Voices | HOTLINE TO NAGATACHO

Race-based ID checks in front of families send wrong message

To the National Police Agency and the Ministry of Justice:

Do I have to be good-looking to come to Japan?

I am an Indian who has been living in Japan since 1993. My wife is an Indian — she joined me here in 1998 — and we have two children who attend an international school in Tokyo. We all have permanent resident visa status. I have my own IT consulting firm, which I established in Tokyo.

I like Japan in many ways compared with a lot of other countries. After spending so long in Japan, we feel like the country is our second home. The Japanese people are well known for their politeness and consideration for other people’s feelings.

Being such a good country, I cannot understand or accept the way Japanese police treat foreigners such as myself in public places — especially how they judge people by color and appearance. I have had several unpleasant experiences that would seem to suggest this is the case.

The most recent incident was on Nov. 10, a Sunday, when I was out with my family to attend the Nihongo Oshaberi-kai event, organized by JCA, a voluntary organization. My wife is a student in this class and she had to give a speech at the event that day.

Afterwards, when I was about to enter Sangenjaya Station with other foreigners who had attended the event, two young policemen stopped me — only me — and asked to see my residence card. It was such an embarrassing moment, because I was the only one stopped among all the foreigners. Everyone passing by stared at me.

From my perspective, I hadn’t done anything wrong, except to be of a particular color and appearance. If the police had stopped a few more foreigners and checked their cards, it would not have hurt my feelings. Because of this, my wife and kids also felt very sorry for me.

Similar incidents happened to me in the waiting halls at both Narita and Haneda airports.

On one of these occasions, I was sitting with my wife and two children in the waiting hall. There were many other foreigners around us. Some were with their families and others were businessmen. A young policeman walked through the crowd, came up to us and asked us to show our alien cards. We could not understand why only we were interrogated, particularly as we were sitting together as a family.

Japanese police should have some reason to target or suspect a person before they approach someone who is with their family. This spoiled our whole travel mood. If the police are picking on a person just because of their color and appearance, they are violating human rights and doing psychological damage.

Is this any way to treat a fellow Asian? To come to Japan, do I have to be good-looking? These kinds of incidents make me feel as if I am an ill-treated gaijin (foreigner) in this country. This gives the wrong impression to my children as well.

I respect the law, but it should be applied fairly to everyone. In public places like an airport, why can’t Japanese police implement this alien-card check at the entrance itself, for all foreigners?

If the police want to check again in the waiting hall, they should first have a valid reason to suspect a person; otherwise, I can only imagine that young Japanese policemen must enjoy inflicting psychological distress on weaker Asian communities.

SHANMUGIAH VELRAJAN
Tokyo

Send comments or submissions (addressed to local, regional or national politicians, officials or authorities) of between 500-700 words to community@japantimes.co.jp.

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