Jeff on Japanese police documenting neighborhood residents


Hi Blog. Jeff sends this post (blogging with adaptation and permission) on how tracking NJ in Japan doesn’t end at the border with fingerprinting and photographing, or at the local government office with registering, or on the street with Gaijin Cards (with criminal charges for NJ only for not carrying ID 24-7).

According to Jeff, it’s also happening at the home, with the cops making house calls, asking for data to store at the local police station. I’ll let the Comments section hold court on how widespread this is (is there a national campaign going on?). But this has never happened to me in all my twenty plus years here, both as a NJ and a Japanese living in Sapporo and Niigata. Has it happened to other readers?

If it happened to me, I would just take the form politely and later throw it away. I doubt I am under any legal obligation to provide data like this to the local police station (you aren’t, after all, obligated to answer the National Census (kokusei chousa) in part or at all). Nor is anyone else, regardless of nationality. Comments? Debito in Sapporo


Japanese police documenting neighborhood residents

Hi Debito, this is the first time I have mailed or commented. I have been in the same apt in tokyo for about 6 years and in the past the police have come around once in a while to write down names and do their “rounds”, to keep the neighborhood safe, as they describe their activities. I was fine with that.

Last month and again last week, one officer came around with a green form (see below) and asked my wife and I to fill it out. The first time I threw it away. The form asks for name, birthdate, occupation, honseki, date began living at residence, address, contacts for an emergency including name, add, and tel number; as well as a description of any vehicles owned including bicycles. The top of the form, and I will paraphrase in English from Japanese, the form is intended for use to contact people in case of emergencies and the information will not be shown to anyone else.

The way the form is printed suggests that it was printed by the NPA for use all over the country, not just in Tokyo. I have no doubt that this is their primary intent, but I am reluctant for a number of reasons to supply this info and this much info not relevant to emergencies. We called the local police and they reiterated everything the officer said and what is written on the form. My first thought was that if they were going keep this form at my local koban, its not a bad idea, because it would make it easier for the police to do their job locally in case of a major emergency.

But after confirming that the information cards will be stored at the actual police station, I questioned whether there was any relevant argument for actually collecting this info. All of the info, except for the emergency contact person’s details is stored at the ku-yakusho (apart from vehicle info), along with all of the other info they have on me, being a foreign national. So, why don’t they just call the ku-yakusho and get the info from there, there is probably a law against that.

In addition, juki-net got shot down and I believe this is an attempt for the police to create there own juki-net by getting people to volunteer their information in the name of safety. It would not be all that difficult for the police to collect info locally and then put all of the info into a single database. This is starting to go long so I will leave it here.

Have you heard of this before? If you have, what are other people’s reactions? Any thoughts? Is this another step in the slowly degrading state of our civil rights here in Japan, after the reinstatement of fingerprinting what is next; national ID cards with pics and fingerprints for all residents regardless of nationality or maybe just a chip in our necks? I am not paranoid or anything, I just don’t like dealing with the police.

As the saying goes, when you need the police, they are never there; and when you don’t, you get a parking ticket. I just made that up. Sincerely, Jeff. ENDS

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22 comments on “Jeff on Japanese police documenting neighborhood residents

  • I have been living in Kichijoji for almost 3 years (03-06), and I got the very same form by mail twice. I just threw it away also. Before I was living in Mitaka (next station) for almost 3 years, but never got one.

  • Hmm, Crimebusters they are not. Do the police really have that much time on their hands?

    What’s happening with the Peter Barakan attack? Have the found the perp yet or are they too busy conducting random ID checks, registering bicycles and doing other non-police work?

  • I got that same green form in my mailbox about a year ago. I just chucked it, not because I particularly cared about giving out the info, but because I was too lazy to fill it in. Never got asked for it again.

    All the koban guys know me anyway, ever since I thought one of them was a bicycle thief and made him go with me to the koban to make sure he actually was a cop like he said…

  • I’m sure I have seen this talked about somewhere on the web (maybe a site with info for those coming to work here?) as a routine thing that the police do on a fairly regular basis. It has happened to me once in 6 years (Kamakura).

