Monday, November 05, 2007


WELCOME TO JAPAN, TERRORIST FOREIGNERS!


I've lived here the last dozen years on a Permanent Resident visa. I own property here, I own the house I live in here, I've paid taxes here for over 30 years, I have children (one born here) who are citizens here, yet I have never been able to vote here, being irredeemably foreign, and now, under a new law that hardliners have been yearning to pass for years, every time I re-enter Japan I will be fingerprinted and photographed.

This will be done to all alien visitors/tourists/terrorists, so as to "greatly contribute to preventing international terrorist activities on our soil," to use the bureaucratic boilerplating of Naoto Nikai, an immigration official, who appears to be unaware of the fact that there have been no terrorist acts on Japanese soil in the past 25 years, other than those committed by the Japanese citizens of Aum Shinrikyo.

In Mr. Nikai's case, as with Japanese government officials in general it seems, international PR skills are not a resume requirement. But on the other hand, non-Japanese don't appear to be all that important. Returning Japanese will not be fingerprinted (that would be illegal); this is only for the questionable people, i. e., foreigners.

Folks from the rest of the world who have spent some time here know full well that they are noticed everywhere they go. It would be hard to imagine a foreign criminal of any consequence remaining unfound for any length of time in this country. We're covered by alien registration cards, 'family books,’ residence registration with the police etc., and have always been subject to random public police checks as to whether we are carrying our papers, as required. We're easy to spot.

What troubles me about all this is not just the added airport delays or the ink on the fingers or the implied presumption of guilt to augment the taint of foreignness and add tacit support to the Japanese myth of national purity (which echoes back to some terror-filled times of its own), but that nationalist factions in Japan are seeing, in the populace-controlling and freedom-restricting antiterrorist activities being so easily perpetrated in the US - that former bastion of untouchable freedoms - a fresh chance to resume old powers here in Japan, where obedience is a tradition.

Nothing much about it in the native news media, though; maybe if all the tourists were to stay away, rather than be treated like imminent terrorists...



2 comments:

Jon said...

Excellent piece, Bob. As someone who is travelling in December, have to say I'm not much looking forward to my prints going on to a system where some doofus playing with Winny could broadcast my data to all and sundry, or for example my prints being the only ones at a crime scene that were in the database, or some mistake being made in the database moments before it's shared with every government in the Axis of the Good & Clean.

Bob Brady said...

Yeah jon, I foresee some big messes coming out of this, even apart from the sinister aspects. I'll be sucked into the JP terror database too, sometime in Spring, on the usual innocent trip stateside, where I'll be welcomed with taser squads...