PS on Gaijin Card Checkpoint at his apartment — Immigration doing door-to-door checks, using physical force (photos included)

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IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
New novel IN APPROPRIATE by ARUDOU Debito

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Hi Blog.  Something I’ve noticed about Japan’s anti-crime campaigns:  1) These campaigns are not temporary (as in, “the campaign expires on this date”), meaning inevitable future crackdowns are cumulative (see for example here and here), 2) they quickly take on a racist bent (as NJ are officially depicted as more likely to commit crime, or even just be criminals by existing, as potential “illegal visa overstayers”) and encourage racial profiling in practice (see here and here), and 3) a general lack of legal oversight over the Japanese police means the cops go too far, bending laws (see for example here and here) and in this case targeting politically-disenfranchised people (NJ) who can’t fight back through the system or the media, or even through their political representative (who are basically in on the gaijin bashing for political capital and budgetary gain).

These are all elements of a police state, and the systematic mistrust of foreigners in Japan enables the bureaucracy to carry out in microcosm what Submitter PS (a pseudonym) reports below.  Fortunately this time, PS had the presence of mind to take photographs of these toughs from Immigration, who clearly felt their need to police gaijin overrode their need to treat people with respect and dignity (not to mention without resorting to physical force and with due process under the law).  Arudou Debito

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January 23, 2012
Dear Debito,

My name is PS. I’m a 45-year-old American living and working in Tokyo, where I’ve resided for the last 8 and a half years. I have a valid working visa, pay my Japanese taxes (both national and local), and have never had any unpleasant encounters with the authorities; that is, until last Thursday, Jan. 19. It’s something that I think you should know about.

That morning, an Immigration official showed up at the door of my apartment, unannounced, and demanded to see my passport. I was very suspicious that Immigration (not the police) would make a sudden home visit to do a spot-check, especially since I’ve lived in the same apartment since 2003, and since my address has been registered with the Shinagawa Ward office for over 8 years. Anyway, I asked this gentleman to show me his badge so that I could write down his name and badge number. He quickly flashed me some ID, but I pointed out that I didn’t have the opportunity to see, much less write down, the details. In a belligerent tone, he said in English, “Passport first!” I refused, bid him a good day, and started to close my door. It was at this point that things got out of hand.

The aforementioned gentleman physically blocked my door from closing, and we got into a shoving match that led to my door getting knocked off its tracks. Then, suddenly, four of his associates (2 men and 2 women), who’d apparently been hiding in the stairwell, appeared en masse. Things continued to verbally escalate, though with no further physicality, until one of them finally relented and let me take a photo of his badge. I took the further liberty of photographing the three “men” who were harassing me. The photos are attached. The person wearing the surgical mask in Photos #2 and 3 is the one with whom I tussled. The name stitched on his uniform was “S. Maeda.”

(NB from Debito: This crappy rubber-stamped and handwritten note passes for GOJ ID??)

After I was satisfied that these people were who they claimed to be, I retrieved my alien registration card, which I presented to them. One of these individuals tried to take it from me, but I made it quite clear that the card wasn’t leaving my hand. My name and number were written down, and these people finally took their leave. I will admit to getting very upset and giving them quite the tongue-lashing as they were walking away. I couldn’t help but point out the infringements on my human rights, not to mention the ridiculous waste of manpower – 5 officials to harass one law-abiding “gaijin” who pays their salaries through his tax payments.

After they left, I called my landlady, who rang Immigration on my behalf. The official she spoke said to confirmed that it was indeed their staff who paid me a visit, though the reason was not forthcoming. After I got to work, I rang the U.S. Embassy to report the matter and told my employer as well. My deep concern was that I might “disappear” and wind up in some windowless dungeon, so I wanted to be sure I had some lifelines established.

