Onur, our local watchdog on Japan’s hotel policies towards “foreign guests”, has submitted another report, this time on hotels in Fukuoka. The last case he submitted exposed how police in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, were deliberately lying about the law to create notices requiring the racial profiling of all “foreigners” at hotel check ins. Now in Fukuoka the same thing is happening, only worse: Fukuoka Prefectural Police are creating erroneous signs in the name of local government authorities without the knowledge of those local authorities!
This is odious. Given the recent Debito.org report about racist check-ins at Sakura Hotel in Jimbocho, Tokyo (done according to the hotel itself “to provide safety for our guests”, whatever that means), and the fact that I uncovered this unlawful practice more than ten years ago in my Japan Times columns (“Creating laws out of thin air,” Zeit Gist, March 8, 2005; “Ministry missive wrecks reception,” ZG, Oct. 18, 2005, and “Japan’s hostile hosteling industry,” JBC, July 6,2010), it seems the problem is nationwide and systemic. Our police forces continue to enlist the public in their racial profiling of “foreigners” (whether or not they are tourists or residents of Japan), whether or not the law or local authorities permit them to. (It doesn’t.)
Debito.org Reader Onur updates his post here last month about discrimination at Japanese hotels being, in one case, coin-operated (where all “foreign guests” are unlawfully forced to provide photocopies of their passports, moreover at their own expense) at police behest. Now he gets to the bottom of police chicanery in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, where he catches them in an outright lie. Three lies in one police notice, as a matter of fact:
Onur: I wrote my Japanese address on the guest registration form during check-in [at Mimatsu Hotel, Mito City, Ibaraki Prefecture]. However, the reception asked for my passport and said that they must copy my ID. I asked the reason. They said that it is the rule of the hotel(!) and also the law of Japan to copy the ID of all foreigners. I said that according to law it is not necessary and they are not allowed to copy my card, but they insisted they must copy, showing me a poster on the wall by the Mito City Police Department Security Division saying that “Japanese law requires that we ask every foreign guest to present their passport, photocopy of which we keep on file during their stay with us”. I said that I will inform this incident to Mito City Public Health Department (保健所), which has authority over the hotels regarding the implementation of laws. I enclose the poster. After visiting both the Public Health Department and the Mito Police, I had phone call from the Public Health Department. They said they went to the Mimatsu Hotel to check it and saw that the poster on the wall of the hotel has changed. It seems that the police department printed a new poster and distributed to all hotels only in a few hours after I left the police department! They said the new poster clearly states “foreign nationals who do not possess an address in Japan”, so complies the regulations. They said they informed the hotel about the laws and regulations and warned the hotel to not to the same mistake again.
COMMENT: It would seem that, according to a number of past Debito.org posts on Ibaraki Prefectural Police posters and activities, the officially-sponsored xenophobia runs deep there. Put a nasty Gaijin Detention Center there, allow the police to project their bunker mentalities by lying on public posters, and you get panicky residents who sic cops on “people who look suspicious” because they look foreign (even if they are Japanese). Are you seeing what happens when you give the police too much power to target people? Ibaraki Prefecture is developing into a nice case study. Well done Onur for doing all this great detective work. I did some investigative work like this more than a decade ago. Remarkable that despite having this pointed out again and again, the NPA continues to lie about the laws they are supposed to enforce.
Onur: I travel often, so I stay in many business hotels in Japan. Not all but many of them caused many problems due to the passport copy rule. Of course I carry only my residence card, not my passport. In the past I used to allow them when the hotel wants to copy my residence card. I remember that a hotel in Asakusa ward of Tokyo even asked me to copy my residence card by myself! The woman at the reception pointed the coin operated photocopier in the hall and told me to copy my residence card and bring it to the reception. I said it is coin operated, not free and she said pay the money to the machine. I paid the money, copied my residence card by myself and gave the copy to the reception. Even though it was hotel’s photocopier, they did not pay the money back!
