Yokoso! Fingerprint Please!

All foreigners to be fingerprinted when entering Japan from November 2007Starting November 20, 2007, all foreign nationals landing in Japan will be required to submit to fingerprinting and having their picture taken. Yōkoso! Smile! You’re a terrorist suspect!

This controversial new procedure snuck its way into existence on May 24, 2006 when the Japanese Diet passed a law requiring all foreign nationals (with a few exceptions, such as children under 16, diplomats, and special-status permanent residents such as Zainichi Koreans) to submit biometric data to prove they’re not Osama bin Laden or one of his cronies. I’ll spare you the details; if you have five minutes to waste, please check out the cheesy video put out by our friends at the Immigration Bureau.

Basically, the tatemae justification for this new law is that immigration officials will be able to capture any potential terrorists at the airport before they have a chance to commit their heinous crimes on Japanese soil. Sounds fair enough. After all, nobody likes terrorism; what’s the big deal about putting your fingers on a scanner and sucking it up for the camera if it could potentially save lives?

Therein lies the rub. Anyone who has followed the news for the past few decades is aware that the threat of domestic terrorism is much greater than that of foreign terrorism in Japan. Historically, the only terrorism Japan has faced has been from Japanese fringe groups like the Red Army and Aum Shinrikyo. Lest you should think that home-grown terrorism in Japan is ancient history, just this Tuesday news broke of a Japanese man who had explosive substances and was allegedly planning to blow up parts of the Tokyo subway system, having been inspired by the 2005 London attacks. Who presents a greater danger to the citizens of Japan, faraway fundamentalists, or Japanese nationals, disenfranchised with the current system and looking for somewhere to vent their anger?

The logical thing to do would be to fingerprint everyone in Japan who has fingers. Well, it’s not that simple. Japanese may not legally be fingerprinted in Japan unless they are officially charged with a crime. All the easier to get away with chikan! Foreigners, however, in spite of being officially welcome under the Visit Japan “Yokoso!” Campaign, are not offered the same protection under Japanese law.

Japan Immigration Fingerprint Machine
The actual fingerprinting machine to be used in Japan

My knee jerk reaction upon hearing this news was to assume that Japan was, once again, copying American foreign policy. Upon further inspection, however, it seems that Japan has taken the whole fingerprinting business a step further. Permanent residents of the United States are not required to submit biometric data when they return home – only tourists are. Japan, however, a country that probably ranks pretty low on Al Qaeda’s destruction priority scale, has taken a stronger stance than the U.S., requiring that all foreign permanent residents submit their foreign fingerprints as well. This means that us gaijin with permanent residence status, will be treated differently from our Japanese spouses and children when passing through customs. What an awkward situation, especially when with the little ones… “See you soon son, daddy has to go and line up over there to be fingerprinted with the lovely gaijin “dancers”..again”.

Personally, I would be for any measure that could prevent terrorism, even if it was a little bit flawed. The problem is that the fingerprinting methods used in the U.S., the same ones that are about to be introduced into Japan, would not have stopped any of the 9/11 hijackers from entering into the U.S. Is it possible that this new system is an uyoku (right wing) attempt to crack down on foreign crime (just kidding, George) and visa overstays?

The Immigration Bureau’s FAQ is rather unclear on how the biometric data will be used, except for that it follows the government guidelines on protection of personal information, in which, if you read close enough, you will notice get thrown out the window in criminal cases (Chapter 5, Article 45). None of this is an accident. The Democratic Party of Japan submitted an alternative version of the bill requiring that biometric data be deleted once an overseas national leaves Japan or is granted permanent residency, but this draft was voted down.

Indignant gaijin are not the only ones upset about this law. The Japanese Federation of Bar Associations has published a statement declaring this law to be a bad idea and a half. Amnesty International in Japan has put out a similar appeal against the new law.

It turns out that many Japanese government officials disagree with or haven’t even heard of the law! We’ll see how it all pans out soon enough.

Old alien registration card with fingerprint
Old Style Japan Alien Registration Card with Fingerprint

As a side note, fingerprinting is not a new concept for those long term gaijin amongst us. All foreigners staying more than three months in Japan are required to get an infamous “Gaijin Card” (Alien registration card). Up until the late 1990’s, the fingerprint of your left index finger appeared on this card. And even though in actual fact, all ten fingers were squeezed against the ink-pad as part of registering one self as an alien, we still loved to joke that we could be safe committing a crime, as long as we only used nine fingers..

