t just do it, why I had to be a jerk about something you have to do anyway, and I told her the law. She’s from New Zealand and said “well, in New Zealand everyone has to show ID when staying at a hotel, so I can’t imagine you not having to show ID in Japan.”

    When I stayed at a Toyoko Inn in Miyazaki two years ago, the clerk asked for my card and I said no. She said it was the law, and I said “no, it’s not. I live in Japan, in this prefecture in fact, so you don’t need to see my ID” and she showed me a card with the law written in Japanese, English, and about 4 other languages. I read the Japanese one out loud to her and said “see, it says the same thing I just told you.” So then she changed from “it’s the law” to “it’s our company’s policy.” She finally asked if she could just look at it for a second and I showed it to her after she assured me she wouldn’t make a copy. The whole thing was ridiculous.

  • In response to Redballoon, my problem is basically with who exactly has access to my personal information. Perhaps I am paranoid, but knowing several people who have fallen victim to some sort of identity theft, I do try to be as careful as is practically possible. Handing over a copy of a card with just about all of my important personal details — passport number, address, visa status, and so on and so forth — to random people doesn’t strike me as prudent.

    And that’s what these people are — random people. If the McDonald’s clerk asked you for your ARC when you ordered a hamburger, would you hand it over and let them copy it? It’s the same basic principle, in my mind. There is no legal or practical reason for these people to have anything on file for foreigners than they have for Japanese.

  • One of the problems that I have with the card is that it has a ton of information on it. If it were just a card that said one’s name, date of birth and address, I wouldn’t care (I’d probably also not care if it has one’s nationality). But it has a ton more – (usually) workplace, visa type, type of work, one’s hometown, passport number and when they arrived in Japan. That’s why I don’t like handing it over to people to stay at a hotel.

    Also, there are pages on the MHLW’s website confirming that foreigners who live in Japan aren’t required to show their passport or gaijin card.


  • i noticed a big increase in hotels and even campsites asking for our ARC cards during my travels and camping this summer. my buddy was always carrying a printout of the law from this website and asking them to read the law worked every time. one campground even wanted to make a copy of it for themselves. if they really insist on seeing ID, i say i dont have my ARC, or passport with me and show my drivers license without allowing them to copy it.

    the information on the ARC would be a goldmine for an identity thief as it has so much personal information! i am really not comfortable with strangers taking photocopies of it!

  • Redballon: I think your confusing your choosing to use your gaijin card as ID with HAVING to show it.
    I would quite gladly hand it over as ID if ID was needed from everyone, say at the post office when picking up a parcel. I can even appreciate showing the gaijin card at Softbank or somewhere if I was entering into a long term contract that might be affected by visa length.
    What I object to is having to show it to use private services that aren’t related to my visa status. Hotels aren’t that special, Love Hotels get by quite happily without requiring ID from anyone and in fact the hotel in this case doesn’t require ID from anyone Japanese. If it’s about keeping track of aliens the next logical step is showing your gaijin card to buy a train ticket or use a taxi.

  • Fortunately in my 20 years in Japan I’ve never been asked to show any i.d. , and I wouldn’t unless Japanese guests were required to. But, having said this, in the hotels I stay in in Bangkok all foreigners have to show their passport and plane ticket details. In neighboring Cambodia as well guests have to give passport details because each day the owner is required to give the list to the police (at least, in the place I have stayed).

    — Right. If they are tourists.

  • When I was a permanent resident, I used to present my ARC to any hotel that wanted to copy it. I knew the laws but had no desire to be confrontational.

    Now that I am Japanese, of course I don’t have an ARC and, as a rule, I don’t carry a passport around with me. I just tell people that I am Japanese and that ends all questions.

    I suppose I could have just told people I was Japanese before I really was, and have avoided questioning. Japanese aren’t required to have any identification and I really don’t know how anyone could have challenged my assertion, then or now.

    — Glad that it’s ended all questions for you. But sometimes it doesn’t (i.e. I’ve had the Toyoko Inn demand I prove that I am Japanese with ID). What then? Will you wind up being confrontational? It’s a heckuva way to be treated as a customer, not to mention to start a trip. And it’s been systematically and unlawfully encouraged by the NPA.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    Haildamage and others making this point are right — never, ever hand over personal information to be photocopied unless it’s absolutely necessary! A bank photocopying ID because you’re taking out a multimillion-yen loan with them is fine — they have as much to fear from potential fraud on your part as you do from them — but for a brief stay in a hotel? No way.

    Remember, the alien card is amended using handwritten notes on the back. All a potential fraudster needs to do is take that copy of your card, add a change of address to something of his choosing on the back, find a little seal bearing your mayor’s name to put on top, and copy that copy. Now he can sign up for online bank accounts, securities trading, etc., using that copy as “his” ID, with the papers delivered to “you” at his address.

