Anti-money laundering measures snag tourists with traveller’s checks

So much for YOKOSO JAPAN: “During this summer’s trip, I was unable to cash $1000 or two $500 travelers checks at a bank in a single day, as the banks have set a Y100,000 limit on cashing travelers checks in Japan. I was shown the new requirement that all banks were to observe this limitation beginning 1 January 2007. This is very strange as these same banks ‘sell’ $1000 denomination travelers checks to Japanese to use outside Japan. The only way to cash these checks was to show proof that you had a permanent address in Japan. What Japanese person or foreigner needs to use travelers checks in Japan?” Immediate answer from the authorities also included.

Jerry Halvorsen on suspicious bank treatment for receiving money from overseas while NJ

A report from Jerry Halvorsen, thirty-year resident of Sapporo, who got the third degree at Hokuto Bank on October 7, for receiving money (his own) from overseas into a katakana account — and being treated like a potential money launderer even when the amount being processed is far below international alarm standards. This is not the first time this has happened to NJ at Japanese banks. Jerry tells his story and I supply some referential links. Protest when this happens to you — it works. Reader XY on “Rakuten Card is asking for sensitive Koseki Family Registry documents for Naturalized Japanese clients as a prerequisite for continued service”, even though nobody is clearly requiring them to.

Dr. Debito, I’m writing you because I’m experiencing a new type of discrimination by Rakuten Card.

I’ve been a Rakuten Card owner since 2014, and it is the card I’ve hold the longest, making it the biggest chunk of my credit history. Also, I’m a naturalized Japanese citizen, that naturalized back in 20XX, and one month afterwards I had already completed all the requirements for change of name and status according to what I was asked by Rakuten Card, which, if I remember correctly, required me to send copies of documents proving my change of name and status.

About a month ago, I received a mail by Rakuten Card asking me to send them a copy of my current Residence Card. I was very confused by this, so I contacted them, and they told me that since when I applied for the Card I was a foreigner, I needed to provide them with something that “proved” my residence status, and they asked me for my Koseki Family Registry, which is insane. I told them that I already gave them the documents they required back when I naturalized, that I’ve never been asked this by any other Bank or Credit Card company, and that it is insane for them to ask me for a Koseki, which is a very sensitive document that should be handed for these kind of requests, since something as simple as my Juminhyo Residency Certificate, which I think is what I sent back in 20XX proved my nationality, and they also have my “My Number” information, which should gave them access to corroborate this.

They insisted that this was something that the Financial Services Agency as part of an anti Money Laundering KYC thing, I asked them to give me more specifics on this, and they refused to do so, so I called the Financial Services Agency… (continues)

COMMENT FROM DEBITO: The dragnet of suspecting any foreigner, including NJ Residents, of being a money launderer expands to people who are no longer foreign as well.

Fun and Games at Hokuyo Bank: Extra questions for the gaijin account holder

Had a little adventure today at Hokuyo Bank, Hokkaido’s biggest, where I found out that any foreign money transfers regardless of amount were to be asked questions about purpose. Even those well under (by a factor of 40) threshold amounts under domestic and international money laundering guidelines. Why? Because it’s at the bank’s discretion, and in application that means people with funny-sounding names keep getting targeted for suspicious questions. Ah well, it’s not only Hokuyo. Hokkaido Bank has a history of doing it too. But at least Dougin apologized for it and said they’ll do better. Hokuyo just asks for our understanding. Read all about my funny little excursion today into the world of the Columboes at Hokuyo…

No bank accounts allowed at Mitsui Sumitomo for NJ without minimum six-month stays. Okay at Japan Post Office, however.

Situation where a J bank (Mitsui Sumitomo) suddenly refuses accounts to newcoming NJ due to potential money laundering problems. Solution: Open an account in the Postal Savings, screw unfriendly Japanese banks. More details from somebody who just went through this rigmarole…