Anyway, it looks like mandatory fingerprinting is back, and this time not only for long-stay gaijin, but for every alien coming into the land of the taihen cloud. Will our re-entry permits still permit us to line up at the Nihonjin passport booth? I can’t help but think this is going to land us back into the long snaking gaijin lines, where we will have a frustrating wait for the jumbo full of Chinese tourists (that landed 5 minutes beforehand) to be fingerprinted. Only time will tell.

In the meantime, if any Stippy readers are planning a trip home this Christmas, just be prepared for a special O-kaeri from immigration officers. Remember to smile, and if you’re feeling particularly cheeky, why not throw up a peace sign? After a 10 hour flight, you deserve it.

So what do you think? Is this a heartfelt attempt from the government of Japan to protect us all from terrorism, or are they just using the current state of world affairs as an excuse to crack down on gaijin crime and illegal immigration? Let us know in the comments below.

83 thoughts on “Yokoso! Fingerprint Please!”

  1. Will permanent resident visa holders be required to actually line up in a different line? One of the few benefits of the eijuken is that you clear immigration quickly.

  2. Well another nail in the coffin for the rights of the individual!
    but hey, let them have their fun, It’ll help them catch the real baddies and at most theyll improve their bicycle retrieving skills…for the rest of us it’ll go unnoticed…..just remember not to beat taxi drivers

    though is it true there will be mandatory stool sampling too??

  3. Personally I’m absolutely thrilled that this is happening! Yes really. Why is this? Well, basically it’s because I don’t have any fingers. Yes. Due to an impossibly ridiculous accident incurred whilst practicing some extreme origami, I lost all of my digits! Unbelievable you might think…? Well, be careful how you tackle those valley-folds, that’s all I can say. Now, back to the issue at stake; a fundamental question resulting from my clumsy origami is, obvioulsy, as to whether Japnese law demands a toe-printing? Whilst very informative, the above article says little or nothing about the possibilities of other anotomical print taking. Be that as it may, I suggest that those who would rather not give the finger (so to speak) may find a wealth of entertainment and anarchic pleasure in giving someone else’s fingerprint. Why, only a little while ago a member of the yamakuzure clan cut off his finger as a protest against poor Mr. Abe’s experiments with extreme left wing politics! What law forbids me from using this very finger if I so desire? I mean, no one else seems to be using it and poor Mr. Abe will have no need of it in his new position as unemployed. Then again, perhaps he will sell it, to create vital new funds in the flight against tellolism? Who knows? Well, not me, that’s for sure. I know nothing and that’s why I will sell my soul for a chance to vote LDP. 美しい日本? Hell yes! There’s beauty everywhere; beauty in the trees; beauty in the breeze; beauty in the seas? Well, not much. I mean first of all you have to clear away all the radioactive waste and whale blood, after that you might find something beautiful and Japanese. Such as a bento pack. They’re very beautiful; lots of lovely colors. Indeed, there’s a cigarette vending machine next to the entrance of my local kindergarten, which is awesomely beautiful; all bright reds and golds with pictures of bright healthy western people playing heathy sports and (oddly) not smoking the 美しいたばこ. Dam it all…why not take intestine prints at the airport? Everyone ritually disembowels themselves and slaps a good measure of stomach-gut on the counter so that the staff can record the correct sell-by date! 美しい腸!

  4. What is the big deal with giving finger prints and a photo?
    They already know you are entering the country and in many countries they are recording your phone call (USA, France, etc). What is the big deal with them taking some additional basic information?

  5. Robin:

    reverse that question. What’s the big reason for them taking finger prints? I’ve never willingly given my fingerprint in my life. Why should I? Am I under suspicion of a crime where there’s evidence that might be linked to me? What have fingerprints done for recent terrorist attacks either. Has any terrorist been convicted on fingerprints?

    Waste of time, money, and isn’t a good practice, as it becomes a slippery slope. People that are ok with invasions of privacy, can stand in one line, how about I get to stand in the other.

