Rpl on Police Gaijin Card Check in Chitose Airport yesterday — with cops refusing to identify themselves and even getting physical


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Hi Blog. What follows is a report I received last night that left me feeling quite angry — at the NPA’s wanton disregard for their own rules and the laws that govern them. The common solutions suggested on Debito.org — that of carrying around and showing the police copies of the laws they must obey, and of demanding legally-entitled ID to keep the police officers accountable — seem to have been ineffectual yesterday at my local airport, Chitose New International (this after years ago having the same encounter myself there and deciding to make an issue of it with outside GOJ human rights organizations, again to no avail). I have no doubt in my mind that the NPA trains its police to racially profile, moreover to assume that NJ have no civil rights during questioning, as evidenced here. It’s a despicable and dangerous abuse of power, and unchecked it will only get worse. Read on. Arudou Debito


June 8, 2011

Hi Debito, I want to share my story written below with you and your readers.

I would like to share the story that happened to me today (June 8th) at New Chitose Airport.

It was 11h55am, I was sitting in the waiting area of the domestic arrival floor, JAL-B-2, waiting for my mother to arrive about 5 minutes later.

A supposed-policeman came to me, flashed a card for less than a second, and asked me to show him my passport. I initially said that if it was voluntary, I would like to be on my way instead. After asking him several times “itte mo ii desuka?” he finally said that I was not free to go or to be on my own and that he requires seeing my ID.

I asked why I was targeted for a control, as I was not doing anything, nor carrying any luggage or any object. He replied that he was checking on me because I was the only foreigner around. He didn’t care about my remark that he had no way to know who is foreigner or not just by looking at people’s face.

The shocking part of the story starts when I required seeing his police ID with his registration number. Even though I asked many times he always refused, pretending that only I was required to show an ID. After I refused to go to the Koban, he asked another policeman, in uniform this time, to come.

After at least ten minutes of the same dialogs again and again, I finally agreed to lead them to my car, about 200 meters away, where I kept my ARC [Gaijin Card].

I took my ARC in my hands flashing it to the policemen, but that was not enough, as they wanted to copy every information written on my ARC.

I then said that I would comply as soon as I would be shown their police ID, with their number written, so I could I least formulate a complaint afterwhile about their behaviour.

They continued to refuse to show me anything, and started to pressure me more and more to let them copy information from my ARC.

As I was carrying my mobile at all time, the non-uniform policeman then accused me of taking pictures of them and requested me to put my mobile in my pocket. I asked many times whether it is illegal to have my mobile phone in my hands, and they replied yes.

After they finished copying my ARC’s info, they finally let me go to meet my mother who had arrived. However, it was not finished, as the un-uniformed policeman followed me, and then requested me (in front of my mother and other random people inside the waiting area) to show every picture from my mobile’s data, as he was scared that I could have taken a picture of him. This lasted about 10 minutes, as he was checking every picture in detail, and even checked each pictures two times.


I know some of you will say that I should just have obeyed and followed all their orders.

However, don’t you think it is very strange that the policeman was so scared of being identified, be it by a picture or by his police card?

I mean, if they were not doing anything wrong they would not care about it.

But now this leaves me with no info on the policemen, and even no proof that the control even happened?

Of course I would like to file a formal complaint about the un-uniformed policeman (he was the leader, and also touched me physically many times to prevent me from using my mobile phone) ; but how can I do it without his ID number ??

Anybody here could advice how I could ID him from now on and how should I proceed for complaining about this situation ?

Thank you all in advance for your input. Best regards, Rpl


35 comments on “Rpl on Police Gaijin Card Check in Chitose Airport yesterday — with cops refusing to identify themselves and even getting physical

  • I had a similar encounter while driving a few years ago. I was stopped by a policeman who wanted to check my trunk. He did show me id, but when I asked if he needed a warrant, he said he didn’t it was a “safety check”.This to the best of my further questioning of Japanese citizens, people with knowledge of the law is apparently a lie. Being pressed for time and havinh nothing more than futons in my trunk i relented, and once i opened the trunk he didn’t really even check. My guess is, his “game” was to get me to open the trunk without a warrant.

  • Craig Bennett says:

    At Narita airport, I and other foreigners (not Japanese) were asked by two uniformed officers for ID. I politely asked them for ID, to which one of them got nervous as he (hadn’t got/forgot?) his ID. I told them, in English that “I’m sorry, but I can only help registered police officers in Japan. It’s the law”. After the senior officer showed me his (which I took sme time to study), I stated that I could only show my ID to the registered officer, but not any other “staff” (ie: the junior officer who “forgot” his).