and finally…


Table of Contents:
1) My SNA Visible Minorities 54: “Non-Japanese Residents claim political power” (Mar 31, 2024), where I argue the power of the vote matters whether you are a candidate or part of the electorate; the J Govt tries hard to make sure neither happens for Japan’s Immigrants.
2) Kyodo: “Record 3.4 million foreign residents in Japan as work visas rise” in 2023. Only a brief reference to foreign crime (i.e., overstaying) this time. Fancy that.
3) Reader XY on “Rakuten Card is asking for sensitive Koseki Family Registry documents for Naturalized Japanese clients as a prerequisite for continued service”, even though nobody is clearly requiring them to.
4) My SNA Visible Minorities column 53: “Miss Japan Shiino Karolina lost her crown. Inevitably.” (Feb 26, 2024)
5) Reuters: Visible Minorities (“Foreign-born residents”) file lawsuit against government for police racial profiling. Good. Go for it.
6) My latest SNA VM column 52: “Positive Steps for Non-Japanese in Japan” (Jan 23, 2024), a report of a month spent in Tokyo and all the progress towards tolerance observed.
7) Japan Times: “Japan should aim to maintain population of 80 million by 2100”, says private panel of business interests. 24 years later, no new ideas, since it calls for rises in birthrates, not immigration, yet again.

… and finally …
8 ) Japan Times: “Fukuoka court rules ban on dual nationality is constitutional”. makes the case for why banning dual nationality is unrealistic, not to mention just plain stupid, with an excerpt from my book “Embedded Racism”.

Fox on getting interrogated at Sumitomo Prestia Bank in Kobe. Thanks to new FSA regulations that encourage even more racial profiling.

My old friend Fox in Japan writes in with a tale of being, as he puts it, “interrogated” at the bank for trying to send $500 overseas while foreign.  And if you think the claim “while foreign” is a bit of an exaggeration, has numerous records of racial profiling by Japanese banks for sending or receiving funds (or exchanging money) of even minuscule amounts (such as 500 yen).  New regulations, however, require a “risk-based approach” (which is, according to the Nikkei, recommended but not required), meaning the scale of “risk” depends on how much money the sender/receiver has in that bank.  Or as the Nikkei puts it, “Consider a customer with a direct payroll deposit of 300,000 yen ($2,660) a month who receives 200 million yen from an overseas bank. The government would require that the bank not only follow up confirming the identity of the person withdrawing the funds, but also check the deposit history and what the cash will be used for.”  

Meaning that this is no longer a matter of transfer amount — i.e., a large transfer of 5,000,000 yen (later 2,000,000 yen) used to raise flags while smaller transfers didn’t.  (Japan’s FSA Guidelines of 2018 mention no money amount whatsoever.)  The problem now becomes, without an objective minimum transfer amount to be flagged, that any “foreigner” can be arbitrarily deemed “risky” at any time simply by dint.  It encourages racial profiling even further, in addition to what you already have at Japan’s hotels and other public accommodation, police instant ID checkpoints, and tax agencies.  More Embedded Racism.

A Top Ten for 2017: Debito’s Japan Times JBC 110: “In 2017, Japan woke up to the issue of discrimination”

As is tradition, here is JBC’s annual countdown of the top 10 human rights events as they affected non-Japanese (NJ) residents of Japan over the past year. In ascending order:

10) As Japan’s population falls, NJ residents hit record
Figures released in 2017 indicated that Japan’s society is not just continuing to age and depopulate, but that the trends are accelerating. Annual births fell under 1 million — a record low — while deaths reached a record high. The segment of the population aged 65 or older also accounted for a record 27 percent of the total. In contrast, after four years (2010-2013) of net outflow, the NJ resident influx set new records. A registered 2.38 million now make up 1.86 percent of Japan’s total population, somewhat offsetting the overall decline. Alas, that didn’t matter. Japanese media as usual tended to report “Japan’s population” not in terms of people living in Japan, but rather Nihonjin (Japanese citizens), indicating once again that NJ residents simply don’t count.

9) ‘Hair police’ issue attracts attention with lawsuit…
Entire article at
Version with links to sources now on

NPA “Crime Infrastructure Countermeasures” campaign also targets “foreign crime” anew. Justifies more anonymous anti-NJ signs

Last blog entry we talked about how the National Police Agency exaggerates and falsifies data to whip up media panic about “foreign crime”. We’ve also talked for many years on about how the NPA has been putting out racist public notices about NJ criminals (including, in my opinion, assisting the seedier J-media to publish some examples of hate speech). Well, anonymous postermakers are now getting into the act, what with the NPA’s most recent anti-crime campaign:

The poster at right calls upon Tokyo Immigration Bureau to do something about fake international marriages, claiming they’re “rising rapidly” (kyuuzouchuu), and says (with the obligatory plural exclamation points that are characteristic of the alarmist far-right) that we cannot permit illegal foreign labor or overstayers!!

