Emerging with arrivals at Narita Airport earlier this month for a welcome breath of fresh air, I was approached by a police officer (riot police was his description) and asked to show my passport or alien card. He was exceedingly polite and looked quite sweet wearing a surgical mask and a Band-Aid on his nose. Having produced my passport, I patiently explained that I had just been fingerprinted and photographed and had had my passport stamped at Immigration, and had again shown my passport at Customs.

What, I asked, was the purpose of a further check not 10 minutes later? The apologetic answer (after he discovered that I lived and worked here) was the threat of terrorism and preparations for the Group of Eight Summit (July).

Unlike Peter Stevenson (“Think before charging racism,” March 13 letter), I do not think it is “shrill hysteria” to complain about the collection of biometric data from foreign residents on re-entering Japan. With paid-for re-entry visas, we have no less a right to return than Japanese nationals, but the fact that we are fingerprinted and they are not is discriminatory treatment, pure and simple.

But what of the friendly riot cop whose task it is to collect passport numbers from jet-lagged travelers? His assumption, and presumably that of his superiors, is that anyone who does not have the stereotypical appearance of Japanese is a potential terrorist or a protester plotting violence at G8. However reasonable and polite he may be, making prejudicial assumptions about people based on their ethnic appearance is not simply discrimination; it is racist. The supposed homogeneity of Japan is not an excuse for such profiling, which insults both foreign residents and “foreign-looking” naturalized Japanese citizens.

nick wood