  • Andrew Smallacombe says:

    I remember getting similar form in my mail box about 6 or 7 years ago. As I was living in an apartment with a communual mail box that the landlord would sort, there was no possible way for the police to know who was living in my room. I was under the impression that from time to time police would get details of all local residents as a kind of neighbourhood watch.

  • i was asked to fill one out when I went to the police station
    to take a womans purse and bag back she had left in the park.
    its a standard form they use though i didnt ck to see if it had a
    page on the back.
    different story,but same woman had after discovering her bag missing reported that her bag had been stolen by a foriegner with 2 children who spoke a “little” japanese(thatll be my japanese sons).
    police quite strictly told her that she shouldnt be reporting a theft when she had forgotten it though.

  • Kushiro guy says:

    My local cops made the rounds here the week before Christmas. As I was leaving my apartment to head out to work, I saw him wrapping up with one of the apartments downstairs – he explained to me that they were hitting all of the apartment buildings in the area on that day, because it`s a student area with a lot of turnover.

    I gave him my details, and was pretty shocked afterward to find that he never bothered to ask for my gaijin card.

    I asked around in my office, and all of my co-workers (Japanese) seemed to think it was pretty routine.

  • Police officers are supposed to call all the houses in their area like door-to-door salespersons to ask people to fill in the form.
    Following is a collection of NPA instructions directed toward police officers.
    Find 巡回連絡実施要領の改正について issued by 地域課 on H11.11.1 (Nov 1, 1999) which discusses why and how the cards are made.
    See also, 個人情報を記載した書類等の適正な管理について issued by 地域課 on H18.1.10 (Jan 10, 2006), where a case in which a folder containing 170 junkai-renraku cards was lost from a locker in a local Koban is discussed. Actually, those cards are stored in koban.

    No person has the obligation to fill in the form.

    By the way, when it comes to National Census (Kokusei-Chosa), everyone in Japan has the obligation to fill in the questionnaire. There is penalty for not answering.
    See article 5 and 19 of Statistics Law (統計法), and article 10 of Census Order (国勢調査令).

  • James almost as far north as you can go without a re-entry permit says:

    That little green form is clamped into a little binder and kept by emergency services. It is basically organized block by block, building by building. It is this book that is checked by the fire/police people if they have to evacuate the neighborhood or if there is an emergency like a landslide/mudslide/flood/Kobe type of earthquake. It is this little book that the police/fire guys carry around when they check peoples houses after major snowstorms or when they check a house that hasn’t been shoveled out, or when they check to find out why there is a build up of newspapers or mail.
    They also use the book to check cars or to check if that car that hasn’t been moved for 3 weeks is abandoned etc. The will check the bodies they recover from a burned down apartment or earthquake flattened house against what is listed in this book.
    The ward/town or city office keeps their residents lists in a different manner. They also are often reluctant to share
    information with other offices.
    *****Because of the way Japanese addresses are organized and numbered, it is very difficult to build and keep a computerized door to door database.****

    In my opinion, people who get these forms should consider filling them in at least minimally. Maybe if they consider some things to be an invasion of privacy they should state that on the form.

    IMO we should think about how the local koban feels, if they look at John Smith knowing that if he kicks the bucket in a disaster they will have so much extra paperwork, because he threw out the form; why should they be kindly disposed to John Smith?

  • About six years ago when I was living in west Tokyo, I had a visit from a police officer handing out the same kind of form. I felt kind of strange filling it in as well, but when I actually went to turn it in, the police at the koban seemed pretty surprised that someone had bothered to complete it.

  • I was once at home at the mother-in-laws in a central Tokyo district, awaiting a shipment of mikans or something. There was a knock at the door, but instead of the expected takkyubin person there was standing Mr. O-Mawari-san. He explained he was doing the door-to-door see-who’s-living-here thing, which I’d heard about but never experienced before, and was too non-plussed to be able to do anything except answer his basic questions about who I was and who else was living there. Didn’t get given any forms, and wasn’t asked for any ID. (This was about 5 years ago).

