INSTANT CHECKPOINTS IN JAPAN
EXTRANATIONALITY AS SUFFICIENT GROUNDS FOR CRIMINAL SUSPICION
In other words:
The Japanese Police are wilfully targeting foreigners for spot identity checks.
(Originally sent to Fukuzawa, ISSHO, and Friends Dec 16, 1998)
Hello DFS. Although I promised my wife that I will be going on a writing diet, something came up that got me seething. In order not to wind up feeling bitter, vulnerable, and full of doubts when I'm about to naturalize, I thought I'd vent this anger constructively into another fat screed before Christmas--this time dealing with the Japanese Police.
This post is structured as follows:
and if you aren't in the mood for a series of stories and just want the quick-and-dirty letter of the law, click here to skip to:
5) CONCLUSIONS: YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS AND WHAT
YOU CAN DO TO HELP ENFORCE THEM
I had been on my way back from the JALT Conference in Omiya; it was the tail-end of a three-day weekend and Haneda was busy--so busy that lines were reaching Narita standards. Getting my seat assignment and finally getting up to the security check zone, I was in a hurry; I had only fifteen minutes before my flight to Sapporo. Passing my bags through the airport radar scanner, I received the okay to proceed from blue-uniformed Haneda Security when it happened.
A policeman--one of the Tokyo Metropolitian types with a white uniform and more swagger than regular Security--came up to me and asked for my passport. The following dialog ensued:
COP: May I see your passport?
ME: I don't carry one. I don't have to. I'm a Permanent Resident (eijuusha).
COP: Then let me see your gaikokujin touroku shoumeisho (Gaijin Card). By law you must be carrying that.
ME: Why should I show you? (By now Dave was dropping his politeness level. He simply said here "Nashite?", or "Howcum?" in Hokkaido dialect.)
COP: Because it's the law. All foreigners must show their Gaijin Cards to the police upon request.
ME: (getting suprisingly agitated) Not true. Am I under some suspicion of some crime? (Dave said something like "nanka hanzai no utagae ga arimasu ka?" in probably pretty rotten Japanese--he was then unaware of the exact wording.)
COP: (politeness level dropping as well) Everybody else has shown me theirs so far. Show me your card now.
ME: (Looking at his watch--1:47--and realizing he didn't have time to dick around) Okay, walk with me. (Cop follows as Dave pulls out his Gaijin Card and refuses to let it leave his hand. Points to the pertinent parts of the card and blurts:) See, it says here I'm a Permanent Resident. I live in this country. I do not like this treatment. This is gaijin harassment.
COP: (reads the pertinent parts). Okay. (summarily walks off with no thanks or apologies, which only adds to Dave's rage)
ME: (exclaims for the whole airport to hear as he hoofs it to his gate) Hijou ni fukai da! ("This is extremely discomfiting!"--sounds rather banal in translation but it's effective in Japanese.)
That should have been the end of it but you know me. By the time I reached the departure gate I was a mess--knees shaky and eyes flaming--one of the heaviest doses of culture shock I've had in years. I was worried this feeling might gel into a grudge of helplessness, but I got lucky: the gate had just opened and a huge line of Sapporo Bachelors had formed. I saw a window of about five minutes.
So without thinking or even blinking I actually went back to the cop to vent my rage! Risky, sure, but again--you know me. I approached the same cop as before and said, not mildly:
"Officer, give me your name, please."
The policeman was a senior-looking fellow in his fifties and confident of his job. Without missing a beat he said:
"I am a policeman and a public servant. I am not required to give out my name."
[NB: This is legally not true. More on this in Part Five below.]
I checked for a nametag and saw none--typical for police in Japan. So I opened up full throttle to save time:
"Officer, why did you ask for my card? You cannot do that unless you suspect me of a crime. I live here permanently and this is the first time that I've been asked by the police for my card. This is extremely uncomfortable and constitutes gaijin harassment."
The cop was right with me on this. I mean it. Without pause to refresh he retorted: "Look, you are a foreigner in our country, and you must obey the laws. According to the Foreign Registry Law [Gaikokujin Touroku Hou], if I as a policeman ask you for your Card, you must show me it."
"Not true. Only if you SUSPECT me of something." (I wanted to say "not without probable cause", but hell if I knew that in Japanese). You did not give me a reason. This is gaijin harassment."
