Mainichi: MOJ will force NJ refusers to be incarcerated, fingerprinted


Hi Blog. According to the Mainichi today, the Justice Ministry has now issued a “tsuuchi” directive (the GOJ Mandarins’ way of minting laws without going through a legislative body) granting Immigration more powers. People who refuse to get fingerprinted will not only be refused at the border, but also forced to have fingerprints taken. as well as a physical inspection and incarceration in the airport Gaijin Tank.

What this means in the event uncooperative Permanent Residents and their Japanese spouses, the article notes, is incarceration with “extra persuasion”–without, they say, the threat of force. With all this extralegality going on, fat chance. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Mainichi Shinbun November 21, 2007
Translated by Arudou Debito, Courtesy of Tony K

As an anti-terrorism etc. measure under the new Immigration inspection system, requiring fingerprints from all foreigners coming to Japan [sic], the Mainichi has learned that The Ministry of Justice’s Immigration Bureau has issued a directive (tsuuchi) to all regional divisions, saying that foreigners who refuse fingerprinting and rejection at the border [sic] are to be forced to be fingerprinted.

Although the Ministry of Justice originally explained this system as an “offering” (teikyou) of fingerprints without coercion, they have now indicated that they will impliment this measure with the option of compulsion (kyouseiryoku) against anyone who refuses. It is anticipated that this will strengthen criticisms that “this system is treating foreigners as criminals”.

This policy of collecting biometric data is being effected at airports and seaports whenever foreigners enter the country, compared on the spot with stored Immigration data of people with histories of being deported from Japan, or blacklisted overseas. If fingerprints match, entry into the country will be denied, as will people who refuse to cooperate with the collection of data.

If the person denied refuses to comply with the deportation order, Immigration will impliment forceable deportation orders and render the person to a holding cell within the airport. Whether or not fingerprints will be taken during incarceration had until now not been made clear.

However, based upon an Immigration directive issued during the first week of this month, it is now clear that “for safety concerns, when necessary people may now have their bodies inspected (shintai kensa)”, and Immigration officers have now been empowered to take fingerprints from those who refuse to cooperate. The directive also demands video recording of the proceedings.

Afterwards, refusers will be rendered to the appropriate transportation authorities for deportation. However, in the case of Permanent Residents and their Japanese spouses who have livelihoods in Japan, what the “country of return” for deportation will exactly mean is bound to present a problem. Immigration officials reply, “We will sufficiently persuade (settoku) the refuser to cooperate, and endeavor not to do this by force.”

According to a source familiar with Immigration laws, Immigration searches are something done in the case when a foreign national is under suspicion for breaking the law, such as overstaying his visa. In principle, fingerprinting is a voluntary act, and forceable fingerprinting rarely occurs. The source adds, “If we just don’t let the refuser into the country, there’s nothing dangerous they can do.” He questions whether or not it is justifiable to forceably fingerprint the person and add them to a blacklist of deportees.

Ryuugoku University Professor Tanaka Hiroshi, a specialist on human rights involving non Japanese, adds, “This type of foreigner fingerprinting system was once in place and people refused to cooperate. But now in its place we have not only criminal penalities, but also the extreme measure of refusing them entry into the country. This ministerial directive has little legal basis in its extreme sanctions.”




Gov’t orders forced fingerprinting of foreigners refusing to give prints at entry ports
Mainichi Shinbun Nov 21, 2007

The Justice Ministry has instructed regional immigration bureaus to forcibly take fingerprints from foreigners who refuse to be fingerprinted or to leave the country, sources close to the ministry said.

The ministry’s Immigration Bureau sent the directive to regional immigration bureaus prior to the introduction of a system on Tuesday, under which all foreigners who enter Japan, except for a limited number of people such as special permanent residents and visitors under the age of 16, must be photographed and fingerprinted at airports and ports.

The ministry had explained that it had no intention of forcibly taking fingerprints from foreigners who visit Japan.

The directive cites a clause in the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law, which empowers immigration officers to conduct body checks on foreign visitors if such measures are necessary for safety reasons. It then urges immigration officers to forcibly take fingerprints from those who refuse to cooperate and film them on video.

24 comments on “Mainichi: MOJ will force NJ refusers to be incarcerated, fingerprinted

  • Sicker and sicker.

    Why not just come to our homes and kill us? Or do they still have to wait for a major earthquake before they can do that?

  • 1TruthTeller says:

    “Papiern! Schnell!”
    To save these SOBs the trouble, I’m going to tatoo my juki-net number on my right forearem and sew a yellow star with “Juden/Gaijin” on my jacket.

    Zeig Heil!

