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.

84 thoughts on “Yokoso! Fingerprint Please!”

  1. Sorrydaijin, I was actually discussing the same topic with a friend of mine who has had his finger print taken on two illustrious occasions while driving his car. He reckons that there is a loophole in the law that lets you sign your name if you don’t want to give your fingerprint. That said he says that he has bought an extra inkan to keep in his car now just in case. Apparently a friend of his got a little irritated with the whole concept and decided to softly smudge his fingerprint down the page. The cop wasn’t too happy and I wouldn’t recommend it.

  2. Cheers Mr. Mori.
    I wish I knew about the signature thing, but too late now. I will have to continue on my typical evil gaijin crime spree with the knowledge that they have my prints somewhere.

  3. My view… all countries should introduce fingerprinting ASAP so there no more reasons to complain. Yes maybe Japan is racist but what’s wrong with it… I would hate the day when all countries look like the US or UK etc. If you do not like a bit of racism stay were you came from… for readers affected by democracy-brain-wash… when you do not like spicy food do not order it but do not tell the restaurant to stop serving it. I do like variety. p

  4. Dear friends,

    As many of you may be aware, on November 20, 2007 the revised Immigration
    Control and Refugee Recognition Act took effect, enforcing madatory
    biometric fingerprinting and facial photographing of all foreign nationals
    entering or reentering Japan. As a response to this (arguably) misguided
    policy we have created a special t-shirt to commemorate the occasion for
    you to wear proudly while passing through the new immigration procedures.

    To view the t-shirt, links on the issue, and learn more, please click on
    the link below:


    or email: [email protected]

  5. Does anyone know if the will have the fastpass lane at haneda airport or do you just have to be in line with everyone else?. Probably only narita airport has the fastpass lane…

  6. not nice, yes. but when I lived in Japan in 1993/94 my ARC had a fingerprint and photo on it.
    now, nearly 15 years later they are doing it at the airport. It is just the same to go to the states now! Finger print photo,

    if you have worries, go be a hermit, or cut your fingers off.

  7. This doesnt make sense right …


    “It is a big idea a new world order” – daddy bush

    1. Introduce fingerprinting for entry into japan for foreigners, a few complain and whine a bit but after a while they accept it – small media coverage. Japanese think its ok cos its just for the gaijin.
    2. Stage a domestic terror attack committed by japanese.
    3. Now because we have domestic terrorists we need to have blanket fingerprinting for everyone including japanese. Big media coverage. Introduce a Japanese version of ‘home security’
    4. Deploy fingerprinting for all international and domestic travel for everyone.
    5. Predicted chaos at the airports – long queues – give it big media coverage.
    6. Wait a while – let it bake.
    7. Now problem, reaction, solution – make a proposal to give mass population the option to take an RFID chip under the skin so they can avoid the long fingerprinting queue.
    8. Government passes ok.
    9. Slow uptake.
    10. Stage another terror attack.
    11. Now make RFID mandatory

    Game over

  8. i am from philippines .i live in japan for 8 yrs and married to japanese and got to kids.my visa status is japanese spouse visa.but i still go on fingerprint.and taken picture when i arrived in the fukuoka airport it is so hard forme because my two kids with me it takes time.and my kids is so hungry and thirsty.it is a good idea but ofcourse for god sake it is not easy to bring kids in the airport and take an hour of having that kind of procedure.well i think that procedure is for only the tourists visa holder.

  9. Kharen, what is the procedure they use in fukuoka? My recent return through kansai was surprisingly swift because all I had to do was put my fingers on the scanner and look into a camera at the counter as the immigratio officer stamped my passport.
    A few days later, I had a real sense of deja vu when renewing the family’s annual passes to Universal Studios Japan because they used almost the same system, except they didn’t take fingerprints.

  10. japanese immigration’s move to take a fingerprint specipen for foreigners entering their beloved country is not at all impressive! that’s too much for foreigners to bear, in psychology that is what we call delussions of grandeur, and that’s exactly what japanese behaviors are… PARANOID,XENOPHOBIC,NEUROTIC and worse PSYCHOTIC. I wonder if japan could stand on her own without the U.S’ effort to hedge them with protection… DAME DA! GAIJIN WA BAKA NI SHINAIDE YO! JAPAN must reverse their negative outlook for GAIJIN! ENOUGH OF THE CRUELTIES YOU”VE DONE AND STILL DOING TO FOREIGNERS SPECIALLY WITH YOUR NEIGHBORING COUNTRIES. IKAGEN NI SHIRO! AGAIN, YOU SHOULD AMMEND YOUR POST WAR KIND OF IMMIGRATION LAW ALL OF WHICH SHOULD HAVE BEEN BURRIED ALONGSIDE THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE AUTHORED YOUR LAWS NOW RESTED IN PEACE…YAMETTE KURE! TANOMU YO!