He shook his head and smiled, as if the issues here were all so simple. "Look, you are a foreigner and you must obey the law."
"Look," said I, further incensed, "I live here. This infringes upon my rights and privacy (puraibashii no shingai). I am a Permanent Resident and will not tolerate this treatment."
"Well," said the cop (I got a good one--he argued back reasonably and eloquently but unabrasively), "look at it from my point of view. There are 300,000 illegal foreigners in Japan nowadays (yes, he actually gave that statistic!). How would I have known that you were a Permanent Resident unless I asked? We need to check. It is my duty to ask you, and it is your duty to show."
"Yeah? Officer, the look at it from MY point of view. I have no connection to those illegals except that I am by chance a foreigner. This means you are only stopping me for racial reasons--because I look different from a regular Japanese. What if I naturalized? Would you stop me then? I wouldn't even have a Gaijin Card. What then?"
"I'd still stop you. And you could show me your Family Registry record on your driver license." It's true. A Japanese's koseki is noted there.
"Yes I could. But by law you cannot ask a Japanese to do that. And I, as a JAPANESE, would be being harassed in a way that no other Japanese would be. I won't stand it."
The officer was still keeping his cool, thank God. "Look, given that you are not a Japanese, why don't you just cooperate? Every other foreigner has cooperated. Nobody else but you has complained."
Time was up. I turned on my heel and headed for my gate. "Well, then it's time somebody started. Jinken ihan! ("Violation of Human Rights!")" I exclaimed for all to hear again, and got on my plane. It took me three hours before I could even focus on my Michener novel, and a week later I was still all a dither.
WHY ARE YOU SO AGITATED ABOUT THIS, KIDDO?
INDEED, NOBODY ELSE SEEMS TO BE COMPLAINING.
Well, that's them and I'm me, and unlike many of them I'm here for good. After naturalizing, I don't want this sort of treatment for me, or for my Westernesque children who are legally Japanese citizens. According to the Keisatsukan Shokumu Shikkou Hou (my translation: "The Police Execution of Duties" Law; all legal documentation and Japanese text will follow in the next INSTANT CHECKPOINTS URL, *individuals* in Japan (nationality is never mentioned as a factor) may not be asked for identification unless suspected of a crime. Thus if a cop targeted and asked me to surrender identification when I am a Japanese citizen, that would be a matter of singling me out because I look different (Haneda officials themselves, as we will see below, admit they'd hardly ever demand ID from regular Japanese). It does not take a brain surgeon to conclude that race becomes a basis for suspicion, which will not do in either the public courts or the private sense of justice. The bottom line: I do not want to be legally treated like a gaijin if and when I am legally no longer a gaikokujin.
And even with my current status as a gaikokujin, given my personality I could hardly just sit here and do nothing. I'd just wind up all embittered and unempowered, letting the Devil's Advocate inside of me gripe, "Why bother? The ones with the guns will make you a gaijin all over again".
So, despite the year-end crush (these things always happen at the most inopportune times), I decided to go into activist mode and do some research on this issue.
I found out a lot of surprising things. The most important is that foreigners actually do have legally-sanctioned checks against police who arbitrarily decide to flex their power muscles. Unfortunately, they are not there for the asking yet--you have to know about and fight for from now on. I will also show you how you can do that in the next INSTANT CHECKPOINTS URL.
But first, the activism, to give you an idea what I do to get around the typical barriers and into informal channels of negotiation. I talk to those in charge and demand satisfaction:
BULL, MEET CHINA
I had an idea: "Why be categorized as a foreigner when I could take up the issue here from another angle--that of a paying customer? Japanese go all humble if the issue of 'customer relations' comes up, and hell, y'all, I use Haneda Airport around twenty times a year. Why should I, and basically only someone like I, put up with possible checkpoints every time I pay user fees to patronize the place? Why not give customer service a call at Haneda, tell them to stop the police from harrassing their customers, and see what that avails?" Thus inaugurated the second part of this saga:
2) TUESDAY, DEC 1, 1998:
LODGING A COMPLAINT WITH HANEDA AIRPORT
PREAMBLE: OVERCOMING THE RUNAROUND
(I describe the process of negotiation in great detail so that people who want to consider lodging complaints themselves can get some ideas. No complain, no gain.)