    They gave up in the end and hassled an entire tour group of Chinese grandmothers (who had their passports in the care of their tour guide who hadn’t arrived yet and also some poor guy who was checking in at the time (the flight staff were really unhappy about being interrupted).

    I was succesful, IMO, because:

    – I was calm.
    – I never questioned “why” (which, if they have the law on their side, isn’t going to get answered).
    – I spoke easy, slow English (Something Debito reccommended, as it’s useful for people who are not absolutely fluent in Japanese. This also shows them that they need to make sure that you don’t misunderstand them).
    – I used English terms such as “I’m sorry”, “I don’t understand”, ” I am very happy to help official Japanese police”.
    – I smiled.

    Does anyone know the law regarding phones, searches by police and taking pictures of them, or their ID?

  • Maxabillion Slartibartfast says:

    It’s easy for me to say since I wasn’t the one being harrassed by the cops, but the OP should have stood his ground and refused to show the cops his card until they showed him theirs (cite the law if necessary) and DEFINITELY should have refused to let the cops inspect his phone. They have no right to do that.

    Heck, why not take a few more photos of the cop to encourage him to hurry along and screw with someone else? Then post the photos online; let’s get a Rogue’s Gallery of bad cops going. When you comply with their unjustified orders, they’re going to keep pressuring you to do stuff they have no right to demand.

  • fireroads says:

    it might be worth filing a complaint with your embassy in a case like this. the police might well ignore your complaints but if your embassy complains on your behalf the complaint might actually get some traction!

    — Agreed. Although in the US Embassy’s case, all they will say is that you have to obey the laws of Japan, and they won’t intervene unless you are arrested, whereupon they will drop by and say the same thing.

  • If this happens just start recording video on your phone and put it in your shirt pocket. You may not have any pictures, but you will have full audio of the event for your complaints later.

  • in reply to Maxabillion Slartibartfast, comment number 4 :
    you are perfectly right, and I actually stood my ground a long long time. However, the cops know how to pressure people, and we all know here that anybody can be detained a week or two in custody without being charged.
    When the tone of the conversation with the cops becomes worse and worse, there is a point at which I would rather suffer some humiliation than being sent by force to the koban and detained for who know how long and for whatever reason.
    I am actually a priviligiated here, as I have a long visa and I am not subject to any employment ; however, I think most of the people who have an employer would not take the risk being arrested considering the possible consequences on their job contracts and/or visas.

  • AORI-Steve says:

    Readers should be reminded that by law you must carry the ARC with you always. Do NOT leave it in your car or simply carry a copy. While this guy was unlucky to have been profiled and singled out by race, he could have been immediately arrested and subsequently fined or incarcerated.

    It seems to me that the cops did one, perhaps two things illegal. Certainly not showing their ID was illegal, and there is simply no excuse for that, nor for the profiling that started the entire episode. However, I am unsure if searching the phone’s memory was illegal, and, from the description above, I infer that this guys was legally detained for not possessing his ARC.

    I don’t know what rights he had while being detained, and it’s unclear if he was actually informed that he was being detained. I can imagine that he may not have had the right to take photos. If this assumption is correct, I can also imagine that the cops may legally prevent him from taking photos.

    Could the search of the phone’s contents been allowable in this circumstance, even if he was no longer being detained?

  • I don’t know how effective this will be, but I guess you have almost the exact time when you are questioned. You can go in person (this is best, it will guarantee you your complaint will be heard, not thrown away as soon as they receive it) and if the cop who questioned you was a real one, he could be indentified exactly by the time you met him at the airport-the guy who was assigned at New Chitose airport this day, and this particular time. You can also ask about the uniformed guy at the Koban. They have their curriculum and a list of the police officers dispatched at the airport. You can also request a photo from their data base, telling them that this will prove if you’ve had your data taken by real cop, or by someone has pretended to be a cop and who will later use your personal info to smuggle illegals.Of course the police department may refuse to cooperate, and if they do, you can ask for legal help, since you suspect you’ve become a victim of an ID theft(I would put it this way).

  • Debito, now that you have Japanese citizenship, do you carry any kind of proof of it? I know that sounds like a weird question, but I would assume that many police would assume you are NJ. And that many of them wouldn’t believe you if you said you were Japanese. Japanese people aren’t required to carry their passports and don’t have anything like a registration card. Or do driver’s licenses have this kind of information? It would be horrible to be detained just because your skin color was different (whether Japanese or not).

