Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Information for Foreign Nationals Entering Japan

I received an e-mail from my colleague with the following information. A new example of "internationalization in accordance with the rules." If you are coming to Japan, check it out.

New Biometrics Requirements for Foreigners Entering Japan

As of November 23, 2007, all foreign nationals entering Japan, with the exemption of certain categories listed below, will be required to provide fingerprints and a facial photograph at the port of entry. This requirement does not replace any existing visa or passport requirements. Foreign nationals that are exempt from this new requirement include special permanent residents, persons under 16 years of age, holders of diplomatic or official visas, and persons invited by the head of a national administrative organization. Please note that permanent residents will also be expected to submit to this new requirement.

The Immigration Bureau of the Ministry of Justice posted an explanatory video on the new procedures on June 14, 2007.

Link to "Landing Examination Procedures for Japan are Changing!"

The video is on the webpage for the Japanese Government Internet Television [Copyright Cabinet Office, Government Of Japan. All Rights Reserved. 〒100-8968 東京都千代田区永田町1-6-1 TEL.03-5253-2111(代表) 内閣府大臣官房政府広報室]. There seems to be many different types of videos in English (on "Channel 61" geared towards foreigners and tourists) and Japanese (on a variety of subjects including politics, disaster instructions, public service commercials, etc.).

As per today's class on the various styles of documentary film, I'd say "Landing Examination Procedures for Japan are Changing!" (produced by the Japanese Ministry of Justice) falls in the category of expository, with the intention of informing and instructing viewers. The film is authoritative and "leaves little room for misinterpretation." It is also, in my humble opinion, most definitely propaganda. Japan must change its procedures to protect both its citizens and visitors against terrorism, especially in response to terrorist acts between 2001 and 2005. Changes take place November, 2007. Now that's being proactive. And such an original idea as well... These kind of regulations work wonderfully in other countries that practice them... Let's hear another cheer for the nation-state and deny globalization once again. OK, off the (sarcastic) soapbox - すみません.

It might be interesting for visual anthropologists to look into the Japanese Government Internet Television site a little more to see what other gems are there. Please do so and keep me posted.

Special thanks to P.S. for the heads-up on this one.

UPDATE: (Several hours later and after much thought) Back on the soapbox and no apologies this time... These new regulations are simply ridiculous and blatantly discriminatory. Let me give you a real life ethnographic example, someone I am very familiar with: Mr. S. has lived in Japan for 10 years. He has a permanent residence visa. He owns a house in Japan and has a mortgage with a Japanese bank. He works as a professor for a well-known university. His entire life is in Japan. For every one of the previous things mentioned, getting a permanent residence visa, buying a house, getting a mortgage, getting a job, he has faced "special treatment" because he was a foreigner. Most people would consider such special treatment as discrimination plain and simple. Mr. S. has done the Japanese thing throughout these events - he accepted them, persevered and uttered the appropriate "well that's the way things are and it can't be helped..." Mr. S. lives in Japan. One of the greatest pleasures he has is returning home to Japan after family-related or otherwise required trips to the country he has left behind. Mr. S. has virtually given up everything from his former country to the point where it would be impossible to return to any sort of normal life there. He is a refugee (albeit a willing one) of globalization. And now when he returns "home" from trips abroad he will be treated as a possible criminal and a possible terrorist because he is not officially Japanese. Mr. S. has a passport and a permanent residence visa. He has a re-entry permit and a foreign residence registration card. He is listed as a citizen in the city where he lives. He pays local and national taxes (without the right to vote - another "well that's the way things are and it can't be helped..."). Mr. S. is enrolled in the national insurance program (and has no insurance in his country of origin) and pays into the national pension scheme (which is more than some Japanese politicians, including the new prime minister, have done; Prime Minister Fukuda resigned as chief cabinet secretary in 2004 after it was revealed that he "missed" some of his pension payments - oh how soon they forget...). He has a name stamp registered at his local city hall which has been used on numerous occasions on numerous Japanese legal documents. Surely Japan must realize Mr. S. is not a criminal or a terrorist. Hasn't Mr. S. jumped through enough hoops already? Why must he give up more personal freedoms? Do you feel sorry for Mr. S.? Don't - for he is only one man. But there are thousands and thousands more like him in Japan. How can this happen? A sign of the times? A poor excuse, as it has been these kinds of policies that has brought on these "times." So what are we gonna do about it? Can we do anything? Can we afford to do anything without fear of repercussion? Mr. S. is tired and needs to sleep...

UPDATE #2: (In case you can't get enough of this...) This issue is taken up in today's (10/4/07) Japan Today. There's a short news story and then the usual mix of reader comments.

Link to
Japan to fingerprint, photograph foreigners from Nov 20


Andrea said...

I meant to comment using my academic blog's username, not my personal blog. I apologize.

Here is what I said:
The video won't work on my computer, but I find the text very interesting.
Is this new policy truly to combat terrorism? I have had enough exposure to an untrustworthy government and questionable governmental policies in my homeland, especially concerning anti-immigration issues.

It is eye-opening to be on "the Other" side of things, however.

Enormo said...

I agree with what you say on the soapbox. I have feel truly alien in this country as well. Foriegners are not treated fairly as you have pointed out and the government treats us as if we are not welcome here.

visual gonthros said...

Thanks, Enormo... After living here for ten years - and I have chosen to do so, I expect different treatment and can understand (some of) it at times. I think most countries (and most certainly the one where I come from) discriminates against foreigners to some degree. The difference here with this new policy is that it seems to say the last ten years of my life doesn't matter. Everything I have done and accomplished here is nullified because I am not Japanese, thus as a foreigner I am a possible threat to national security. The new policy is a knee-jerk reaction (albeit a slow one) and not thought out at all.

I wonder if resident aliens with green cards in America (the equivalent of a permanent residence visa here in Japan) still have to get fingerprinted and photographed when they enter the USA...

As for feeling alien in a different country - while it can be uncomfortable I think it is a valuable experience and lesson. Like Andrea said, "It is eye-opening to be on 'the Other' side of things." What will you do with the experience/lesson when you return home?