I took the route I had on several other occasions (long-termers, remember the Kume Gaffe of 1996?)--I dialed Operator Assistance (104--a failsafe way of getting in touch with any public entity) and asked for any numbers they had for Haneda Kuukou. They could only give me one: Flight Information at (03) 5757-8111. I then dialed up and got a young lady who, predictably, didn't know what to make of me.
Says I: "I feel I was ill-treated at your airport. I would like to talk to your complaints department." ("kokyaku soudan kounaa" or "kujou banashi no uketsuke" in my Japanese)
She said winsomely, "I'm sorry sir, we don't have that sort of service here."
"Well, could you transfer me to someplace that does?"
"Sorry sir, we don't have any window for that sort of thing here at Haneda Airport."
"Oh come now," I said, "what if one of your customers gets bilked by one of Haneda's stores? Surely there's somebody who would handle a customer complaint like that."
"Well, I'm not sure how we'd handle that. You'd have to talk to the store directly."
And now I knew I'd have to talk to someone else directly: "Look, could you at least connect me to your supervisor. You have one there, don't you?" Yes, but... "Well, then patch me through, please."
She did that, and I got another lady who was almost indistinguishable from the first. "What can I do for you, sir?"
"Hello, may I ask you for your rank (chii), please?"
"I'm a Sub-Leader (sabu-riidaa)."
"Not Kachou or Buchou class?" No, not that high. "Well then, I'm sorry, ma'am. I'm not trying to be rude or disrespectful to you, but my story is long and important and I don't want it to end up only at your level (sabu-riidaa domari). I really want to be patched through to someone with a degree of authority. Or else I'll be wasting both your and my time."
"Okay, sir, would you please tell me your story and I'll see what I can do?"
So I did, in much the same way that I told you dear readers above. I made sure to throw in that I am a university lecturer (that REALLY matters here!). She grew increasingly sympathetic (as has every single Japanese person I've talked to about this issue), and within five minutes gave me the goods:
"Sir, I'm going to give you the number of the Travelers' Service Center (Ryokyaku Saabisu Sentaa) here in Haneda. It's (03) 5757-8505. Talk to the Kachou there, a Mr Koga. [NB: all numbers and names in this post are authentic] I think he will be helpful. I'll put in a good word there for you."
I said my thanks to the Sub-Leader and got her name just in case Mr Koga wanted to know how I tracked him down.
Later that day I contacted Mr Koga, a very friendly gentleman, and we had a marvellous conversation. He had already been briefed on my situation from Flight Information, and offered condolences like any good store manager who takes personal responsibility for all actions. However, when he touched upon the issue of redress for police behavior, he stressed that since the police are employees of the State, not Haneda Airport proper, there was not a lot he could do. He was not their boss, after all. Metropolitan Tokyo was. So he could make no promises that even if he intervened, things would be any different in future.
I said I understood. But I didn't feel like letting it end there:
"Mr Koga, it just so happens I will be coming down to Haneda yet again in two days, on my way to business in Oita. I have a 90-minute layover between flights, so would it be possible to meet in person for a face-to-face?"
I told him my flight schedule and he looked at his. "Yes, Debito-san, I could squeeze about 30 minutes between meetings. Give me another call when you get into Haneda this Thursday and let's talk things over."
3) THURSDAY DEC 3, 1998:
MEETING MR KOGA, HANEDA RYOKYAKU SENTAA KACHOU
NOON, HANEDA AIRPORT
Mr Koga is a pleasant man in his late forties, slightly greying hair, and a disarming smile that indicates sincerity without unctuousness. He shook my hand and offered me lunch, but I said we should go back to where the incident occurred and replay it step-by-step. He agreed and as we walked the 300 meters ("out of the 1800 meters in Haneda Terminal as a whole") from the JAS gates to JAL, he played tour guide, rattling off all sorts of airport stats that I would have disregarded had my memory not been on full record mode. When we arrived at Gate C, the scene of the crime, I put my bags down on the post-X-Ray table and started getting brimstone in tone:
"Mr Koga, this is the very spot where I was standing, and said policeman came over here and did the deed. I said it wasn't neccessary for me to carry a passport and then he..." You know the story. Since my voice can really carry when I get going, the X-ray people (no Police were there at this time--only Haneda Security) started getting really antsy and wondering what this 6-foot bloke in a bright red jacket was going on about.