This experience has left me terribly shaken and deeply resentful. Given my long tenure in Japan, I was aware that the police on occasion took certain liberties that would not be tolerated in most Western countries (e.g. no Habeas Corpus statute, leading to lengthy incarcerations without charges being filed). However, I had no idea that I was living in a virtual police state in which my home could be practically invaded without cause, and I could be harassed by what struck me as a pack of Gestapo agents, the presence of the two women notwithstanding.

Thanks to the excellent resources available on your website, I was able to do some research. As far as I can tell, what Immigration did to me was not legal. I know that the Foreign Registry Law, Section 13, compels me to present my alien registration card to a Ministry of Justice official if he/she asks for it. But can such a person just show up at my doorstep out of the blue and make me produce said ID? The people at issue in my case had no just cause to suspect me and produced no warrant, without which I can’t see how they could justify blocking my door and getting physical with me.

I know you get a lot of e-mail, so I won’t go on any further. However, if you can shed any light on what happened to me (and perhaps spread the word), I’d be very grateful. As I said, this is the first incident of its kind I’ve ever heard of taking place in this country. Thanks for your time in reading this long e-mail.

Best regards, PS

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FOLLOW-UP FROM PS:

Yes, by all means, please post my story (with the photos) at your website.  It’s fine to use my initials:  “P.S.”

By the way, the American Embassy also got back to me.  They were not much help, just referring me to a link where I could find a lawyer.  In closing, they gently reminded me that, as a foreigner, I was obliged to obey the laws of the country in which I reside, even if they are very different from those of the U.S.  That’s not a point I was disputing, so I wonder if they read my e-mail carefully.

ENDS

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FINAL COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  Ironic how the USG expects their citizens to obey the laws of the land when even Japanese law enforcement won’t.  Would be nice if the USG et.al would at least make their citizens less disenfranchised by giving them an avenue for channeling complaints of this nature.

83 comments on “PS on Gaijin Card Checkpoint at his apartment — Immigration doing door-to-door checks, using physical force (photos included)

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  • That’s terrible what they did. It would be great if the Japanese media picked up on stories like this.

  • Do Immigration officials have a right to enter a residence? It seems like if you showed them what they wanted to see they should just leave right away. They could view a passport or gaikokujintorokushomeisho at the genkan, or from outside, and just leave.

  • This case reminds us of the need to consider not opening the door (or using the chain to open it) to strangers.

    It reminds me of that US video that recommended never opening the door to the police unless you called them or they have a warrant.

    I’d be furious if this happened to me (less likely, as residence is registered in my tsuumei -a common Japanese surname).

    Hope the OP gets a sense of closure.

  • Good job. Perhaps taking their photos helped shorten their visit. I recommend recording things next time.

    I am sure that P.S. was one in a long line of foreigners they probably visited that day. Probably merely an excuse to leave the office for the afternoon, as how could anyone argue with the task of ‘confronting foreigners about their visa status’? This wouldn’t look anything but commendable service.

    I implore you, P.S., to not leave this alone. Go to the immigration office and demand to speak to a superior officer and ask why this happened. Show him/her the photos you took, and explain what happened. Tell the officer why you think this is wrong, i.e., being treated like a criminal in front of neighbors, family, friends. What if you had an important business client in your residence? Tell the officer that if you don’t receive a satisfactory answer, you will pursue this further.

  • Those don’t even look like real people to me. I have only ever been asked to present my information to uniformed police, they were always friendly apologetic, and polite. Not to mention in uniform. I would not have believed these people to be anything but impostors in their plain clothes with fake looking IDs. I have a good relationship with my koban and my city officials (as I work for the city), and I would have immediately shut my door and called the police and my supervisor. Since these actually were legitimate immigration officials, I have to ask what would have happened had I done so…

  • If all that they wanted to see was your passport, they keep photographed and scanned copies at Immigrations. And the current and past visa details are also kept on record there as well. There really should not be much reason for an immigration officer to need to see yours in person. And since you showed them your alien card and they were satisfied with that, they probably should have just gone to your local shi/kuyakusho. I imagine that they would not have cooperated without a court order, which may be why they came to you.