  11. Oh geez stop all ur crappy moaning like a baby, So what if japan want to do finger printing etc… its there country they can do what ever they want to for security issues. Bottom line is if you want to enter there country then you follow the rules, if not then DONT BOTHER GOING DUH!!! Oh my God why bring up the war, Geez!!! Am glad the way they run things, all u westerns wana do is take over other countries so u can turn it in to another westernised country. U also have started wars remember!!! so shut up before u say crap about other countries..

  12. Why all this fuss about Japanese fingerprinting, anyway ? It is their country and they can make any rule they want. Just imagine you are giving them the finger…all 10 of them and you will feel much better.

  13. I think it could be possible for permanent residences to challenge these measures in court. First point: Special PR don`t need to get fingerprinted. Second: Privacy laws appy to everybody in Japan. Third: The Constitution is the supreme law in Japan and applies to anyone. The legal argument would be to use Article 14, everybody is equal before the law. Maybe it will end up having the Zainichi being fingerprinted!

  14. i heard if you have permanent visa you will exempted after i had experienced to fall in line an hour i changed permanent visa

  15. but…..this august i still have gone through fingerprints (shoganai)in this law i do respect coz my husband and 3kids are here

  16. in my 8 years living here ….JAPAN …..is great!!!eventhough so strict.

  17. This is yet another way for the world to invade our privacy, its kinda sad that i am no longer going to japan because of this. they treat us like child sex offenders like come on… what the hell aye

  18. Japan doesn’t welcome us. So just don’t go and don’t visit. I used to love to travel to Japan for the fine dining, the onsen and visit friends. Specially looked this up again to verify if the finger print rule is active. Since some friends are inviting me to visit them in Tokyo, it would be a pity if I refuse to give my finger prints and have to return on the same plane.

  19. Actually, these airport devices don’t seem to take my fingerprints. I’ve been to Japan twice since the regulation, and I had this problem both times. No matter what I do, they just can’t take it, but they still let me enter Japan. I heard about a guy who couldn’t enter US because he lost fingerprints due to some illness (mine seem ok if you look at them, just can’t be recognized by the machines). Has anyone of you encountered the problem as well?

  20. Actually when I heard about this same thing in US, I decided not to go there for a half year research visit. Well… it’s their loss. Free money lost. I also won’t go to US as a tourist, because of this kind of BS. Now, the same for Japan… well… so be it. Japanese cannot handle their economy, and without tourists, it would be impossible. Just vote with your money. I think this kind of thing affects mostly the welcomed guests with brains.

  21. American citizens complaining about being fingerprinted abroad is the pot calling the kettle black. Totally hypocrite. What’s next? Japan being ruled by western guys and White Proud?

  22. Although I am not American, I think it is safe to say many (most?) people are against such arbitrary fingerprinting regardless of where it happens. In my case, it is a price I am willing to pay to live in Japan because I love the country so much. Clearly, a lot of others are not prepared to make that sacrifice, but that doesn’t make them hypocrites.

  23. Do you people here know the concept of Sovereignty? it states that a sovereign country does not need non-citizens, foreigners, foreign governments opinion to vote new laws, new rules that please its own citizens. Japan is actually a sovereign country and being the host of US bases does not make it the 51th State. If Japan chose to vote this law is means that it was the citizens of Japan choice, the government have been democratically-elected and they vote any law they want without asking any country opinon.

    Live with it, Japan belongs to japanese. Foreigners won’t rule japanese people, espacially white foreigners who seem sometimes frustrated about being ruled by non-whites.

