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Randy Schmidt • 10 years ago

A friend and I were randomly asked by Tokyo police to show our ID in Hachiko plaza in Shibuya. As longtime residents, we had legitimate Alien Registration Cards, but chose not to comply with what we felt was not a legal request. I took out a small still/video camera and recorded part of the encounter (perhaps helping to prompt this particular article). You can see the video here:

Kichijen • 10 years ago

I live in Kichijoji, today two non-Japanese women were standing at the crosswalk directly in front of me by the station (incidentally this crosswalk is directly outside the new koban location). Two policemen stopped the women and (very politely) asked for their cards, they showed them without hesitation. They had absolutely no reason to be suspicious of those women, they were well dressed and unassuming. It made me so angry.

FunkyB • 10 years ago

I've never been harassed or stopped by police other than routine/random checks and when I showed them my Japanese driver's license that was enough. I didn't know about the fake badges though - the link on how to tell if a badge is fake is very useful.

MM333 • 10 years ago

I'm sorry, but the information in this article and on the website describing the powers of the police to stop foreigners and demand passports or residence cards for any reason 'whenever' is inaccurate. The law does not give the police in Japan arbitrary powers to conduct suspicionless questioning.

As specified in Article 23 of the 'Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act' (see below), a police officer may demand to see a passport or residence card if it is in the execution of his/her duties, in other words only when s/he is doing what s/he is empowered to do by the 'Police Duties Execution Act' or other relevant acts.

The main duties of the police are specified in the 'The Police Duties Execution Act' (see below). The duties of the police are of course very wide ranging but they are not unlimited. In a nutshell, the police may question someone if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the person has committed a crime, is about to commit a crime or the person may have information about a crime.

Also, the police must offer assistance if they believe that the person is a danger to themselves or others (this is why the police may stop someone when they are riding a bicycle without a light at night even though the police may have other motives for the stop).

They may also stop you if they believe you might be a victim of a crime (As when they stop you on your bicycle and ask if you have registered it in light of all the thefts in the area) or if your acts may endanger anyone with a view to preventing any crime from occurring. The police also have additional duties imposed on them by other laws. For example, executing warrants under the 'Code of Criminal Procedure' or issuing fines under the 'Road Transportation Act'.

Therefore, the police in Japan are not legally permitted to randomly stop anyone whether Japanese or foreign and demand to see their passport or residence card. The reason for this is quite simple and obvious. If the police randomly stop someone, they cannot have reasonable grounds to suspect that any crime has been committed, whether that be overstaying a visa or any other crime.

There is no doubt that in practice police in every country may try to exceed their powers, but it is quite another thing to assert that the police actually have the right to do this. In may interest people to know that the laws imposed on the police in Japan with regards to questioning are actually more restrictive as compared with the US (ie. Stop and Frisk) or the UK (ie. CJPOA Section 60).

I would recommend that everyone read the law themselves and consult a Japanese attorney if they have questions about the law. I would also ask the Japan times to have this article reviewed by a Japanese attorney and corrections made where appropriate to avoid misinformation being spread.

Text and links to the relevant laws below.


Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act

Article 23 (2) The foreign national set forth in the preceding paragraph shall present his/her passport, crew member's pocket-ledger or permit (hereinafter referred to as "Passport" in this Article) as set forth in the same paragraph to an immigration inspector, immigration control officer, police official, coast guard officer or any other official of a state or local public entity as provided for by Ordinance of the Ministry of Justice, if such official requests the presentation of the Passport in the execution of his/her duties.

The term "passport" means any of the following documents:
(a) A passport, a refugee travel document or any other certificate in lieu of the passport issued by the Japanese Government (Such as the Residence Card).....

(This links to the pre-2009 law but the wording is the same)


The Police Duties Execution Act

Article 2 (1) A police officer may stop and question any person who has reasonable ground to be suspected of having committed or being about to commit a crime judging reasonably from his or her unusual behaviours and/or other surrounding circumstances, or who is deemed to have some information on the crime which has already been committed or is about to be committed....

Article 3 (1) In case a police officer finds a person, who is deemed to fall clearly under any of the following categories, judging reasonably from his or her unusual behaviours and/or other surrounding circumstances, and moreover has reasonable ground to believe that he or she needs emergency aid and protection, the police officer must give him or her immediate protection at any such proper places as a police-station, a hospital, relief facilities, etc.
(i) A person who is likely to inflict an injury on his or her own or others' lives, physical bodies or properties on account of his or her mental derangement or drunkenness.
(ii) A stray child, a sick person and an injured person or the like who are not attended by any proper guardian and are considered as requiring emergency aid and protection (except the cases where such persons refuse to be given any immediate protection).

