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1 BAD IMPRESSIONS Japan reinstitutes fingerprinting after abolishing it a decade ago for foreigners only By ARUDOU Debito Associate Professor, Hokkaido.

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Presentation on theme: "1 BAD IMPRESSIONS Japan reinstitutes fingerprinting after abolishing it a decade ago for foreigners only By ARUDOU Debito Associate Professor, Hokkaido."— Presentation transcript:


2 1 BAD IMPRESSIONS Japan reinstitutes fingerprinting after abolishing it a decade ago for foreigners only By ARUDOU Debito Associate Professor, Hokkaido Information University

3 2 History of Fingerprinting in Japan  Fingerprinting (and Gaijin Cards) introduced in 1952, to track former “citizens of empire” who stayed on in Postwar Japan.  Objections raised by Zainichis etc. due to associations of fingerprinting with criminality.  Widespread protest and refusals to be fingerprinted led to general amnesty with death of Showa Emperor ‘89, amendment for Zainichis ‘93, complete abolition by ‘98.  More at

4 3 A more enlightened past...  “The Immigration Bureau said the 1992 revision has not had a negative impact and that fingerprinting should not be considered the only trustworthy means of identification. Bureau officials also said the fingerprinting system appears to be ineffective in stopping or reducing the growing number of illegal immigrants and visa overstays in Japan.”  The Justice Ministry: “the practice could be construed as a violation of human rights”. --Asahi Evening News, October 7, 1998, Front page

5 4 But then came the fear...  Dec 2004: Cabinet approves “Action Plan for Pre-Empting Terrorism”  April 2005: Hotel laws now require ID from all foreign tourists (police say from all “foreign guests”)  MHLW & MOFA: this is for “effective prevention of infectious diseases and terrorism”  Oct 2007: All employers must register their foreign employees with the MHLW

6 5 Retrogression, Nov 20, 2007...  NJ will have to submit FP and a mug shot when entering Japan.  Every time.  There is no pre- registration for FP.  There is no special line for “Residents”. All NJ regardless of status in Japan line up like any other tourist.

7 6 Exceptions are:

8 7 According to:

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13 12 In addition...  GOJ website: “Finally, the Immigration Officer asks you questions, including about the purpose of your visit.”  “Your visit”?? Are all NJ merely visitors?

14 13 Criticisms of this program  Why FP foreigners only? All terrorism so far, from Aum to political extremism, has been home-grown. And are NJ more likely to be terrorists or carry disease?  Why FP long-term residents? Why the presumption that they are “visitors”?  Other questions about sanitation, even effectiveness of FP itself (Google “how to fake fingerprints” and see how easy it is).

15 14 Criticisms of this program  Why no pre-registration of FP? Why go through the same procedure every time, and through the Tourist Line, separated from their J families?  Why are biometric machines, according to Kobe Immigration, only being installed in Narita? Despite the new law’s requirements for universal digital machines, every other port of entry will FP and photo the old way. Including Japan’s particularly porous seaports.  Why is Japan the only one of 17 member countries thus voiding the APEC Business Travel Card? What effect on Japan’s tourism and foreign exchange?

16 15 Gaijin Queues this short are optimistic...

17 16 What you can do...  Don’t do nothing. Tell everyone you can that all NJ, even those who live here, are being treated by GOJ policy as terrorists. So much for “Yokoso Japan”.  Download bilingual protest letters and places to send them at index.php/?p=652  Have your whole family stand in the Gaijin Queue, then hand over protest letter after processing.

18 17 What you can do...  Cite probable damage to tourism and foreign exchange due to US-VISIT Program: Debate at library/news/2004/01/wwwh40109.htm  "Because if people think that America is hiding behind a fence, that America is not engaged in the world, if America is so concerned about its security that it is not open to people in other lands coming to visit, then it is not the same America we've been telling them about for all these years." --Colin Powell, May 12, 2004.

19 18 “Roger Dow, president of the Travel Industry Association, told me that the United States has lost millions of overseas visitors since 9/11--even though the dollar is weak and America is on sale. ‘Only the U.S. is losing traveler volume among major countries, which is unheard of in today's world,’ Mr. Dow said. Total business arrivals to the United States fell by 10 percent over the 2004-5 period alone, while the number of business visitors to Europe grew by 8 percent in that time. The travel industry's recent Discover America Partnership study concluded that ‘the U.S. entry process has created a climate of fear and frustration that is turning away foreign business and leisure travelers and hurting America's image abroad.’ Those who don't visit us, don't know us.” --Thomas Friedman, New York Times, Sept. 30, 2007

20 19 What you can do...  Attend October 27, 2007, Tokyo Symposium organized by Amnesty International Japan and Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan (SMJ)  Title: “Toward further control over foreign nationals? Japan’s anti- terrorism policy and a Japanese version of the ‘US-VISIT’ program”

21 20 Another friend of a friend writes: “It’s not really common knowledge but electronic fingerprint readers don’t work on about 10% of the population. Something about the grooves being too shallow. So they have to have some sort of contingency plan in place, like taking ink prints and then scanning them. This costs them money. Lots of money; as in if everyone had to have manual prints done the project would go way over budget. I recommend applying superglue to your fingertips just before getting off the plane. EVERYONE. Or cover your fingers in a thick layer of vaseline or chewing gum to really mess up their readers. Apologize profusely when they find out, but just let them mess around trying to find out why nobody’s prints register on any machines before just saying ‘screw it’ and letting everyone through. Let’s mess with the system, I say. Make it so cost- inefficient and time-consuming that they have to stop.”

22 21 More on this and other issues: ISBN 4 7503 9018 6 English version, Japanese version ISBN 4 7503 9001 9 THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR ATTENDING THIS PRESENTATION!

23 22 Download this powerpoint presentation at:

24 23 Addendum: Regarding foreign crime: How the NPA cooks the statistics.  Release six-month updates on foreign crime to great fanfare, but with no comparison to J crime rates.  Focus on increases, never on decreases.  Focus on percentages, not hard numbers.  Include visa violations with harder crimes.  Bias sample through racial profiling.  No deflator to take into account rise in foreign population, static J population.

25 24 Cooking foreign crime statistics: Referential websites:  Japan Times Oct 4, 2002: “Generating the foreigner crime wave”  Full info site on police targeting and racial profiling at communityissues.html#police

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