Later I learned that as I have an address in Japan, hotels do not have the authority to ask my residence card and started to reject them when they asked to copy it. Still I was showing the card when they asked. Two years ago I had a bad experience at Inuyama Central Hotel in Aichi Prefecture. I wrote my Japanese address to the guest registration form, but two old male receptionists asked my passport. As I don’t carry it, I showed them my residence card and my address on it. They wanted to copy it, but I said no. They said that they must copy my residence card according to the law of Japan. I said copying is not necessary and they did not allow me to check-in! We had a long argument, but they refused me service. […]
Arguing with the hotels on this residence card check and copying is very annoying. Refusing to allow copying the card may not be enough as the hotel may continue asking it to other foreigners. Recently, when I stay in a hotel that asked to copy residence card, I am writing a review on Rakuten hoping that the hotel and checks and learns the real law. I also give a low rating to those hotels in the review. Average rating in on-line reservation sites is somewhat important in Japan, so probably many hotels would take it into account. If many foreigners people do the same thing, more hotels may abide the law.
Kyodo: The government in the western Japan prefecture of Kagawa has called on local hotel operators to stop asking foreign residents for identification when they check in, local officials said Thursday. Citing a notice issued Monday by the Kagawa prefectural government to hotel operators, the officials said it is “problematic on human rights grounds” to ask foreign residents to show their passport or other forms of ID when checking into a hotel…
COMMENT: I’m breaking my regular busy silence to report on something we’ve been working on for nearly two decades finally reaching fruition: Getting Japanese hotels to stop racial profiling by running instant Gaijin Card/Passport Checks on customers (including NJ residents) merely because they’re “foreign-looking” — despite ID checks not being required for customers deemed to be “Japanese” on sight by hotel management.
Finally, after various regional police departments have unlawfully deputized random hotel clerks to act as a de facto branch of the Immigration Agency (with the explicitly illegal threat of refusal of service in the offing), a regional government has cottoned on to the fact that this might be a violation of human rights. Bravo Kagawa Prefecture. Let’s hope it catches on nationwide. Seems to only take about twenty years for common sense, not to mention legal protections for NJ residents against police bullying, to seep in.
From time to time Debito.org gets sent information from NJ residents being harassed by Japanese officialdom and businesses for the most basic things. Such as checking into a hotel or using a bank. Or being treated as objects of mistrust in official “Blame Games”. Or being demanded unnecessary steps just to live their daily lives or conduct regular business. 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. (See here too).
Such as the following case below, where Chugoku Bank is demanding a Visa Check in order to maintain (not open; maintain) a bank account. (In their words, “we have elected to confirm the period of stay for customers whose period of stay and other details have not been confirmed” Meaning their nosying into somebody’s visa status is not even under the pretense of some legal requirement.) And of course, in this era of identity theft that even foreign governments warn you against, Chugoku Bank wants to make a photocopy of the person’s ID, it turns out, for no reason whatsoever but reflex.
Submitter DF: Hi Debito, I recently got the attached postcard from my bank, Chugoku Ginkou. It says that I have to go in and verify that I am in the country legally to keep using my bank account. I went in today and they wanted to make a photocopy of my card. Is this legal? They claimed that they are doing so at the request of the government, which I’m sure is true, and that they need a copy for “filing”, which I am not sure is true. I told them that the card can usually only be requested by a police officer or an immigration agent. I finally relented only after they explained that they also photocopy other customer’s driver’s licenses. I offered my driver’s license, but they declined. I noticed that other than my visa status (PR), there is really no info on there that they don’t already have. Who is in the right here, legally?
Table of Contents:
1) My SNA Visible Minorities Col 6: “Carlos Ghosn’s Escape from Japan Was the Right Move”, Jan 20, 2020
2) Debito.org’s stance on the Carlos Ghosn Case, at last: A boardroom coup making “thin legal soup” that might shame Japan’s “hostage justice” judicial system into reform (updated for the Great Escape)
3) Finance Minister Aso apologizes if ‘single-race nation’ remark (essentially denying Japan’s officially-recognized multiethnic society) was “misunderstood”
4) My SNA Visible Minorities column 5: “Local Governments Classifying Japanese Citizens as Foreigners”, Dec. 16, 2019
5) “Every Foreign Guest must present passport for photocopying” at Hotel Crown Hills Kokura; Japanese Police up to same old unlawful tricks in Fukuoka Prefecture
… and finally…
6) My Japan Times JBC column 117: The annual Top Ten for 2019 of human rights issues as they affected NJ residents in Japan
Submitter MR: I made a reservation for a buddy on Japanese-language Rakuten Travel (楽天トラベル) website at the Hotel Crown Hills Kokura. At check in tonight (12/9/19) at around 7:45PM, the Front Desk asked for his passport to photocopy. He is a Permanent Resident (永住者), so I intervened and told them so. They then immediately withdrew the request for the passport, but still asked for and checked his Gaijin Card (在留カード).