    Don’t be stupid. This isn’t about terrorism anyway. And remember, the goddamn requirement was slipped into law secretly. Just like REAL ID in the US. You should be getitng mad instead of saying “duh what’s the big deal anyway?” Wake up! you are pathetic and just beggin to be taken advantage of. Your first mistake is forgetting that probably over 60% of people in positions of power like that are there for that unquenchable desire of power. You aren’t like them, and that’s why it’s hard for you to imagine anyone coujld be that way. Just like it’s hard to imagine being a serial killer. Mistrust should be the rule, not an exception. Always mistrust. If you know anything of Thomas Jefferson, he said the exact same thing. He knew advocated mistrust and he was the president of the United States!

    The other 40% might be on your side and servants of the people, but those people aren’t able to pass their vote are they?

  6. they should be clamping down on domestic terrorism. you’re dead right. just last week I read in the paper that the lady in charge with bringing up the daughter (18) of Asahara Shoko had given up. Apparently she (the daughter) thinks that she is the next leader of Aum Shinryikyo and has been sent by God to “save Japan”. That sounds like a bigger problem than anything I might do on my way into the airport.

  7. People who say “what’s the big deal” always strike me as incredibly naive, particularly about the way the police work in Japan and about the concept of a “slippery slope” when it comes to individual rights.

    First of all, the Japanese police rely heavily on circumstantial evidence followed by an arrest then a confession generally obtained through pressure. This isn’t a cynical evaluation of the justice system here. It is a fact. If they have your fingerprints and a crime is committed and yours are the only ones on file, you can bet you’ll be hauled in and questioned until you confess to the crime even if the only thing that happened was that you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. You never know how your personal data is going to be used. That’s why you’re not supposed to surrender your rights to privacy until you are a reasonable suspect in a criminal investigation.

    As for what’s the big deal, where is the line drawn? If you have nothing to hide, how about allowing access to your PC and permitting the contents of the hard drive to be remotely inspected? They can do automatic copying of the contents while you sleep overnight which won’t inconvenience you at all. How about the police be allowed to annually search your domicile? You don’t have to be there while they do it so it doesn’t put you out. How about you submit to a pat-down randomly when you ride your bike past a police station? It only takes a minute. None of these things has to be a “big deal”.

    A world where personal data can be collected before there is evidence or reasonable suspicion of a crime having been committed by the person that data is taken from is not a world we’re going to want to live in. Surrendering your rights (such as giving your prints) is the first step down a slippery slope to a police state where you have to submit to invasions of privacy on demand for no reason other than to fish around for any crimes that can be laid to rest at your feet.

  8. I’ve gotta hand it to Hello-dead-kitty who clearly read the FAQ on the government site:

    Q.両手人差し指の指紋を提供できないときは,どうすればいいのですか?
    A.人差し指が欠損していることその他の理由により,提供することが困難である場合には,法務
    省令で定める順番により,別の指の指紋の提供を受けることになりますので,その際には入国審査
    官に申し出て,その指示に従って下さい。

  9. Let’s look at the ‘99% conviction rate’ then…

    So now, some girl ends up dead in backside of an ally, cops arrive on scene. She has a receipt in her wallet from a restaurant a few stations away. They go there, ask around, and find out a gaijin was having dinner with this girl (already a victim). They fingerprint the table and cups, now they got you Mr. Smith.
    2am, knock on your door… and all for a mere 2,000 to teach some girl English.
    Worse case, your suspect #1, they hit you hard with the 99% conviction rate… good-bye.
    Best case, you spend all day at the police station trying to explain that you can’t even remember her name and you found her on a website (which makes you look worse) that links teachers with students. Now, you missed a day of work and have to explain to everyone you’re not a murder.

    I’m pessimistic??? Just wait!
    I still have my copy of 鉄hocking Foreigner Crime” magazine.
    http://www.stippy.com/book-reviews/racist-magazine-gaijin-hanzai-ura-file-1/

  10. ogtob, speculation on debito’s site (see comments toward the bottom)
    http://www.debito.org/index.php/?p=454
    suggest that they may set up separate machines for permanent residents. You’d still be singled out and fingerprinted, though. 😀 The details seem to be up in the air at this point, especially with Abe’s resignation.

    Mr. Mori, thanks for clicking on the link (everyone who’s interested in this issue really should). Makes you wonder how far the “法務省令で定める順番” goes – down to the toes? I suppose it had better, since anyone with no hands could be a (unskilled) bomb maker.

