Comparing the UK and Japan’s Fingerprinting Plans

There’s an awful lot of talk, and rightly so, about Japan’s implementation of biometric fingerprinting at international airports this month. As I understand it, any foreigner over the age of 16 who doesn’t have diplomatic status or a “special” permanent residency visa will be photographed and fingerprinted on entry to the country.

Here’s a poster and more official information on the new entry procedures.

Fingerprinting to start in Japan

Foreigners outraged by new security measures

First, any permanent resident who thinks they are free of these new security measures should read the above again. Only “special” permanent residents are exempt, so green card holders such as this very angry 40-year-old mother of two Japanese citizens, must still line up with the other suspected terrorists.

Permanent foreign residents can’t be trusted

Why do I say suspected terrorists? Because that is who the immigration officials are looking for. As you pass through border control, they run your fingerprints against an international database of criminals and terrorists, and either detain or deport you if they find a match. If you weren’t a suspect, you would be allowed into Japan, just like the “trustworthy” diplomats and “special” permanent residents. 

No fingerprinting for Japanese citizens

It goes without saying that Japanese citizens are also exempt from this very expensive means of preventing terror, despite them being solely responsible for all previous acts of terrorism in Japan (i.e. the Tokyo subway sarin attack and the bombings of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and the Hokkaido Prefectural Government office).  

Who is on the international list of criminals and terrorists?

One of my concerns is who exactly is on this list of criminals and terrorists? They must mean suspected criminals or terrorists. I mean, if they had already been proven guilty and charged for their crimes, then they would either be behind bars or have finished serving their time, not galavanting around the world on a fake passport. Under what conditions do these people get on the list? It seems political activists qualify and are no longer allowed to fly, and now there are more than 755,000 names on the US terrorist watch list.

Comparison with a real terror target – The U.K

The United Kingdom has been the victim of countless terrorist attacks in the past. The Provisional IRA were responsible for a series of fatal attacks between 1969 and 1997, including the 1984 Brighton hotel bombing, in which the IRA tried to assassinate British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. More recently, four radical Islamic suicide bombers killed 52 commuters and injured 700 when bombs exploded on trains and buses on July 7th, 2005. Incredibly, the bombings took place at the exact same times and places that 1,000 anti-terrorist officers were conducting terrorism drills [Source: ITV interview on YouTube]. 

British citizens are consumed by terrorism propaganda

Concerns over terrorism seem to be at an all time high in the U.K. Far more so than during the IRA’s terror campaign last century. These days, racial tensions and finger pointing, coupled with on going coverage of the “War on Terror” have made British citizens paranoid. At least that’s the impression I get from reading some of the 130 pages of comments on BBC’s Have Your Say.

I remember the days during the threat of the IRA when we were told by our Government to carry on regardless and to get on with our lives – and we did just that. In these new days of the Islamic threat, the Government have allowed the terrorists to win by curtailing our civil liberties and forcing us to do anything but carry on regardless.

Should the Brits be afraid? Well the Terror Alert website has the current threat warning level at “Severe”, and that would make me paranoid, too.

UK Terror Threat Level

Biometric fingerprinting at U.K. airports

Despite a terror threat far greater than that of Japan, the U.K has only just begun a trial period of biometric fingerprinting. The trial is underway at London’s Gatwick airport, and is being used to confirm that the foreigner entering the country is the same person who applied for a visa in his or her own country. The trial is also limited to visitors from Sierra Leone. reports:

A Home Office spokeswoman explained that Sierra Leone was chosen because the main flight into Gatwick from the country arrives at a quiet time with a low number of passengers. This makes it logistically easier for immigration staff to trial the tech. In addition, citizens of Sierra Leone require visas to enter the UK.

The article goes on to say that fingerprinting is being used to “stamp out multiple visa applications and identity fraud”. It also says that:

The Border and Immigration Agency is aiming to use biometric measures for all non-visa nationals arriving from outside the European Economic Area by 2011.

Here’s a video of the U.K fingerprinting trial (Reuters link):


If the U.K, a country with a “severe terror threat” level, and victim of an attack during the current “War on Terror”, is only planning to fingerprint visa applicants from outside the EU, why is Japan launching this all-foreigner policy when it has never been victim of a foreign terrorist attack? I can only assume it is copying the United States, which added green card holders to its own fingerprinting program last year. Clearly, the number of permanent foreign residents is too small to make any protest heard, and the Japanese have been misled by their media to believe that foreigners are the root cause of all crime in this country, so we won’t be getting any support from them.

Further reading

The Japan Times has two good articles about the new anti-terrorism measures in Japan, one for fingerprinting and one against fingerprinting. Fellow Kakamigahara blogger, Jason, wrote in favor of fingerprinting, whereas the Australian wife of a Japanese man outright refuses to return to Japan, ever again! Japanese TV celebrity Kazutomo Miyamoto prasied the system, hoping it will reduce foreign crime and make Japan a safer place, while Japanese social activist Debito Arudo, is working hard to protest the new fingerprinting measures.

