The "sanshu no jingi" (three sacred treasures) that served as the royal vestments of Japan's ancient Yamato dynasty were a mirror, sword and jewel. By the early 1950s, these three treasures had humorously evolved into a black-and-white TV set, washing machine and refrigerator, the appliances a potential suitor was expected to provide if he were to have any hope of winning a modern-day princess' hand in marriage.
These days, a new set of four "sacred treasures" are said to be in great demand by illegal foreign sojourners: a driver's license, passport, alien registration card and student ID.
"In China, there's an extremely high demand for forged IDs, and a variety of identity documents are in circulation," a Chinese journalist based in Japan explains to Shukan Jitsuwa (March 26). "Out in the provinces, you can find graffiti or handbills distributed all over advertising document forgers.
"For Chinese who are smuggled into Japan, they'll make a set consisting of a passport, alien card and student ID for 1 million yen," he adds.
Foreign forgers have also set up shop in Japan, and are periodically apprehended. But like the perpetrators of those "it's me, send money" scams, they have proved next to impossible to eradicate.
"In February, a team of investigators from the Tokyo metropolitan police and Chiba and Saitama prefectural police arrested a group of four Chinese forgers operating in Ichikawa City in Chiba," a crime reporter from a major daily tells the magazine. "From April 2008 to January of this year, they produced some 1,300 documents for 700 customers, and cleared about 12 million yen."
At the home of the alleged perpetrator, Lin Quanxing (age 29), police found forms used to produce various certificates, as well as a manual containing the names of the mayors of nearby local municipalities, which appear on the alien registration cards.
The group reportedly made contact with customers via the Internet. To conceal its base of operations, customers were met in public rest rooms, where the materials and money were exchanged.
"A driver's license is the best type of ID to have, but forgeries of these are often spotted, so instead of that, alien cards can be used to open bank accounts and also for buying a cell phone or making a housing rental contract, so there's a big demand for them," the aforementioned Chinese journalist says.
Alien registration cards were redesigned in 2005 to prevent forgery. The new cards boast a hi-tech design with 20 features designed to foil illegal reproduction, such as printing with special ink and an iridescent hologram of the paulownia leaf used in the Ministry of Justice crest.
Unfortunately, it's taken the forgers less than four years to defeat these countermeasures and come up with authentic-looking fakes.
"When police raided an apartment in Okazaki City, they found printing plates and over 100 blank cards and a big bunch of hologram seals," a local reporter in Aichi Prefecture tells Shukan Jitsuwa. "It seems they'd bought their shop as a turn-key operation that included the equipment, materials and technical guidance."© Japan Today