A bit sheepishly, Mr Koga suggested we resume course to the JAL gates and talk where it was quieter (and I would be less conspicuously soapbox). Fine. Minutes later we were near Gate 12, and I finished up with my tale of road rage here, my return to Gate C, and my frank exchange of views with the cop.
Now it was Mr Koga's turn to talk. And talk he would without interruption for a full twenty minutes. By design.
Design? Yes. This is one of my little tactics in any serious negotiation: once you have made your position known (and I often make it known well in advance in order to receive well-deliberated feedback), shut up and let them say their peace. It feeds into the style of meetings over here:
One very pleasant and potentially productive tendency in Japanese negotiations (especially when the two sides are contrariant) is to let both sides speak at length and in turn--always calmly and never interrupting. Moreover, if you are bargaining from a position of inferiority (as I was here--technically speaking, Haneda didn't really owe me anything), you have only entreaty to power your wishes. The best way to get them receptive to your onegaies is to let THEM jaw on until they have nothing more to say--running out of "commentary fuel", so to speak. Then, notebook in hand (where you've jotted down a few of their points), you can quietly make follow-up comments. The point is that you should look like you're earnest and listening in order to be disarming.
In the end, both sides tie should everything together with a warm conclusion, reaffirming each side's understanding and respect of the others' feelings; better is when you agree on palpable goals. Then everyone leaves the bargaining table feeling like they spent constructive time with earnest people. That afterglow is what gets things accomplished.
So let's bring out my notebook. I'll divide Mr Koga's answers into capsule-summary points:
a) MY REQUEST FOR HANEDA AIRPORT LODGING A COMPLAINT WITH THE POLICE
To my surprise, Mr Koga had already talked with a superior in the police force, a Mr Watanabe Keibi Kachou [again, real name], about lodging my complaint. Unlike the other police officer I had the tete-a-tete with, Mr Watanabe was willing to give out his name and even his phone number ((03) 5757-0110). He even wanted to meet said uppity university lecturer in the flesh. However, Mr Koga had told Mr Watanabe that meeting as a threesome might be a little premature--that since the former had not yet met me personally, it would be better for Mr Koga to get to know me one-on-one beforehand. (a wise call--I doubt I could have a full uninterrupted and warm exchange with a cop sitting there getting all defensive.) The point is that Mr Koga thought that my message was worth passing along to the pertinent authorities no matter what. A good start.
b) THE NEED FOR SECURITY IN AN AIRPORT
"This sort of thing is inevitable," Mr Koga said, "and it's not exactly harrassment." He brought out his version of the Gaijin Card: a laminated Haneda Airport ID with all his credentials listed avec dangling tag to clip on his breast pocket. "Debito-san, I have to show this every day when I come to work here. It's just an inevitable part of working at a transport hub, a good target for any terrorist. We need high security to keep order and ensure that we don't have a disaster on the premises."
c) WHY I IN PARTICULAR GOT STOPPED
was, in both the cops' and Mr Koga's view, a matter of bad timing. Haneda Airport, thanks to the inconvenience of Narita, is fast becoming the bottleneck for overseas VIPs paying calls on the Japanese government. Clinton was in town between November 20 and 21. Then PRC Party Secretary Kou Taku Min (Ziang Zhe Min to the rest of the world) was here (and in Hokkaido too) from November 25 onwards. "Now we've got Carlos Menem in town and who knows who's next. Your November 23 arrival was right between visits, and the cops were just maintaining their beefed-up of security in the interim."
When I told him that suspecting me of terrorism just because I was a foreigner was rather off, he said:
d) FOREIGNERS ARE SUSPECTED OF MORE CRIMES BY THE POLICE. SORRY.
Mr Koga voiced the suspicion I already had quite clearly sensed: "It is a fact of life that, say, American officials will more likely be targeted by Middle-Eastern-looking terrorists than Asian and Japanese. It is a fact *to the police* that a foreign-looking person is far more likely to do something criminal for political reasons. Japanese are much less suspect, sorry. I know that's not very nice, but that's just the way the police see it, and they will more likely target foreigners if there is a need at this particular moment for more security."