    Seriously, though, it’s good to see so many people upset about this. The act of submitting biometric data in itself is not such an inconvenience, it’s the loss of civil liberties under false pretenses that really matters.

  11. I will be quite annoyed if I have to line up in the gaijin queue at the airport, but I guess this is inevitable. The fact that it is likely going to happen makes my blood boil, especially as I can do very little to stop it.

    Why don’t the governments just fingerprint us all at birth… Then, they could all share their finger prints with each other for a worldwide fingerprint database and be done with it…. Why not register DNA samples while we are at it? In 100 years from now, there will be no one they don’t know about. Maybe then, they could let us line up with the nihonjins for shorter queue times..

  12. I think fingerprinting by any country is utterly ridiculous. In Jamaica, when a person goes for a visa interview, he has to get ALL fingers printed and photographed before the interview! It seems Japan has decided to take a page out of America’s homeland stupidity…er security handbook. What I find ironic is that many of the complainers about what Japan’s doing see things differently when they have to speak to what the US is doing.

  13. i’m curious if this will affect sofa holders as well… usually the line at customs doesn’t bother me at all, show passport and ID and I’m through.

  14. I can’t believe that they have made a video about it. How on earth did you find it? It’s almost as though the person who designed it tried to copy that video they show on Beat Takeshi’s Battle Royale. The orange just brought back too many memories for me:

    The Right Way to Fight a Battle

  15. Hahaha!
    When terrorists will hide explosive charges in their a**, we will all get a free X-ray and if your are lucky a free coloscopy.

  16. Every day I get more and more of the feeling that I should be holing up in the mountains somewhere. Certainly this is residual paranoia from my days of being a pothead, but all the same I have to wonder what’s going on. Western governments are getting more and more into the sort of boderline police-statish activities that used to be the domain of the “unfree”. There seems to be a wave of right leaning people moving into power all over. I don’t want to be the paranoid nutter but getting my fingerprints and photo before I’ve done anything strikes me as fundamentally wrong. The pattern of police and government power is to expand; if it’s unopposed, it goes on to the next target.

    I think it’s not entirely unfair to say there is a thread of racism as well. Every country has some of this foreigner or immigrant related racism, but it’s ugly to see it rear it’s head in so obvious and harmful a fasion. Then again, US tourists will probably hardly notice after all the crap we get from US security. Besides, you have to submit a finger for Disneyworld, why not Japanland?

    I just hope some friendly goverment lodges a complaint in the right ears and it gets tossed away. I’m not going to hold my breath, however.

  17. The term for this is “security theatre”. It isn’t about catching terrorists, it’s about making the goverment look like it’s doing something about terrorists. It’s the same as the War Against Moisture going on in American airports these days. Does making everyone throw away their deoderant and hair gel really make us any safer?

  18. This annoyed the hell out of me when I first came across it a few months ago, but for anyone who has been here more than 15 minutes, it can’t come as any kind of shock. The new justice minister, Kunio Hatoyama, gave an interview in which he trotted out all of the old arguments linking an increase in foreign labour to more crime. He didn’t even explain how they are connected. That’s not necessary in Japan. All you have to do is include the words “foreign”, “crime” and “increase” in the same sentence, and the rest takes care of itself. This kind of thinking is embedded in the DNA of Japanese society. On a personal level, many Japanese people are kind, genuinely curious about foreigners and can be very warm and hospitable, so I’m not saying that all, or even most, Japanese are racists or xenophobes. On a macro-level however, Japan as a country is still quite wary of, and very unwelcoming to outsiders. It’s one of the things that you have to learn to live with here, because it’s not going to change anytime soon.

    As for myself, I will be leaving Japan after 7 very good years. I’ve had a wonderful time, and leave with a great deal of affection for this place, but there are some things that I am not prepared to put up with for the rest of my life, and being a 2nd class citizen is one of them

    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20070904a5.html

  19. actually, J-rock, what you say they say is true. of course more foreigners means more crime. in fact if the Japanese population was increasing then that would mean more crime, too. simple law of numbers. someone should remind Hatoyama’s speech writer of that fact.

