lifestyle

What to do if you are stopped by the police in Japan

150 Comments
By Jeff W Richards

This year — for the first time in its 32-year history — the Rugby World Cup will be held in Asia. On Nov 2, 2019, the International Stadium Yokohama in Japan will become just the seventh stadium ever to host the final of the world’s third-largest sporting event.

While a fantastic time is expected to be had by all involved: hosts, teams and fans; that’s not to say some cultural scrums won’t form. The arrest and detention of Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn last year has shone an international spotlight on Japan’s justice system. This could have some people worried.

Japan is — for the most part — a forward-thinking, modern democracy. It’s justice system, however, still relies on solitary confinement, forced confessions and apologies (with financial compensation to “victims”) for its verdicts. The most worrying aspect of criminal justice in Japan is its detention system (suspects can be held for up to 23 days without being charged) and its bias against non-Japanese detainees.

Stating this is not meant to scare people. Your experience at the World Cup and other events will probably be as fun and enjoyable as you expect, or even more so — whether in Tokyo, Yokohama or farther-flung Kyushu. The locals want you to come and to enjoy yourself at the matches as well as learn and experience the delights of their city and region — police included

But differences in culture and behavior exist. For example, it may be completely normal in your home country — fellas! — to relieve yourself outside, in an alley or on the side of building, whereas here the keisatsu (police) may stop you for defacing private property or indecent exposure. From even minor encounters, major troubles can occur.

This is a no-nonsense guide to what you should do if you are stopped by the police in Japan, prefaced with some common-sense advice to prevent any problems before they might occur.

Before you come

A word to those arriving from overseas: before you leave for Japan, do your research.

Read up online. Visit the website of your embassy in Japan and read its travel advisories. Here they will post relevant information and updates on everything from extreme weather forecasts, natural disasters, pertinent crime reports and lists of prohibited goods you might inadvertently pack.

Websites and resources to check out before you leave:

Purchase travel insurance. When I asked representatives at the British Embassy in Tokyo about their recommendations for Brits coming to Japan, this was No. 1 on their list — and it applies to visitors from all countries. If an accident should occur, Japanese hospitals and clinics do not accept foreign medical insurance. We will have more on this in a second installment of this series for visitors to Japan.

To avoid any hassles before you pass Japanese customs at the airport, find out what medications (if any) from your home country might be illegal in Japan. You could encounter problems with pharmaceuticals as mundane as over-the-counter (OTC) pain relief (anything with codeine is prohibited) or certain allergy medications (pseudoephedrine is also illegal). If you do find an OTC medication you use is listed — don’t bring it. There will be a suitable alternative readily available here — and it won’t cause you grief should be stopped by the police and searched.

If you do require specific medication, make sure to bring the prescription with you and don’t bring more than a 30-day supply. And even if you do have a prescription, Jiminy Christmas, do not bring any medicine containing opium, cannabis, amphetamines, methamphetamines and certain medicines for treating attention deficit disorders (such as Adderall, Vyvanse and Dexedrine) as these are strictly prohibited.

If you’re already concerned about what might happen if you’re stopped by the police in Japan — do yourself a favor: Don’t get detained before you even clear customs.

Before you go out to an event

Make sure you have the proper identification on you when you go out for the day. You will be asked for it if you are stopped by authorities.

For tourists, this means that you must carry your passport with you at all times. Failure to do so could result in more than embarrassment — it could mean detention by the police (as proper ID will be the first thing they ask for) and a fine of up to ¥200,000 (U.S.$1,850) may ensue. “Proper ID” in this case does not constitute your driver’s license from back home.

Also, carry the name and contact info for your accommodations. If you’re staying at a hotel, grab a business card (with Japanese and English on it) from the front desk. This is not just to give to peace officers, but it can help you return safely as cab drivers or people you stop to ask for directions may not speak English.

If you’re a resident of Japan — and you should know this — you need to carry your zairyu, or Japanese Residence Card, with you at all times. Any immigration or law enforcement officers in the course of their uniformed duties can ask for it and — by law — you need to have it on your person at all times. Not doing so carries a fine of ¥200,000.

If you get stopped

During the Rugby World Cup, understand that there will be an increased police presence across the country, especially around match venues and fan zones.

"During the rugby, we are expecting people to be stopped or arrested for boisterous behavior considered minor in the UK or at least in [other] rugby countries," says Marion Auclair, consular sporting liaison officer for the British Embassy in Tokyo. "That can get you detained for up to 23 days in Japan." Nudity — like we mentioned above about answering "when nature calls" — is one of those behaviors.

Is it possible you may be stopped simply because you’re a foreigner? Absolutely.

Is there any reason for you to be unduly worried about it? I would say no.

By and large — especially at an international sporting event — police are deployed to assist the public, keep the peace and look for anything suspicious or unfamiliar. Foreigners quite often tick the “unfamiliar” box. They’ll ask you some questions about where you’re from, what you’re doing in Japan and where you might be coming from (or going to). I mean, it depends on how morally outraged you’d like to be about the situation. Contrary to the discussion board hoopla you’ll find online, there is no need to get your back up. This is not #blacklivesmatter. Nobody is going to shoot you because of the color of your skin. In fact, the police in Japan rarely use their firearms.

You are, however, in danger of causing yourself and your companions more trouble than it’s worth should you decide to escalate the situation — and the perception of “escalation” in Japan is quite different than it might be in the West. Here, even raising your voice can be interpreted by Japanese police as noncompliance or obstruction. It’s why you’ll often see Japanese citizens stopped by law enforcement stand perfectly still during an encounter all the while speaking in a non-hysterical voice. The cops as well. No sudden moves. No surprises. Nobody goes to jail.

Raise your voice indignantly, though, and you risk being seen as obstructing police duties. Reason enough for them to ask for your identification, search your person and even ask if you’d like to come "downtown" to the koban (police box). You do not want to do this.

Japanese police officers Tokyo body.jpg
Japanese police officers in Tokyo.

The police in Japan have every legal right to stop you and ask to see your ID. You, in turn, have the right ask them why you’re being stopped. Best to politely pose the question and then submit to their request when they tell you the reason. They’ll note your registration card or passport information, ask you a few more questions and — most likely — you’ll be on your way.

A quick note if the situation does escalate and you find yourself being detained. It’s important to know that in Japan you do not get to make a phone call. By international convention — assuming your country has signed this bilateral agreement (not all have) — if you are held by the police in Japan, they will inform the consular department of your embassy about your arrest.

The British Embassy, for example, would then send the detainee a prisoner pack with a list of lawyers and check if they want a consular visit.

"If so, we automatically visit," says Auclair. "Then we assess together what kind of assistance [the embassy] can provide to them."

To avoid this in the first place — use your common sense.

"Because I think fundamentally everybody knows the things that are illegal, right?” says Emma Hickinbotham, the British Embassy’s head of media, communications and marketing. “That you shouldn't smuggle drugs. That you shouldn't steal things. Those things — they're universal. It's more the nuances of the cultural differences. That is, you might not get arrested but [the situation] could potentially escalate and if you don't speak the language — maybe in Tokyo it's different — but out in some of the regions where the rugby is being played, if the local police don't speak English and they are asking you nicely to put your clothes back on or whatever, it might be [a good idea]. If you don't understand anything they're saying, then you might respond and if you're being too loud, they might misunderstand that as aggression. So, it's really trying to stop any of those kinds of misunderstandings happening where people may end up getting in trouble for very minor things that are just avoidable.”

To put it in perspective, while many people of all nationalities are stopped daily in Japan, the number of foreigners arrested is significantly small.

So how many UK citizens are arrested or detained in Japan in a year? “I would say about 50,” says Auclair.

Auclair adds something all embassy staff and Japanese people are likely thinking. “We want people to have fun, in the end. We actually want them to enjoy the rugby because we also are very excited about the rugby. [Laughs] You know, we are rugby fans ourselves, so it's more about: ‘Yeah, just pay attention.’ Have some common sense. Maybe don't moon in public, that might not be as well received as in the UK.”

For more information on being culturally aware, Auclair and Hickinbotham suggest visiting the UK government's advisory page with tips for fans traveling to the Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan.

The more you know before you head out to enjoy a match — whether live at a stadium, in a fan zone with friends or gathered in a bar with strangers — the better time you will have and the less chance of having a bad experience with the police.

Most of it, though, is just common sense — like not urinating on private property or mooning people in public.

In the second part of this series, we’ll look at what to do if you injure yourself or require medical assistance while visiting Japan.

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

150 Comments
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The problem we've seen with foreigners and Japanese police is that many of these foreigners think they are above the law and act like they are back in their home countries, thinking nothing of acting aggressively and hostile towards Japanese police. And then after the fact, crying about it on social media and using the 'foreigner card' to absolve themselves of any blame for their situation, and hoping the world readily sides with them against those xenophobic and 'racist' J-cops.