[NB: I thought about countering that Japanese are equally capable of terrorism: Sarin gas attacks, the Red Army, even as a hobby nowadays viz. lethal-household-chemical terrorist handbooks, randomly-poisoned cans of cola, or Wakayama curry rice. Commonplace in Hokkaido convenience stores and bus stations are lookout-for posters saying "Is Your Neighbor An Extremist?" It's funny: Terrorism in Japan never seems a matter of nationality unless an extranational appears--then the blame gravitates towards the foreigner or foreign influence. But as I said, I was letting Mr Koga talk. I never got to say this point, so for sanity's sake I'll mention it here.]
e) POLICE ARE FALLIBLE TOO.
"The police here are not all from Tokyo. Some are imported from the provinces, where foreigners are fewer and they're not used to dealing with you the same as Japanese. Plus one look at you, Debito-san--heavy-set, big-boned, towering over most of these shorter Japanese cops--will make many Japanese get antsy. Even if you talk back to them in Japanese, their uneasiness about how to deal with you in general plus their surprise in specific means they might be gruff. Sorry. They're only human."
[NB again: I thought "image" was going to be an issue, so even though I hate wearing a tie when I'm travelling, I bit the bullet when dropping by Haneda this time: slacks, button-down collar, even a pastel-green V-neck sweater to make me look grandfatherly. It had the intended effect:. Says Mr Koga: "But you, Debito-san, it's hard to believe that a cop would find you threatening. Sitting here talking to you, I can't imagine what they suspected you of." Smirk.]
Mr Koga seemed out of steam, so I started cajoling, like I was persuading a sixteen-penny galvanized nail to go straight into a hardwood stud deep and straight or else the whole structure would fall down (yes, a rather cryptic simile, but you get it, right?).
I) BAD TIMING IS ONE THING, BUT HANEDA IS GETTING INFAMOUS IN "THE COMMUNITY".
(I know addressing "us" as a whole as "The Community" is presumptuous, but maybe it's time to start.)
I said to Mr Koga that it is fast becoming common knowledge through our internet links that Haneda is giving the runaround to other non-Japanese for no reason but extranationality. I told Mr Koga of the case of one gentleman of European origin, a prominent member of The Community, used the airport three times between September and November. He was questioned each time without fail. The first time was by blue Haneda Security, who saw that our friend's language skills were impeccable (therefore he must be somehow legit) and let him go without a fuss. The second time was by the Police proper, but our hero indicated in passing that he was accompanied by a Japanese friend who would vouch for him, and thus slipped away.
The third time was nastier: despite again being with a Japanese friend, the Tokyo cop demanded his Gaijin Card and threatened to take him into a separate room for questioning if he did not comply. Although this is in fact illegal without criminal charge for arrest, our hero realized that he had a plane to catch and was surrendered his ID with a suitable degree of grumbling.
"The point is, Mr Koga, that there seems to be a lot of 'bad timing' happening here. In fact it seems difficult to time it right. I think that we are being targeted and that should not be happening, for the sake of the comfort and image of Haneda Airport to The International Community."
To this, Mr Koga replied that this special security (Tokubetsu Keibi Kikan, I think he said) happens a few days once a month. "It's a pity that you and your friend were here when that happens. Still we can't tell too many people that we are tokubetsu keibi kikanchuu or terrorists are going to swarm. Please understand that this is a classic case of shikata ga nai."
II) POLICE SHOULD MIND THEIR MANNERS AND SHOW MORE RESPECT.
"I know that the Japanese police are better than the prewar days, when they carried Kendo-sized batons and could beat the kuso out of anybody at will [cf. manga "Barefoot Gen"]. But they still should respect our dignity more by not singling us out. If it is absolutely necessary to ask us for ID, ask everybody, or at least a random sampling of both foreigners and Japanese.
"At least give us a reason why you want us to show our ID--don't just say 'it's the law, so there'. If you tell me that a crime has been committed, and the prime suspect is a Caucasian male, 180 cms, with brown hair, sure, I'll gladly show my ID. But I have to be suspected of a *specific crime*, not just because I'm a foreigner. If the security measures taken to get me into this airport lobby were enough for a Japanese, they should be enough for me too."