  24. Wow. Settle down. Nobody is claiming that foreigners do or should violate Japanese sovereignty. The whole US base thingis a completely different issue and has nothing to do with fingerprinting. I agree that fingerprinting is fine if the people elected by the Japanese public passed the law. I know there are people that claim it is an infringement of some kind of human right, but that is a real stretch in my opinion.
    You really seem to be spoiling for a fight, but I think you will find most of the people that visit this site are willing to grudgingly accept being fingerprinted. That said, I would be interested to know if there have actually been any cases where these prints have actually been brought before a court as evidence and if so, how well they stood up.
    As to being frustrated about being ruled by non-whites, I just don’t know where you get that from. Frustration at incompetent politicians seems to be a universal phenomenon that crosses all boundaries of country, race and culture.

  25. Here you can put your voice. They made already health insurance not required for visa renewal. Please vote for ban of fingerprinting at each re-entry. Let try to make fascist Japan a little bit better.

  26. Do you know why these measures (finger printing, biometric data, police state alert, checking your id at random) have been introduced in japan? I can tell you why here:

    the japanese goverment has been hijacked/ overtaken by a powerful group of elite bankers that control even america today. Through bribery and threats, the japanese government is under the control of these powerful groups all these anti-terrorist measures: finger printing, biometric data etc is just a guise to control you, in the future. they will know what where you’ve been, what you’ve done, where you go shopping etc, they will have total control over your life. It will be a cashless society where all your data and money will be stored in RFID chips implanted into your hand. If you do something they don’t like they’ll simply cancel your money balances – total control! The technology to do all this aleady exists, they just need to implement it into your lives

    Think about it: without the treat of terror, do you think the US government would be able to take away so many freedoms the US citizens have been enjoying previously. finger prints for dirving license, power to detrain and arrest without reason, indefinite imprisonment without reason. Wake up Japan you’ve been had!

    research illuminati to find out more

  27. Today friend of mine went through Narita. It is getting worse guys. She was not only fingerprinted (all 10 fingers!!! yes, not 2 anymore) and photographed, but her eyes was scanned too. I couldn`t believe it, but she told me that she had re-entry but still went though this crap. How it comes no one wrote about it, even Japan Times. Probably there is now special gate for re-entrants. Can someone confirm it?
    Japan is America`s slave dog, even worse, because America do not do this to its legal residents on each reentry

  28. @joe madely I feel sorry for US Citizens in US, but at least citizens itself are going through the same BS, while Japanese are not, because their Constitution do not allow to do it. The only people they can do whatever they like are those who have no rights like us and as officials in GoJ said J Constitution is only for J people (from blood not naturalized)

  29. Im from London, booked tickets out to thailand on the 1st September and was going to be traveling to Japan – really looking forward to it aswell.

    However, after learning this I have cancelled the plan to travel to Japan … this is an abrasive and totally unjust/ racist violation of human rights and despite a long term dream of visiting the country, especially tokyo, i now liken going to japan the same as going to any other country with an appalling human rights record.

    It is totally unjust to treat foreigners in this way and if they want to get their tourism trade going again after the earthquake and disaster this is not the way to do it!

    I felt sorry for them after all that happened…. well stuff the lot of them, couldn’t have happened to more distrusting, racist and evil people. It’s not as if the UK didn’t give them aid and help during their crisis only to be treated as terror suspects.

    Disgusting country – feel sick we here in the uk give foreigners such freedoms and in return we get treated like terrorists!!

  30. To get the sheep to beg for the walls of their own pens to be raised is the goal of any farmer. You must define and confine what you own, right? The notion that this requires an RFID chip is off. The warning of the Mark of the Beast has different connotations lost in translation from one culture to another thousands of years later. It’s significant to allow yourself to be named by another. That act shows allegiance to the entity issuing your new name. These global biometric schemes are issuing your man a new name, in the form of numbers. Numbers derived from a scan of your hand or forehead (same word is used for reitna in Greek.) See antichristID.com for more info. No chip is necessary. The database for the Mark is being filled today.

  31. Fingerprinting and photographing at Japanese immigration offices or Port of entries is completely fake. They make it look that way, but in fact they only scan the ID page of your passport to find out your name and date of birth.
    So if they have your passport and scan the ID page, they will know who you are.
    My fingerprints and photo didn’t go through at the NRT airport, so they took me to a room and tried to get my fingerprints several times and still nothing.
    But I know they were bluffing to give me the idea that they are really checking you using your fingerprints .
    But in reality, they already knew who I was by just scanning my passport ID page or entering my full name and date of birth. If I changed my name they would have no idea. So don’t believe that the 2007 changes . it is all a bluff.

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