Sankei Shinbun on Fingerprinting equipment SNAFUs


Hi Blog. Here’s a funny article. In high school psychology class, we learned about a mental process called “projection”, where a batter blames the bat instead of himself for the strike-out. Well, Immigration today was a paragon of projection. Maybe the system is just no damn good from the start. Or maybe it’s just plain Karma. Read on. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


First Day of New Immigration System: Continuous Troubles
Sankei Shinbun Nov 20, 2007
(Translated by Arudou Debito)

November 20, the day the new biometric system was inaugurated for foreigners at Immigration, has seen continuous troubles at every port of entry with taking prints and equipment failure.

There were errors with reading data for about 30 people at Hakata Port, and after redoing the procedure, only four people were recorded. The Immigration official in charge decided to waive the procedure and everyone in. The official claimed the equipment was not faulty, rather, “It seems there were a lot of elderly people whose fingerprints had been worn down after years on the farm.”

At Narita Airport, one Australian man’s fingerprints were unreadable, and the process took more than an hour. According to the Immigration Bureau at at Narita, there are cases where people’s fingertips were too dry to be read. At Shin-Chitose Airport in Hokkaido, there were reports of more failures, the cause seen as dry skin.

At Fushiki Toyama Port, Toyama Prefecture, three out of five portable fingerprint readers were inoperative right after the start of usage. After rebooting their systems, only one machine became operable, and it died after 30 minutes. Use was discontinued.


3 comments on “Sankei Shinbun on Fingerprinting equipment SNAFUs


    Dear Sir ,


    After a great deal of effort,my wife and I are both pre-registered to use the Narita automated gate facilitated re-entry system for resident foreigners.

    However, if our experience of trying to make work the 2 sets of available fingerprint reader equipment at Shinagawa Tokyo Immigration Office is anything to go by, the airports today, 20/11, will have been literally hell on earth!

    The whole process, including waiting time, took just under 2 hours .In the case of my wife the fingerprinting took 10 min – she needed 12 attempts to successfully get a registration – in her case her index fingers would not read, but she achieved a reading eventually with her 2 middle fingers.

    For me it was a painful 27 mins! The first machine could not read any of my fingerprints despite cleaning and application of a special gel.

    I then insisted on using the second machine, where after repeated attempts the machine was finally able to read my left index finger but was repeatedly unsuccessful with any of the fingers on my right hand.

    The operating immigration officer, a pleasant enough young lady, was about to give up but having come from Kobe there was no way I would allow that to happen , and ultimately after numerous further attempts my right ring finger managed a reading.

    However, some other applicants were not so lucky, or so persistent.

    Directly in front of me was a young German woman ,a permanent resident married to a Japanese – after the best part of 20 mins she was turned away – despite her insistence that in the US they had no problem reading her fingerprints.

    She has a small baby – what on earth is this poor woman going to do now?!!

    Several places in front of her another woman was also turned away after numerous attempts. Thus 2 out of the 12 applicants in front of my wife and I could not complete the registration due ineffective equipment – i.e. 17% of applicants.

    If such statistical percentages are occurring at international airports throughout Japan, it is a truly nightmare scenario!

    The saddest case of all was an obviously fairly senior US businessman visitor who told us he visits Japan once an month and had read in the JAPAN TIMES that regular visitors to Japan would benefit from registering, so he had turned up at Shinagawa Immigration Office.

    We suggested he check whether non-residents could pre-register – and as we feared the answer was NO, and he was turned away.

    The reality of the experience was even worse than I had feared and demonstrates the incompetence of the Japanese authorities in not fully testing the equipment before implementing the amended, discriminatory immigration law.

    I suppose the excuse will be that foreign fingers are different to Japanese fingers – similar to the claimed intestine length difference as the reason why Japanese people could not eat foreign beef some years ago !

    I am dreading to read reports of actual foreign visitor arrival experiences in your newspaper from tomorrow morning!

    Martin Issott

  • Hygiene – I do hope that the fingerprint scanner is wiped clean before each visitor uses it. You don’t know where the previous person’s hands/fingers have been.

    Make the droid behind the immigration booth clean it before sticking your fingers in.


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