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Thread: Revisions to hotel laws stretched by police to target foreigners

  1. #1
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Unhappy Revisions to hotel laws stretched by police to target foreigners

    Japan Times : Creating laws out of thin air

    By DEBITO ARUDOU

    With terrorists striking fear into governments worldwide, Japan too is currently considering its own version of America's Patriot Act, to be passed in a year or two.
    It makes for interesting reading, particularly in terms of Japan's internationalization and legal treatment of foreign residents.

    Approved by the prime minister's Cabinet ("Kantei") last December, the "Action Plan for Pre-empting of Terrorism" ("Tero no Mizen Boshi ni Kansuru Kodo Kikaku," available at http://www.kantei.go.jp/jp/singi/sos...1210kettei.pdf ) essentially depicts terrorism as a phenomenon imported by foreigners. Never mind, of course, that Japanese have a history of domestic terrorism themselves (Aum Shinrikyo and the Red Army easily spring to mind).
    Incidentally, I think that some (small) European countries have no history of terrorism, which makes their citizens less suspect than Japanese citizens in Japan, as they any Japanese could be a member of a dangerous sect like Aum Shinrikyo (and knowing that the dubbious sect Soukka Gakkai has millions of followers in Japan and is the party sharing the government with the LDP, it makes be even more suspicious that a relatively high percentage of Japanese could be terrorists too).

    Hotels are now asking all foreigners, including non-tourists (i.e. foreign residents with addresses in Japan), for their passports.

    Registered foreign residents of Japan, as readers know, do not have to carry passports. That's what the "gaijin card" is for.

    So in lieu, hotel clerks are demanding to see, even photocopy, gaijin cards. Even though, under the Foreign Registry Law, only officials endowed with police powers may do so.
    Cool. I didn't know that. I have been asked many times for my gaikokujin tourokusho at the Immigration office, City Hall (kuyakusho), employers, hotel clerks, etc. It doesn't make much sense that "only officials endowed with police powers may do so", as the immigration and city hall officials are not "endowed with police powers" to the best of my knowledge, but one must however show it to them if one want to renew one's visa or the very gaikokujin torokusho itself. Of course, it is not prohibited to show it to any one. Just strange that the people who issue it at the kuyakusho are not legally entitled to ask for it !

    Foreigners who refuse to comply, as happened to a friend at the Sapporo Toyoko Inn last November, are being refused rooms.

    This is, however, illegal. The same Hotel Management Law Article 5 states that hotels may only refuse lodging if: the person in question is sick with a certifiably contagious disease; there is a threat to "public morals" (i.e. engaging in acts with minors, filming pornographic movies, etc.); or there are no empty rooms.

    Thus a registered foreign resident merely unwilling to reveal a passport number cannot be refused.

    Japanese guests, I might add, are not required to display any verifiable ID whatsoever. Why not?
    Illegal is one thing, but who is going to enforce that, especially that the police usually think the same way as the hotel staff, and are usually reluctant to take the foreigner's side. If so, this law is really just for (international) appearance's sake !

    This means hotels will not apply extra checkpoints if you have an honest face -- i.e. one that looks Japanese.

    So what happens to the residents, moreover citizens, with foreign features (such as this writer) who show up to claim their room?

    Rigmarole. I have stayed in hotels as a Japan resident for over 15 years. Yet this winter for the first time (and several times at that), I have been asked for my passport number, even after signing in with a Japanese name and a domestic address in kanji -- and mentioning that I am a Japanese citizen. This is happening to foreign faces nationwide.
    This is what I was complaining about in various threads (like this one and that one). The vast majority of Japanese people just assume that someone who looks foreign is foreign, is not a resident, can't speak Japanese - and is a potential criminal.

    However, it has been proven that Westerners (and Koreans) in Japan have a lower crime rate than Japanese people themselves, and it is also common for "cultural residents" to know more about Japan (sometimes also kanji, etc.) than Japanese people themselves, due to the strong interest in the country which brought them there. I also find it strange that the police should check my bicycle registration because I am a Westerner, as bicycle theft is almost unheard of where I come from, while it is endemic with Japanese people. The logic would be to suspect any Japanese first. Not doing so is racism, as statistics show than people from my country (I am not talking about other Western countries here - I don't know) has proportionally much less bicycle (or umbrella) theft than Japan.

    When managers were asked why all this third degree, they have said the local police have ordered them to record and report all "foreign guests" in their midst. This is even though reporting, or even photocopying, "foreign guests" is not part of the original above mentioned MHLW ordinance.
    ...
    Noncomplying hotels allegedly face possible loss of their operating licenses.
    ...
    Yet this push for extra tracking for foreigners is on shaky legal footing. This MHLW shorei ministerial ordinance is not a law. It is merely a bureaucratic clarification of a law -- not something passed by the legislative branch. According to lawyer friends, it has no legal status or enforceability, meaning neither you nor the hotel can at this time incur any specific penalty if not enforced. "Laws" are thus being created out of thin air.
    I think it is fair enough that the police is threatening hotels to lose their licence if they do not record and report foreigners, although it is not legally enforceable to do so. As often happens in Japan, the law is just a disguise to "save face" on the international scene, while the police or authorities make sure that things are taken care of the way politicians reallly want. So when accused by other countries of not trying to prevent racist attitudes, the Japanese government can point out at the law that exist, although they do not mean anything without enforcement (or contrary enforcement,as it is the case here).

    SO WHAT DO YOU DO IF...

    Even though you are a registered foreign resident of Japan (as opposed to a tourist), a hotel threatens to refuse you service for not divulging your passport number?

    * Say you have a domestic Japan address. Write it on the guest card. Just being foreign is not grounds for suspicion or scrutiny, regardless of what the police say.

    * Tell them you are not legally required to provide either a passport or gaijin card to a hotel. Ask to show the same ID (if any) being demanded of Japanese guests.

    * Tell them that under Japanese laws governing hotels, you cannot be refused entry unless customers are sick or rooms are full.

    Just remember that laws are different for hotels than for any other private business in Japan (as opposed to, say, onsen). All customers, regardless of nationality, are clearly protected against refusal, for a change.

    If you're worried, print up the hotel law in Japanese from the Web link at the bottom of the story and carry it with you.
    Thanks for the tip, Debito !

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  2. #2
    I jump to conclusions mad pierrot's Avatar
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    Great info

    Thanks.

    I take many people on tours here, so I'm sure this will be useful information at some point.


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