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"You are a Member of Japanese Society"

Monday, September 26, 2005 Posted: 02:48 PM JST

All over Japan people are ringing doorbells to collect information for the 2005 population census. Everyone living in Japan, regardless of nationality, must fill out the census form. Announcements for the census are headlined "You are a Member of Japanese Society".

A member of Japanese society? If I truly am, why don't I have voting rights? I have lived in Japan for more than 23 years, yet don't have the same right that a 20 year old Japanese citizen has. I lack one of the basic rights of modern civilization: representation. Upsetting, right? So why not refuse to participate in the census?

Well, better think about that twice. If you refuse to answer, give a false answer, obstruct answering, neglect submitting the forms or submit false forms, you "shall be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand yen."

Still, it makes you think. Well-organized, a refusal to participate in the census by a majority of foreign residents in Japan, would be the most powerful act of civil disobedience available to us foreign residents to protest the lack of the right of representation. But it would require an organization with a backbone and funds to assist people in paying possible fines.

Just a thought...

(Statistics Bureau, Concerning the 2005 Census: The government of Japan will conduct a Population Census as of October 1, 2005. The Population Census is a statistical survey conducted according to Japanese law. Everyone living in Japan, regardless of nationality, must fill out the Census form. The information obtained from the Census will be used only for statistical purposes. It will never be used for immigration control, taxation or policing. A Census enumerator will call on you sometime between late September and early October for distribution and collection of the questionnaire form.)

Keywords: opinion_item

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7 comments so far post your own

1 | At 06:38pm on Sep 26 2005, deadhippo wrote:
Wow, I didn't even give it a thought. I guess I should be more concerned about my right to representation but to be honest I'm not. I havent lived here for so long so that may be part of it but I feel this is not my country and I'm not so interested in participating in their politics. On the other hand I love statistics (lies though they may be)so I will participate in the cencus.
2 | At 11:36am on Sep 27 2005, cachorra wrote:
i've only lived here in japan for 3 years,had a look at the census form, and it's a joke. back in my home country, the census covers things such as education info, gender issues.. a whole host of things. the only questions that were on the census seemed to be geared towards what kind of house you lived in and how long you have lived there. there was a question about occupation, but it was more like (do you work full time or not?)and the name of your company. sounds more like a preoccupation with real estate and income, rather than an accurate picture of the living standards of anyone in japan. i agree that refusing to participate in the census would be a highly visible act to create a platform for the voicing of foreign resident's rights here in japan.
3 | At 12:26pm on Sep 27 2005, zapguz wrote:
Sounds good, any reason we should not refuse to fill in the form/ Any sanctions when I refuse?
4 | At 12:34pm on Sep 27 2005, Kjeld Duits wrote:
Zapgus, as mentioned in the article: If you refuse to answer, give a false answer, obstruct answering, neglect submitting the forms or submit false forms, you "shall be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand yen."
5 | At 12:30am on Sep 28 2005, Rusty Lovewell wrote:
Five years ago I refused to accept and fill out the census forms. My reason had nothing to do with being a platform for foreign resident's rights in Japan.

The issue for me, and I straightforwardly expressed it to the local authorities, is that of an unwarrented and unacceptable invasion of personal privacy. Why?

Well if the purpose of the "population census" is legitimate, that is, collecting data on population trends which will help the government in forecasting public needs and services in the future, for example, then it can be filled out anonymously. There is absolutely no need for an individual's name, company information, tax status, visa/immigration status, spouse's work location and other personal information to be collected.

Furthermore, the census form can and should be simply mailed to each household with a return envelope to mail back the forms, not delivered personally by a census collector. The census colletors are usually paid part-time workers, usually neigborhood obasan females,not government employees, who are very likely to talk about and gossip with others about the personal information they collect about the local gaijin (already an object of intense curiousity in a Japanese neighborhood setting), his/her household members, income, etc. If the gaijin is sharing her residence with another person to whom she is not married, that also turns up on the census form which the census collector is privy to read. A tittilating tidbit of information to share with the other obasan and members of the neighborhood chonaikai, no doubt.

Finally, although the census collector is supposed to be identifiable by a census collector ID card hanging around her/his neck, there is no photo attached, nor fingerprints like a gaijin card, and so and the "ID Card" could easily be bogus. A female resident would be at risk giving personal private information to any male "census collector" who shows up suddenly at 8 p.m. (as one did a my place tonight when I wasn't yet home), flashes his "ID Card", and then begins with the prying questions about her personal life and private matters.

When I rejected the census forms 5 years ago, the census collector obasan was pushy and brazen enough to go to my landlord in the same building and ask my landlord to force me to respond. I had to explain to my landlord why I would not comply--violation of privacy--and finally get the forms from my landlord to be filed in my deep storage circular bin file at home--where 5 years later, they still reside.

So there you have it. No anonominity, no census from me.
6 | At 12:26pm on Oct 20 2005, ian b wrote:
having lived in japan for a few years as a member of the u s military, i've never had to deal with the census. all the reasons for not filling it out may seem to be valid(especialy rusty lovewell's-28sep05), i would say that voting rights are generally reserved for citizens of that particular country(even here in the u s), the only way to change things is to become involved in local politics. just something to think about beore you do something that may get you fines, jail time or even deported.
7 | At 08:46am on Dec 16 2005, IZ wrote:
"It will never be used for ...taxation purposes" Crap!!! A few weeks after filling in the census my room mate had a visit from the local council, and finally had to pay his city tax bills. They TOLD him they got his income information from the census!!!!
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