    Unless you are planning to follow this up with a Japanese lawyer, I would probably just go down to the Shinagawa Immigrations in person. If you have a Japanese spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend, or just a good friend, ask that they come with you. There is a questions booth on the second floor. (They will ask for your passport. Give it to them willingly.) Ask what is going on, what prompted it, and what you can do to prevent future occurrences. Stay calm. Being confrontational will not help you, so avoid questioning the legality of their actions there. But do tell them that it was very fuyukai and was meiwaku to your landlord as well. If still you do not receive any useful explanation, then shikata naku calmly return home.

  • A Man In Japan says:

    He says that he went to his embassy and that they did not help him.
    I find this absolutely horrendous.
    How are we meant to be get help if something happens to us?
    If the Japanese have a problem in the country that they have decided to live in, all they have to do is run to their embassy and they will help them.
    But whenever it comes for us to go to our embassy, they refuse to do anything for us.
    I think that this is something that all of us should be deeply concerned about.
    Why are Japanese people getting special treatment, while we get the middle finger?

  • Hi PS,

    I’m sorry to hear about your experience. Coming so close to the economist article on Chris Johnson’s experience at Narita airport it has made me even more worried what might happen when interacting with immigration. To date my experiences, finger printing aside, have been mostly pleasant and polite. However I have seen some of the behavior you describe in other situations in with authorities Japan, so sadly, it is easy to imagine how this took place.

    I wonder if they gave you any reasons for conducting the “spot check” at your door? Compared to the immigration check at Narita, this is especially worrisome because, they took the time and made the effort to send a group of people to your abode.

    I don’t know if you have plans to follow-up with MOFA but I would be very interested to hear any more on this story. Well done on documenting it, too.

    Thanks so much for sharing.

  • I agree with the previous posters. I would suggest that if you feel threatened to suddenly see people at your door like that, call police (number 110?), tell them your name and address, tell them a group of people are at your door, and you are scared. And then, hand your phone to the Immi officers at your door. Police will say (this is … from … division…, what is going on …). That will send a warning message to the Immis not to go beyond the law. The police might even come over to your house. The police and Immi are separate fiefdoms in Japan. During my ordeal at Narita, the police rushed to my defence twice. They saved me from a worst case scenario.

  • I would be suspicious of anyone coming to my door dressed in plain clothes and claiming to be from some government department. Immigration officials don’t bother to wear suits anymore? Strange. Like the other posters above I’d just not answer the door in future.

  • I am sorry to hear what happened to you PS. It should not happen to anybody I think. This is where the system steps over its bounds in my opinion.
    I hope you will be able to, at least, get some answers, because I think they are well deserved.
    I have the feeling that it could have happened because of some ‘good citizen’ giving a call to immigration and telling them that they better check out for a suspicious gaijin….
    The immigration site asking people to denounce ‘suspicious foreigners’ scares me because it gives to anybody the power that they should not have. A self calling advanced country should not have a policy like this. It reminds me of the witch hunts, the holy inquisition and the nazis.
    These are the things, that even after long long years in Japan, make me feel unwanted here, which is a pity considering how much I am connected to this land. Sometimes I wish that all foreigners left Japan at once, to make everybody understand that Japan cannot go on by itself (like the right wing extremist like to think).

  • Dude don't taser me! says:

    These meatheads are international breed cut from the same stock. To dim-witted to acquire any level of post secondary education they choose a Fast Track To Position And Power by becoming Police or Immigration officers. 6 months of police or immigration academy and they are in the streets with they kevlar and batons looking threw peoples bags. Every now and then they take their judo classes or learn about a new “safer” taser that less likely to kill someone.

    Once My girlfriend and I walked past a Koban and the cop stopped me to see my passport and my girlfriend was really nervous, I had a current visa but they asked her for her address. I was new to Japan so I didn’t know what they could get away with. When all was said and done she was still very concerned and I asked why and she was afraid they were going to come and “rape me”. Now, I know thats not going to happen but why would a young woman be afraid of being raped by a cop in Japan?