The poster at left calls for the expulsion of foreign crime (!!), with murder, mugging, arson, rape, and theft listed at 25,730 cases! (Again, no comparison with Japanese crime, which is far, far higher — especially if you look at theft.) The bottom boxes are not to me fully legible, but the blue one asks the authorities not to give up in the face of fake applications for visas, Permanent Residency, and naturalizations!

Here’s is a poster from the Kanagawa Prefectural Police site (a proud sponsor of the door-to-door neighborhood resident checks and forked-tongue friendly cops who produce racist posters). It warns people in four languages that what they’re doing is criminal activity, including forgery, “bogus marriage” (wow, the language level is getting better), “false affiliation” (gizou ninchi, meaning a J male falsely acknowledges paternity of an NJ child to get that child Japanese citizenship), and false adoption (I hope this won’t now target Japan’s Douseiaisha). Although not mentioning NJ in specific, the poster’s multilinguality means it’s meant for an international audience (Japanese, Chinese, Korean, English, and I think either Tagalog or Bahasa Indonesia).

The interesting bit is in the bottom green section, where it talks about the Hanzai Infura [illegible] Taisaku (Crime Infrastructure Countermeasures). What’s meant by “crime infura”? It’s a new enough concept to warrant an explanation from the Kanagawa Prefectural Police Site: “Infrastructure” is the things and organizations that are the basic foundation of a society, meaning roads, rails, plumbing, etc. By “Crime Infrastructure”, this is meant to be the the same thing to undergird crime, such as cellphones under false names, fake websites, false marriages, false adoptions, and false IDs. The Ibaraki Prefectural Police have a more elaborate explanation, with helpful illustrations of eight cases (five of which racialize the issue by pinning it to “foreign crime”).

Kyodo: NJ crime down once again, but NPA spin says NJ crime gangs “increasingly” targeting Japan, whines about difficulty in statistically measuring NJ crime

Kyodo reports the semiannual NPA NJ crime propaganda campaign, claiming once again some kind of “increase”. Before, we had decreases in crime depicted as an increase, depending on what crime you looked at or what language the article was in. Now it’s the NPA, in the face of a 40% admitted drop in “NJ criminals rounded up” since 2004, giving the spin of doubting its own statistics. What’s next, saying NJ are more likely to commit crime because of their criminal DNA? (Actually, Tokyo Gov Ishihara beat them to that nearly a decade ago.)

Here’s the report being referred to in pdf format:

Note how on the bottom of page two, they give a definition that the “gaikokujin” they’re referring to do not mean those here with PR status, the Zainichi, the US military, or “those with unclear Statuses of Residence” (what, refugees? certainly not visa overstayers). Okay. Pity the media doesn’t mention that. Nor is it mentioned that although this report is supposed to deal with “international crime”, it is just titled “Rainichi Gaikokujin Hanzai no Kenkyo Joukyou” (lit. The Situation of Cases of Crimes by Foreigners Coming to Japan). I guess just talking about garden-variety crime by NJ (back in the day when it was allegedly going up) isn’t convenient anymore. You have to narrow the focus to find the crime and shoot the fish in the proverbial barrel — it gets the headlines that attribute crime to nationality, even somehow allows you to doubt your own statistics. Moreover enables you to claim a budget to “establish a system in which investigators across the nation would be able to work in an integrated manner to counter crimes committed by foreigners” (as opposed to an integrated manner to counter crimes in general).

Let’s see what the NPA spin is next time. Fascinatingly bad science.

NYT: More American Expatriates Give Up US Citizenship

NYT: Amid mounting frustration over taxation and banking problems, small but growing numbers of overseas Americans are taking the weighty step of renouncing their citizenship.

“What we have seen is a substantial change in mentality among the overseas community in the past two years,” said Jackie Bugnion, director of American Citizens Abroad, an advocacy group based in Geneva. “Before, no one would dare mention to other Americans that they were even thinking of renouncing their U.S. nationality. Now, it is an openly discussed issue.”…

Anecdotally, frustrations over tax and banking questions, not political considerations, appear to be the main drivers of the surge. Expat advocates say that as it becomes more difficult for Americans to live and work abroad, it will become harder for American companies to compete.

American expats have long complained that the United States is the only industrialized country to tax citizens on income earned abroad…

Stringent new banking regulations — aimed both at curbing tax evasion and, under the Patriot Act, preventing money from flowing to terrorist groups — have inadvertently made it harder for some expats to keep bank accounts in the United States and in some cases abroad.

