TT-445 -- Fingerprinting 101, ebiz news from Japan

* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E 'S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, November 11, 2007 Issue No. 445


- What's new
- News
- Candidate roundup/Vacancies
- Upcoming events
- Corrections/Feedback
- News credits

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Back in early October (TT-440) we talked about the coming
changes at Immigration, where the authorities have decided
in their wisdom that every foreigner in the land except
those who are third generation Koreans and Taiwanese,
diplomats, US soldiers, and kids, will be subject to
anti-terrorist biometric checks at the airport every time
we come into Japan. Since writing about that, we have had
lots of email and have been following the situation pretty
closely. Many thanks to all those people dropping us notes
about the changes as they have been happening.

We'll say up front that the proposed measures have been an
unmitigated public relations disaster for the Japanese
government and the Justice Ministry in particular. Although
the basic idea was to cooperate with the USA and other
nations to try to catch potential terrorists at the
borders, the measures have in fact proven to be disjointed,
unorganized, and ultimately unworkable. They have also
managed to infuriate pretty much every long-term,
tax-paying, foreign resident in Japan.

Let's get an update on what is happening now.

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[...Article continues]

As many readers will already know, the Immigration folks
have decided to put in place a pre-registration system and
an "automatic" gate at Narita, so that permanent residents
and others with re-entrant visas will be able to by-pass
the tourist lines so long as they are pre-registered. You
can apparently pre-register either at the Tokyo
Immigration Bureau at Konan, inconvenient at the best of
times, or at Narita Airport.

The pre-registration counters will be at the South Wing of
Terminal 1 and South Side of Terminal 2. Note that the
opening times at Narita are limited to 9.00am-5.00pm. So
it's probably a good idea to go early. There is no
indication of how long the pre-registration process takes,
but comments we've heard so far are a few minutes if there
is no queue.

However, having said that, since literally tens of
thousands of people with re-entry visas will be leaving for
Christmas, you should leave plenty of time to get the
pre-registration done. For documentation you just need the
application form (presumably they'll give it to you) and
your up-to-date passport.

Now, if you happen to be using an airport other than
Narita, including Haneda, Nagoya, and Osaka, there will be
no automatic gates, and thus pre-registration isn't going
to do you much good. We can see this riling a lot of
foreign business people who have picked Japan for lifestyle
but who frequently travel to China and elsewhere in Asia
for business. For those people, moving to Singapore right
now has to look pretty good. It seems that the Japanese
government isn't really that interested in foreign
investment after all...

Now for those of you used to the Japanese floating new laws
and changing them after feeling the heat from the public,
there is some hope. We have heard through a well-placed
friend that the Immigration senior management are surprised
at the amount of negative reaction by the foreign
community. While their being surprised shows just how out
of touch they are, in any case we heard that Immigration
may in fact consider exempting permanent residents from the
re-entry procedure after-all. If they do this, at least
they'll be bringing themselves back in line with the USA,
where this whole biometric fiasco started in the first
place. There, the green card holders are allowed to enter
immigration through the US Citizen lines.

As the procedures have started to unfold (why do we get the
sense that they're making this up as they go along?), there
has been plenty of newspaper reader feedback in the Daily
Yomiuri and other foreign press. You have the Japan
apologists stating, "Well, these measures aren't so bad,
what's a little fingerprinting and eye scanning every now
and again if it keeps the country safe?" through to "Oh,
those whiney foreigners, if they don't like it, let them go

The fact is that the fingerprinting and eye scanning really
are just an irritating inconvenience. What is making people
mad is how the government has decided that foreigners
living in Japan for decades, and in a number of cases those
who were even born here, are now lumped in with tourists
coming in for a week on the way to China or elsewhere. This
seemingly insignificant rule change has woken up a lot of
resentment over how Japan treats its foreign residents in

Getting past the feelings of shabby treatment, you then get
to a more disturbing situation -- what happens to the data
after it is collected? At the end of October, we attended
an Amnesty International Japan press conference, where a
prominent leader of the American Civil Liberties Union
(ACLU), Barry Steinhardt, related what is done with the
data collected in the USA's US-VISIT program.

He made some very interesting points. Firstly, that the
terrorist alert database being used by the USA contains
750,000 names -- an order of magnitude larger than the
actual number of likely terrorists in the world --
meaning that there are a lot of people on that list who
shouldn't be there.

Secondly, the database has been proven many times to be
flawed thanks to its very superficial data. Essentially,
any person with a suspicious first name/last name, like
that of Dr. Robert J. Johnson, is flagged at the port of
entry and they are regularly dragged off for grilling.
Treatment like this of innocent people has naturally
caused tourism to the USA as a percentage of the global
travel market to fall -- in fact by 35% since 1992. Japan
can look forward to much the same result.

Thirdly, although no one has admitted as such, the ACLU
suspects from recent cases involving activists prevented
from entering Canada, that the USA is now sharing its
database with other nations.

The announcements by Immigration say that the new biometric
checks are being put in place to detect known terrorists
as they enter the country. However, Japan doesn't possess
its own list of foreign terrorists, mainly because there
hasn't been an incident of foreign terrorism on Japanese
soil (well, OK, North Korean abductions, maybe) since WWII.
Thus, for them to correlate tourists entering the country,
they'll have to borrow someone else's list. The ACLU and
Amnesty are hinting that it will be the faulty US list.
Too bad if your name happens to match one of the
750,000... Any Bob Johnsons among our readers? Let's hope
"Taru Suzuki" or a similarly popular Japanese name doesn't
suddenly make it to the list.