    I suspect someone will tell me that a Japanese officers do go to university, but I’d be hard pressed to believe it because they obviously have issues with reading comprehension by the way they break the rules.

  • The ID doesn’t look legitimate and these people were not wearing suit and tie (which is very common in my country but not so in Japan). I wouldn’t give them my private information if these people came to my door. We definitely need some follow up on this story.

  • An unfortunate incident. But the thugs running the show can do whatever they want. Law or not/right or wrong. So many horrible abusive situations have occurred to people and have been reported yet nothing changes. In the States PS would have been beaten into submission by the police. This kind of behaviour is way out of hand. Might be too late to change any of this unless there is massive protesting in the millions. Police states have a good hold on everything and everyone at the moment.

  • Mr. PS – I’m sorry to hear about the harassment you have received recently. Please allow me to suggest you ask around your circle of friends who might have been recently investigated by the police or immigration. It could be your name came up on a recent call list on someone’s confiscated cell phone. Or, like someone else mentioned, you were reported as being a suspicious foreigner.

  • crustpunker says:

    PS- How did they know you would be home on a Thursday morning? It seems like quite an odd time to pop by for a random visitation. What time exactly was it? Seems like an unannounced visit from officials would take anyone AT THE VERY LEAST 20 min. (without any massive hassle) and would potentially cause one to be tardy for work or miss a train etc…

    Sorry about what happened to you but I find myself curious about this one detail…

    try not to harbor too much rage. Or at least get it out of you in a way that is not harmful to yerselves or others. Like screaming into a pillow really loud or something.

  • Looking at the pictures again, that ID certainly does look fake. There’s no logo (MOJ or otherwise), a hand-written serial number, shoddy paper. And, without being cruel, they do look like thugs. I wonder if they really were legitimate.

  • crustpunker says:

    also, Upon opening the door, did they clearly identify who they were to you before asking you to present your passport? I think it is important to establish in fine detail how it went from the get go….

    If you live in an apartment block, perhaps it was that there had been rumors or confirmed instances of NJ who had overstayed their visa and were canvassing the area to see if any other people might be involved or had ties to them?

    just an idea…

  • I’m not convinced that Fab Four in the photo were actually Immi officers. If they showed up at my door, I would assume foul play. They look like criminals to me, not uniformed government officers in a hierarchy.

    I see no uniforms, name tags or number tags. All papers I received at Narita bear a different o-hanko stamp, (a stylized 大 kanji) different than the one on his book. All my papers bear the official name, Japan Government, Ministry of Justice, Immigration Bureau. Others have:法 務省入国管理局

    His supposed papers say Tokyo Immigration Bureau, with no mention of a sub-branch, (example, Shinagawa or Minato-ku).

    His photo doesn’t show him in a uniform. It is cut off in a strange way.

    check out this bank transfer scam using Immi Bureau: http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/english/

    Swedish war correspondent Urban Hamid and I were almost kidnapped on a dock in Mindanao, Philippines by guys in camouflage uniforms showing us “official army ID”. Tell-tale sign: they didn’t have an army vehicle. After we got away, we called army contacts who told us, “those were definitely not our guys.”

    You were very smart not to let those folks in, and clever to take a photo. I would suggest you go to the police and/or official immi office immediately and check this out. Maybe it was a raid, or maybe it was a home invasion.

    ======================

    http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/english/keiziban/happyou/sagi_080828.html

    August 2008 Immigration Bureau of Japan

    [Warning] E-mails thought to be related to a bank transfer scam that uses the name of the Immigration Bureau of Japan

    The other day, we were informed that someone “received an e-mail with instructions to make a bank transfer in cash to the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau.” The contents of the e-mail were as follows.