Some U.S.-based banks have closed expats’ accounts because of difficulty in certifying that the holders still maintain U.S. addresses, as required by a Patriot Act provision.

FRANCA Sendai Meeting Proceedings, Photos and Project Ideas

We had a NGO FRANCA (Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association) meeting last Sunday in Sendai. We’ll be having another one this coming Saturday evening in Tokyo, so if you like what you read below, please consider coming to our meeting and joining our group. FRANCA Chair Arudou Debito gave a presentation on what FRANCA is and what it’s doing. (You can download that presentation at What follows are some photos and minutes of the meeting.

NPA on foreign-infiltrated organized crime: NJ crime down 3rd straight year, but not newsworthy in J-media

Two topics today for the price of one: The NPA spending our tax monies to target the bad guys (if they’re NJ) again, and how the J media is not reporting crime rates properly, again.
Hang on to your hats. folks. It’s the NPA “Foreign Crime Report” time of year again. Yes, twice a year, we get appraised of what our boys in blue are doing to stem the hordes and save the country.

But this time the biannual deluge is buried within an NPA “soshiki hanzai jousei” general report released this week. Although “general”-looking, the majority of the report is in fact devoted to NJ crimes (it seems organized crime is the most international thing about Japan; yakuza seem to be getting squeezed out).

But, er, in fact NJ crime dropped this year. Significantly. For the third straight year. But you wouldn’t know that by reading the J media. Articles on this from Asahi, Sankei, or Yomiuri didn’t show in a Google News search. An article from the Mainichi notes the crime drop, but devotes (as usual, and in Japanese only) half the text to how it’s rising in bits. Again.

So if it bleeds it leads, sure. But if it bleeds and it’s foreign, it had better be BAD news or else newspapers aren’t going to break their stride, and give society any follow-ups that might paint a rosier picture of Japan’s immigration. What negligence and public disservice by a free press.


1) Yomiuri et al. on new “Zairyuu Cards” to replace “Gaijin Cards”
2) Zainichi also get cards, although with relaxed conditions
3) GOJ claims victory in “halving overstayers” campaign, maintains myth that NJ fingerprinting did it
4) Japan Times Zeit Gist on Noriko Calderon, born in Japan, child of overstayers, and deportation

5) Japan Today on Spa! magazine’s expose of “Monster Gaikokujin” running amok in Japan
6) Full four pages of Feb 17 2009 SPA! article on “Monster Gaikokujin” scanned
7) Mainichi: 3 Chinese arrested over paternity scam to get child Japanese citizenship
8 ) Asahi: NJ overstayers finding housing through name laundering ads

9) Japan Times Zeit Gist on Berlitz’s lawsuit against unions for “strike damage”
10) The Economist on international divorce and child custody (Japan passim)
11) Japanese stewardesses sue Turkish Airlines for discriminatory employment conditions

…and finally…
12) Fun and Games at Hokuyo Bank: Extra questions for the gaijin account holder


1) Rogues’ Gallery of “Japanese Only” Establishments updated:
Tokyo Akihabara, Kabukicho, Minami-Azabu, Tsukiji, and Ishikawa added
2) Asahi/CNN: GOJ survey report: 38% of J hotels had no NJ guests in 2007,
and 72% of those (as in 27% of all hotels surveyed) don’t want NJ guests
3) Fukushima Prefectural Tourist Information Association lists “No Foreigner” hotels
on their official website, 2007
4) Jerry Halvorsen on suspicious bank treatment for receiving money from overseas while NJ
5) Oct 5’s Asahi on NJ discrimination and what to do about it
6) Week of October 1-10 poll on discriminatory language
7) Discussion: Nationality vs. ethnicity.
Japan’s media lays claim to naturalized J-American Nobel Prizewinner
8) Oyako-Net street demo regarding parenting rights after divorce in Japan Oct 26 1PM Ebisu

… and finally…
9) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column on how “gaijin” concept destroys Japan’s rural communities


1) No bank accounts allowed at Mitsui Sumitomo for NJ without minimum six-month stays.
Okay at Japan Post Office, however.
2) Japan proposes language requirement for foreign long-term visas,
yet protests when Britain proposes the same.