-7 ( +23 / -30 )

Been living in Japan for over 38 years. I've been stopped once. Produced my Resident card and on my why in 5 minutes. I didn't ask why and he didn't say why he stopped me. Who cares? He was polite to me and I to him. People these days make trouble for themselves. Too many Google lawyers out there.

23 ( +36 / -13 )

It was ironic that after all my years in Japan I was asked for identification by a police man a few days after I was granted Japanese citizenship. We both had a chuckle.

18 ( +21 / -3 )

This article seems to be aimed at British fans in particular and the message is ”Keep your trousers on." Fair enough. The rugby team at my school would strip themselves naked at the drop of a hat (sometimes for charity, often not).

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Always obey authority. Do exactly what you are told at all times.

3 ( +15 / -12 )

Good advice. If people behave themself, they will have no trouble in Japan, and can go back to there home countries safely. Carry your passport EVERYWHERE, including the stadiums and bars. DONT urinate outside, as is common in the foreign nations. You will be arrested and get a big fine. There are public bathrooms everywhere in Japan!

Contrary to the discussion board hoopla you’ll find online, there is no need to get your back up. This is not #blacklivesmatter. Nobody is going to shoot you because of the color of your skin. In fact, the police in Japan rarely use their firearms.

Well stated. Dont be afraid of Japanese Police. Have a great time!

-4 ( +12 / -16 )

The problem we've seen with foreigners and Japanese police is that many of these foreigners think they are above the law and act like they are back in their home countries, thinking nothing of acting aggressively and hostile towards Japanese police. 

How many of these foreigners were unjustly stopped simply because their only crime was being a foreigner?

4 ( +16 / -12 )

Always obey authority. Do exactly what you are told at all times.

Put another way, do what the Japanese do.

11 ( +17 / -6 )

DONT urinate outside, as is common in the foreign nations.

In which the foreign nations is public urination common? How about Australia? Big fine Down Under, I believe.

18 ( +20 / -2 )

Been living in Japan for over 38 years. I've been stopped once. Produced my Resident card and on my why in 5 minutes. I didn't ask why and he didn't say why he stopped me. Who cares? He was polite to me and I to him. People these days make trouble for themselves. Too many Google lawyers out there.

I couldn’t agree more, not a big fan of J-police at all because a lot of the times they are looking for something when there is nothing or to hopefully make something out of nothing, but having said that, I have been stopped 3 times in the off and on time I’m in Japan for 20 years and all of it really unnecessary, but the same as in your case, I kept my mouth shut, completely complied with the officer even he and I both knew the reasons I was stopped were absolutely laughable, but because I was completely humble, complied, showed my Resident card, was never hesitant, I was free to go and so far never had any problems dealing with the cops. I do have an acquaintance that was looked up for a hit and run leaving the scene and falsifying information to the police, guy was looked for 3 months. The one thing he always told us from that stint was, never, ever lie to the police or get locked up, it’s the absolute worst thing that can happen to you in Japan and not only that, but now you have a criminal record and if you reside in Japan, that will follow you regardless of the infraction and the cops will scrutinize you even more in your life if you live in Japan, so in short, don’t be a jerk, follow the rules, listen to the cops no matter what and you’ll be surprised ow fast you’ll be on our way, keep your pride in check. It’s really not that hard.

3 ( +15 / -12 )

For example, it may be completely normal in your home country — fellas! — to relieve yourself outside,

To be fair, this is not unheard of in Japan as well, especially for members of the older generation...

25 ( +25 / -0 )

Got stopped only once in 15 years, while driving, before a G7 (or similar) event near Yokohama. It was a routine "mouse trap", they couldn't have profiled me as foreigner before deciding to pull me over. Asked for my license only, saw it is golden and let me go on my merry way in 20 seconds. Didn't even want to see the gaijin card. They were extremely polite and explained the reason as routine before major political meetings. No complaint whatsoever towards the police in Japan. If you keep common sense and don't behave strangely or aggressively, nothing should happen.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

Was stopped once in Osaka while on my bike. He asked "is that your bike?"

i said "yes"

he said are you American?

I said "no...?"

then he let me go. Very weird interaction

18 ( +18 / -0 )

Sometime they behave very unprofessional else OK. As crime rate is very low in Japan they don't have much work, so sometime they try to find work for themselves behave weird.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

Years ago, outside Shinkansen station (Kobe) I needed directions and I asked (politely in perfect Japanese) a policeman standing nearby, looking bored.

First he told me where to go then HE ASKED ME IF I HAD MY GAIJIN CARD !!

I was shocked - there was no reason for asking (maybe he was bored and saw a chance to hassle a foreigner without English problems.)

I didnt have my card, so I made some excuses and he said OK, but carry it next time.

Maybe it was a one-off case of abuse-of-authority, but the memory still pisses me off.

6 ( +17 / -11 )

firefox

I didnt have my card, so I made some excuses and he said OK, but carry it next time.

it's a criminal offense not to have your alien card now resident card on you 24/7 and you would have been arrested and fined ¥150,000 I think that was the amount, might be different. Foreigners have been caught out just going down to the corner store.

For myself in 25 years I've never been stopped or has my card never been requested by the police.

I suggest that you remain polite and answer their questions and smile.

12 ( +15 / -3 )

Carry your passport EVERYWHERE, including the stadiums and bars.

You are not required to carry your passport but you are required to carry your residents card if you have one.

DONT urinate outside, as is common in the foreign nations. You will be arrested and get a big fine. There are public bathrooms everywhere in Japan!

Not in the countryside and even Japan urinate behind trees/bushes. Friday night drunk salary men? The word is toilets.

18 ( +18 / -0 )

If you get drunk I suggest you take a taxi to your hotel. Drunks in public are targets and incidental bumps can lead to fights. Any fighting, even minor, and you will be spending some time at the police station.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Don't drive unless you are carrying the necessary correct license. Whole heap of trouble if you are stopped.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I have a record for possession of stolen property. It was about twenty years ago for an old bike I found on a gomi pile back when they had "put out your big gomi" days. It must have been reported as stolen at some stage before being thrown away. Pretty much every NJ I knew back then had been stopped and their bikes checked, in the manner of racial profiling. I didn't get fined, but they involved my girlfriend and she had to go down to the station a few days later. They also had a quick look inside my flat.

In another incident, I was waved into the police box in Roppongi just for crossing the road. They searched my bag, my pockets, and shoes and socks. I was well into clubbing at the time and might have been dressed that way, I don't remember. I was actually there to meet a mate and go to Yellow, a club raided many times for drugs by police, but didn't tell the police that. I just said I was going to a sports bar.

If you do get stopped, do exactly as they say, and say as little as possible to avoid any further suspicion. Assume that any interaction with the police may lead to your person or your home being searched for drugs.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

At least once a week I see ji-chans relieving themselves in public...

Not saying that as a justification (more than a bit disgusting), just a statement.

17 ( +17 / -0 )

zichiToday

Don't drive unless you are carrying the necessary correct license. Whole heap of trouble if you are stopped.

And an International Driving license is only valid for your first year in Japan...

4 ( +4 / -0 )

it's a criminal offense not to have your alien card now resident card on you 24/7

Indeed it is, but sometimes you have to live a little.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

I would say stay clear of drugs, never carry, never import. If they are that important to you better to go and live in another country. I wouldn't even frequent a club where drugs are used and raided by the police.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

How to talk to police.....Step 1....if you can avoid it....DON'T. Don't even ask for directions. They may try fishing you for a crime and they may start hassling you with unnecessary questions. One old guy got done up for a pocket knife and this was BEFORE the new limits on knife length took effect. Ruined his trip spending the whole time in a cell.

First thing you do when stopped by police is get THEIR ID. Doesn't matter if they are in a uniform. That's just clothes. Photograph their ID. Put them in your shoes before you start grabbing your own ankles. Remember, respect is earned and if you just obey them like a trained dog, pretty soon that is how you are viewed.

I don't recommend chewing them out but the article is over-cautious. I have chewed them out lots of times. Two things though....I speak Japanese reasonable well and I never speak out of some victim complex mentality so I can tell my friends a "poor me" story. I don't pull the gaijin card. Its just a simple matter of me seeing cops unfairly shaking people down or inciting fear or otherwise abusing their power. Sure, they don't kill people here, but they are not immune to power tripping here either. They need to be called on it.

