Tuesday, November 20, 2007 was the start of new Customs and Immigration procedures for arriving foreigners. Now all foreigners entering the country - except for “Special Permanent Residents,” which means Koreans and the families of Koreans who were brought to Japan as slave labor during the colonial period (1910-1945) - must submit to fingerprinting and photographing upon entering the country - so-called “biometric data.” We are told that we must “provide” fingerprints, which is a euphemism for submitting to having our fingerprints (and photographs) taken - a significant difference, I think. (Japanese are disposed to euphemisms which escape their notice. But in this case I wish they would notice how“take” is twisted into “provide.”) It is a blanket measure covering all tourists as well as all legal, registered, visa-holding residents like me. Fingerprinting foreigners used to be a standard practice when we registered as resident aliens. (If you live in the country for more than 6-months you are no longer a tourist, but a resident.) But after decades of lobbying what had for a long time been widely condemned as a humiliating, discriminatory practice by the Korean Residents Association the fingerprinting rules were finally dropped around 1997. But the law that came into effect in November was a response to the terrorist attacks in America, hailed by conservatives as part of Japan’s internationally cooperative efforts to fight global terrorism, plus it satisfies the conservative dream of reinstating the old procedures for monitoring and controlling foreigners in the country.
The media and politicians keep talking about “fighting international terrorism” and improving “national security.” The problem is that it’s all a lie. As in America, the terrorism problem is not so much a matter of dangerous illegal immigration as it is a domestic law enforcement issue. In America the terrorists who hijacked planes and crashed them into the World TradeCenter in New York and into the Pentagon were all legal immigrants from allied countries - Saudi Arabiaand Egypt. There were no Afghans or Iraqis or Taliban involved, and no illegals. In Japan the only perpetrators of terrorism have been Japanese themselves - groups like the violent Nippon Sekigun (Japanese Red Army), the Aum Shinrikyo religious cult, the yakuza (mafia), political ultra-rightists (loosely associated with the yakuza), and others (including the police force itself, in my opinion).
I don’t see that fingerprinting and photographing me before the fact will do anything to deter me from committing a crime if the whim to do so grabs me. And if the idea is that it will identify and deter criminals from entering the country in the first place then it is a justification with less credibility since the Japanese themselves are the major perpetrators of crime in Japan. But there is an enduring myth here about the foreign criminal, or the dangerous outsider, like enduring myths in the West about the clever, covetous Jew or the lazy, criminally inclined Negro, or the hard-working, efficient German.
Politics, the media and the public are awash in mistaken notions about foreign crime, the relationship between terrorism and foreigners, and the role, the intention, and the efficacy of fingerprinting us. Listening to Japanese talk on these issues is like listening to a cascade of hogwash - maybe useful if agriculture is my line of work. But it isn’t. Japanis equally awash in a plethora of weird domestic religious sects which defy the Western imagination and constitute a more imminent threat of crime and terror in this country.
My point is that it seems uncannily easy to brainwash Japanese. People are naturally gullible because they want to believe something as well as believe in something, and they will believe anything at all if it sounds convincing (which is easy enough). Why do Japanese have a weakness in this regard? Japanese culture has a long history of importing and adapting foreign ideas and technology. But it seems they do so insufficiently. Stuck with an unfortunate language filled with vague “aimai” expressions they lack the ability to critically analyze things and then logically espouse their own ideas.
Rhetoric here amounts to unembellished repetition of a single point (an antique cultural import from China, I suspect). Just listen to political candidates campaigning. Completely void of substantive ideas they simply shout their names repeatedly. Listen to a Japanese person trying to debate a point - whaling, fingerprinting foreigners, pressing for sanctions against North Korea, etc. They start by stating their conclusion and then repeat it again and again without offering a logical progression of sound points to fill out the argument leading to the conclusion that they started with in the first place. That is why Japan has a reputation in the world that courtesy prevents me from describing.
Oh, what the heck, I’m not that courteous. Japanese are known - among other things - for their moral obtuseness.
Of course, the media brainwash Westerners as well. Look at America today and the wars in Afghanistanand Iraq. I think that the American public was easily brainwashed because the 9/11 terrorist attacks drove them out of their heads and they were temporarily not in their proper minds. But a Japanese in his proper mind is always the highly suggestive type.
But I could be wrong.