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Home » November 2007 » Why Protest Fingerprinting?

Why Protest Fingerprinting?

Friday, November 23, 2007 Posted: 08:05 AM JST

A responsible law-obeying person may not feel comfortable to protest a law. Especially not if you are told that it will protect you. But the new Japanese fingerprinting law absolutely requires protest from every responsible law-obeying person living in and visiting Japan.


1. Requiring people to identify themselves with fingerprints and photographs each time they visit a country is an assault on their human rights.

2. Singling out foreigners for identification is morally wrong. Foreigners and native-born are equally capable of being good or bad.

3. Singling out foreigners for identification is stupid. A potential terrorist intent on creating mayhem in Japan could easily enter Japan on a faked Japanese passport.

4. It can, and most probably will, lead to increasing erosion of your individual rights.

5. Additionally, it is a big pain. Read the following experience of Martin Issott, a Kansai-based non-Japanese:

It's been an interesting day - after a great deal of effort, my wife and I are both pre-registered to use the Narita automated gate facilitated re-entry system for resident foreigners.

However, if our experience of trying to make function the 2 sets of available fingerprint reader equipment at Shinagawa Tokyo Immigration Office is anything to go by, the airports today will have been literally hell on earth!

The whole process, including waiting time, took just about 2 hours. In the case of my wife the fingerprinting took 10 min - she needed 12 attempts to successfully get a registration - in her case her index fingers would not read, but she achieved a reading eventually with her 2 middle fingers.

For me it was a painful 27 mins! The first machine could not read any of my fingerprints despite cleaning and application of a special gel. I then insisted on using the second machine, where after repeated attempts the machine was finally able to read my left index finger but was repeatedly unsuccessful with any of the fingers on my right hand.

The operating immigration officer, a pleasant enough young lady, was about to give up but having come from Kobe there was no way I would allow that to happen , and ultimately after numerous further attempts my right ring finger managed a reading.

However, some other applicants were not so lucky, or so persistent.

Directly in front of me was a young German woman ,a permanent resident married to a Japanese - after the best part of 20 mins she was turned away - despite her insistence that in the US they had no problem reading her fingerprints.

She has a small baby - what on earth is this poor woman going to do now?!!

Several places in front of her another woman was also turned away after numerous attempts.

Thus 2 out of the 12 applicants in front of my wife and I could not complete the registration due ineffective equipment - i.e. 17% of applicants.

If such statistical percentages are occurring at international airports throughout Japan, it is a truly nightmare scenario!

The saddest case of all was an obviously fairly senior US businessman visitor who told us he visits Japan once a month, and had read in the Japan Times that regular visitors to Japan would benefit from registering, so he had turned up at Shinagawa Immigration Office.

We suggested he check whether non-residents could pre-register - and as we feared the answer was no, and he was turned away.

The reality of the experience was even worse than I had feared and demonstrates the incompetence of the Japanese authorities in not fully testing the equipment before implementing the amended, discriminatory immigration law.

Keywords: opinion_item

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The now legendary Sir Ernest Mason Satow (1843-1929) was a member of the British legation in Tokyo for twenty-one years. This classic book is based on the author's detailed diary, personal encounters, and keen memory. In it, Satow records the history of the critical years of social and political upheaval that accompanied Japan's first encounters with the West around the time of the Meiji Restoration. Fascinating.
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