    Being of a curious nature I watched where he went off too next, and it appeared he was going from door-to-door.

  • As with James from the Great White North above, I have had the local bobby show up on an annual basis here in the Enshu region. The green form in question was clamped into his little hard-cover ring-bound binder. He just asked who the residents were, and where they worked, and explained that it was for emergency service in the event of a disaster or the likes. (The local jiji-kai (which I named the Taliban) have a similar binder for each kumi.) The cop involved was always the youngest in the koban, and it seemed to me that the older chain-smoking guys just couldn’t be bothered, and sent the pee-on out to do busy work. He was very apologetic at having to ask the questions he did. But I definitely felt that big brother was always watching. Now how come, with all that info, can’t they find that guy Ishibashi?

  • I had the police visit me once during all the years I lived in Hiroshima countryside. The officer asked me my name and address which he wrote down in a little notebook. He then tore out the next page and asked me for my “sign” to give to his grandkids. He then invited me over to drink some of the local brew.

    I’ve been living in Kanagawa for about 4 years now and haven’t had the pleasure of such a visit. I was the president of the neighborhood association last year and to the best of my knowledge no such records are kept.

  • I never got one during my three years of residence in Fukui, and I’ve never got one during my three years of residence in Osaka.

  • Not my fingerprints says:

    In my 20 years in Japan, I have never received one of these green forms. If I ever do, I’ll just throw it away. I’m fed up of giving my details. Enough already.

  • Thanks everyone for your comments. Like I wrote in the original post I have no doubt that the NPA’s primary intention is to use this card in case of some major or even minor disaster. I assume that the info requested would be time critical for the police to make decisions like “we only got 2 of the 3 residents out of the burning apt”. Why would they need my bicycle reg info as well? Are they going to rescue my bicycle from the burning apt too? This is simply a case of collecting far more data than is necessary coupled with no reasonable expectation that your data will remain private.

    I am off to hong Kong tomorrow, can’t wait to get fingerprinted for the first time! And if I am extra lucky, I can get my passport checked by the police after I clear immigration too.

  • I filled out mine. Had a nice chat the new young cop that was doing it who I see every morning on my way to work. Absolutely no dramas what so ever.

  • I can’t speak about the card specifically, the in _The Enigma of Japanese Power_ Karl von Wolferen details how in many areas police routinely visit everyone, especially newcomers to check them out. I don’t have time to quote the specific passage right now. I’ve had the police visit my house to discuss local robberies. The officer asked if we’d seen or heard anything that might help and asked us to be careful.

    By the way, I’m not in anyway endorsing any of this by saying it’s casual and friendly.

  • Doug Norman says:

    9 years in Japan

    Cops came to door once (when I first moved here) to document who is living in the apartment, etc. Very friendly and had no problem giving the information.

    Otherwise never stopped by cops for gaikokujin toroku or had any subsequent visits.

    Neighborhood association brought the above mentioned form around about 3 years ago and I trashed it. Never heard anything further about it. I felt the document was a bit much.

  • volcanic cappa says:

    *****Because of the way Japanese addresses are organized and numbered, it is very difficult to build and keep a computerized door to door database.****

    when the fire service get a call they can click on any residence on thier digital map and are immediatly presented with a list of occupants.
    how that list is generated or maintained who knows

    I had a similar experience to ThePenguin round about the time of the AUM attacks.
    Some old dick just asking who was residant and me asking why.
    (I hope my xhtml tags worked)

  • Had one of these guys knock on my door about 17 years ago, out of the blue. About a month later, I got a parking ticket in my mailbox addressed to the previous occupant. Brought that around to the koban to give it back, and when I explained, the cop brings out one of those forms again. Nothing since.


  • I had a cop come to my door about 4-5 years ago with one of these forms. When I opened the door, he swung it fully open and stopped the foot with his door so I couldn’t close it.

    He demanded to know if I had a passport and visa, but never asked to see it. At this point I called my GF because I was sure I was being carted away for something. He gave the the card and told me to bring it to the Koban. I never did.

    I still see this guy who works at the koban near my station, and he still sneers at me when I walk past on my way to/from work 🙁

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