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Keep a picture of your residency card on your phone


Unswerving cyclist
14 Mar 2002
Excellent advice by Jake Adelstein, author of 'Tokyo Vice': always keep a photo of your residency card on your mobile phone. Just in case.

Take a picture of residency card Keep it on your phone. If you lose your wallet with your card, report it to the police and apply for a new one immediately If police try to detain you for not having card, show the photo.

I have never been checked by the police. However, detaining a foreigner who reports a lost ID sounds far-fetched, doesn't it? On the other hand, Mr Adelstein knows the NPA better than most foreign residents.
I was checked once, it was like 10 or 11pm conbini run. It was all cool but yea they do sometimes check foreigners just because.
Maybe it was because it was a military town (Fukuoka) , I only had my ID checked about twice in 2 years. The police seemed to have a hands off gaijins attitude unless we murdered someone. I had the feeling their lack of English ability made them not want to deal with us. When they raided my apartment , as soon as they figured I was military , they left real fast. All the Japanese friends I knew were terrified of the police back then (70's) and I often saw people shaking and crying when police questioned them.
Wait a minute, they raided your apartment? Yes they will check bicycles and residence cards randomly of foreigners sometimes but raiding an apartment? There has to be a story behind that.
The bar where I worked had someone always hanging out there selling drugs. Everyone working there got raided and my apartment was under my Japanese buddy's name who helped me rent it and worked at the bar. I was told when someone got arrested , they gave the name of everyone they knew or else. The other bar workers had their places torn apart looking for drugs , but mine was untouched (and drug free). I thought that was the end of it , but 2 weeks later I was called into the base police station and two Japanese agents questioned me for about 30 minutes. They heard I had been selling American cigs & booze to my Japanese friends. I explained I gave them gifts on their birthdays and did not know that was wrong. The fact I looked about 12 years old and looked like an innocent little angel , LOL ; they let me off with a warning not to do it again. They did ask about fellow workers at the bar and I raved about how great they were and I had never seen drugs there. The police did shut the bar down for 2 weeks and we used the time to redecorate it all. My job at the bar was as a bouncer. All I ever had to do was explain to military guys what the problem was when they argued. The only fighting I ever had to do was a drunk Sumo kept kicking people when they walked by. Myself and about 3 other guys tried to throw him out and he just laughed at us and left on his own after we all pounded on him for about 5 minutes.
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This is just anecdotal evidence, but I feel like residence card checking has kind of cooled off in recent years, at least in Tokyo. In the "old" days, (ten-plus years ago) I just remember it being something you'd expect to happen from time to time -- a natural "disaster" kind of like an earthquake or typhoon.

This came to a head for me during a period of time -- I want to say it was about 8 or 9 years ago -- when I had my card checked three times over the course of like six months, all in Tokyo's Suginami-ku (specifically, Asagaya and Ogikubo stations on the Chuo Line). No idea if they were on some "overstay alert" at the time, but I remember being genuinely incensed/insulted, especially because of the miserable timing of all of them -- one was when I was on my way to a friend's wedding and another when I was heading to a hot yoga class after a stressful day at work -- and because of the smug way the officers behaved during the former ("Sorry, but I'm on my way to a friend's wedding and kind of in a hurry." "Ohhhhh, well we can just have a friendly chat along the way." Yeah, **** you.)

During the third (and final time), I tried to remain calm, but really genuinely tried to express how insulting it was -- having lived here for multiple years and coming to this neighborhood every day, to be treated like a criminal (or suspicious person at best) in a public place where my yoga teacher or whoever could see me. (I also made a point to explain how hypocritical it was because an Asian-looking person could just as easily be a "foreigner" overstaying their visa, but they were ostensibly not randomly stopping them.)

Anyhow, for better or for worse, that was the last time I've ever had my card checked -- literally haven't even been approached by a cop maybe eight years running now. (Sometimes I honestly wish someone would check it now that I have permanent residency, just so I could show it to them, shake my head, and be like...really? But on second thought, nah, no I don't. ;))

I don't think for a second that my rant had anything to do with anything (though I hope it, if nothing else, gave those two officers some food for thought), but I wouldn't be surprised if somehow people at the top gradually realized that this trend of treating anyone who "looked foreign" as a potential criminal was maybe -- just maybe -- counterproductive to the Japanese government's stated goal of encouraging more tourism to/international interest in Japan.
Good point, they must have randomly stopped tourists as well and checked for their stamp in their passport. Yea that will leave a good impression.
Maybe they don't hit major tourist areas but you'd still hit them.

So no bicycle registration stops in the last 8 or 9 years either?
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