COMMENT: The hotel displayed yet another multilingual sign (Japanese, English, Korean, Chinese, and Arabic) produced by the Japanese Police that ignores the law and encourages racial profiling. This one not only lists the approval of the Fukuoka Prefectural Police (and erroneously cites the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare), but also all Fukuoka Prefectural Public Health Departments (Fukuoka Kennai Kaku Hokenjo). Even though we’ve already had at least one Hokenjo (in Mito) correct the overzealous local police before on the letter of the law, which is:
If you have an address in Japan, you do not have to show any ID at a hotel check in. Just write that address in the hotel guest book. That goes for Japanese and NJ residents of Japan. The law on hotel (and minpaku) ID checks only applies to foreign tourists without an address in Japan. So demand it be it enforced.
Meanwhile, if you want to do what Debito.org Reader Onur did some months ago, contact the local Hokenjo and get the law corrected. Clearly the Japanese police are not going to police themselves. Or if you want to do something to stop this happening to you, download a file substantiating that you don’t have to show any ID as a resident of Japan here: https://www.debito.org/newhotelpassportlaw.jpg
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, Debito.org 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.
Thompson: As Japan predicts a rise in the number of immigrants and foreign tourists in the coming years, a new television show has turned migrant deportations into entertainment. The program provoked some outraged viewer reactions and insights about the plight faced by visa overstayers and undocumented migrants in Japan. Taikyo no Shunkan (タイキョの瞬間) (English translation: “At the Very Moment They Were Deported”) premiered on Fuji Television in a Saturday evening prime time slot on October 6, 2018.
Using a typical reality show format, the two-hour program follows a group of so-called “G-Men”, or immigration officers, employed by the Tokyo regional office of the National Immigration Bureau as they hunt down visa overstayers and so-called “illegal aliens” (fuhotaizaisha, 不法滞在者) and squatters (fuhosenshu, 不法占有) on camera. In one segment, the immigration officers stake out the apartment of a Vietnamese man suspected of violating the conditions of his trainee visa. He and two others are arrested and interrogated on camera before being deported 24 hours later.
COMMENT: Debito.org has focussed on this kind of programming before. Consider this segment from a larger archive of broadcast media bashing NJ as terrorists and criminals, a phenomenon that gained political traction as former Tokyo Gov. Ishihara fanned the flames of xenophobia starting from around 2000. Not to mention the racist and propagandistic “Gaijin Hanzai” magazine (2007) that also seemed to be made with the cooperation of the Japanese authorities.
In the end, will there be any retractions, apologies for stereotyping, or even acknowledgments and caveats that NJ do good things in Japan too? As book Embedded Racism points out in Ch. 7, not likely. After all, NJ have so little right-of-reply in Japan’s media that bashing and blaming NJ for just about anything has long been normalized in Japan’s media. It’s simply part of standard operating practice — at the level of entertainment. Even a sport. It’s a foxhunt for gaijin.
As is tradition on Debito.org (see previous writings here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), after a Japanese election we analyze the results:
WINNERS AND LOSERS:
The LDP won big, retaining its absolute 2/3 majority beyond 310 seats in the assembly. But it wasn’t an unqualified win. It retained exactly the same number as last time. However, KMT lost five seats from the 34 it had pre-election.
However, the protest vote by people who wanted a party to keep Japan’s Constitution as it is (the CDP), won bigger, going from 15 seats from its DPJ/DP politicians to a full 55. Message: The DPJ is dead, long live its spirit in the CDP.