    — My Japanese drivers license has information about my honseki on it, which proves I am a Japanese citizen. I carry that in public (I usually have to drive in Sapporo anyway). When traveling domestically, however, I carry my Japanese passport as well, because one bloody-minded cop with a uniform gone to his head can ruin a whole day’s itinerary.

  • unfortunately, this is one of the “facts of life” about living in Japan, but its no justification. This kind of institutional racism is lost on most Japanese here, and the average citizen probably couldn’t care less if a few foreigners were carded or even naturalized citizens just because they don’t “look” Japanese. (just my impression so correct me if I am wrong)

    For the rest of us, its important to understand your rights and what exactly the police can and can’t get away with. Certainly a case of knowledge is power.

    This would never fly in Canada or the States since the populations are such a mix of many many different backgrounds its better to assume everyone is either a US or Canadian citizen until the individual says otherwise. I’ve moved back to Canada with my Japanese wife and not once has she ever been stopped by police or even asked to show her ID to anyone to prove her citizenship. I even told her before we came back that more than likely, no one will ever bother her.. and probably most people will assume she is Canadian, even though she is not “white”

    If Japan’s goal is to alienate it from the world, keep foreigners(immigrants) out or police them to death, then they are doing a smash up job

  • Happens every time I go through Narita. Twice, this has even happened between security check and customs,
    once this year and once in 2009.

    I now keep walking, simply saying “Don’t” or “No, you don’t do that.” If they insist and stop me, I refuse to
    engage their questions, only saying “how dare you, give me your badge… I need to report this discrimination”.
    If they hand over their badge, I do give them my ID.

    And yes, I expect to be arrested at some point, because after so may times my reaction has become belligerent.
    Usually, such an abrupt rebuff causes the officer to apologize, but this just means I have been lucky up to now.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    I just can’t believe this kind of de-humanization still goes unchallenged in some part of Japan. This is outrageous! Although I’m a native Japanese(yes, 100% ethnically), I can’t be proud of myself being a Japanese citizen any more because of these shameless, despicable practices that are conducted by the NPA regime, and condoned by the law enforcement as well as local/national government. I just want to ask those who still believe there’s no racism in Japan. “What year are you living in!?” It is 2011–NOT 1857(Dred Scott) or 1876(Jim Crow)!

    If I were the victim of racial profiling, I would hire a Japanese lawyer who is very conscientious to non-Japanese and file a lawsuit against the local police without any hesitation. Those who were highly admired by Japanese kids as superhero in the past are now turning into disgraceful bastards. We are now seeing these bullies running Scott-free(!) beating up non-Japanese as well as Japanese citizens around the nation.

  • This is a nasty incident and is a worry for any of us guilty of being in procession of foreign looks; it seems the policeman behaved in a disgraceful fashion. The facts that the Policeman refused to identify himself and attempted to destroy any photographic evidence of the encounter (most likely illegally) indicates that he knew that his behaviour was inappropriate. I hope further action can me taken and this incident is investigated fully by the proper authorities (but I doubt they would do anything). The caveat to this is that the situation was escalated by the actions of RPL, but given the circumstances you can’t blame him/her for becoming evasive/inflammatory. Notwithstanding this, it could be argued that the cop’s racial profiling was correct, by not carrying a certificate of alien registration or a passport, RPL was indeed committing a crime – along with visa overstaying, this is probably the biggest crime NJ commit in Japan and only NJ commit this.

    I’d like to take this opportunity to explore the phenomenon of ARC checks. These obviously happen and are talked about a lot, as perhaps one of the biggest discrimination issues visibly ethnic minorities suffer in Japan. However, I wonder if this problem is overstated or perhaps even explainable as criminal profiling, rather than racial profiling. You see, despite my worries about having my documents checked and so religiously carrying my card, it has never happened to me. And sure you can say that I mean “it hasn’t happened to me yet”, I daresay it will one day, however for how many people is it a problem? Of course my situation can be dismissed as anecdotal, but all the accounts of aggressive or repeated checks are also anecdotal – and surely a disproportionate number of disgruntled NJ are going to be posting on an activist website?