  • The inclusion of permanent residents and tax paying foreign residents in this ridiculous fingerprinting policy just keeps making me angrier and angrier.


  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    So if you initially refuse, even if they force the prints out of you in the holding cell, they can deport you anyway? I’m a little confused. I’d like to kick up a bit of a fuss on my next return, but the prospect of being deported AND forced to give the fingerprints anyway isn’t too appealing.

    Anyone with plenty of time (interrogation in the cell) and money (deportation flight) on their hands willing to play guinea pig?

  • I think it is time to leave this country.

    I was planning on causing a stink coming back from Christmas vacation, but I have too many affairs to get in order here if I am going to be booted out. Permanently blacklisted is not such a great prosepct either as my wife and inlaws are Japanese.

    I used to love Japan despite all the racism and have a great life here. The price of that life is now officially my dignity at the hands of the Japanese government, and that price is just too high to continue paying.

    I think I will just say Sayonara to Japan and head back to Canada by 2009.

  • If anyone were to play guinea pig it should be a group of long-term residents, including those with families, who could go to Seoul for a weekend then come back and refuse en masse. Lawyers and media to report on how physical force is being used against long-term residents who refuse to accept the accusation that they are “terror suspects.”

  • It’s outrageous!

    We definitely need some “freedom riders” now. I wonder are there any Japanese willing to accompany people who want to test this law?
    And I say we need some lawyers, too.

    Where’s the international out-cry about this?

  • One more thought, maybe “offering fingerprints without coercion” isn’t the right translation. Seems to me the threat of incarceration and deportation is coercion. Maybe you mean “without compulsion”; anyway, guess it’s all moot now.

  • The only thing that is surprising about this is that it they announced so soon after the media hubbub. It’s so obvious that they realize people wouldn’t stand for this with a proper, reasoned public debate, so they announce the most insidious element in a memo… it’s simply insulting.

  • CB,

    I understand exactly how you feel. I think it’s time for me too to re-think my place in this society, and whether I could bring up my family here. I’m giving the best years of my life, and the benefit of my experience and knowledge to these people. I’m subsidising the social insurance of other Japanese, because I’ve already stayed longer than the total benefits I can withdraw under the scheme. Yet this is how we are treated.

  • Though Mainichi’s own translation says, “The Justice Ministry has instructed regional immigration bureaus to forcibly take fingerprints from foreigners who refuse to be fingerprinted or to leave the country”, it is not what the Japanese text says. Debito’s translation, “foreigners who refuse fingerprinting and rejection at the border [sic] are to be forced to be fingerprinted.” is true to the original text.

    Following is what the law and regulations says. (If they haven’t been changed.)
    If a foreigner refuses providing fingerprints to an immigration officer, he hands the foreigner to a Special Immigration Officer for an interview. (Immigration Law art. 9 para. 4) The special immigration officer decides the foreigner be admitted or not.(art. 10) If not, the foreigner can accept the decision and leave Japan. However, if he is not satisfied with the decision, he can request a review by the Justice Minister.(art. 11) If the Justice Minister maintains rejection, the foreigner must leave Japan. If he leaves Japan at this stage, his fingerprints will not be collected.

    However, if he stays in spite of the JM’s decision, the foreigner will be sent to a detention facility.(art. 39, art. 24 item 5-2) The regulation says;
    第十二条  所長等は、新たに収容される者を収容所等に収容するときは、十六歳未満の者を除き、入国警備官に指紋を採取させ、身長及び体重を測定させ、かつ、写真を撮影させなければならない。
    Regulation of Detainee Treatment
    Article 12. The superintendent, when accepting a new detainee, must order immigration police officers to collect the fingerprints, to measure the height and weight, and to take a photograph of the new detainee, unless he is younger than 16 years old.

    The news says, “Whether or not fingerprints will be taken during incarceration had until now not been made clear.” but it has been clearly written in the regulations.

    Article 35 of Japanese Constitution prohibits a search without a search warrant issued by a judge except in case of arresting. I do not know how MoJ circumvented this clause to create the regulation.

    By the way, it was once contested whether the detention of a foreigner by art.39 of Immigration Law, which is detention without a court warrant, is unconstitutional. The suppreme court ruled that it is not unconstitutional as long as the detainee has the right to leave Japan at anytime (Judgement 1971/1/25).

  • Well, I think the point about coercion is the same one that has been much discussed recently concerning mass suicides of Okinawans at the end of the war, that is, there is no official order anywhere in written form, and probably they were careful not to issue it so as not to leave any evidence just in case, it’s just the military have distributed the hand-grenades etc. and people were either to kill themselves, or to be killed by military if they tried to escape the scene, as I beleive one of the witnesses was saying in one of the interviews in Japan TImes Online, that he managed to hide while some other young person got shot when he was trying to refuse.
    And after all this they are saying there is no coercion!