That said, I found some keys in a park and took them to the police station not so long ago. I regretted it instantly. They wanted FAR too many of my details just for turning in lost keys. They took up over an hour of my time.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

smile be polite do as asked and slip your phone on and record the conversation if possible (legal in japan) best one i had was a bike stop they asked me who's bike it was and i said mine one cop really wanted to get me. he went to the car to check the registration and after a few minutes came back and told me it was not my bike and that i had stollen it. i reiterated that it is my bike then he said no its XXXXX japanese ladies name, i said ohyes its registered to my wife and after confirming that, i was on my way and he looked like he wanted to pop.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

Common sense suggestions. Well done JT.

Only questioned once in over 30 years. No problems.

It's a great country and very respected around the world. Visitors just need a little respect and common sense and a great time will be had by all.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

farther-flung Kyushu

1 ( +1 / -0 )

farther-flung Kyushu

Ha! I've lived in the "farther-flung Kyushu" for 30 years and have never had a problem. I once lived in Kyoto and missed the last train from Osaka, so I "borrowed" a bike that was clearly abandoned in an idiotic attempt to get home. Some cops stopped me, and, seeing both the condition of the bike and mine, sent me on my way.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I was stopped twice in 3 years, but at airport.

At least one of the time, the police officer had nearly apologized for asking me my Id. I understood it was to get a point for each request he made in the day. It was easier for him to ask a gaijin than a poor Japanese for no reason in the middle of an airport.

In fact, if you do a thing even unlawful but like a Japanese in same age bracket and same circonstances, you will get a free pass too. Outside of that timesoace, you'll be a target.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

 I wouldn't even frequent a club where drugs are used and raided by the police.

Well, that's effectively saying don't take any interest in music, because drug use and music have a long history together, back to at least the early 1950s. Music is one of the greatest hobbies you can have. It has enriched my life more than anything else. Some of my most vivid memories are of experiencing it in a crowd at concerts and in clubs.

Whatever risk was involved was well worth it.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

DONT urinate outside, as is common in the foreign nations. 

No, it is not common inforeign countries. It is, however, common for middle-aged Jaoanese men to relieve themselves outside.

15 ( +16 / -1 )

You, in turn, have the right ask them why you’re being stopped.

This is technically correct in the sense that asking is not illegal, but the police are under no obligation (to the person being stopped) to explain the underlying suspicion that led them to carry out the stop.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I’ve been in Japan for 15 years and only been asked for my ID twice - once when asking for directions at a koban (I was quite intoxicated) and once while drinking a beer in an alley in Shibuya. I was polite in both cases, as were the cops, and there were no problems at all.

Regarding carrying an ID at all times, I’m a runner and NEVER carry an ID while out for a run. If a police officer ever did stop me to ask for it, I’d just invite them to my home and show it to them. I think common sense would prevail.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

I stopped A police car to ask directions and was told to get in and the two officers dropped me off at my destination. Great service and I would buy them a few beers if I could but of course I didn’t offer

2 ( +5 / -3 )

carp_boya

Regarding carrying an ID at all times, I’m a runner and NEVER carry an ID while out for a run. If a police officer ever did stop me to ask for it, I’d just invite them to my home and show it to them. I think common sense would prevail.

Common sense would be to put your resident card into a holder around your neck or in a case on your phone. Don't expect common sense from the cops.

kohakuebisu

Well, that's effectively saying don't take any interest in music, because drug use and music have a long history together, back to at least the early 1950s. Music is one of the greatest hobbies you can have. It has enriched my life more than anything else. Some of my most vivid memories are of experiencing it in a crowd at concerts and in clubs.

I'm from the 60's so I know about that. But actually the real pleasure in music is listening and dancing. Not all music venues are known for drug taking but the ones which are frequently raided by the cops. If you don't care then go.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Only asked for ID 3 times in 20-plus years. In two of those cases, they were also stopping Japanese. From what young Japanese college students told me, the police are much more interested in Japanese teenagers and early 20s types who are dressed in punk styles.

I was once questioned as a possible witness in a double murder investigation. I was not asked for my ID. I guess the detective was more concerned with trying to find someone with information than whether a stray gaijin had the proper residency status.

I cycle all over hell and gone in Tokyo and get lost frequently. I'll sometimes ask for directions at at five or six koban. The only question I've been asked is "do you read kanji?" Answer is yes. Makes the cops happy because then they can write out directions for me in Japanese.

I've been a citizen for five full years. I've been very disappointed that no cop has asked for my gaijin card.

Some European countries have laws similar to Japan. When I lived in Britain before I had permanent residency, I had to register with the police. People from some countries still do.

https://www.gov.uk/register-with-the-police/who-needs-to-register

Systems like that of Japan are not uncommon.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I worked with the police in anti-film piracy and had a fine relationship, but when I was assaulted by a Japanese in public in front of witnesses, police protected him and failed all due process procedures to shelter the assailant and obstruct justice. Don't trust them at all.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Alfie Noakes Good boy! You get a doggie biscuit!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Common sense would be to put your resident card into a holder around your neck or in a case on your phone. Don't expect common sense from the cops.

Amen.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

In most European countries citizen ID's are required.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Been living in Japan for over 38 years. I've been stopped once. Produced my Resident card and on my why in 5 minutes. I didn't ask why and he didn't say why he stopped me. Who cares? He was polite to me and I to him. People these days make trouble for themselves. Too many Google lawyers out there.

It really depends on where you are in Japan and how is your appearance, those things can lead to different treatment. Some foreigners can live in Japan many decades only got few stops some other can have more than that. So frequent that can be really annoying.

You can check this one:

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2017/01/22/our-lives/meet-man-gets-frisked-tokyo-police-five-times-year/

0 ( +0 / -0 )

How to talk to police.....Step 1....if you can avoid it....DON'T. Don't even ask for directions. They may try fishing you for a crime and they may start hassling you with unnecessary questions. One old guy got done up for a pocket knife and this was BEFORE the new limits on knife length took effect. Ruined his trip spending the whole time in a cell.

Yes, this one is real too bad for that tourist who just asked for directions.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2009/07/28/voices/pocket-knife-lands-tourist-74-in-lockup-2/

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The article is great but misses the main point that you can be held without arrest for 23 days. Meaning the police won't contact your embassy or anything because you are just being held for questioning.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

That said, I found some keys in a park and took them to the police station not so long ago. I regretted it instantly. They wanted FAR too many of my details just for turning in lost keys. They took up over an hour of my time.

Sometimes just a good will and want to help others in Japan can cost you significant of time, being questioned just for returning lost items can be vary, from less than one hour to hours.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The article is great but misses the main point that you can be held without arrest for 23 days. Meaning the police won't contact your embassy or anything because you are just being held for questioning.

That's right, this one of real point, there are so many cases when missing people can not be contacted. While their family, friend and co-worker are really worry. Just to find out later on that he/she is in police custody all those time.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

In another incident, I was waved into the police box in Roppongi just for crossing the road. They searched my bag, my pockets, and shoes and socks

Just a friendly foreigner trying to give a nice gesture but end up being frisked from head to toe.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@zichi:

it's a criminal offense not to have your alien card now resident card on you 24/7 and you would have been arrested and fined ¥150,000 I think that was the amount, might be different. Foreigners have been caught out just going down to the corner store.

There are some interpretation about how id should be check, one of them because the term authorized officer is immigration officer.

That's why you can hear cases like what @firefox wrote, of course they let @Firefox go.

Or like @carp_boya as long you can show it, even you need to go to your home in order to show you card.

Anyone can check similar stories in debito.org too. 

Firefox:

I didnt have my card, so I made some excuses and he said OK, but carry it next time.

Carp_boya:

Regarding carrying an ID at all times, I’m a runner and NEVER carry an ID while out for a run. If a police officer ever did stop me to ask for it, I’d just invite them to my home and show it to them. I think common sense would prevail.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I had an interesting experience recently. They stopped me and wanted to see the contents of my shoulder bag. Apparently there was series of burglaries in the area... at least that is what they said. I asked if they were arresting me, and they said no. I asked them if they have a legal right to search my bag, and they said no, they were just asking me politely. So I asked what would happen if I refuse. They said they would just continue asking, and asking, and asking... and I were were to walk away, they would walk with me and continue asking. Well, they have unlimited time and I do not. I guess there are different ways to do things...

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I asked them if they have a legal right to search my bag, and they said no, they were just asking me politely. So I asked what would happen if I refuse. They said they would just continue asking, and asking, and asking... and I were were to walk away, they would walk with me and continue asking.

That's right, it's voluntarily, so they can not proceed without your permission

If they proceed without your permission you can fill formal complain with help of your lawyer and of course evidence you have.

debito.org have more details for this.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The article is great but misses the main point that you can be held without arrest for 23 days.