Mr Koga did counter that there is an impression within Japan nowadays that foreigners are scary to the police, moreover the harbingers of crime. Recent statistics have been bearing that out, he said. But he did agree that giving a good reason is important and would reiterate that to the Police chiefs.
Time to conclude this jawing session:
III) THIS IS NOT JUST FOR MY SAKE. IT IS FOR JAPAN'S SAKE.
Now it was time to bring out the warm-fuzzy feelings: my kids' pictures (alright, see them for yourself here). Japanese, to their credit, have an irrepressible soft spot for children, and mentioning names and showing photos melts hearts every time.
"Look Mr Koga, I have one daughter that looks Asian and the other Western. They're both Japanese, but under the current circumstances one will be targeted and the other won't. That's kawaisou. For the sake of their future and Japan's modernization, it is important that people, particularly the police, stop seeing Japanese in terms of genetics. Japan is a modern, mature country now, and should start behaving like one. One way is to accept that people with differences can be citizens and not viewed with distrust. Stopping these instant checkpoints at Haneda is a good place to start. If you really must check my ID, give me a good reason and you'll get my cooperation. Demand it thanklessly and there should be trouble. For the sake of Japan's openmindedness I hope you will help me help internationalize Japan."
Mr Koga said he would. He gave me his meishi and told me that if I, or any of my friends, had any trouble, they should get in touch with him. He hoped that I would contact him again off-hours for a beer, and I said I'd be delighted next time I'm in town. He walked me to my JAS departure gate and as I lifted off for my weekend in Oita, I felt just plain swell. I'd met a nice guy, had a nice chat, and had not only made some waves but opened an avenue for entreaty should it be necessary in future.
I realized I could take it even farther. I would be passing through Haneda again on my way back, so a little call to Police Chief Watanabe might be just what the doctor ordered. So...
4) MONDAY, DEC 7, 1998: MEETING MR WATANABE, HANEDA POLICE KEIBI KACHOU
This time around, I had a two-hour layover, so I left a message at (03) 5757-0110 saying that I would be lounging around the gate for the 3:30 JAL flight to Sapporo, and would welcome a few words with Mr Watanabe if he had the time.
I was in the midst of typing up both this essay and the Morikawa Fingerprint report when two suited gentlemen (yes, black suits over white police uniforms) sidled up to me and said, "Are you Mr David?"
"I am. You must be..."
We shook hands. Mr Watanabe was a thin cop in the grand tradition of thin cops. He had the rugged face of Takakura Ken, the wiriness of David Caruso, and the Dennis-Farina eyes that could burn through bullshit in no time. His assistant, who was along for the ride and sizing me up for the duration, was the prototypical Dennis Franz fat cop: round face that usually scowls, dark circles under the eyes, world-weary but ready to spring in an instant should anybody affront his boss. His name was Mr Jin (kami-sama no jin), and the two made a formidable partnership. Both in their late forties/early fifties, they trusted no-one, for they had seen every type of human depravity and knew that a person was capable of absolutely anything. If there was a criminal around, they'd know in an instant. I knew that there was no way I would be making waves with them.
Worse yet, there would be no time to get to the Entreaty Stage. I looked at my watch: 3:10. Boarding calls would be in five minutes, and the airplane doors would shut in fifteen minutes. So on went Mr Watanabe with his specially-prepared spiel:
"Mr David, it's nice to meet you. I heard from Mr Koga that you felt you had been ill-treated by one of my police officers. I came to apologize for that. It was not our intention to make you feel uncomfortable, and I want you to know a couple of things:
A) WE DON'T DISCRIMINATE
"You might think we singled you out as an individual, but that's not true. We question everybody. We don't care if they're Chinese, Korean, Filipino, White, European, American. We ask all foreigners for their Cards if we are in a tight security situation."
Uh, this is not exactly how one defines "non-discrimination", I thought. I asked if they ask Japanese for their ID, hoping that that would lay bare the irony.
Nope. As you know, irony doesn't work so well here. He replied: "No, almost never, unless they are doing something suspicious. Anyway, Japanese don't have to carry passports."