    Previously, to gauge the level of this problem I asked around and found that I didn’t know anyone who had suffered these checks. That is until last year, a new NJ arrived at my work and within a week of arriving he had a card check by a policeman. Then over the course of a year, he was regularly stopped by police and had his details taken. This was puzzling, the checks didn’t seem to be location-related, as they occurred in places I also had frequented without being stopped. I could only conclude that there was something about his appearance or the way he behaved that made him particularly suspicious to the police (supporting this, he also regularly reported people leaving their seats next to him when he sat down on trains). Clearly, he wasn’t doing anything wrong, but something made him a target for police. Unfortunately, all these experiences coloured his time in Japan and he disappeared after the earthquake and returned to his home country without telling work and has not come back.

    For these checks on him to be racially motivated, rather than “criminally”-motivated, you expect that no similar checks are made on Japanese, or Japanese-looking people as well. Of course the police do stop and question such people in the street. Asking around my colleagues, a few of them had been stopped for bicycle checks or just asked what they were doing and where they were going by policemen in the street. A Chinese colleague, who is indistinguishable from Japanese citizens until you hear her accent, was stopped once a few years back – when she noticed the police checks at a station she quickly looked away, and of course was immediately chosen for looking suspicious. On hearing her accent, they asked her for her ARC and noted the information down. Also I found two Japanese colleagues who suffered multiple and regular checks. They are both doctors and used to be stopped following night shifts for looking “suspicious” – though more likely they were exhausted and trying to stumble home in the middle of the night. One in particular, who is now very senior, used to be regularly stopped on the way home from work late at night when he was younger and taken in a police car to the koban for questioning, even by officers that had stopped him previously.

    My point is that it is difficult to tell what are random checks and what are checks on people behaving suspiciously or looking suspicious, rather purely discriminatory checks. And the exact same experiences of NJ also anecdotally happen to Japanese people. The racial profiling kicks in where people visibly (or aurally) “foreign” are asked for ARC rather than just being questioned like Japanese people.

    I’m not saying that RPL incident was acceptable to me (it wasn’t), nor that racist police don’t exist and throw their weight around (I’m sure they do). I do think for balance it should be pointed out that randomly questioning a foreign-looking person isn’t necessarily racially motivated. As the police note the ARC details (just what do they do with this?), I wonder if it is recorded how many ARC checks are made per year. I’d be interested in knowing if there were particular locations or behaviours that make it more likely to be stopped. Maybe the police need educating that the “different” deportment exhibited by NJ may in not indicate criminal intent. Most importantly, we could know how much more common it is for visible NJ to be stopped than Japanese, which would strongly make the case on whether there was discrimination or not. In terms of location, I frequently pass through NRT and HND and I haven’t seen card checks there, however, I’m about to start traveling regularly to CTS. There seems to be problems with this location, so maybe my first ARC check isn’t far away.

    — Remember a couple of things:

    1) There is no universal ID required to be carried 24-7 by Japanese citizens. There is, however, for NJ — the ARC. Meaning that being stopped while a citizen requires more of a reason than just existing. For NJ, just looking NJ is enough of a reason (gotta make sure the visa is current, whatever), both in practice and essentially legally. This encourages racial profiling.

    2) We have documented plenty of cases of clear and present racial profiling on Debito.org, even if your personal survey leaves you feeling less than satisfied with the evidence. Do a search.

    3) We’ve already officially established that police interrogative techniques assume that NJ have no civil rights. These Gaijin Card Checkpoint experiences, as we’ve been charting for years now, are an extension of that. You might try to draw this into question, as you put it, “for balance”, but your ponderous essay above is grounded in poor science (untoward for you especially, as a scientist).

    And as a tangent:

    I generally remember when people comment on this blog, and especially when they accuse people (in this case, me) of doing things they did not do. I’m referring to your comment here. Since you have not bothered to answer it or follow it up in any way, I assume that you think it’s forgotten. Wrong. I have a record of my statements here, and likewise so do you. Answer it and take responsibility, or this will be the last blog comment of yours I will approve.

  • This may be beside the point, but airports don’t seem like good places for visa overstayers to hang out. If somebody entering Japan has gotten though immigration, then there should be no for the police to question them. And if they are leaving Japan with an expired visa, again, immigration will catch them. When waiting for a flight at Narita, I was singled out for questioning by a policeman. I couldn’t help but feel he picked me out because I look NJ. I have PR and feel like I didn’t have to answer his questions about my job and residence. I wanted to tell him I an unemployed and live in a tent, but I answered honestly. I’m guessing he was given a list of questions to ask NJ and perhaps he didn’t even want to do it himself.