The losers were just about everyone else. Koike’s Hope Party dropped from 57 to 50 seats, the far-right Japan Restoration Party (Nihon Ishin no Kai) from 14 to 11, the far-left Communist Party from 21 to 12, and the tiny socialist Social Democratic Party (Shamintou) holding steady at two seats.
The biggest losers were the party-unaffiliated politicians (mushozoku) on both sides. The ones leaning left went from 27 seats to 21, while the ones leaning right went from eleven to one! Part of this is that due to the Proportional Representation vote (which only applies to official parties), these independents had to win in single-seat constituencies. But the bigger reason seems to be that brand recognition these days sells well: Either you stampeded with the herd under the LDP’s umbrella, or you went for a party flavor du jour (which quickly soured under Koike’s Hope, but clearly flowered under the CDP).
More past writings and analysis follow:
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Table of Contents:
1) Other progress in 2016: Actions against wasabi bombs in sushi for NJ customers, conductor officially chided for apologizing re “many foreign passengers” crowding trains
2) MOJ Bureau of Human Rights Survey of NJ Residents and discrimination (J&E full text)
3) Kyodo: Japan enacts law to prevent abuse of foreign “Trainees”. But unclear how it’ll be enforced.
4) BLOG BIZ: Debito.org’s facelift; outstanding issues with Index Page and appearance on mobile devices
NOT SO GOOD
5) Onur on Fukuoka hotel check-ins in: Police creating unlawful “foreign passport check” signs in the name of (and without the knowledge of) local govt. authorities!
6) JT: The flip side of coveted public-sector jobs in Japan: fewer rights, by being excepted from labor laws
7) Japan Times: “Five-year rule” triggers “Tohoku college massacre” of jobs; harbinger of a larger looming purge, sez Debito.org
8 ) CR on how Japan’s blue-chip companies (Canon) get around new Labor Contract Law: Special temp job statuses and capped contracts for NJ
9) Japan Times: “Riding while foreign on JR Kyushu can be a costly business” (re train ticket discounts in Japanese only)
… and finally…
10) Japan Times JBC column 103: “Trump’s lesson: You can lie your way to the very top”, Nov. 16, 2016
11) Tangent: James Michener’s “Presidential Lottery” (1969) on dangerous US Electoral College
The Economist (London) recently has had a couple of articles on immigration to and even naturalization into Japan (here and here), so it looks like PM Abe’s alleged pushes to liberalize Japan’s NJ labor market (despite these other countering trends here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here) are gaining traction in the overseas media. Let’s take a representative sample of the narrative being spun by the Japanese media (in this case the Nikkei, Japan’s WSJ) for overseas consumption, and see if it holds up to scrutiny. For example:
Nikkei: The government looks to ease residency requirements for guest workers. The Justice Ministry will recognize certified foreign care workers as specialists worthy of the corresponding visa status. Japan currently admits care workers through economic partnership agreements, but those are limited to countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines. The number of guest workers is expected to increase by allowing care givers who learn Japanese or professional skill sets at educational institutions to work in Japan.
Necessary legislation is to be enacted during the extraordinary Diet session this fall, with the measures taking effect next fiscal year. The government also seeks quick passage of legislation to add the care worker category to Japan’s Technical Intern Training Program, which provides support to developing nations.
COMMENT: They tried that before. Until the Indonesians and Filipinas realized they were being exploited by a revolving-door visa system that deliberately set the bar too high for passing, and decided to pass on Japan altogether. So Japan’s policymakers are moving on to the next sucker societies: Cambodia and Vietnam. Which, note, are also not kanji-literate societies; if the GOJ really wanted to get people to pass the nurse literacy test, they would get nurses from China or Chinese-diaspora countries. The fact that they won’t speaks volumes about true policy intentions. As does the final sentence, where they admit that it’s just an expansion of the”Trainee” slave-labor program, exempt from Japan’s labor laws protection.
There is nothing in this policy trial-balloon article that constitutes actual immigration, i.e., bringing in people and making them into Japanese citizens with equal protection guaranteed under the law. Until that happens, there is no discussion here worthy of headlining this as a “cleared path” for foreign workers. It’s merely more of the same exploitation of imported laborers in a weakened position by government design.