    ○ “Currently, at the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau, we are assisting people to find employment at “Japan Energy (JOMO)” based on the Japanese government’s policy of securing highly-skill foreign nationals. The Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau will take care of procedures such as for a certificate of eligibility, etc. of job candidates. We request that you transfer the processing fees related to these various procedures to the designated bank account.”

    The Immigration Bureau does not request cash transfers for various applications in advance.

    Consequently, if you do receive the above kind of e-mail, bear in mind that it does not have anything to do with the Immigration Bureau. As there is a high possibility that this e-mail is part of a bank transfer scam that uses the name of the Immigration Bureau, please make sure to be careful.

    For inquiries regarding this matter
    Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau: General Affairs Division (03-5796-7250)
    ENDS

  • Could someone translate what the ID says in Japanese?

    — Sure. From right to left:

    ==================================
    Dai Higashi Nari [I assume the district of Higashinari-ku] Number 20-24

    Tokyo Immigration Bureau
    Immigration Patrol Officer Motoki Hideyuki
    DOB April 3, 1979
    Issued March 30, 2009 (stamped by a M. Nikai)

    ==================================

    That’s it!

  • I feel like it needs to be pointed out that the main point of an unannounced visit is to arrive without the person in question (in this case PS) having any time to prepare for the sudden surprise (and intrusion). I mean, that IS the whole point right? That is, if they had some legit reason to suspect someone of some kind of violation. I don’t really agree with the tactics but just sayin’…

    I do find it super weird though that (according to the story so far) they weren’t VERY explicit about who they were, where they were from and why they were showing up outta the blue. It would seem that this would be standard procedure so as to not have the person of intrest freak out and also so that the “officials” could do their job and move on.

    Until someone can provide a link or photo to what an actual GOJ/Immigration Bureau ID looks like, There isn’t much anyone can do except speculate that it may or may not be a “real” ID.

    It does look pretty shite though if you ask me. I mean, the ARC cards are way more flash than that! At least we have that going for us as NJ! pretty ARC’s with hol-e-grams!

  • The landlady called Immigration and got verification of their identity sans the reason for the visit.

    Isn’t that all the verification we need? If they weren’t from Immigration, Immigration would have said so. Any more speculation seems like a waste of time.

    This is exactly the kind of verifiable story that needs to be pushed through to the proper channels and get more exposure.

  • > Dai Higashi Nari [I assume the district of Higashinari-ku] Number 20-24

    I am a little puzzled by that as well.
    But Higashinari-ku is in Ōsaka.
    Why would a Tōkyō Immigration ID be issued from Ōsaka?
    Going from memory, I seem to recall that Tōkyō Immigration would place ID stamps beginning (or ending?) with 東 in it, supposedly to indicate that it was issued by Tōkyō Immigrations as opposed to elsewhere.
    But in that case, I cannot account for 成.
    Perhaps an abbreviation for 東京成田 (Tōkyō-Narita), but I am not sure of the relevance and am only guessing.

    — Yes, quite so. I noticed that too, and the speculation is quite plausible. If it is actually Tokyo Narita, then it seems that Immigration’s policing tentacles are extending beyond the border and into people’s homes… But let’s not speculate further without further confirmation.

  • I think the gentleman concerned has been the victim of an over zealous neighbourhood busybody who has seen one of those “Do you know of any illegal foreigners” posters and decided that he was one. The immigration office cannot give a reason because they don’t have one. They wasted their time and yours, and they know it.

  • ummmm, seems like a good place to insert this insanity:
    J-Cops allegedly punching an 8 year old KID?!?!

    http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120124zg.html

    — Yes, but this case is messy, as the father appears to be spoiling for a fight with the cops. The alleged overreaction of the cop notwithstanding, I don’t feel like touching this one on Debito.org.

  • trustbutverify says:

    Quote: I’m not convinced that Fab Four in the photo were actually Immi officers…

    Given that PS tells us himself that his landlady called the immigration bureau directly and verified that the visit was indeed from immigration staff, I think we can drop the criminal gang of imposters line of inquiry and focus attention where it belongs: the unwarranted and heavy handed abuse of power by government officials against someone who in this case has done absolutely nothing wrong.