  • A Man In Japan says:

    We live on a farm, and recently a policeman came here on his scooter checking to see who was living in the area. I started getting flustered with my wife when she asked me for my ID. I decided to show him my passport that got renewed recently. The reason why I showed him it, is because he was nice about it and was talking with us for a little while, so why not? I decided to show my passport instead of my ID card, because then he will know exactly what kind of visa I have and how long it lasts, so he shall never need to ask for my ID card again.

    We are flying back to my original country on the 14th of this month, from this airport. So I suppose I’m going to get asked for my ID card. If I get asked to show my ID without them giving me theirs, I will sue the police force. They are breaking the law when they are illegally checking for IDs, so going by that; that means I have a right to sue them.

    I actually don’t mind the police asking for ID, just as long as they don’t demand that I show it without a good reason, or get in my face and think that they can do whatever they want with me, or without showing theirs and keep asking for it on a regular basis. If they want to see my ID; then fine, they catch a lot of illegals by doing this.

    Why don’t you sue the police if they illegally search you? Am I right thinking along these lines?

  • Although there are different gestures and body language between cultures, “looking suspicious” is very very tenuous. Everyone I’ve spoken to who has ridden the trains in Japan has experienced people getting up and moving away from them. Even in NJ-heavy areas around military areas, where one would assume that the Japanese there are “used” to NJ.

    You know, it all seems rather childish. It’s like schoolchildren not wanting to sit next to the child who is “different” because he has cooties. Granted, if a big muscled NJ guy with thug clothes, gold grills, bandana on the head, and brass knuckles got on the train and started darting bloodshot eyes around the car….okay, I can concede that people would want to give him a wide berth. But normal, well-dressed people? Come on, it’s not elementary school anymore. You’re not going to “catch” being NJ by sitting next to someone.

    And of course, let me put out a disclaimer before anyone goes batty and starts putting words into my mouth. Not EVERY Japanese behaves this way. There are plenty of progressive, modern, and kind people in Japan. If there weren’t, I wouldn’t have a reason to care about the country and try to learn the language and customs and culture.

    — That’s why this “people don’t sit next to me, boo hoo” is essentially a non-starter when dealing with issues of discrimination in Japan. There’s too much noise in that equation, and we should be dealing with more concrete issues that have the potential to deprive people of their liberty. Let’s get back on topic and let this niggling thing drop.

  • 1) Sure and the ease of this also means that is why “foreign-looking” people might be targeted at airports, as it is a lot easier for them to comply with ID checks. Other countries also have ID requirements and foreigner checks in other countries that don’t would probably be a lot more difficult. So if you are within the law and carrying your card, it seems the encounters are over pretty quickly, whereas “foreign-looking” Japanese or suspicious Japanese without ID might find themselves rapidly trying to explain themselves in the nearest koban. I think someone pointed out somewhere that as NJ, naturalized Japanese, and mixed race Japanese increase, visual racial profiling is going to have to change. To be fair, the point I was trying to make is that it is difficult to tell when ID checks are racially-motivated and when they are due to a suspicion. Of course as soon as the police determine the person is “foreign” the check will become an ARC check.
    2) I’m sure there are plenty of cases of racial profiling (I’ve read many accounts here before). However, people don’t post or mention in conversation things that didn’t happen. So my concern was that the frequency of these was overstated. For example, lots of reports on the web of tourists being asked for their passports by police, so I’ve always insisted that my many visitors carry theirs with them. None of them ever were stopped and none of them ever posted about there (non)experiences. My sample size is still very small though.

    2) We’ve already officially established that police interrogative techniques assume that NJ have no civil rights. These Gaijin Card Checkpoint experiences, as we’ve been charting for years now, are an extension of that. You might try to draw this into question, as you put it, “for balance”, but your ponderous essay above is grounded in poor science (untoward for you especially, as a scientist).
    3) Absolutely, my ponderings are unscientific; that was kind of the point. My survey found one NJ who had problems with repeated checks, but others and I did not. Guaging the manitude of the problem by the postings here and elsewhere are equally unscientific, so I was balancing them with my own anecdotes. What I really wanted to know was what happens to all these records of these checks and if the police produced any data on the number of them and how many “criminals” it caught. I know they released the data on fingerprinting at the point of entry and the effectiveness of that was embarrassingly small. It is only with this data or a proper scientific survey (and with the visible ethnic minority population so small in Japan, that might prove difficult) that any real case could be made complaining about institutional racism and ID checks. Regarding the lack of civil rights in the eyes of the police (with the caveat that this is only my unscientific experience), all my encounters with the police here have been pleasant, unlike in USA where I suffered a prolonged verbal attack from a policeman that was essentially racist. I’m sure there are also plenty of racist individuals in the Japanese police.
    And as a tangent: I have now (hopefully) answered your questions. I did not think it was forgotten, I didn’t realize further comment was required from me at the time. I certainly didn’t think I was accusing you of anything, except maybe looking at publicly-available information to check the bona fides of people making comments on the internet. I hope I haven’t offended you in anyway and that I’m not blocked over this. Although, I’d accept that if you don’t feel my circuitous ramblings add anything to the debate here.