  20. America is doing it! In America you almost have to do a strip search just to get on a plane.

    The UK is trying to introduce a law requiring that all UK nationals donate their DNA to a “National DNA Databank”. The law will also require all visitors and tourists to give their DNA on entry. On average, in the UK your photo will be taken 7 times everyday via the millions of street cams.

    Finger printing in Japan, for myself and other foreigners who have been in Japan many years, we had to give our finger prints to obtain our alien cards. The law has since changed. They already have my finger prints and a lot of others.

    Bin Laden has done more to help Japanese and Western governments than any of their politicians could ever achieve. May be that’s why they don’t want him dead!

    Does anyone know which country George Orwell lives in?

  21. “I would be for any measure that could prevent terrorism, even if it was a little bit flawed.”

    Then you are part of the problem. I am sorry, but we really do not need new laws to combat terrorism. We must never give up our essential freedoms. What we really need is diplomatic and economic solutions to ensure that fundamentalists do not find easy recruits.

    The solution to “terrorism” can not be “fascism”.

  22. I love the Yokoso Japan fingerprint logo… any change of offering it on a t-shirt?

    Actually, this is a serious request. ‘Ware ware gaikokujin’ (well… the Japanese a polarising the argument by again targeting only foreigners) need to vigorously and visibly protest about this. The only reason the Zainichi are being spared this absurd indignity is that they protested vehemently against the old fingerprint system.

    To those who think this issue isn’t worth protesting over… 1) I don’t understand your apparent lack of self-respect … 2) You might change your mind after being interrogated for 26 days with no access to outside help, just because your prints were the only identifiable ones found in the vicinity of a crime scene.

  23. The Fingerprint thing disturbs me as well. It’s a big deal in the US. But here’s the kicker. Its way scarry!!!!!!My wife (A Japanese National) has a US Green Card. She is not required to get fingerprinted upon entry in the US. I am a SOFA sponsored US GOV contractor and I have lived here in Japan for almost 18 years. Because I am SOFA under a US GOV contract, my wife is allowed a green card, though she is not a permanent resident of the US, and NEVER has been. Now flip this over. As a US GOV contractor, I must be SOFA sponsored. The US GOV will not allow me to disavow my SOFA status and apply for a permanent resident card here in Japan. (Well I can, but I’d get fired and I’d have to live off the local economy). In addition, as part of the SOFA agreement, the Japan GOV will not allow anyone to have permanent residence status whilst also under SOFA status. So I am in Japan more or less a permanent resident without benefits. Now the Japanese GOV allows the US Military to determine the who, when, and where of the immigration status of all their military and its civilian employees. If the US says they need this guy in Sasebo, they just stamp his passport and hand him/her a military ID. No thought is given to who is being allowed into Japan by the US in this SOFA agreement. When these lucky card holders arrive in Japan, they are not allowed to enter the Nihonjin/VISA rentry line. They must go to the Gaijin line. As though, they (Immigration) are going to take long hard look at your VISA and passport to determine if this so called crimminal, I mean Gaijin is acceptable for entry into Nippon. No! quite the contrary waiting for an hour in line gets you literally 10 seconds infront of the Immigration officer. They glance at your shiny new ID and hold your passort to your face and bang!!!! hit it with a rubber stamp and off you go. No data entry into any computer, not even a written log is kept. Oh but wait!!!! My wife the Nihonjin…pure blooded through and through gets held up for an additional minute or 2 while the agent swipes her Japanese passport through a computer data based bar code reader. Can’t be too careful about some returning Japanese!!!! A few years back, the Japanese Immigration requested that a new Multi-entry stamp (approved by the Japanese Immigration Authority) be placed in the SOFA sponsored person’s passport. This stamp would have an expiration date. So as to allow the Immigration agents to determine if this person is truly still under SOFA. In addition, it was to enable returning SOFA sponsored persons with the stamp to enter the VISA reentry line with all the other permanent residents. After all we now have this additional protection in place as due the VISA card holders which shows an expiration. (By the way, I have to get mine renewed every year). Well despite all these protections in place and the lacsidaisial attitude the agents have when checking the SOFA personnel’s passport, SOFA passports are not honored at the VISA entry passport window, and we still have to go to the big bad Gaijin line for our typical 2 second view of our Japanese mandated paperwork. So they snuck in this new rule, and sold it as a benefit that would speed up the process for SOFA sponsored folks who are already pre-approved for entry into Japan, instead we are back to square one. So out of protest, any time I have to leave and return to Japan, I take the sign literally as it was intended. “Rentry permits” line. Oh thats me… and let them frown and lecture me, then I flash my Japanese approved re-entry stamp in my rather worn US Passport and say… Yes, I am approved for this line. You guys just haven’t gotten the word or simply refuse to honor the rule applied by your agency….