Well, without indictment. You are arrested at that point.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

sakurasuki

I'm no lawyer but I will accept the version in the post which states

"If you’re a resident of Japan — and you should know this — you need to carry your zairyu, or Japanese Residence Card with you at all times. Any immigration or law enforcement officers in the course of their uniformed duties can ask for it and — by law — you need to have it on your person at all times. Not doing so carries a fine of ¥200,000."

I have no wish to be entangled with the cops. My Resident Card stays in my wallet and I never leave my home without my wallet.

I also have a copy of it on my iPhone should I lose my wallet.

Unlike debito, I'm not in the business of confronting the police or the authority. In the 25 years a policeman has never stopped or bothered me. Several are my art clients.

Like PacificPilot one night after drinking and it was late a cop gave my wife and me a lift home, at that was 50 km.

I didn't have a current passport for a number of years because it had elapsed and I hadn't replaced it. I spoke with immigration who said I didn't need one provide I had my Alien Card with me.

If you are detained you just have to sit it out until someone from your embassy visits you. Stay cool and don't get angry. The harder you are on them the harder they will be on you.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The article is great but misses the main point that you can be held without arrest for 23 days. Meaning the police won't contact your embassy or anything because you are just being held for questioning.

That's not actually true. The police have to facilitate your request for consular assistance if you're detained in any manner, not just formal arrest or imprisonment. It's required by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, of which Japan is a signatory. It's article 36(b) if you want to look it up.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I've worked with the police as part of US military law enforcement for over 30 years. They have a few bad apples just like everyone else but 99% are super folks.

This is what they have related to me;

They typically will avoid interacting with foreigners since most don't speak English or a foreign language. They will engage If they see something suspicious or are asked for help.

As has been said, cooperation, a smile, and a bow are key - do the right things and you won't have any problems.

Foreigners cause very little crime in Japan, so they are not high on the police's radar. Except for one area - knives. The Japanese Sword and Firearm Control Law limits the length of a knife - to include folding ones. They can't be more than 2 and one quarter inches in length. So we tell everyone new to Japan to leave their buck knives, Leathermen tools, etc., at home.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I was stopped pretty regularly when riding my bicycle. Along these lines, I would warn any visitors not to try to use an abandoned bicycle. That'll get you hauled down to the koban. As for being targeted for being foreign, only one time did that happen. One bad apple in every barrel.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Except for one area - knives. The Japanese Sword and Firearm Control Law limits the length of a knife - to include folding ones. They can't be more than 2 and one quarter inches in length. So we tell everyone new to Japan to leave their buck knives, Leathermen tools, etc., at home.

Unless you have good reason to be carrying a knife. In All my bags I have an Italian folding knife with a 3" blade which I use in my outdoor painting work. I have carried these knifes for like 40 years.

A trades person like carpenter, electrician needs severals types of knives. Including box cutters which I think are more deadly than the folding knives. I have several of them in my painting kit.

When I lived in the Alps I would also take a very large knife on my belt when I was painting in the mountains or farming my crops. There were many types of large wild animals up there including bears.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

If you are detained it will depend on where but someone from your embassy will usually get to to within 48-56 hours.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

In the late 70s I was living in Korea working in the US Army a couple of years and my family were in Hiroshima with my in laws. I went through customs in Fukuoka on a trip to visit them with a 15" (40 cm) Pillow Katana to get it registered in Japan. The police actually had me go to their locker room for tea to fill out the papers and were very friendly, especially since my wife was Japanese and two of my children were half and born in Okinawa. They all wanted to see the blade. We chatted about Kendo, etc. and as soon as the paperwork was completed I was on my way with friendly goodbyes to catch a train to Hiroshima. It took my wife longer when she went to the prefecture office to register the blade. It was about 350 years old and previously belonged to an in law who had died. They had someone standing by to break any blades not considered antiques or valuable enough to register. I mailed it to myself in Korea through the military mail to avoid all the extra hassle of telling them we found it in a storage shed in my wife's grandparent's farm. It was a bit damaged by some of her cousins years before and needed polishing, etc. Now my older son, born in Okinawa, has it in Tennessee along with the folded steel clay tempered hand forged Tsugaru and other Katanas and Tachi I bought him. My girls have Tsugaru or regular pillow katanas 40 cm, and the boys have several swords, my grandsons also, all have their names and ranks on the tangs. But they know not to take them back into Japan.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Unless you have good reason to be carrying a knife.

If you can prove you need the bladed instrument as part of your work or recreation, then they'll usually let you go - a good example, if you have a Leatherman and you have a toolbox with you and maybe a ladder, and a good explanation of what you're doing, you should be OK. If you clubbing in Tokyo and have a buckknife over 2 and 1/4 inches, be prepared to spend some time at the Koban...

3 ( +3 / -0 )

So how many UK citizens are arrested or detained in Japan in a year? “I would say about 50,” says Auclair.

That's less than on one game night in their country. .

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Cops at my house a few weeks back. Really lousy noisy neighbors did not like my complaints to the superintendent of the building. They made all false accusations. Cops were polite and believed me, and totally understood the situation. So recently, instead of dog feces all over my front balcony, it was hamster crap. Total losers. Not everyone in Japan is clean and polite as they would like you to believe. I do love it here and realize these neighbors are an aberration in the complex ways to get along.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I would warn any visitors not to try to use an abandoned bicycle. That'll get you hauled down to the koban.

That's good advice.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

If you're not a Japanese citizen but you have a visa to legally work or reside in the country, just carry your alien registration card with you at all times. It's like your "license" to be in the country, akin to having a license to drive a car. Japanese police officers are actually quite restrained in their behavior with people who make a scene. I made a scene once, because I was stopped by a plain-clothes police officer and it was clearly racial profiling and nothing else. Suspicious of being approached by a man not in uniform, I wasn't cooperative and soon out of nowhere the lone officer was joined by 3 other officers who showed me their badges. My behavior likely would have led to my being beaten or even shot in a country like the United States. But once I realized the man in plain clothes was a police officer, I cooperated and showed them my alien registration card. I was allowed to go on my way to work.

I didn't appreciate the racial profiling that was the norm among Japanese police officers in Tokyo (I never got stopped by police anywhere else in Japan), but I considered that a small price to pay for living a nice life in one of the world's most livable countries. And no, it wasn't like "being black" in the United States. In the U.S., in addition to being racially profiled by the police blacks have to deal with the miserable legacies of slavery, Jim Crow, and redlining.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

You used a Yuta video? That dude is creepily and blantently racist.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Suspicious of being approached by a man not in uniform, I wasn't cooperative and soon out of nowhere the lone officer was joined by 3 other officers who showed me their badges.

Those officer without uniform sometimes would think that just flashing their badge without saying anything in English can make foreigner understand and accept their intention. What happened usually some people would just scare and go away. For foreigner who has residence card they might understand but for short time visitor just don't expect them to understand.

It's like your "license" to be in the country, akin to having a license to drive a car.

Not carrying or missing your "license" doesn't mean your stay permission is gone. Immigration already granted permission that's the one that really matter. You can check comments from @carp_boya and @firefox above.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@obladi

I was stopped pretty regularly when riding my bicycle. Along these lines, I would warn any visitors not to try to use an abandoned bicycle. That'll get you hauled down to the koban. As for being targeted for being foreign, only one time did that happen. One bad apple in every barrel

On certain location it can be occurring day by day. Ridiculous part is, it can be same officer stopping same bicycle rider with the using same legal bicycle. Similar stories reported in debito.org too.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I would warn any visitors not to try to use an abandoned bicycle. That'll get you hauled down to the koban.

Not only abandoned one but also bicycle that you don't have clue the owner. It can be legal but it might already passed several times so no ones know the actual owner of that bicycle registration. Even you can be cleared after several hours or even days still it has potential to ruin your week.

Lot of foreigner have no clue about bicycle registration system, since not so many countries have this system. So foreigner with a bicycle is pretty easy catch for them. Easy to spot, easy to check.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

There have been fake cops too! Foreign women rally need to be aware of those.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/04/02/issues/rights-can-protect-against-fake-cops/#.XYYhN5Mza7M

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

If an accident should occur, Japanese hospitals and clinics do not accept foreign medical insurance.

Not entirely true. Some hospitals and clinics are contracted with some US health insurance companies to accept direct payment.

For instance, Blue Cross and Blue Shield have a website to find providers in various countries, Japan included, that accept your Blue Cross or Blue Shield insurance. And, there are quite a few in Japan.

https://www.bcbsglobalcore.com

I would imagine that other health insurance companies might also have similar programs. It pays to check before buying insurance just for your trip.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

That's not actually true. The police have to facilitate your request for consular assistance if you're detained in any manner, not just formal arrest or imprisonment. It's required by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, of which Japan is a signatory. It's article 36(b) if you want to look it up.