    Looking at the photos, I have no issue believing that they are rank and file immigration field officers.

    — I have to admit, the bulldog in the back has a classic world-weary-seen-everything-mistrust-everyone-as-a-potential-criminal-with-something-to-hide J-cop face. Is it just me, or do seasoned cops begin to look like “cops” in any country?

  • @ Icarus

    We don’t know what the landlady said over the telephone, how confident she is with questioning government officials or even if she actually made a call at all. Perhaps she did though, as all she asked is whether there is an immigration officer named Motoki Hideyuki. And maybe there is such a person at immigration, but it’s not the guy who turned up with a fake ID.

    In other words, we lack information at this stage and nothing is above suspicion.

  • – I have to admit, the bulldog in the back has a classic world-weary-seen-everything-mistrust-everyone-as-a-potential-criminal-with-something-to-hide J-cop face. Is it just me, or do seasoned cops begin to look like “cops” in any country?

    I don’t know about that but it looks like he’s been taxing the Johhny Walker pretty heavily. :p

  • @TJJ

    “After they left, I called my landlady, who rang Immigration on my behalf. The official she spoke said to confirmed that it was indeed their staff who paid me a visit, though the reason was not forthcoming.”

    They confirmed it was their staff that made the visit. Unless she didn’t call and decided to make the whole thing up this detail has already been worked out.

    Maybe the Immigration officers are trained to show an alternate page when asked to avoid giving out too much information or to prevent aliens from seeing what the official page looks like. There are a million more reasonable explanations to believe other than they are yakuza or something.

    Skip to the 2min 12sec point of this video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNuX8Q8_r2c
    All of the Immigration people are wearing casual clothes including t-shirts. They even approach the immigrants in the same way. All they say is, “Tokyo Immigration,” and immediately starting by asking for passports and ARCs.

  • I would double-check, not just take the word of the landlady. Either way, it’s a freaky situation and you handled it very well.

  • Assuming they are legit I wonder if this is linked to the new ARC cards that are going to be issued.Now that immigration and not the ward office will be issuing these perhaps they’ve decided to become more aggressive in going for overstayers as they’ll now be held responsible and blamed by the press if the number goes up. .This may be a practice run to train officers in how to doorstep(why 5 of them?)PS may have just been a random choice for practice. Really need to find out if there have been any other cases.

  • PS

    I really hope you can find out more about the reason for this incident. They had no business coming over without a warrant.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    I have just shown this thread to a friend of my wife, who is a cop in Osaka. She (the cop) said that in Osaka the immigrations officials carry a plasticized ID photo cards that show the officier in uniform. She thinks that the situation may be different in other parts of Japan, but she thinks that this was a scam of some sort, and that the ID’s look fake (she laughed at the photo on the card, because she couldn’t use that on her ID, it’s badly cropped). She thinks that PS should report the matter to the police, and show them the photos. I know that going to the cops might not be a popular suggestion, but with the right attitude it should be ok to explain and ask what they think about the ID cards.
    My 2 cents; maybe just someone checking the place out before a robbery, ’cause they think NJ are less likely to go to the police? OR (more sinister and paranoid option), right wingers up to something ‘sketchy’.

  • A few things…

    1. OPENING YOUR DOOR: Never open your door to strangers. Period. I learned this as a child from my mother. As an adult, girlfriends sometimes wonder “Someone’s knocking at your door, why won’t you answer? What are you worried about? Are you hiding something?” I would simply tell them, “I haven’t invited anyone over, so unless the building is on fire (in which case I’ll hear commotion) they have no expectation to show up unannounced at my home and get an answer. If it is official business, the person will leave a note.” This was my policy in the U.S. It is also my policy in Japan. Tons of people have knocked on my door. I never answer. The “only” time I did answer and opened the door is once I looked through the peephole and saw a Tepco uniform. And even then (call me over zealous) I asked to see his I.D. and asked for his meishi (which he happily handed over).