    But this should be taken to court, otherwise there is no way to have them admit anything! Obviously it’s against constitution, and although a thing like a group of long-term residents going to Seoul, with their Japanese families, ideally accompanied by a lawyer, is a great idea, one needs to find a lawyer whom one could really trust to do this! ANd it is not going to be a quick fix.

    I recall when I was travelling in France on the TGV train going to Italy, a black woman, obviously illegal resident, was caught on the train by a raid of special police squad. I don’t really know, though, but most likely she had papers to Italy, well this is not the point. SO they could get hold of her hands, and managed to get her out from the train in Nice, but they were extremely careful not to hurt her, and she was making wild efforts to hit at them, or to fall onto the stairscase steps and otherwise offered wild resistance, which was not a “peaceful” sight to look at at all. BUt later I was explained that French laws have very strict regulations concerning physical – and partly emotional – damage that the police officers are not allowed in any way to inflict on anyone, be it a true criminal, and they will be persecuted if someone could present eye-witnessed evidence of them doin it, so the black girl actually knew this very well, and she made it very difficult for them… In France, though, everybody knows about these laws, so simply relying on them without explanation is enough to keep the police at bay, but in Japan to do a similar thing would necessitate an actual presence of a laywer and a media representative turning up at the right moment…

    It all upsets me personally so much, that I’d gladly take part in such a “party” if my children were a bit older, and we had more money to spend on all this, but my Japanese husband is just a regular University teacher – and this is not a very respected or well-paid position in Japan, if you have had time to notice, as everybody is supposed to be the same and individual merits are a reason for bullying rather than praise…

    Maybe someone whould just “run” a fundraising for a court case for this? Like all those victims of Hepatitis C contaminated stuff and other similar groups?

  • Thanks TJJ for your kind words!

    Does anyone know if there is anyway to legally fight this?

    I want to fight this!!!! I am not PR (only been here 7 years 9 months) but I own property and have a Japanese spouse.

    Can we take it to court as unconstitutional?

    Do we, as tax payers, have any rights?

    Do we as property holders have any rights?

    Is it worth going to a lawyer about?

  • CB

    This is a link to the page of Japanese bar association where I think one should try to contact to find the answers to your questions, obviously they were advising against the measure, at least in the form that it was proposed – and accepted.

    Anyone has the right to take this to the court, even a foreigner living abroad, and you have been here for so long! People were recently given Permanent Resident status after 3 years of being here, if they had a Japanese spouse and especially children – again there is as usual no clear rule, but obviously a pile of directives from which they can arbitrarily choose which one to use to day – until someone takes them to court and a clear statement be issued as to how true to law is the directive!

    I wrote some unrelated paragraphs above, but now I think all I wanted to say is that they seem to “worship” actual “hard” evidence (which shows again their deeply “materialistic” nature hostile to all spiritual aspects, such as human rights etc, well, it’s my opinion, of course), so the only appropriate way to deal with them is in the same dimension, and a court procedure with clear written statements as a result is the only possible way! So , let’s do it!(not that I can personally do anything, but I personally am all for it and let David conact me if any moral support is needed, although I think a lot of other people are ready to help as well!)

  • I would say that Japanese society, particularly its younger generation has been at a crossroads in whether or not it was going to take “internationalisation” seriously. This policy is a bellwether as to how meaningful this concept is or will be in the future. If it remains in place, I reckon it sends a strong message. This government is willing to allow its society to wither, shrivel up, and blow away rather than face the necessity of being an open, multicultural society in order to thrive in a globalised world. It’s a bloody shame, but it is their choice.


  • You’re in the Japanese government and have a hand in making customs and immigration policy? I must have missed that part. In that case, my apologies!


  • Elena,

    Thank you for the information. I am examining options, and will find out exactly what my potential courses of action are.

    My feelings about this topic remain strong, and time does not cool the anger I am feeling regarding this policy.

    In the meantime, I will fight it on the levels that I can. No foreign visitors are welcome to visit me here for the duration of this policy. I will visit them, or meet somewhere else in Asia Pacific.

    Everytime I come back through customs, I will let it be known exactly how I feel.

    I will continue to be vocal about this issue in real life, and on the internet.

    I will contact travel agencies, and Japan tourism associations in my Home Country and let them know that this is costing them business.

    I will cease flying Japanese Airlines for business travel and ensure my employees do the same (we travel substantially). I have already stopped flying US carrers so my options are becoming quite limited but I will do this as much as possible, and in fact will fly a US carrier over a Japanese one if those are the only two options available.