Being a signatory not necessary being compliant. Take a look, on 1980 Japan already sign Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Not until 2019 finally they are no longer in blacklist of noncompliance countries.

For implementation Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, you can check Julian Adame that reported missing last year. His friends and families were looking for him. Need them sometimes just to find out that he was in detention. Thing that should be informed in the first place.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

If you are detained it will depend on where but someone from your embassy will usually get to to within 48-56 hours.

It really depend on the law enforcement, in some cases you really need to demand your right, right to reach for lawyer and your consular. You can check actual case of Julian Adame that reported missing last year. His friends, families and embassy were looking for him. Need them sometimes just to find out that he was in detention. Thing that should be informed in the first place.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It really depend on the law enforcement, in some cases you really need to demand your right, right to reach for lawyer and your consular. 

Except you have no right to a lawyer until after the 23 day period and your are charged.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Information Pack for British Prisoners in Japan After being arrested – the first 72 hours and beyond

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/806229/Prisonerpack-_Arrested.pdf

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I've worked with the police as part of US military law enforcement for over 30 years.

They typically will avoid interacting with foreigners since most don't speak English or a foreign language. They will engage If they see something suspicious or are asked for help.

Experience can be different between ordinary foreigner and SOFA status holder.

@Obladi story one of good example for that.

Foreigners cause very little crime in Japan, so they are not high on the police's radar.

That's correct but usually being ordinary foreigner alone can easily attract them and of course they common things they will say is because you look suspicious. They just can't explain more when being asked what part of being suspicious.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Except you have no right to a lawyer until after the 23 day period and your are charged.

No you can meet lawyer way sooner than that but really need to be careful when stating your demand and filling form.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

When "stopped" just be polite & courteous provide whatever documentation they require, explain your presence, sometimes adding a weak joke into the conversation may help break the ice (so to speak). I think at times they've just been instructed to go out and find a set quota of individuals to justify their existence.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

@sakurasuki - Thanks for the link, an interesting site.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@zichi - unfortunately the link you posted for the "Information Pack for British Prisoners in Japan After being arrested" no longer appears valid, searching on Google produces the following:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/806231/Prisonerpack-_Sentenced.pdf

Note - however, although this is aimed at "After being sentenced"... it makes references to pre-sentencing... it's a sober read. And well worth the time doing so, for self-education at least.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@Alfie Noakes

I slightly disagree with your "always obey" rule.. under certain circumstances, it is best to use your own "intelligence" to decide whether to follow the "advice" of an "official" or simply do what you think is best given your own knowledge of the situation that you are in.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It would have been better to have a lawyer or someone familiar with the criminal law process in Japan write this article, the advice is all very obvious and it tells the reader nothing useful about what to do if they are actually detained.

> Except you have no right to a lawyer until after the 23 day period and your are charged.

Yes you do, you always have a right to a lawyer. You won’t get a duty council appointed until after an indictment if you need one, but you are always able to appoint your own private lawyer.

Your lawyer cannot, however, be present while you are interrogated by police.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

DONT urinate outside, as is common in the foreign nations.

oh please Ive seen far more public urination in Japan than other countries, most of the time its in open site on the side of the rd. Most 1st world foreign countries I know of the fines are steep and most of the time if they have to go they try and do it out of site.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

mmwkdw

this links works

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/806229/Prisonerpack-_Arrested.pdf

Link on JT you have to copy and paste or right click and go to

Lawyers

If you want your own English speaking lawyer you have find them yourself.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Best thing to do is just keep telling them you don't speak Japanese and that you don't understand. Most police officers don't speak English and will easily give up and leave you alone if you aren't really doing anything wrong.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

DONT urinate outside, as is common in the foreign nations

Two houses in my Tokyo neighborhood on the main road leading to the station have signs on their property saying "this is not a toilet." The signs are written only in Japanese .

When I first came to Japan and stayed at accommodation along a big road in Osaka, the local the taxi drivers would routinely stop to urinate, unashamedly, on the boulevard. I was well-traveled, but had never seen people make zero attempt to conceal themselves while in an urban place. The other foreign guests were also amused and we used to gather around the window for laughs. I see less of it nowadays, but it will always be something I associate with Japan.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Two houses in my Tokyo neighborhood on the main road leading to the station have signs on their property saying "this is not a toilet." The signs are written only in Japanese .

I saw people doing this either day or night, most of culprit are old Japanese people.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Don't be a jerk and you won't have to worry about the police...

Simple as that.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

Been stopped 4 times in 25 years.Never carry my gaijin card either.The last time was 3 months ago when the cop,bored as ..., rode his moped up to me and asked for ID. Said I'd forgotten it.I don't use a wallet.He insisted on seeing my card, so decided to follow me for the deliberate,slow ride to my place where in my school window could see the sign that I'm an English teacher,whilst I was getting the card. He looked humbled as I went back into my place without a word.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

Stopped 3 times in 15 years- all for English practice...Easy stuff- Be as genki as possible....Just start talking about how excited you are you are in Japan- start showing pictures on your iPhone (especially if you have a Japanese spouse and/or mixed kids)...Okusama wa nihonjin......Aka chan des (I know its grammatically wrong- doesn't matter)...Excited wall of English...They usually smile and just give up...Once he asked for my gaijin card as well...I said "sure but you also have to show too" with a big smile....We each showed and then talked about his home town..

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

mmwkdw

you can use this site for the documents

Guidance

Japan – Prisoner Pack

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/japan-prisoner-pack

0 ( +0 / -0 )

FYI - Here's how I've gotten away with NOT showing my identification to police in Tokyo.

I've been in Tokyo for 9 years and have been stopped literally 5 times at my station within the past 4 years of living in my current neighborhood. It never happened to me at my prior station. The last few times, I actually questioned the officers about the law and refused to present ID after learning of this...

http://www.debito.org/instantcheckpoints2.html

However, I must admit that each time that I got away with not showing ID, it was more stressful than just showing my ID and being on my way. The most recent incident was last month while I was out with my toddler!

That was a first, and it made me realize it's just not worth the trouble anymore if I have nothing to hide. I was able to argue a bit and be on my way without showing my ID, but next time I'm just taking the easy route... You never know what kind of cop you're dealing with, and nobody wants their pride hurt.

They're courteous and polite each time, so I do appreciate that, but it's an embarrassing scene to be stopped and questioned by them. I figure now, why make that scene last longer than it needs to?

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

@jamc

Don't be a jerk and you won't have to worry about the police...

Simple as that.

Some foreigners be nice and comply look what they got

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2017/01/22/our-lives/meet-man-gets-frisked-tokyo-police-five-times-year/

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Jokyo Drips

You never know what kind of cop you're dealing with, and nobody wants their pride hurt.

That's really true as like macv experience, they can be really vary.

@macv wrote

 worked with the police in anti-film piracy and had a fine relationship, but when I was assaulted by a Japanese in public in front of witnesses, police protected him and failed all due process procedures to shelter the assailant and obstruct justice. Don't trust them at all.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

About carrying your ID, its important to remember that the reason police often stop and ask foreigners for them is that police are incentivized to catch infractions since it firms part of their job evaluation. Catching foreigners without their ID is one of the easiest and safest infractions for them to enforce, so in order to increase their evaluation they try to catch as many of those as they can.

So carry your ID with you if you want to avoid a hassle.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I've been in Tokyo for 9 years and have been stopped literally 5 times at my station within the past 4 years of living in my current neighborhood. It never happened to me at my prior station. The last few times, I actually questioned the officers about the law and refused to present ID after learning of this...

http://www.debito.org/instantcheckpoints2.html

However, I must admit that each time that I got away with not showing ID, it was more stressful than just showing my ID and being on my way. The most recent incident was last month while I was out with my toddler!

That was a first, and it made me realize it's just not worth the trouble anymore if I have nothing to hide. I was able to argue a bit and be on my way without showing my ID, but next time I'm just taking the easy route..

Now we know that you are exercising your right and they respect their due process. As you may experienced, heard or read from debito.org some people being IDed by same officer over and over again, becoming habitual which completely ridiculous. At least by doing so they will refrain unnecessary check of your ID in the future since they are aware you know your right and you are living legally near that station.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Chiba which includes Narita, has no duty lawyers. The court will appoint you one if required. Private lawyers are expensive and need a retainer of about ¥300,000.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

most Japanese police are cool if you arent doing anything wrong and just going about life. The thing is, as a foreigner, sometimes trouble finds you.

Trouble will arise on crowded trains after an extra long day at work, long commutes etc and you and the offender take a trip to the police box. Avoid fighting.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

"The most worrying aspect of criminal justice in Japan is its detention system (suspects can be held for up to 23 days without being charged) and its bias against non-Japanese detainees."