The glaring tautologies were astounding but insightful into the mindset at work. So I said: "By law, neither do we, but anyway, I think you should ID everyone, not just foreigners. It's extremely uncomfortable and prejudicial to be thought of as suspicious just because we look differently."
Mr Watanabe was not feeling assailed, again because I was being sunny and keeping my head low. So more came out of him: "Well, Mr David, I'm sure you understand our need for security around here. We cannot go around NOT asking foreigners for their ID, right? Especially since foreigners are more likely to attack fellow foreign VIPs. We have to do this or we would not be doing our jobs properly. We don't want the same thing that happened at the Japanese Embassy in Peru to happen here. We can't let accidents happen in the name of human rights."
A lot of things clicked into place when he said that. So I let him finish.
B) WE ARE JUST DOING OUR JOBS
"Honestly, Mr David, our job is to keep the peace and public security. If that means that you get asked for your ID, I'm sorry, but I must ask you to cooperate for the public good."
I nodded. "Yes, that I understand. I would just hope that you would respect our dignity (igen) enough to at least try to persuade us that there is a good reason for showing it." I knew that this would be the only policy that the cops could swallow, and I finished off with my pat Naturalized-Dave argument and pulled out the kids again for good measure.
At this point both Mr Jin and Mr Watanabe began softening up when they saw the ningensei of the situation. Mr Watanabe: "Yes, with beautiful kids like that I can see why you're so concerned. I have already instructed my staff to give foreigners concrete reasons when they ask for ID. That's a reasonable solution, no?"
I knew that that was the only solution with mentalities like these. JAL was announcing their final boarding call, and I finished off our brief but pleasant meeting by saying: "Thank you very much for taking the trouble to meet me! Please give us a good, fair reason, and we'll cooperate."
I gave them a deep bow (These are Japanese cops, for Chrissake! Be respectful or they'll lock you up for weeks!), and it again had the intended effect. Mr Watanabe: "What a polite foreigner! How can somebody so polite be stopped by one of us?" (Yes, he really DID say that!) I was soon on the plane and started ruminating about whom we're dealing with here.
EPILOGUE TO PART FIVE:
"WE'RE ONLY DOING OUR JOBS"--THE ALMIGHTY EXCUSE
Before I start discussing what we can do to improve our legal situation here, let's bear in mind what kind of force we're up against.
1) These are cops. Cops see themselves as keepers, if not micromanagers, of the peace in any peaceful society. That is their entrusted job.
2) To accomplish this domestic peacekeeping mission, police will exercise their powers to the fullest extent of the law. Read the previous sentence again. Since the law no longer permits beating people up with batons like during wartime, nipping crime in the bud involves something more mild, like keeping one's eyes open and understanding what people around you are up to.
3) People commit crimes. That is axiomatic. Therefore to a police officer (cf Judge Dredd), anyone is a potential criminal, worthy of suspicion should they catch your eye. Moreover, anybody whose activities a police officer cannot understand qualifies as "suspicious", and therefore worthy of investigation for potential criminal activity. This is how foreigners suddenly become targets. It's awfully hard to look unsuspicious when you are so physically conspicuous, and Japanese in general expect foreigners to act differently anyway. So there you go. Coming and going.
4) You gotta target those who commit crimes, if not anticipate the likelihood by finding potential perps. From a police standpoint, targeting everyone in Japan is difficult. The Police Execution of Duties Law (Keisatsukan Shokumu Shikkou Hou), mentioned above and more fully in the next URL, makes random spot checks of Japanese for ID illegal. So in order to carry out their duties as effectively as possible, the police are going to target whom they CAN in the name of the law. Which means that they will spot-check foreigners in the name of the law because the Foreign Registry Law permits it. To a cop, this is a natural part of the enforcement process.
Alright, enough empathy. Now let's address how to deal with that as a member of the public.
There is in fact a way to check their checks to a certain degree. The main reason why Japanese are not checked is that Japanese know they are not allowed to be checked. Now it is time for you to know the same. The Community needs to understand their rights. How? Know the law. In fact, you should *carry the law* around with you inside your Gaijin Cards to challenge the police if they are being inconsiderate.
I will enable you to do that. I give you the letter of the law, verbatim, in the next INSTANT CHECKPOINTS URL, immediately following.
(click here to go to the next URL: Part Five: your legal rights and constraints)