  • @RPL

    I wonder if right at the beginning, before you began the “ittemo ii” technique, did the police officer quickly ask you where you were from?

    Think about the beginning of the encounter, if they sneakily got you to admit your nationality right at the start (with the seemingly innocent intro question “where you from?”) suddenly they have the quasi-legal ability to demand your ARC.

    People with ARCs, make sure to carry them, it’s the law. People who don’t want to show them, don’t answer where you are from. Don’t answer any questions. Simply ask if you are free to go, ask if you are under arrest, and say “If I’m not under arrest I am free to go.”

    And oh yeah, the advice given above depends on the police officer actually following the laws, which in some cases, they don’t.

    In summary, even though some cops are dirty, I still recommend standing your ground and insisting that you have the right to continue on your way (instead of voluntarily GIVING UP your rights by answering questions, showing things, peeing in cups, etc.)

  • I’m sorry but things are only getting worse… Shintaro Ishihara has been elected for another term…what else can we expect here? I mean, the whole country is just turning more and more inwards… I don’t see anywhere that tolerance and understanding of NJ residents is getting any better nowadays…

    — Need more evidence to support these claims if you’re going to make them.

  • Roan Suda says:

    Once while traveling across the border from the Netherlands into Germany by train, my elder son and I found ourselves in a crowded carriage with somewhat rowdy young people, their feet up on empty seats that they would not yield. We got our sweet revenge when the border police came in with drug-sniffing dogs. They gave the kids a rather hard time, but when they saw us, they merely asked by way of polite greeting whether we were on our way home.

    That was what one might call “youth profiling”…Now it might be argued that such might be excused, whereas “racial profiling” is not. I would say that under certain circumstances even RP may be unavoidable. But it should, like the resort to violent restraint, be very rare. At Narita the the sight of police officers walking around with clipboards and stopping “foreign-looking” people embarrassingly suggests that there are an awful lot of men in uniform with an awful lot of time on their hands.

    I myself have been twice a target, and twice I have refused to cooperate, saying that I had been observing them and that contrary to their denials, they were picking on gaikokujin-appearing people only. On both occasions, the police backed down, and once they even listened rather sheepishly as my wife, who had been there when they first approached, gave them an obasan-esque tongue-lashing.

    As it happens, I am a Japanese citizen. I strongly suspect that if I had been younger and if I were not fluent in Japanese, I might have been hauled off. Unfair? Perhaps. I would prefer to think of it as matter of judgment calls. The officers may have thought that while rousting a callow eikaiwa teacher is safe, doing the same to an ojiisan is not.

    There are, of course, circumstances that give police officers perfect justification for demanding identification, and I am not such an extreme (or foolish) libertarian that I would refuse the request. I carry a 住民基本台帳カード, which includes photo, name, honseki, and address.

  • “In summary, even though some cops are dirty, I still recommend standing your ground and insisting that you have the right to continue on your way (instead of voluntarily GIVING UP your rights by answering questions, showing things, peeing in cups, etc.)”

    I absolutely agree. If the police officer can’t give you a reason for stopping you, just ignore him and walk away. If he had a reason for making the stop, it’s on him to say so. We live in a supposedly free country and you are a free person. Even the law says the police need a reason to stop you. If they can’t give you a reason, then there is no reason; just ignore him.

    Exercise your right to be free. Don’t answer any questions, don’t let him search you, don’t pee in any cups.

    And by the way, this “you look suspicious” because you were just walking down the street like everyone else, is a witch hunt. If they’re so incompetent that they can’t catch criminals without resorting to these underhanded tactics, then they’re in the wrong line of work.

  • Rpl:

    Call Tokyo Metropolitan Police Headquarters and report the police officer immediately: 03-3501-0110

    Tell them where it happened (Haneda Airport), Date and Time, and what happened. Make sure you include the part about the police officer refusing to show his ID to you, the part about him physically preventing you from using your cell phone, and the part about him demanding that you show him all photos in your cell phone.