    And backpacker hostels and the like are full of young, short-term, transient staff. Do you trust not just your hotel manager, but also every other person the hotel employs now and in the future?

    Wasn’t there a poster here who managed a ryokan in Nagano? (I think his name was Tyler, but I could be mistaken.) I’d be interested to hear his experiences — did the police make an informal visit and tell him to copy IDs if he knew what was good for him?

  • Also, it may be interesting to note that you don’t have to show your ARC to the police unless they have a very good reason. I’m a permanent resident, I’ve refused to show my card to the police twice and nothing came of it.

  • The funny thing about IDs is, that a Japanese Health Insurance card is always being accepted as ID.
    Manufacture your Health Insurance card, enter the name of someone you know gets lots of “genkin kakitome” and credit cards in the mail, walk to the post office, pick ’em up…
    Same thing when you send money abroad by money order. Health Insurance Cards – the “best” way to prevent terrorist activities and money laundering… ;-).
    Seriously, I wonder who came up with all those ideas… Debito could get his hands on my Health Insurance card and transfer gazillions of yen out of Japan in my name, plus pick up all my “genkin-kakitome” and credit & cash cards without me knowing… ;-).

    Getting back to the topic at hand. I often stay at the Shinagawa Prince when in Tokyo. Never been asked for any ID, let alone my ARC. I just enter my Sapporo address on the check-in slip, and that’s it.

    — And wherehaps might you keep your Health Insurance Card, Getchan…? Just asking!😉

  • “It is not discrimination, it is the law please understand.”
    Even if it were the law (which it’s not), it would still be discrimination. And as the anecdotes here have shown, only non-yellow faces get carded, so it’s racial discrimination. Undoubtedly it ties into the mistaken belief that Japanese is a race, rather than a nationality.

  • Usually, if I am asked to show ID, I respond that I live in Japan, look here is my address on the check-in paper. Usually, that’s enough.

    However, I’ve noticed this year in Toyoko inn and other places the staff checking the check-in paper, murmuring “oh, he lives in Japan” and then no further questions are asked.
    This wasn’t my experience last year so, just perhaps, things might be improving for the better.

  • @ Mark in Yayoi,

    The wife and I moved here 5 years ago to run her family inn. The local police paid us a visit near the beginning and asked our cooperation in photocopying foreigners’ passports. Thanks to my debito.org training, I challenged them to show me the law that states photocopying is required. I even pushed the issue by asking if we should request the drivers licenses of our Japanese guests, trying to get across the point of how awkward the whole idea was. They never came back with any proof.

    Since then, we’ve received a couple of visits saying that an international gathering is coming up and a small town in the countryside like ours would be a likely place for a terrorist to hide out, so please be vigilant and contact them of anything suspicious. (Yeah, right. The only terrorism Nagano has ever seen was a sarin death in Matsumoto related to the Aum group, whose members, by the way, were Nihonjin.) There haven’t been any requests lately to photograph passports. (Me thinks they know better than to harass someone who quotes the law back at them.)

    As a side note, when our inn joined the Japanese Inn Group, I asked my ‘senpai’ there how he handles the passport issue. He said it is the Group’s informal policy to not photograph passports to avoid the awkwardness. The Group caters to foreign travellers and prefers to provide guests with the positive side of Japan’s world-renown omotenashi.

  • @Scotty: If other countries do it, it doesn’t mean it’s okay or even applicable. Here, at hotels and airports everyone is required to fill out ‘police cards’ with a bunch of personal information. But beside the fact that it applies to absolutely everyone, the reason for this (domestic terrorism) does not automatically apply elsewhere in the world.

  • I have submitted my comments and “thank you” on the website directly to Motoyama-san. Good job to Chand and Motoyama-san!

  • I get asked every second time I stay at a hotel. That makes it 15 times per year, or so.
    I always reply, and I even don’t bother looking up from the form I’m just filling out ‘sore ha hitsuyo nai desu’. It works every time.

  • Richmond is a newer upscale business hotel and I think is doing the right thing most of the time. They asked me if I had an address in Japan, I said yes, and there was never any request for ID.

    I have seen cards on some reception counters stating that NJ without a Japanese residence are requested to show ID. At least that follows the law.

    Many countries require all guests to show ID, and often are required to leave it with the desk as sercuity. The point is that this is for ALL guests, not just foreigners.