The good, the bad and the ugly. May all people be aware of this fact. Some try to hide it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I've worked with the police as part of US military law enforcement for over 30 years. They have a few bad apples just like everyone else but 99% are super folks.

That just means you have a very superficial understanding of Japan because you are not immersed in daily like company life and work. Easy to say sweet things on the other side of the fence.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

It's good to understand the Japanese laws and stay out of trouble.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The problem we've seen with foreigners and Japanese police is that many of these foreigners think they are above the law and act like they are back in their home countries, thinking nothing of acting aggressively and hostile towards Japanese police. And then after the fact, crying about it on social media and using the 'foreigner card' to absolve themselves of any blame for their situation, and hoping the world readily sides with them against those xenophobic and 'racist' J-cops.

Couldn't agree more, Sir. While some foreigners are mature and try to comply with the Japanese society, most gaijin are extremely arrogant, petulant, and think they are doing Japan a favor by staying in the country. Those folks have the typical ultra liberal attitude of being offended by absolutely everything, calling "rayciss" anybody who does not do things the way they expect, and play the race/victim card in order to feel like they have the moral high ground. No wonder most Japanese prefer not to associate much with that kind of gaijin.

Two houses in my Tokyo neighborhood on the main road leading to the station have signs on their property saying "this is not a toilet." The signs are written only in Japanese .

Most Japanese are not fluent in any foreign language, so no surprise there. If you travel to China, you will see mothers placing their toddlers inside public sinks (in theory to be used for washing hands or face) so that they can urinate or even defecate inside.

Also, urinating in public places happens in the said country, but also I've seen it in India, South America, and of course Africa. Not trying to defend the Japanese who do that, since it is gross, but it happens almost everywhere.

In the U.S., in addition to being racially profiled by the police blacks have to deal with the miserable legacies of slavery, Jim Crow, and redlining.

I'd say it's been the opposite for years. Not only in USA, but also in Europe, it seems like whites have to apologize and feel guilty for being so. The so-called "positive discrimination". Western countries are going nuts, seriously...

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

It is possible for almost anyone to make a mistake that could get you the attention of the police. Just try to cooperate and don't do anything that will wind up getting you into even more trouble. By the way, my nephew is just now on his way to becoming a policeman in Tokyo. He is a good young man - please don't give him any trouble :-)

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Most of what people here are saying is correct about the J police, that is they are for the most part, are pretty decent. Its my observation that the Japanese populace are a kind of police themselves, that is they deal with issues and the police are only there when it becomes to complex. They would rather not get involved in disputes etc.

The issue arises when an incident occurs, and you will encounter issues, if you stay in Japan long enough. The gaijin is usually not given the presumption of innocence and is considered guilty by default, even with overwhelming evidence that your not. Its assumed that you dont understand the Japanese inside game.

In such cases, IMO, its best to hand it off to some one close to you who is Japanese. This is just how Japan works; a more senior Japanese or spouse will come and take charge, scold if you did wrong, something like this, and your now...kind of "trusted" or controlled. To go out it alone, and hope for the best, thats scary in Japan, and not recommended. True, J cops rarely profile and dont bother gaijin, but its when you have somebody target you for their hate or just in the wrong place at the wrong time, etc., things can get scary. Be advised.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Also, if you see a Japanese doing a crime, doesnt mean you can do it. I see kids spraying graffiti, old men peeing in the park in front of kids, shoplifting, many things, almost weekly.

Most Japanese avoid confrontation with each other. Doesnt mean they wont confront you. And I never confront anyone doing a crime either. That invites even more trouble. Its up to you, but thats just me.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

The issue arises when an incident occurs, and you will encounter issues, if you stay in Japan long enough. The gaijin is usually not given the presumption of innocence and is considered guilty by default, even with overwhelming evidence that your not. Its assumed that you dont understand the Japanese inside game.

I only really have one incident that could be relevant to this - I was punched in the face by a drunk guy on the train.

The police never once treated it like it was anything other than the other guy who was at fault.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Useful article. Laws tend to be slightly different country to country, but as the article says, the main point is to carry your passport, keep your clothes on, do not urinate in public, and do not steal. As for raising one's voice to law enforcement officers, I have never understood why some people think that that is a good idea. Even if the officer behaves inappropriately, which can happen, best to keep calm and let the situation deescalate.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Not sure what most are talking about with the "been in Japan for 20 years and only been asked for ID once" but I get stopped by the police 2 or 3 times a month on my bicycle. If you are doing anything that they think they need to "teach" you about the rules of being Japanese, they will. They will stop you and waste 30 minutes or more depending on what they want to say to you. If you are detained, you are gone for hours and sometimes they will not let you go unless they release you to another Japanese person that knows you. Very racist if you ask me.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

If you are detained, you are gone for hours and sometimes they will not let you go unless they release you to another Japanese person that knows you. Very racist if you ask me.

Thats exactly what I was talking about, Best to know at least one Japanese person who has your corner.

And just because some other gaijin says "I have never experienced racism, or police, or this or that..." dont take that as gospel. There are many situations (thats why they call it situational ethics) where the law and enforcement are applied differently in Japan. Its kind of like... every gaijin has had a different experience. Every gaijin I have met, has had an experience either parallel to mine, or in some cases, much worse. There are some precautions, that I and others have posted, you should know. Ignore at your own risk. Own your experiences and dont blame yourself, but dont be ignorant of your surroundings.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I see kids spraying graffiti, old men peeing in the park in front of kids, shoplifting, many things, almost weekly.Most Japanese avoid confrontation with each other. Doesnt mean they wont confront you. And I never confront anyone doing a crime either.

In some cases even when you try to report it, they can be reluctantly in taking your report.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I was punched in the face by a drunk guy on the train.The police never once treated it like it was anything other than the other guy who was at fault.

If what happened was the opposite, we can guess what will follow.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@rainyday

the reason police often stop and ask foreigners for them is that police are incentivized to catch infractions since it firms part of their job evaluation. Catching foreigners without their ID is one of the easiest and safest infractions for them to enforce, so in order to increase their evaluation they try to catch as many of those as they can.

Beside ID also riding bicycle as foreigner can be easily end up as a target. Of course so far there is no data that can show correlation between bicycle theft and foreigners. What usually happened, foreigners just not get used to bicycle registration system since not so many countries have that system. So lot of foreigners just not taking full details about registration when they get their bicycle from person before them or from buying online even bicycle that they use is perfectly legal.

@obladi

I was stopped pretty regularly when riding my bicycle.

@mmwkdw

I get stopped by the police 2 or 3 times a month on my bicycle.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Firstly, unless the law has changed recently, it is 43 days you can be held without charge. Amnesty International often have their sights on Japan.

Secondly, in my nearly two decades in Japan, mainly in Osaka and Kobe, foreigners can be, and often will be charged in cases Japanese would be let off: foreign crime or even the possiblity of a crime (unproven) is frequently treated far more sternly, in fact, borderline criminally by the police themselves.

Thirdly, I have had to file complaints against the police twice in my time here for harrassment: no crime committed.

Fourthly, the only time I have ever had real trouble with the police, no arrest nor conviction, I was interrogated for 6 hours, and given an awful interpretor who was literally Elementary level English - in downtown Kobe, not the countryside. The whole process led to a nine month wait to see a prosecutor who literally threw the case out within minutes. The police had nothing, and instead of suing them, I left Japan in disgust.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Firstly, unless the law has changed recently, it is 43 days you can be held without charge.

This is incorrect.

1) The law has not changed recently (though to be fair, you didn't say it had).

2) It is not 43 days, it's a 23, with an extremely rare exemption for an additional five days. After your initial arrest by police, you must be placed before a judge within 72 hours, at which point the prosecutor can request an extension of ten days (which is rarely rejected). After that ten days, another ten day extension can be requested (again, rarely rejected), bringing it to 23 days. Under extremely rare circumstances, an additional five day extension can be requested, though the police usually just lay a separate charge triggering a new round of 23 days.

3) During this 23 day detention, you are charged with a crime, but not indicted. The prosecutors are required to indict (起訴) or not indict (不起訴).

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Firstly, unless the law has changed recently, it is 43 days you can be held without charge.

So far nothing change it's still 3+20 days not 43 days. What happened is usually they brought multiple charge against you. So every time new charge is being brought the whole process can be reset again. So in case 43 days probably they bring new charge that can make them get additional 10+10 days, after initial 23 days. This only if they brought two charges, if you got more charges mean more days. 

I have had to file complaints against the police twice in my time here for harrassment: no crime committed.

What they've done to you?

only time I have ever had real trouble with the police, no arrest nor conviction, I was interrogated for 6 hours, and given an awful interpretor who was literally Elementary level English - in downtown Kobe, not the countryside. The whole process led to a nine month wait to see a prosecutor who literally threw the case out within minutes. 

