Big in Japan: Welcome to Japan, now surrender your identity!

Much has already been written about Japan’s new immigration control system.

For those of you who may have missed the news, as of November 20th, all foreigners entering Japan must now give their fingerprints, have a photo taken and submit to a detailed interview.

Although these new entry procedures have been attacked by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, the Japanese government has been steadfast in their defense of the initiative.

Needless to say, the vast majority of foreigners living in Japan are all together pissed off.

It’s one thing to collect personal information on tourists, but it’s another to submit spouses of Japanese citizens, registered journalists and long-term residents to this level of invasiveness.

Following a brief vacation to Australia, I had the pleasure of having my personal rights violated first hand, and will now describe them to you for your learning pleasure.

Upon arriving at Narita airport, I was shuttled into the gaikokujin (??????; foreigner) line, at which point a dashingly attractive but ice cold woman handed me a Q&A form to explain the new rules.

Although I was initially surprised at the lack of English mistakes (a rarity on official Japanese government forms), the justifications for the new immigration control system were amusing enough.

Intrigued? It gets better. Click below to keep reading…

For instance:

Q: Why do I need to be fingerprinted and photographed at immigration control?
A: By collecting personally identifying data of visitors to Japan, we will be able to indentify persons considered to pose security risks. This will help us to prevent terrorist attacks.

Sure. It’s interesting that this legislation comes at a time when the birth rate is dropping, and economists are arguing that increased immigration is the only way to save the Japanese economy. In a country as intensely xenophobic as Japan, it’s a shame that politicians can’t follow America’s lead by building a giant wall around their country. Oh wait – Japan is an island!

Q: What if I am not able to provide a fingerprint from my index finger?
A: If you are not able to provide a fingerprint from your index finger because that finger is missing from your hand, then you will be required to provide a fingerprint from another finger.

Sure. You will then be escorted directly to the police station and interrogated for hours on end regarding your suspected affiliation with the yakuza criminal organization.

Q: What will happen if I do not provide fingerprints or a facial photograph?
A: Your immigration control officer will carefully examine your case to determine whether or not you fall into one of the exempt categories.

Sure. For those of you who aren’t accustomed to Japanese subtlety, this actually says that you will escorted to the departures area, checked in on the next flight back to your country, and blacklisted forever from Japan.

Anyway, the good news, at least in my case, is that I made it back to Japan safe and sound, and managed to secure myself a shiny new work visa. So, it’s fairly likely that Big in Japan will continue well into 2008, assuming of course that I don’t happen to lose any fingers between now and then…