    So adding the fingerprinting issue to the table will add another dimension to an already ridiculous Immigration Process at Narita…..

    P.S. since US passports and Military IDs can be faked, but the technology that determines the fakes is not in the hands at Immigration in Narita, but in fact located at the military bases and the US Embassy, how does the Japanese gov know they aren’t letting potential terrorists from Philippines into this country?

  24. anyone know how long it takes in that queue? this is gonna kill me. Is there any other advantage for us holding onto our permanent residency?
    Does anyone know the ratio of permanent residents to tourists in Japan? Surely that means the length of the queue is going to double to make it even longer?
    What are they going to do about the gaijin crew. Even at JAL, at least half of the sutchies are from South East Asian countries.

  25. The Japanese police will have access to this database and will likely use it for any and every crime they can. The Japanese police are amazing … a 98% confession rate. Check Amnesty International … I am not kidding. In other words you leave 100s of finger prints every where you go every day. Hope none of those places become a crime scene. Otherwise, you will be wisked into the police station for months of questionnaire until you confess.

    Sounds silly but guaranteed this will happen to people. Finger printing is quite controversial as evidence as it is. And you can trust the Japanese police to do any serious investigation.

  26. People are comparing this with developments in the U.S. as our “war on terror” continues. Here’s a clip of a talk by Naoimi Wolf called “The End of America” about fascism in the U.S. (It’s pretty long – 47 min.)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjALf12PAWc

    I’d be very interested to hear people’s take on this. Although I’m American, I feel a bit removed from it all, as I’ve lived here 19 years, and haven’t even visited the U.S. in over 3 years.

  27. I suggest all gaijin who get off the plane in Japan bring along an empty plastic cup, and after having their finger prints taken, look at the young officer and ask 「あの~、尿検査はどこでやったらいいでしょうか?」 Or better yet, if everybody were to have the requisite plastic cup already filled with yellow liquid that is more or less at body temperature… 🙂

  28. Its quite clear really, its not about terrorism its about Racism …. Yes the Japanese government is probably the most RACIST in the world!! … this new fingerprint system is bullshit… they need to be shamed into doing away with this crap… too many people here just lie down and take it… racism mate

  29. I hate the fact that because i’m a gaijin i’m going to be made to feel like a dirty rotten scoundrel. Last time i entered Japan with my japanese husband, when i went through the gaijin line i was hauled over and interviewed for a solid 10 minutes on why i was in Japan, where i was staying etc, when they could clearly see on my card that my last name was Japanese and i was staying at a Japanese residence!

    And the fact that my husband was on the other side of the glass did not deter them from asking me their stupid questions.

    As part of the entry into Japan along with the photo and fingerprinting it states that there will be an interview as well. If i have to go through that every time i go to see my in laws i think i will just give up!

    I agree with some of the posters here that say there is more internal criminals than external ones. I think they should focus on the “daredemo ii” slashers before they cast their eyes to the gaijin.

  30. I read somewhere in Japantimes that you could pre-register your fingerprint/photo at an immigration office somwhere in Tokyo in order to be in the fast lane at narita airport. Does someone have info regarding this and will they have a fast lane at narita airport??. I heard immigration staff will ask you questions, do i have to score 80% or over in order to enter Japan? I will ask immigration staff at the Yokohama office tomorrow but doubt they will answer my questions.

  31. The word from immigration office was that you can pre-register your fingerprints/photo at the immigration office in Tokyo. The process will take about 5 minutes but do expect long lines in the beginning. Once you have pre-registered you can enter the automatic gate at narita airport (only for visa holders) and the line will be different from the regular tourist line. It would probably be better to register your data from nov 20 which is the official starting date. Good luck!