    As much as possible, I will not purchase Japanese goods or services…this is difficult as I live in Japan, but I guess Samsung will become my brand of choice.

    I will liquidate investments in Japan and move them offshore.

    If anyone else has any tips on how to protest this, please let me know. I have no choice but to pay taxes, but I do have a choice about where to spend my money. I want this to be a costly decision for Japan and I want them to feel it. They won’t feel me by myself but it seems that the NJ community are pretty united on this front.

    The only representation we foreigners have is our voices and our wallets. Our voices are not listened to, hopefully our wallets will be.



  • Actually Lothar,

    I think this is likely a first step in “relaxed” immigration policies. The Japanese government isn’t stupid, and it is well known that Japan faces a population crisis. I think it is simply a matter of getting better control over the foreigners before opening the door to allow more workers in. This is the reason permanent residents are not excepted. The Japanese need to visibly be handling the “foreign crime” issue, in order to let more people in to work and have it accepted. It also serves the purpose of keeping us foreigners separate. The government cannot reimplement the policy of fingerprinting foreigners easily, and this is a bridge to that.

    What I expect to happen.

    1) A whole bunch of NJ residents will be on file after the holidays (hence the Thanksgiving/Christmas time launch). This is to pick up the ones that haven’t been printed since 1999.

    2) Japan will encourage pre-registration and setup special resident gates (as we know they have already done.)

    3) Japan will use this as leverage to fall back to “We will just finger print you residents when we issue re-entry permits.”

    Suddenly this seems acceptable to the NJ community.

    4) If there is a huge drop in tourism, Japan will drop the printing of tourists, but since us NJ residents are already on file, we will be asked to continue to use the resident gates. “Hey its faster and easier, why complain?”

    5) If there continues to be a huge fuss from the NJ residents, then likely PR’s will be exempted (after giving up their prints one time). PR will become more difficult to get, and regular working visas will become easier to get.

    “So here we are in 2010 with our foreign community under control, and it only cost a couple of years of reduced tourist revenue.” Small price to pay to build up the future population in order to prop up the economy.

  • Hello all,
    Has anyone refused to be fingerprinted yet? Vegetablej and DM above were mentioning some kind on concerted indusrial action, refusing to submit prints at Narita. I’m going to Shanghai for an academic conference, returning on the 23rd. Recently I’ve been thinking that I ought to refuse being fingerprinted, but I’m not even a PR or anything, just a mere Monbusho scholar, 35yo, arrived in 2004 and set to leave the comig March. The J-machine would gently crush me into insignificance. Can anyone give some serious advice… Thanks.

  • I wasn’t shooting my mouth. I honestly thought that from the way you responded that you in some way worked for the Japanese government. I’m sorry if tone doesn’t travel well across the Internet. I’m also sorry if I offended you in some way and that I’ve apparently upset you.

  • I hate to add another post, but really, I’m not a cocky or arrogant guy; or at least I try not to be. I generally get along with people, and most people I come across in real life think that I’ve a very nice person. If it sounded like I was “shooting my mouth”, really, I apologize. It was not my intent, and I am sorry that you read it that way. Were we talking on the phone or face-to-face, this probably would not have been a problem.

    Regarding my work, I do not nor have ever claimed any expertise whatsoever on matters of Japan or Japanese culture. I study U.S. culture in its relationship to what it receives and interprets from Japan. If you think that my work poorly captures anything about Japanese culture itself, you are probably correct since I am discussing what many people in the U.S., from my studies, think about Japanese culture. 😉

    As far as my original post is concerned, it was meant as an opinion, not a statement of research. I posted what I thought about how the Japanese government was handling the situation, and from your response, you sounded as if you worked for the Japanese government. I offered an apology so as to not lump “you” in the “them” category as you seemed to object to, but you thought that I was being “arrogant” and “authoritative” without case and gave a harsh reply.

    Again, I am sorry if you took offense. It was not my intention, and I wish you luck with all of your future endeavors.

  • I really don’t know about this new law. I was all set to relocate back to Japan by Spring 08′ and this news is very troubling. I really feel bad about the PR’s and long time
    workers in Japan who have to deal with this. My wife is from Japan and our child was born there. This is a very troubling development, when you consider what went on with biometric i.d. in the U.K.

    I dont know what to say, but I will keep reading this blog!


  • debito,
    is there any latest news,regarding the abolition of fingerprinting?

    –Not as far as I know.  Been a bit distracted with book stuff.  But I doubt there will be any “abolition” in the near future, I’m afraid.  Debito 


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