    If I am “forced” somehow to answer someone at my door (e.g. they are persistent and just won’t leave after knocking for a long time), I just speak to them through the door. The only people I can imagine “forcing me” through simple verbal command to open my door is the police. If it’s the police demanding I open the door, then I’ll open the door, but I won’t necessarily let them in. That’s my behavior in Japan because I am essentially, on paper, a guest. In the U.S., where I am a citizen, I won’t even open the door to the police unless I am shown a court warrant. Mind you, I’ve never been arrested in my entire life and I am law abiding. I simply don’t like playing with chance when it comes to my home.

    *Remember: When you open your door to your home (your only supposedly safe private place) you open your private world to the unknown. If someone official wants access to your most private space, they should ask in advance. Anything else is rude at best and authoritarian at worst.

    2. IMMIGRATION: In a top-tier rich nation with one of the very smallest populations of immigrants on the planet, I think it is reasonable to interpret this kind of behavior as a solid example of Japan’s attitude toward immigration. They don’t want you. Yes, you’ll mostly be treated politely, and you’ll have access to “almost” all facilities Japanese have access to, but don’t let the polite behavior and routine fool you. Paying taxes for years and owning a home in Japan may “feel” like it gives you rights (which is a reasonable thought), but in reality, you’re just paying into a system that doesn’t really recognize you as a full person with the same rights as a Japanese person. In general, foreigners residents are not wanted in Japan. Tourists? Sure! Long term residents? No.

    3. MASKS: One thing I’ve noticed in Japan that is hardly talked about is how Japanese people will sometimes use those surgical masks as a prop to allow them to be rude and not have to directly engage you (and, in the worst case scenario, hide their face). This happened to me at immigration and in various other situations with service people. Most of the time that I receive overtly rude treatment in Japan (which is rare, by the way), the person is usually wearing a mask. If someone shows up at your door, and you do decide to open it, demand that they remove the mask before proceeding further. Trust me, it makes a difference. This may sound silly to those without long Japan experience, but believe me, for Japanese people, wearing a surgical mask can often act as a social crutch of sorts. Yes, some people wear the mask due to sickness, and some have allergies, but some people wear them when they simply don’t want to be bothered and want to avoid directly engaging people. Remember how bold you and your friends feel during Halloween wearing your masks? Same thing. Sounds silly, but it’s a real part of Japan’s social quirks.

  • TJJ has a point.

    As I said earlier, I have long dealt with Japanese police and members of Immigration. Now, I live in a rural area where everyone knows everyone, and the immigration officers (all in uniforms with IMMIGRATION badges) I go to every time to renew my visa call me “Sensei” and amicably chat me up while processing my paperwork. My koban is the very definition of omawari-san. The only time he has ever come to my door was because he heard I was sick and had purchased over the counter medicine. In Narita I was stopped by two police officers and asked to present my passport prior to entering security. I complied, they apologised for the delay, noticed I was a long term resident, took down my information, thanked me for my patience, said it was standard policy, and they hoped that I wasn’t offended.

    I wouldn’t trust these people at all. It goes totally against my experiences after years in Japan. Rude? Not in uniform? Crappy IDs? Landlady call or no landlady call, these people look like fakes, and they’d have frightened me.

  • Tony in Saitama says:

    This;
    http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/soshiki/kikou/address/03.html#3_16

    tells us there is a “東部出張所” “Tokyo Eastern Branch Office” of the Tokyo Immigration bureau that deals exclusively with #摘発” – basically finding illegal aliens.
    I can only presume this is where Mr. Motoki came from.

    It is possible that someone alerted the immigration officials that a lot of foreigners had been coming and going from this residence; (Had a party recently? Friends visiting? Pissed off a neighbour?) and this triggered a stakeout. But up until the point they tried to force entry, there is nothing illegal here. (Behaving like assholes is only anti-social.)