  • For years I’ve been bracing myself for a confrontation with hotel staff, but it’s never come up in 9 years. Nowadays the vast majority of the time I am traveling with my family (all the rest of them Japanese citizens), which I know reduces the chances of getting asked for ID illegally. But even when travelling domestically by myself, I haven’t been asked yet. I am not sure whether this is just due to good luck or whether it’s something about the way I present myself (I suspect the former).

    If I ever do get into such a situation, I am way more worried about the confrontation with my wife, who is going to be really pissed off at me for getting into an argument with the hotel staff. No doubts I would win the fight with the hotel staff.. wife is a whole different story!

    @Tyler: I doubt there are too many Tylers in Nagano-ken running ryokans. So I assume that was you I saw on a long TV show segment a few weeks ago. I applaud your work! Very impressive.

  • Topaz>> It’s not illegal to ask you for your ID. If there were a law that said “such and such MUST NOT (or MAY NOT) ask for identification unless blah blah blah”, then (and only then) it would be illegal.

    The law as it is written only says that you must show your ID if asked to by a police officer or immigration official or whatever-catchall-official asks you to show it. Therefore, it is illegal NOT to show it to said person. But it places no restriction on who else might ASK you to show ID.

    If a company’s policy is to require ID from its guests, then you have an issue with their policy, not the law. Again, the law does not forbid people/companies/whoever from requesting ID.

    The law does not explicitly say a lot of things. Does this mean it is illegal to do those things? No, it doesn’t. It simply means that there is no law relevant to that action/situation.

    — But that also means, under a different law, that refusing service to those people who refuse to comply with that “policy”, is an unlawful activity.

    Being singled out and asked for ID under the premises thereof is objectionable. So object. That’s the point. If you are just being a stickler, you’re missing the point.

  • Debito>> But that also means, under a different law, that refusing service to those people who refuse to comply with that “policy”, is an unlawful activity.

    That’s beside the point, though, isn’t it? Topaz was talking about _being asked for ID_ being the illegal act. Asking for ID is not, in itself, an illegal act. Asking for the gaijin card is not, in itself, an illegal act.

    Yes, turning someone away from the hotel for reasons other than those mentioned in the Hotel Management Law is illegal. But saying incorrect things like “getting asked for ID illegally” is misleading.

  • @Topaz: “If I ever do get into such a situation, I am way more worried about the confrontation with my wife, who is going to be really pissed off at me for getting into an argument with the hotel staff.”

    Why not treat it as an opportunity to impress your wife with your calm yet insistent,
    resolute but polite debating abilities. That’s what I always do. (Not!! 🙂 )


    I recently stayed one night at the following hotel in Osaka:


    Made the reservation online. No problems during check-in whatsoever. No requests for passport or ARC or any other ID. I am Japanese now, but they didn’t know that. So I suppose foreigners with addresses in Japan will have no problems at least at this specific hotel.

    Or was it because I was wearing a suit? Or because I was speaking polite Japanese? Or I didn’t “look” like a terrorist? Well, I’ll never know but that hotel seemed OK. Will go there again.

  • As a certified nitpicker myself, I will say Adzazer is absolutely correct when he points out I was being imprecise.

    I agree the mere act of asking for the ID is not illegal. In fact, I don’t even think it is illegal for them to say they won’t offer you a room if you don’t comply. It’s only illegal if they actually follow through with their threat in the end and deny you the lodging.

    So when I said “illegally asking for ID”, I was really referring to a legal interaction, very likely to lead to an illegal action on their part if I don’t comply with their request.

    I doubt many situations where the customer saying “no” to an ID request end quickly with a polite “oh, ok, never mind then” response from the hotel staff. A heated exchange has been involved in all stories I’ve heard so far.

    — Nitpicking aside, anyone ever heard of conversational shorthand? The conclusion is the same.

  • Another John says:

    I don’t get this often anymore, but the last time a hotel staffer asked for my ID was in Nagoya about 18 months ago. I was traveling with two people from the company who came in from the head office. The travelers forked over their passport info, but I balked on the grounds that I had a Japanese address.

    I employed the following tactic that has worked well for me in the past. I challenge them on the law, as stated above. If the hotel staff pushes back that the law says ALL NJ are subject to ID checks, I simply ask them 1) Have they personally read the law and 2) Do they have a copy of the law on file for reference? Usually, I get a double negative to the questions above and they let me go. Calling them on this knowledge gap works wonders.

    – John (Yokohama)

  • Erm, am I the only one who felt jarred by the glaring kanji error in the Hotel’s letter to him?

    It is doubly ironic that he made a mistake in writing 誤る

  • Heh, never new this.

    Just stumbled across this site today and read this article. I recently stayed at the Holiday Inn near Narita airport and was not only asked for my Gaijin card but they also said they needed to photocopy it.

    Now I know better I shall do things differently next time.


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