What is interesting, too, is that while Japanese names and
biometrics are not on the Japanese database because the
electorate wouldn't stand for it, for those Japanese
nationals traveling to the USA and UK, their data is
indeed being captured -- and it is only a matter of time
before this data is fed back to Immigration here in Japan.
This smacks very much of a back door effort by the powers
that be to collect global data -- and there isn't much the
civil rights people can do about it.

Then we heard another interesting tidbit. Now you might
think that with all the hot technology for accurately
scanning fingerprints and eyes, this data would be
whizzing back in real time to some massive Interpol-like
database, and that if there was a match then the
Immigration officer's screen would start flashing red and
bells would start clanging.

Nope, nothing like that. What we heard is that the data is
"batched" and sent to a screening center for analysis.
Apparently it takes up to 24 hours to turn the data around!
That's probably just the right amount of time for an
earnest terrorist to catch a bus over to the Tokyo Stock
Exchange, let off some sort of device, and high-tail it
back overseas.

So what we have here is a FUBAR situation of the highest
order. 1) A law that no one really thought too hard about,
but which will irritate the hell out of a lot of
tax-paying, law-abiding permanent residents. 2) A computer
database that is riddled with inaccuracies and is being
adopted to buttress the Japanese screening effort. Let's
hope it gets some important Middle-eastern customer of
Mitsui or Marubeni locked up for a week or two until the
authorities find out that the database is unreliable. 3)
A processing system that is so slow that a real terrorist
could enter and exit the country without being detected in

There is a petition that you can sign to protest the new
procedures. The URL is:
This petition will be presented to the General Affairs
Division, Immigration Bureau, at the Ministry of Justice.

Also, we can recommend the website of Debito Arudou, which
has an excellent running log of developments on
fingerprinting and similar human rights issues. You can
find it at:

We'd be interested in hearing the experiences of people who
have pre-registered on November 20th, and/or who passing
back into Japan as permanent residents.

...The information janitors/


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+++ NEWS

- Land investments fall
- Petulant piggy bank
- Stocks/dividend taxes to stay low
- Canon wins lawsuit over recycled cartridges
- HIV cases increase to new high

-> Land investments fall

The latest land investment survey by the Land,
Infrastructure, and Transport Ministry has found that
companies involved in real estate investment in Tokyo are
more pessimistic about buying land in the capital than at
any other time in the last 5 years. Those surveyed put
their negative views down to a combination of rising land
prices, uncertain economic outlook, and increased building
costs. (Source: TT commentary from, Nov 10,

-> Petulant piggy bank

TOMY has debuted a battery operated piggy bank that is
designed to make people save more -- OR punish you if you
don't. If the saver doesn't feed it coins on a regular
basis, the pig vibrates and otherwise complains on an
hourly basis until it gets its quota. Those silly enough to
ignore the squealing will eventually find the entire
contents of the piggy bank strewn over the floor, as the
pig eventually blows its top and petulantly opens a
skull-labelled door to eject all its contents. (Source: TT
commentary from, Nov 8, 2007)

-> Stocks/dividend taxes to stay low

The Nikkei stock index may undergoing a hammering, but at
least there is some good news for investors. The LDP has
said that it will extend the current tax break on dividends
and capital gains beyond 2009. The tax rate on both forms
of income is just 10%, half the rate back in 2003 when the
reduced rate was introduced as a measure to improve stock
market performance. The LDP's measure is not unexpected,
given that 62.8% of private shareholders said that would
liquidate their holdings prior to the expiry of the lower
tax rate. (Source: TT commentary from, Nov 9,

-> Canon wins lawsuit over recycled cartridges

A court win for Canon spells the death knell for the ink
cartridge recycling business. The Supreme court found that
Tokyo-based Recycle Assist Company was violating Canon's
patents. The company has been selling China-processed
recycled ink cartridges for about 20%-30% less then Canon
new product. Legal experts are now saying that not just ink
cartridges, this ruling will have far-reaching consequences
in other industries as well -- particularly autos. (Source:
TT commentary from, Nov 9, 2007)

-> HIV cases increase to new high

HIV and its follow-on condition AIDS are still very much
with us, although recorded numbers in Japan are still quite
low compared with other nations. The Health Ministry has
said that the number of new HIV infections hit a new
3-month record of 274 during July-September, exceeding the
previous high of 270 for April-June. Apparently 93% of the
patients are male, 64% are gay, 17% are heterosexual, and
the remainder contracted the disease from unexplained
sources. (Source: TT commentary from, Nov
11, 200&)

NOTE: Broken links
Many online news sources remove their articles after just a
few days of posting them, thus breaking our links -- we
apologize for the inconvenience.


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In this section we run comments and corrections submitted
by readers. We encourage you to spot our mistakes and
amplify our points, by email, to

-> In TT-444, we ran a short news item of how the number of
homeless in Japan was not only 20% per capita of that in
the USA, but also that the number of people with mental
problems and living on the streets in Tokyo was also
supposed to be less then a third of that in the USA.

Reader's Response:
Up until the 80's in the USA you didn't find many
homeless with mental problems in the numbers and locations
that there are now. I believe it began increasing in the
late 60's when a community approach to care for them began
but really went nowhere. This got combined with the
problems of veterans returning from Vietnam and not getting
good mental care from the VA.

I think this is something we are going to see again with
the Iraq problems, if it hasn't been documented already.
At least this time around the VA are fixing the physical
problems of our returning vets, but now it seems that the
level of people entering the services are coming in with
some personal baggage. I think this is why the number of
assaults in Yokosuka on- and off-base and on the ships
seems to becoming more prevalent. Then of course there
are those that didn't are having a hard time
re-integrating after multiple tours in Iraq. I guess this
all goes back to the military mindset that a soldier
doesn't complain. Indeed, if you seek mental help you are
likely to be branded by your seniors as a problem.

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