3) Mainichi: MOJ overturns deportation order, allows NJ couple to stay with child in Japan.
4) Yomiuri: 80% of hospitals interested in employing foreign nurses.
5) Japan Times: Canada, U.S. nudge Japan to join child abduction resolution framework
(and it appears to have worked).

6) US State Dept Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, 2007, Japan
7) UN News recent articles on Human Rights Council
8) UN News: first group of 16 nations reviewed by HRC

9) Podcast April 5, 2008: My March 18 FCCJ Speech in full on Trans Pacific Radio
10) Japan Times Feb 16 Symposium, my question from the floor makes the paper
11) “WELCOME NON-JAPANESE CUSTOMERS” stickers for businesses
now on sale at (Paypal OK)
12) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column 3: “Activism vs Academia”

And finally…
13) Humor: Sankei Sports Pure-Ai Keitai dating service advertisement

Softbank and Shinsei Bank illegally require “Gaijin Cards”/passports for all NJ service

Hello Blog. Witness the further tightening of the dragnet around NJ residents. First, we got the justification for fingerprinting all NJ at the border as potential Osama Juniors and Typhoid Maries. Now once inside, the “Gaijin Card” (gaikokujin touroku shoumeisho), designed in 1952 as a tracking device for all the Zainichi who wouldn’t leave postwar …

Japan’s Broken System Pt 2: H-Japan cites AFP, Reuters, Yomiuri. NYT on how bad GOJ ineptness and obfuscation re Fukushima fiasco is getting

DS: Here is a review of the SDF (Self-Defense Forces) and their uneven and slow attempts to clear irradiated soil. It seems that they carry as little protection as many of the ad-hoc volunteer groups. Some of the work was outsourced to private companies, but all of the different groups mostly work with shovels and buckets. “‘There’s no magical way to decontaminate the areas instantly. Our job is to prove our technology, even though it’s low-tech,’ said an official of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, which is jointly conducting the decontamination project with the central government.” And “A dosimeter briefly displayed radiation levels of seven to eight microsieverts per hour during the cleanup. The central government has set a goal of lowering the radiation level to 20 millisieverts per year and 3.8 microsieverts per hour in the contaminated zones.”

Here is the New York Times article that gives a broader scope to the issues, and problems, of decontamination. Fackler writes, “So far, the government is following a pattern set since the nuclear accident, dismissing dangers, often prematurely, and laboring to minimize the scope of the catastrophe. Already, the trial cleanups have stalled: the government failed to anticipate communities’ reluctance to store tons of soil to be scraped from contaminated yards and fields.” This is midst continuing reports of opposition by local communities to allow radioactive soil to be relocated and dumped in their own area…

Washington Post on the Yakuza and the Japanese Police

Washington Post: “Hi Blog. This is a tangent to the role of bringing up issues of NJ in Japan, but it relates as we have been talking about the NPA in recent months. One of my friends, a person who studies wrongful arrests in Japan, says, “The Japanese Police are some of the biggest criminals in Japan.” According the the article below, the NPA’s involvement in hindering international investigations of Japanese organized crime may be evidence of that. Courtesy of The Club. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Washington Post: “Unlike their Japanese counterparts, U.S. law enforcement officers are sharing tips with Japan. Officials from both countries confirm that, in November 2003, the Tokyo police used information from ICE and the Nevada Gaming Control Board to seize $2 million dollars in cash from a safe-deposit box in Japan, which was leased to Kajiyama by a firm affiliated with a major Las Vegas casino. According to ICE Special Agent Mike Cox, the Kajiyama saga was probably not an isolated incident. “If we had some more information from the Japan side,” he told me last year, “I’m sure we’d find other cases like it.”… In early March, in my presence, an FBI agent asked the NPA to provide a list of all the members of [Yakuza crime boss] Goto’s organization so that they could stop them from coming into the country and killing my family. The NPA was reluctant at first, citing “privacy concerns,” but after much soul-searching handed over about 50 names. But the Tokyo police file lists more than 900 members. I know this because someone posted the file online in the summer of 2007; a Japanese detective was fired because of the leak.”

JT/Kyodo on foreign crime *decrease*, yet Mainichi focusses on increase

Kyodo/Japan Times reports that despite all the punditry about the foreign crime rise, that foreign crime has actually gone DOWN. Nevertheless, the Mainichi reports (in the J version, at least) on the bits that have gone up (while cleaning it up for the E version). Foreigners can’t seem to avoid a bum rap in the J media.