  • @Alex
    “And by the way, this “you look suspicious” because you were just walking down the street like everyone else, is a witch hunt. If they’re so incompetent that they can’t catch criminals without resorting to these underhanded tactics, then they’re in the wrong line of work”

    Well said my friend. Well said.

  • shibtasticaclyharrased says:

    Here we go again…

    Cops refusing to identify themselves.
    As a frequent reader of Debito I am aware of the laws regarding the ARC and the police nonsense that goes on.

    My experience happened in a quiet neighborhood near shibuya, tokyo. I was in a izakaya with my japanese friends and got a call. not being very phone reception friendly I went outside and continue my conversation.

    It was cold and I left my jacket with my arc in it. (yay murphys law) it was also 4 am.
    I went across the small street into a vacant parking lot to continue my conversation when a cop car came by and stopped just past me.
    I knew what was going to happen next…

    They started talking to me as I was on the phone.. So I told them to wait till I was finished… The 4 of them encircled me and preented me from walking, afraid I might flee the scene. I finished my phone call (albeit rushed) and was then questioned to see my arc, I at that point asked to see their id and they ignored my question.

    Instead the 3 younger ones started to pat me down, to which I backed up a little and crossed my arms together and said NO several times until they understood.

    I asked again to see some police id, stating this was the law. I couldn’t be sure they were police. Denied again.
    Again they asked to see my ARC and started to pat me down…
    again I said no with arms crossed.
    They were 4 I was one, at 4 am across from a bar without my jacket.

    I told them if they want to see my arc it was in the bar in my jacket, clearly I didnt have my jacket.
    They let me walk a bit then asked me if they could pat me down again to which I replied no… the junior officers then started saying that I smelled like booze and that I was probably drunk…

    Thats when some japanese slipped out.
    they spotted it and started to question me in japanese..
    I reverted back to English and played the non-understanding card in responce to their Japanese questions.

    As they wouldn’t let me past them to get my arc without a pat down I let them. They asked me what was in my pockets and told me to take the stuff out. I refused as I had no where to put it. The senior officer offered a police hat to put things in… I had no intention of having my stuff scrutinized or held as a form of leverage so I held everything UP as high as I could out of their reach, while simply saying “no hat” as they insisted I put it there…

    in the bar I go, the cops wait outside.
    I voice my displeasure at being singled out by racist cops in Japanese… and mention how this pisses me off.
    the cops hears me and comment on it. Are you pissed off?

    They ask for ID again and this time I ask them to show me theirs first. no deal AGAIN.
    I tell them this time in Japanese the law says you must identify yourselves first.
    this when on for a couple exchanges.

    I then decided to flash my card. in exchange for their IDs. still no go.
    The senior officer seeing this was going nowhere told me they would show me theirs after I present the arc.

    As this standoff was going nowhere fast I complied.
    The let down on their faces when they read my card was nice though…

    I’m part Japanese, born in Tokyo (which they probably weren’t), and have Permanent Residency.

    Cops “何だ。。永住者だ。。。” (Oh what, he’s a Permanent Resident)

    They acknowledged the card and that was it. I asked them again for their ID and by this time I was pumped.
    I was denied/ignored. So started jotting down their badge numbers on their uniforms in my phone. I got 2 of them and I had to pull one of them (senior by the arm to turn him around see his badge…

    The badges are as follow… [EB-036] [TE-266] [EE-060]

    was going to report them, then came march 11th

  • @shibtasticaclyharrased

    Well report those morons anyway. Here’s the number again for Tokyo Metro Police main headquarters: 03-3501-0110

    It’s not too late to report them, you have their badge numbers. Why should they get away with refusing to show ID when you can’t? Also, demand a reason for being stopped; what was the “suspicious” activity? There’s no deadline for making a complaint against the police, so make them work.

  • I had a funny experience at Narita recently. Returned from England and waiting for the (very infrequent) flight to Fukuoka, I was soon approached in the area between domestic and international departures by a friendly cop who wanted to see my passport. I gave him a post- 12-hour flight, slightly hungover mouthful about racism and singling out non-Asians which he took very pleasantly and left me feeling a bit of a fool, especially when it turned out that he grew up a few streets from where I live in a small city in Kyushu.
    Half an hour after he’d gone I was approached by a second cop with the same passport request. I was a bit calmer this time but muttered something about it being the second time in a few minutes. That worked like magic. The guy disappeared immediately with a “Well, if you’ve already shown it….” and an apologetic bow.
    Another thirty minutes, another cop. I came straight out with “This is the third time today,” and once again the guy apologised for bothering me and disappeared.
    So the obvious conclusion is, If you don’t want to show your passport, just claim you’ve already done so, and they’ll leave you alone. Which makes a mockery somewhat of the idea that it’s all about security.