(Prevention and Suppression of Crimes)
Article 5 A police officer may, when he or she notices a crime is about to occur, give the necessary warning to the person or persons concerned for the prevention of its occurrence, and check such acts of the person or persons in case it may endanger any lives or physical bodies of people or cause serious damage to property, and moreover the case admits no delay.

(Authorities and Duties under other Acts and Regulations)
Article 8 A police officer shall carry out duties and exercise his powers granted under the acts and regulations concerning criminal procedure and others, as well as police regulations, in addition to the provisions in this act.



Edward J. Cunningham • 10 years ago

Debito, I am not surprised that Japanese perverts are abusing this law, but I doubt that all of them are fake policemen. Have you read of any accounts from women of real policemen doing the same thing?

6810 • 10 years ago

You: "Have you read of any accounts from women of real policemen doing the same thing?"

Me: Have you read any accounts? What's your stake in this issue?

Sakura • 10 years ago

Have no fear, they are one step ahead of us, a new law is soon to be
past to make it illegal to Photograph, record, or video a police officer
in Japan,
This kind of conduct has happened to me more than 30 times in the past 8 years,
is racist bottom line, let me say before someone jumps in and makes an
excuses for behavior, bottom line let me say this, yes many country's
are racist but it is illegal to refuse people housing because of there
country or skin color ... but in Japan it is legal..nothing can be done,
Japanese live in my country with no problem no questions asked, second
if you refuse to show your card, they will take you to the station and
you will produce i, and when you do they will go to your address with
you and conduct a full search of your apartment, without a search
warrant, how can you stop them, if you smart off, the will write all the
info from your card and put you in the system, and god help you if you
do get into trouble, they will hold all that against you. 2020 Olympics,
what are they going to do with all the foreigners that will visit? I am
sure it will be hidden for the moment. that's just the way it is

6810 • 10 years ago

12 years and zero stoppages. On a bike, off a bike. Off my head drunk as a monkey, in the city, in the sticks. Not. Even. Once.

Guess that makes me an apologist? Lucky? Or just normal?

Toolonggone • 10 years ago

>Guess that makes me an apologist? Lucky? Or just normal?

Why do you need bother to say who you are? No one is asking for that.

Toolonggone • 10 years ago

I suggest you put your story in writing at your blog or share it with the JT community.

Edward J. Cunningham • 10 years ago

Sakura, do you have a link to a story about the new law prohibiting photographing or videotaping police officers? Even if the link leads to a story that is only in Japanese, it will be very helpful. Thank you very much!

Siloo Kapadia • 10 years ago

I doubt there is any credibility to that story. More hogwash by irate Westerners in Asia. Take a look at the demise of rights in USA-a real garbage country- to see what lack of rights is really all about.

Steve Novosel • 10 years ago

I've been here roughly the same amount of time and not once have I been pulled aside for an ID check (other than airports where everyone is getting an ID check), and I don't know anyone who's had their home searched.

I think you are being paranoid here.

Adrián Serna Vera • 10 years ago

Police in roppongi performed an embarrassing search across my pockets and wallet two weeks ago. If I knew this before. I'll never let them do that in the street in front of everyone

6810 • 10 years ago

Hmm, cool story bro. How about some context? Time of day? Where in Roppongi? Sober? Drunk? Who were you with? Being loud and annoying? Ignorant of surroundings.

Good luck with "not letting them do that again". I take it your Japanese is good? If so, more power to you. Be civil, know your rights and don't make the situation any more difficult than it need be. If your Japanese is not up to scratch? Good luck with that.

phu • 10 years ago

"This should stop some ID checks, especially if you start videoing it with your phone. (Legally you can, as YouTube demonstrates.)"

What people post on YouTube is NOT a good indicator of what is legal and what is not. If this actually is legal and you wish to demonstrate that fact, citing regulations that allow it would be the correct way to proceed; as it is, the article does not make clear whether the author is simply assuming legality based on YouTube videos or whether he has done his research and simply cited a poor example.

Al_Martinez • 10 years ago

I agree. I tried to photograph a J-kop's badge one time when he racially profiled me at the airport and he, in strong language, forbade me from doing it. I probably would have been arrested had I pushed the issue.