Nine months that long? What was happened?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Interesting Catch-22 in the law is that Japanese themselves are not required to carry any ID, nor to identify themselves to police unless they are under arrest or lawful detention. So, naturalized foreigners (who have obtained Japanese citizenship) can just blow the police off by telling them 'I am Japanese'. In practice, good luck.

When stopped for apparently no reason, the best thing to do is be as silent as possible. Don't show too much in the way of Japanese language skills (if you have them), or the police will use it against you, speaking ever faster and ever more complicated. Demand to see and photograph the "techo" (ID Book) of the cop who is demanding your ID. In turn, you need to SHOW (not give) him yours. Be careful if he tries to snatch it from your hand, you don't want to do anything that can be construed as violent or aggressive. Minimalist is the way to go without letting your rights be abused.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

When stopped for apparently no reason, the best thing to do is be as silent as possible. Don't show too much in the way of Japanese language skills (if you have them), or the police will use it against you

Depends on your level of Japanese. I've been able to take care of incidents with the police in a few minutes, that took hours to work out before I was able to speak the language.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Agreed, Nihongo pera pera gaijin is not credible in Japanese society view, and this is not a good strategy

As one of thoshe 'nihongo pera pera gaijin', I assure you that if you speak Japanese well enough, the benefits of being able to communicate and sort out issues with the police FAR outweigh the hassles of pretending you cannot communicate with them.

In fact, the only people I find making the claim that it's better to not speak Japanese, are those who don't speak it well. I've never known anyone who had proper Japanese fluency (and I know a lot of these people) who said it was better for those fluent in Japanese to pretend they cannot speak it at such times.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Beside ID also riding bicycle as foreigner can be easily end up as a target. Of course so far there is no data that can show correlation between bicycle theft and foreigners. What usually happened, foreigners just not get used to bicycle registration system since not so many countries have that system. So lot of foreigners just not taking full details about registration when they get their bicycle from person before them or from buying online even bicycle that they use is perfectly legal.

I don't mind being stopped by a friendly police officer, but once I was with my friend and 2 guys came up wearing black windbreakers. I suspected they were undercover police and sure enough, after passing by once they turned around and showed their badges. They then started asking my friend about his bike and eventually called it in to see if it was registered. Not sure if they singled him out and not me due to him not being white, but the whole situation was very weird because they were staring at us in their disguises instead of coming right up and asking to check the registration.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I can understand where pera pera would help as opposed to not knowing any Japanese at all. If you dont know any Japanese get ready for fun and games, your at the mercy of the wolves.

The problem with pera pera gaijin is they can just keep doing the circle jerk logic of "but he said" until you submit. A third party, with your interest at stake, can circumvent the loop logic and save your day.

"but he said" then counter that in Japanese....that game dont end well because its designed to wear you down.

Anyhow, I live my life according to what experience has taught me. To each his own.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

A lot is simply to do with politeness to authority. Be polite and respectful and 9/10 times, the police will respect that and reciprocate. I was in the benefit office (welfare office) in London about 6 months ago where it kicked off over nothing. When you enter, you're told to find a seat and sit down. It's for safety reasons, so you don't suddenly attack the staff. So, I walk in and the security guard (a low paid bloke in a black suit) is a bit abrupt with me. He tells me to sit down a bit rudely. Let's say his customer service could've been better, but I'm like 'sure, no problem sir'. A guy in his mid 20s walks in, doesn't like the 'attitude' and suddenly a big argument kicks off. 'Sir, you're being rude': 'You can't tell me what to do blah blah blah'. More security guards come, 'Sir calm down': 'You can't tell me what to do', 'calm down sir': 'don't touch me, if you touch me, I'll call the police, GET YOUR HANDS OFF ME': THUD, restrained on floor: Staff: 'Ok, call the police'.. Everyone in the benefit office stops what they're doing and is just staring at him being restrained on the floor. What happens? a) He gets arrested, and b) he loses his benefit (welfare payments) all because, he didn't like the way the security guard spoke to him. What a plank. All he had to do was say 'sure!' The yoof of today hey lol.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

A lot is simply to do with politeness to authority. Be polite and respectful and 9/10 times, the police will respect that and reciprocate.

If only that were true. I have a lot of friends and colleagues as well as myself who have experienced total disrespect from the police as soon as they knew you were a foreigner, or simply looked at you: cognitive bias... stereotyping... or simply good old fashioned Japanese xenophobia, who knows.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The problem with pera pera gaijin is they can just keep doing the circle jerk logic of "but he said" until you submit. A third party, with your interest at stake, can circumvent the loop logic and save your day.

Once again, I'm speaking as a 'pera pera gaijin', and I would say the "circle jerk logic" you speak of is going to be dependent on the person, and their understanding of Japan. Anyone who speaks Japanese and understands that the police are more interested in getting rid of problems, rather than sorting out whose fault it is, is not going to get hung up on "but he said".

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I've never been stopped once since moving here in the mid 1970's, lived in Roppongi 25 years no problems. Worked with J police fighting against a company ESP copying our Schecter Guitar Research products, then again in anti-video piracy for Paramount & Universal, had no problems but their methods were archaic very time consuming. Only when I was victimized assaulted in 2006 did ugliness rear its head. Meguro police sheltered the perp, destroyed evidence, lied in report, etc. I learned a victim has little recourse if police decide to screw you. One cannot sue them directly, can only sue the NPA which is the government. US Embassy told me they cannot intervene in private cases. I showed them awards I received in Vietnam, no matter. A few years later when US citizen Toyota exec Julie Hemp was arrested for smuggling illegal drugs, then Ambassador Caroline Kennedy personally intervened got her out of jail and sent back to USA. Go figure.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

This seems more like it's aimed at football fans rather than rugby fans. Rugby fans in the UK are, by and large, well-behaved. A fair number of Scots fans like to party and wear kilts with no drawers underneath... these two things alone may very well see some of my countrymen fall foul of the law.

I've been visiting Japan fairly regularly for the last 13 years and I've only ever been stopped once, at the Narita railway station waiting for the Skyliner to Tokyo. Asked for my passport, asked some questions and saluted. Hopefully if rugby fans are stopped they won't go into 'chip on the shoulder' mode and start arguing.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I just give them one of my looks, and they leave me alone.

OK, seriously though if the cops stop you, keep calm, show them your ID ( you should always have some form of ID on you ), answer their questions and you should be OK.

US Embassy told me they cannot intervene in private cases.

That place is useless for anything except passport renewals.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I make it a point to know policemen in my neighborhood Meguro. They know I did commo for Interpol in Cambodia, we talk daily in passing, no probs, but when a Japanese assaulted me all that goodwill went out the window - it was me against them. Former veteran police officer Akio Kuroki retired and became anti police corruption journalist. He told me the entire NPA is filthy corrupt can never be corrected until it's dismantled and rebuilt from scratch. He spent all his money protesting against the police, when he was found dead in his car in a suspicious suicide the police cheered. Respected journalist Yu Teresawa has been protesting exposing corrupt police and officials his entire career, had a few demoted and fired. He agrees. There are others out there if you do the research. It's a shame no one trusts the police. I once did but never again.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Only when I was victimized assaulted in 2006 did ugliness rear its head. Meguro police sheltered the perp, destroyed evidence, lied in report, etc. I learned a victim has little recourse if police decide to screw you. One cannot sue them directly, can only sue the NPA which is the government. US Embassy told me they cannot intervene in private cases. I showed them awards I received in Vietnam, no matter. A few years later when US citizen Toyota exec Julie Hemp was arrested for smuggling illegal drugs, then Ambassador Caroline Kennedy personally intervened got her out of jail and sent back to USA. Go figure.

Experienced something similar. Unitl it happens to you, then there isnt much empathy, so I never count on receiving it.

Had a hit and run done on me, guy was found, not arrested, kind of bizzare thing...and other "interesting" experiences that I wont discuss here.

We do appreciate our embassy staff, however, especially our ambassador, when she does videos dancing about Japan. Lets hope there is never a 3/11 again, or if so, have a plan in place. I dont count on anybody after that experience.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Cooperation and understanding go a long way in Japan with the police. They are only doing the job, that's it nothing more. However I disagree with this comment in the article: "But differences in culture and behavior exist. For example, it may be completely normal in your home country — fellas! — to relieve yourself outside, in an alley or on the side of building, whereas here the keisatsu (police) may stop you for defacing private property or indecent exposure. From even minor encounters, major troubles can occur."

I have visited numerous countries and yet to be in one where its normal to behave as such implied. Just yesterday I was in Aomori pref and witnessed a Japanese national pop out his business and relieve himself in the side of the road and moments later another one behind a shed but where ongoing traffic could be witness. A police car passed by but did nothing. hmmm.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Just yesterday I was in Aomori pref and witnessed a Japanese national pop out his business...