  • @Joe

    It isn’t about singling out non-Asians; it’s about singling out anyone who they believe doesn’t “look” Japanese. Many many Asians get stopped for no reason; just ask the Chinese and Koreans. I’ve talked to the U.S. Embassy about this, and they told me that most of the complaints about police harassment come from blacks and Asians actually.

  • @Alex

    Yes, of course that’s what I meant and should have said 🙂

    It’s just that on this particular day the only non-Japanese I noticed happened to be white. To the extent that when the first cop claimed it was a “random” passport check, I retorted that it looked like a “haku-jin” passport check.
    And we know the cops don’t hesitate to question non-Japanese looking Asians because they’ve been embarrassed on a couple of occasions when they’ve picked on tall or dark Japanese folk.

  • I used to work in Tokyo and lived in musashimurayama-shi, which is in the suburban/countryside district. And there was one time, I was stopped by the police 3 times in a month for not switching on my bicycle’s lamp, listening to my ipod while cycling. And the other time, when I avoided doing all this, I was still stopped. I’m Indian and Singaporean. So it doesn’t bother me, till I was again stopped after the first stretch of cycling on the same night. The cops would stop checking so intensely when I tell them I’d been checked earlier. Eventually, I avoided the streets that the cops come over to do their checks and it’s been a breeze since. There was one time, I was so pissed at being stopped in the rain, that I told them, “Is it because I’m a foreigner that you stopped me?” And they apologised and sai it wasn’t the case. Another time, I literally sped off and the cop ran after me on foot. I stopped and let him do what he needed and folded my arms. 9 out 10 times, there were friendly exchanges as once they found out that I’m Singaporean and was an instructor, they cheered up a lot. But it was ONE TOO MANY, seriously. It was not a cop, but rather a japanese citizen who once stopped me and my fiancee when we were walking in the suburbs of Tokyo. He asked what the hell I was doing with a japanese girl. I relented as he had a tinge of alcohol in his breath. I have a brit friend who gets stopped in the rain. It’s non-japanese profiling. It’s to be expected in a somewhat homogeneous society. When I was at Narita, I was stopped by a brazilain japanese security guard. Even at Haneda airport. I will try to tell them I’ve been checked already the next time it happens.

  • @Michael
    It’s important to separate legitimate and non-legitimate police action. Riding without a light at night and using headphones/earphones are both illegal, so the police were completely justified in stopping you those times.

    The others… not so much.

    The drunk guy, you could probably have called the police yourself there 😉

  • @Sendaiben

    Hah! If Michael had called the cops on the drunk guy he would have been further harassed by the cops. I’ve had friends who went to the police for help, and instead of taking their complaints seriously, the cops were more concerned with whether their gaijin cards were valid. Incompetent morons. Better stop and check that gaijin’s card or the world’s going to end. Law enforcement? What’s that?

    When a law-abiding person has to actively avoid the police, there’s something seriously wrong with the system.

  • @Alex

    Possibly. It’s not my place to talk about other people’s experiences, but I have found that my interactions with the police based on a real reason (getting a speeding ticket, being in a car accident, calling them to deal with my psychotic neighbour, getting breathalysed, etc.) have been very good. They were polite, professional, and courteous.

    My interactions with police when I did not feel they had a valid reason (getting carded in the departure area in Sendai airport and harassed in Narita) did not go so well, although the police were still polite and professional 🙂

    I accept that I could well have been lucky so far.

  • I had one case in Tokyo suburbs. That time I crossed a street when a traffic light was red. A police patrol car saw that, reached me and started asking questions in Japanense. Then, that ask me ID card, which I had not, only copy.
    One policemen tried to explain that they need original (“hon”,”hon”) but I just showed this copy again, as would I do not get them. Then asked my registration for my bicycle, which I had not again. There were unable to speak English, but my Japanese was very very limited. Definitely they did not know what to do. Finally, I said that I have to go if there no more questions to me. No reaction. And then slowed ride on my bike away. No reaction. The end.


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