  32. If you plan to visit Japan after November 20th, make sure your name or someone else like your’s is not on the faulty U.S. list of known or suspected terrorists.
    From Nov. 20, 2007, Japan will put in place biometric checks at all international airports. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Amnesty International have hinted that because Japan does not have their own list of foreign terrorists, they will likely use the U.S. list. This is the same list that was used by the U.S. to send Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen, to Syria for torture while in transit in New York’s JFK airport when returning home from a vacation. Thirteen months after his abduction, he was return to Canada. Even though Prime Minister Stephen Harper has apologized on behalf of the government of Canada to Maher Arar and have offered him a compensation package of 11.5 million dollars, the Bush administration has failed to acknowledge any wrong doing and continue to keep Maher on the terrorist watch list. If Japan is using the same list, what’s going to happen if there is some misunderstanding at the airport? Japanese authorities are notoriously lacking in English speaking skills, nor are they well know for respecting the human rights of non-Japanese who have been hauled off into detention.

    Japan Times
    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20071108f1.html

    Amnesty Intl Tokyo Symposium Oct 27 on Immigration’s new fingerprinting etc. regulations
    http://www.debito.org/index.php/?p=585

    Japan violates foreigners’ human rights: Amnesty Int’l (Kyodo News International, Inc.)
    http://www.japantoday.com/jp/news/216028

  33. This new law is absolutely disgusting, and yet another example of governments all over the world trying to look tough on terrorism while they erode basic human rights (as terrorists would gleefully want them to do).

    Taking people’s fingerprints won’t stop crime; it’ll just make innocent visitors to Japan feel hurt, as they are scapegoated by xenophobes.

    The fact that “foreigners” alone are being targeted in this war on crime/terrorism indicates that it is based more on racist ideas than on a genuine desire to prevent crime.

    We must condemn terrorism, NOT our human rights!

  34. I just came back from my last ever trip through Narita where I don’t have to be fingerprinted. They already have the finger printing machines lined up on the counters with small covers on them. They were much smaller than I thought.
    I asked the guy on the way out if we would be finger printed when leaving the country, too, but apparently not. What’s the story with that? I thought the official rationale was to cut down on illegal immigrants (and hence reduce terrorists?). Surely they would want to know when the untrusty gaijin leave the country?

  35. In response to this policy we have created a unique tee to wear in protest. The “Yokoso Japan 11/20” Commemorative (i.e. protest) T-shirt logo is modelled after the Yokoso Japan campaign font with a fingerprint hinomaru image in the center. T-shirts are printed front and back.
    I will be debuting the tee at the upcoming JALT 2007 conference in Tokyo, if you attending please watch for me.

    If you are interested in ordering please visit our website at http://www.samuraicanuck.tripod.com

    To ‘voice’ your displeasure with the policy please wear your t-shirt proudly as you pass through the immigration procedures at customs and immigration control.

    And don’t forget to sign the petition…
    http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/fingerprints-japan/index.html

  36. I read in the Asahi Newspaper this morning that this entire excercise is costing Japanese tax payers 3.6 billion yen. How could that possibly be? They have maximum 10 of those machines sitting on the desks. They couldn’t cost more than about 1 million yen each? Whose pocketing the difference? Just what Japanese tax payers need – more Jobs for the boys..

  37. When I was in college, I used to have an inexplicable feeling that one day I’d end up as a bum. Now, 10 years later my new inexplicable feeling is that I’ll end up in jail for something I didnt do.

  38. Consider this the “Nova” of Japanese government decisions.

    Fingerprinting foreigners is one thing (unfortunately the US set the global precedent), but I cannot understand how spouses of Japanese citizens fall into the “terrorist suspect” or “illegal foreigner” status.

    And coupled with the fact that only one airport is automated, this is a clear indicator of bad management, nothing more nothing less.

  39. Does anyone know how interconnected Japanese fingerprint databases are? Although I can’t claim to have friends of friends as illustrious as a certain Minister, I am a hardened criminal who has had my fingerprint taken for a speeding ticket (what is it with the ridiculously low speed limits here?!?). Ostensibly, I believe the print is taken in lieu of an inkan (seal), but how many people actually carry an inkan with them.

    Anyway, will this mean I get torn away from my Japanese passport-carrying family and win a full body cavity search next time I come back from holidays?

    I realize this comment is real tinfoil hat material, but hey, I might have friends of friends that I don’t even know about.

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