As of this month, Japan has become the second country in the world to fingerprint foreign visitors, a move which has caused some to question the motives given by the government. Ostensibly the fingerprinting is to protect the citizenry from terrorists, but the basic fact that Japan’s few terrorist attacks have been exclusively homegrown shoots that one down. The program caught five people in its first day who were on the government’s ‘blacklist,’ though three of those may have been caught for reasons unrelated to fingerprints.
Given some governments’ propensity for misplacing personal information, we might have reason to be worried about breaches here. In addition, Japan has a reputation for being closed off and xenophobic, something that’s certainly not helped by such luminaries as Tokyo Gov. Ishihara. As someone who’s job is to essentially show the populace that foreigners aren’t gun-toting monsters (no really – my girlfriend was shocked to hear that my family doesn’t have a gun in the house, let alone one for each of us), this puts foreigners coming to Japan on their guard. It also shows other countries that it’s OK to treat your visitors like potential criminals. Of course, coming from the country that started this all, I suppose I can’t be too critical.
As a side note, people are protesting it, but it’s not exactly easy to organize the six-monthers here to teach English and go clubbing. The Japanese government attempted this with the general populace some years ago and got taken down hard. Foreigners are easy targets. Is implicit mistrust of strangers the future of international travel?
(photo from overoften, who got it from somewhere else)