To my understanding, that is illegal,. I see it daily however. Its one of those, oyaji hierarchy things, like a relic from the past, that they overlook, because the old man has allot of clout in Japan. Difficult to explain, but you will know it if you stay in Japan. Its kind of a shouganai thing.

As a gaijin, though, dont ever even think of doing it. Its a barbaric thing to do anyway, I have seen them do it, and then the next day, old ladies mending the same plants he peed in. Disgusting.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@therougou

I don't mind being stopped by a friendly police officer.

2 guys came up wearing black windbreakers. I suspected they were undercover police and sure enough, after passing by once they turned around and showed their badges. They then started asking my friend about his bike and eventually called it in to see if it was registered. Not sure if they singled him out and not me due to him not being white

@FireyRei

I have a lot of friends and colleagues as well as myself who have experienced total disrespect from the police as soon as they knew you were a foreigner,

Checking bicycle registration it's fine since it's part of job but they can do it in friendly way and no need to treat foreigners like a suspect. Being targeted only because being foreigners with a bicycle, are pretty common as described in debito.org too.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

In Nagano I was made a honorary mayor for my civilic efforts.

I arrived the city office on my bike and asked a cop to guard it for me.Surprised at first but I informed him I was a honorary mayor so he needed to take care of it.

WhenI returned he was still guarding my unlocked bike.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@strangerland

Depends on your level of Japanese. I've been able to take care of incidents with the police in a few minutes, that took hours to work out before I was able to speak the language.

Showing pera pera that really depends on your situation in some cases like @daisuke's case you'll get more teaching.

@Daisuke Komaki

they think they need to "teach" you about the rules of being Japanese

They will stop you and waste 30 minutes

@Attilathehungry

Don't show too much in the way of Japanese language skills (if you have them), or the police will use it against you, speaking ever faster and ever more complicated.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@ tom

Got an old android phone laying about? Plentry of free apps to turn it into a CCTV unit. Catch them on camera, record any interaction with them too without them knowing(legal here)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

it may be completely normal in your home country — fellas! — to relieve yourself outside, in an alley or on the side of building, whereas here the keisatsu (police) may stop you for defacing private property or indecent exposure.

Really? In Osaka men of a certain age piss just about wherever they like.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Sorry to hear these stories

@Strangerland

I was punched in the face by a drunk guy on the train. The police never once treated it like it was anything other than the other guy who was at fault.

@macv

I was assaulted by a Japanese in public in front of witnesses, police protected him

@TheLongTermer

Had a hit and run done on me, guy was found, not arrested, kind of bizzare thing.

What if the perpetrator was foreigners instead, will they just let him/her go just like that?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I returned to my hotel in Ueno late at night many years ago only to find a steel door barring my entrance. I had not been informed of this by the English speaking staff before I ventured out for an evening of night clubbing. I went to a nearby koban and a very polite young officer escorted me to the hotel's backdoor and helped me gain entrance. I was very thankful for his helpful professionalism.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@TheLongTermer hello brother - re hit and run - same thing happened to me - the guy later confessed he stalked hit me with his car from behind then savagely assaulted my body. Meguro police omitted this in their report to prosecutor I learned months later. Having worked in law enforcement many years I had no reason to distrust the system, boy was I wrong. I am plotting my next course of action you will read about it :-)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Sorry to hear that @macv,

Sometimes they just don't follow up report properly just to maintain good statistics and image of that area. https://japantoday.com/category/crime/osaka-police-admit-hiding-81000-crimes-to-clean-up-image

Beside your there are times when they won't follow stalking case until it was too late, just like Mayu Tomita's case in Koganei. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201907100071.html

1 ( +1 / -0 )

What if the perpetrator was foreigners instead, will they just let him/her go just like that?

The perpetrator was Japanese, and they didn't let him go. They arrested him.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

My favorite cop story: I was walking my whippet off-lead late at night when a cop on a scooter chose to give me a ten-minute scolding. The whole time, my dog sat patiently at my side.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I once went to one of those Roppongi clubs, as a young dumb@s, and was given a bill of 90 000 yen. I refused to pay and was taken to this room and clocked a few times. I went to the koban, he just looked at me, kind of a racist vibe, and said "daijoubu mitai" kind of like I was bothering his time.

I got my credit card back and never been to those places again.

That story is lame, many more interesting to share but not needed. The experiences make the truth self evident.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Been living in Japan for over 38 years. I've been stopped once.

Almost the same here, been here 35 years, stopped once in front of Nagasaki's main JR Train Station (about 15 years ago.), I actually talked down to the young police officer as if he were some kind of bug that was annoying me, but I did show ID and he left me alone quickly, probably thinking that was one grouchy foreigner. Even though I was impolite he was very polite and also never really explained why he stopped me in front of a crowded train Station. Oh and I passed that same spot often enough and never had any trouble, Koban was next door to the station at that time.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@braze 

he was very polite and also never really explained why he stopped me in front of a crowded train Station.

 Actually to conduct ID check or even frisk they require to explain properly the reason (debito.org) but most of the time they won't reveal actual reason. They just conceal it with their politeness or made up a strange excuse. Some exception also happened like what @WilliB said.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@TheLongTermer

I once went to one of those Roppongi clubs, as a young dumb@s, and was given a bill of 90 000 yen. I refused to pay and was taken to this room and clocked a few times. I went to the koban, he just looked at me, kind of a racist vibe, and said "daijoubu mitai" kind of like I was bothering his time.

You suffered being blackmailed, threatened and kidnapped but somehow they just choose to ignore you.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

If police stop you....RUN.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Tell me another country where, while riding my bike home in the dark, a neighbourhood Koban cop standing outside his tiny booth, flags me down and points out that my bike light is getting dim. He then proceeds with the assistance of his partner, to replace the batteries in my light, and satisfied with their work, send me on my way and with a suggestion of an alternate route that would be shorter and better lit. Slow night at the Koban? Maybe, but get lost or need help anywhere in a major city and there will be a police officer somewhere within walking distance. I went back a couple of days later and gave them some extra battery packs and some snacks as a thank you. They were all smiles and of course as polite as they always are.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@skysurfer wrote

He then proceeds with the assistance of his partner, to replace the batteries in my light, and satisfied with their work, send me on my way and with a suggestion of an alternate route that would be shorter and better lit. 

I'm aware they can be nice but it really depends on the area and which officers you meet, you could end up like @obladi @daisuke and @therougou experience.

@obladi wrote

I was stopped pretty regularly when riding my bicycle.

@daisuke wrote

get stopped by the police 2 or 3 times a month on my bicycle.

@therougou wrote 

They then started asking my friend about his bike and eventually called it in to see if it was registered. Not sure if they singled him out and not me due to him not being white,

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@mike1492 wrote

....RUN.

Even some lawyers suggest people just to run rather then dealing with justice system that will put someone in long detention that lead to false confession. Just read this

https://japantoday.com/category/crime/guilty-and-never-proven-innocent-every-male-train-riders-nightmare-in-japan

0 ( +1 / -1 )

You suffered being blackmailed, threatened and kidnapped but somehow they just choose

yeah I didnt think of it that way. anywhere else...I guess it would be. racism kinda sucks...I get it now.

@TheLongTermer hello brother - re hit and run - same thing happened to me - the guy later confessed he stalked hit me with his car from behind then savagely assaulted my body. Meguro police omitted this in their report to prosecutor I learned months later

Hmm. starting to see a pattern. In my case the guy said he never saw me, but interestingly, I bounced off his windshield, and the impact was so great, his fender caved in and was rubbing his tire. No ambulance was called of course, I limped over to the Koban, was told to sit down and wait. guy was found and later he gave me a "courtesy lift" to the hospital. I guess the offender can cover for the ambulance as well.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I've been stopped so many times in Osaka I've lost count! They love hassling foreign-looking people, you ask why and they say "You should always carry ID" so you're automatically a suspect for looking foreign

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Tell me another country where, while riding my bike home in the dark, a neighbourhood Koban cop standing outside his tiny booth, flags me down and points out that my bike light is getting dim. He then proceeds with the assistance of his partner, to replace the batteries in my light, and satisfied with their work, send me on my way and with a suggestion of an alternate route that would be shorter and better lit. Slow night at the Koban? Maybe, but get lost or need help anywhere in a major city and there will be a police officer somewhere within walking distance. I went back a couple of days later and gave them some extra battery packs and some snacks as a thank you. They were all smiles and of course as polite as they always are.

Indeed you are right, my friend. Japanese in general are the most civilized ethnic group you can find.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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