    And the ID does look considerably amateur compared to the police one; http://www.npa.go.jp/kouhousi/police-50th/history/equipment/notebook02.html

  • All of this serves to reinforce the fact that non-Japanese are viewed as an inferior, marginalised group deserving of few rights.

    The police officers — who deal primarily with Japanese — have high quality identification cards and badges, so as to ensure that fellow Japanese are not abused.

    Immigration officers, who deal primarily with non-Japanese, need no such badges, in the same way that a worker in an abbatoir needs no identification.

    Similarly, immigration officers need not err on the side of protecting your rights, because they internalise the fact that a non-Japanese has diminished and unimportant rights.

    They are especially aggressive, because Japanese society wants them to err in favour of breaking the law, in the fulfillment of their duties to root out unsanctioned immigrants.

    As such, Japanese media do not cover this, because none of this is viewed as troubling to Japan.

    In a profoundly xenophobic society, xenophobia is not worthy of media attention.

    An interesting work is:

    http://gradworks.umi.com/14/74/1474940.html

    who points out that effective immigration policy requires efforts by government to socially integrate newly admitted immigrants.

    However, as this blog has often shown, social integration of non-Japanese is extremely rare.

    This work [ http://dspace.wul.waseda.ac.jp/dspace/handle/2065/32447 ] also points out that xenophobia is highly present in Japan.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    It’s so weird to see immigration officers–not the local police–who made a sudden visit without notifying foreign residents. What makes it even weirder; however, is immigration officer’s ID card shown in the first photo. The ID just doesn’t look authentic, to me, regarding the handwritings on an issue number and name without “hanko” (or a stamp). Even though the ID is real, it just doesn’t make sense why there’s a blank on the issue number. The ID could be forged or fabricated in any way if it’s gotten into a wrong hand. It makes them more suspicious since the rest three didn’t even bother to drop names in an attempt to raid the apartment. Does anyone know what the ID for immigration officer looks like? Wonder how the MOJ keeps their employees’ records as a general operation.

  • Honestly, I think its a scam. The poster who posted about the mask is spot on, they are usually just a ploy worn to not deal with you or others, same phenomenon we see with the cell phones on the train, extreme introversion. They all look suspicious to me, no uniform and an ID that is a joke. I think you reported it to the people least interested, you should of went to the J police. the embassy could of least looked into it, and recongized a scam being they have just about every US gov agency over there with many resources. Their response is a joke, but quite expected.

  • I’ve experienced similar behavior from Japanese police, though not immigration officials. I’ve had my arm forcefully grabbed twice, even after I showed them my ARC; because they wanted me to physically hand it to them, which I was reluctant to do.

    I had a friend who was detained for an hour on the street, not even for an ARC check, but just because they wanted him to sign a paper written in Japanese and which he couldn’t read. Needless to say he refused to sign it, and was surrounded by 10 police officers for an hour.

    But just showing up at the door? That’s something I haven’t experienced yet. Next time, ask for a warrant. Shut the door in their face, and if they won’t let you, just retreat into your house and call the police. Make them come into the house without a warrant, you’ll have more legal footing that way.

    The only way to stand up against the police in Japan is to sue. There’s no other way. Their whole internal “investigation” of their own misconduct is a joke. You send off a letter of complaint, and you’ll just get back a letter that says they didn’t do anything wrong. It’s pretty much a canned response that they send out to anyone who complains. They committed the violation and now they’re going to investigate themselves?? Sounds like a bad joke. Get a lawyer and sue.

    And don’t expect the U.S. Embassy to do anything except remind you that you’re in their country and you have to follow their laws. Just another canned response. Best thing to do is make more noise, get the word out, and sue if you can.

  • Actually, if this turns out to be a scam, the embassy could do something about it, like investigate, then put in their monthly newsletter a warning to its citizens like they did for the roppongi drink spike incidents. The avoidance of responsiblity is typical, and to be expected, until somebody gets hurt.

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