Japan’s police are at it again: Lying about the law. A reader with the pseudonym Onur recently wrote to me about his experience in the city of Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, when he checked into a hotel. Even though Onur clearly indicated he was a legal resident of Japan with a domestic address, clerks demanded he present his passport for photocopying. They pointed to a sign issued by the Ibaraki Prefectural Police.
But that poster has three great big stripy lies: 1) “Every foreign guest must present their passport” 2) “which must be photocopied” 3) “under the Hotel Business Law” — which states none of these things. Not to mention that Japan’s registered foreign residents are not required to carry around passports anyway.
What’s particularly egregious about this sign is that the Japanese police know better — because we told them so a decade ago. The Japan Times first exposed how police were stretching their mandate in “Creating laws out of thin air,” Zeit Gist, March 8, 2005, and, later, two updates: “Ministry missive wrecks reception,” ZG, Oct. 18, 2005, and “Japan’s hostile hosteling industry,” Just Be Cause, July 6,2010.
It made an impact. Even the usually noncommittal U.S. Embassy took action, posting in their American Community Update of May 2005: “After we sought clarification, according to the Environmental Health Division, Health Service Bureau, Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the new registration procedure at lodging facilities does not apply to foreigners who are residents of Japan but only to tourists and temporary visitors. If you write a Japanese address on the check-in sheet, hotels are not supposed to ask for your passport.”
Right. So why do the Ibaraki police still feel they can lie about the laws they are entrusted to uphold? Because … Ibaraki. I’ll get to that shortly…
Table of Contents:
1) Out in Paperback: Textbook “Embedded Racism” (Lexington Books) July 2016 in time for Fall Semester classes: $49.99
2) April 15, 1996: Twenty years of Debito.org. And counting.
3) Debito’s latest publication in the Washington University Global Studies Law Review (Vol.14, No.4)
4) Terrie Lloyd on why Abenomics is a “failure”: lack of essential structural reforms
5) Kyodo: Kyoto taxis specializing in foreign tourists begin one-year trial. Separate taxi stands? What’s next: separate hotels?
6) Stigmatization thru “foreign driver stickers”: First Okinawa, now Hokkaido (Mainichi Shinbun)
7) JT Interview: Tokyo 2020 Olympics CEO Mutou picks on Rio 2016, arrogantly cites “safe Japan” mantra vs international terrorism
8 ) Nate Nossal essay on how free enterprise and small-business establishment in Japan is stifled
DIRTY ROTTEN POLITICS
9) Reuters: Japan eyes more foreign workers, stealthily challenging immigration taboo
10) MOJ: Japan sees record registered foreign residents, 2.23 million in 2015; but watch J media once again underscore their criminality
11) Onur on continued racial profiling at Japanese hotel check-ins: Discrimination is even coin-operated!
12) Onur update: Ibaraki Pref. Police lying on posters requiring hotels to inspect and photocopy all foreign passports; gets police to change their posters!
13) NHK: NJ arrested by Saitama Police for “not having passport”, despite being underage and, uh, not actually legally required to carry a passport
14) JT: Abe Cabinet says JCP promoting ‘violent revolution,’ subject to Anti-Subversive Activities Law; now, how about violent Rightists?
15) Economist: United Nations fails to stick up for the rights of Imperial female succession, drops issue as a “distraction” from report
16) Reuters: Death toll mounts in Japanese Detention Centers (aka “Gaijin Tanks”) as NJ seek asylum and are indefinitely detained and drugged
17) Roger Schreffler: Fukushima Official Disaster Report E/J translation differences: Blaming “Japanese culture” an “invention” of PR manager Kurokawa Kiyoshi, not in Japanese version (which references TEPCO’s corporate culture) (UPDATED)
… and finally…
18) Japan Times JBC 97 May 2, 2016 excerpt: “Enjoy your life in Japan, for the moments”
Heads up to tell you about my next Japan Times Zeit Gist article (my 47th), out tomorrow, Tuesday March 24 (Wednesday 25th outside conurbs). Talking about Japan’s criminal justice system and how it treats NJ suspects and defendants differently by nationality.