Addition: The crazy world of fingerprints

If you were a criminal or terrorist needing to get into Japan, all you would need to do is to Google “fake fingerprints”, click any result and follow the simple steps to faking a fingerprint. If this really works, it makes a mockery of the whole fingerprinting issue.

If you like, you can find me on Twitter at @nick_ramsay. I'd love to hear from you!

11 thoughts on “Comparing the UK and Japan’s Fingerprinting Plans

    1. Thanks for the information. From your second link:

      The timetable

      2007 Biometric visas issued at 150 posts abroad; new passport readers at key airports; tenders invited for first phase of ID databases.

      2008 Fingerprints and photos taken of all foreign nationals applying for visas: compulsory biometric ID cards for foreign nationals living, working or studying in the UK.

      2009 Fingerprinting for ID cards starts and first Icards issued to British citizens; electronic background checks on 120m passengers (60%) before they travel to Britain; UK employers start online identity checks of foreign staff.

      2010 Electronic background checks on 190 million travellers (95%) coming to Britain.

      2011? Parliament votes on making ID cards compulsory for all British residents plus all foreign nationals living in Britain.

      So it seems fingerprinting is inevitable, regardless of public opinion. There is a huge difference here, though. The UK government is planning to fingerprint all its citizens. I wonder how many years will pass before all Japanese citizens are fingerprinted? Hmm… I wonder.

  1. AAAAAAAAAAh I have just spent two hours researching this “Utter B#llsh#t” in regards to finger printing and taking your photograph to ensure you have not suddenly turned to the bloody darkside and become Osama Bin Laden’s toy boy, sex friend, or his new extended finger of EVIL!!!!

    Aaaaah Nick I was so pissed off that I wanted to vent on your site and was blown away that you had an article on it!! To those in favour of finger printing, that is your opinion and I do understand steps need to be taken in regards to the terrrible sleepless nights all Japanese have about the impending arrival of thousands or terrorists!!!!

    I’m angry because I have constantly seen blatent disregard for the law from the bloody natives here yet us dirty, dangerous and border-line terrorists are the ones to blame for everything wrong with this country!!!

    Aah Nick if you want to can this post, I fully understand!!!

    I know there are people in this world way way way way worse off than me and injustices are everywhere but mmmmmm I just want to feel sorry for myself today!! 12 years in this country and I’m still treated like shit by this Government, banks and immigration. I pay more taxes than the average person and employ quite a few Japanese nationals and mmmmm just does seem to be a real smack in the face to me when I suddenly have to be finger-bloody-printed and photo-####ing-graphed!!!

    Geez they have already done that so many times and mmm if it makes them feel more superior, I guess I have to play along!!! My wife was shocked as were my staff and when I say that regular Japanese people outside of banks and goverment are truly lovely people, I really mean that but, as for those bastards running the country mmmmm another story to be told!!!

    I am sorry in advance if i have offended anyone!!

    Did write this in anger!!!!

    1. This is MY blog, and you’re welcome to vent on it, Keith. I’m getting more and more outraged by this blatant act of discrimination by the day….geez…. I must refrain from saying anymore!

      1. Thanks mate!!
        I really feel strongly about this and the thought of sunddenly having to prove I’m not a bloody terrorist in a country that I have lived in for 12 years does make me sick.
        I understand to a certain extent that security measures need to be in place but the double standards in this country really make me sick to the bloody teeth.
        I could go on and on but unfortunately, it usually falls on deaf ears and this corrupt government and sickingly foolish so-called politicians need to realise that discrimination to us gaijin will be the death of their country.
        I once felt part of this country and now can sadly only say that my wife is my country and to hell with those bastards that want to treat us with contempt!!!

        1. Even though most Japanese are oblivious to these new laws, I’m starting to feel unwelcome now. It’s also very hard to talk about it with most Japanese people because they haven’t been fed the details, and honestly believe it will protect Japan. If you try and convince them otherwise, they just see it as Japan-bashing and probably think you should just “go home” if you don’t like it. Very frustrating. Meanwhile, for all we know, we could be denied entry for something as trivial as a parking ticket.

  2. The UK government has just “lost” 25 million child benefit records, confirming suspicions that no government should be trusted. Why would the Japanese government fair any better? We already know how corrupt Japanese politicians and police are – there’s a scandal everyday in the news!

    I wouldn’t give a police officer my bank PIN because he’d probably steal my money. In fact, anyone would agree that you shouldn’t give out your bank details. Likewise, fingerprinting raises the issue of identity theft, and it would be just as easy for some corrupt politican, immigration officer, or even computer hacker to get their hands on your “identity” at some point during the 70 years your fingerprints will remain on file, that is of course if all the fingerprint records and matching photos aren’t “lost” first.

    1. I could not agree more with the above post Nick and did see the article about what happened in the UK!!
      I’m currently on another issue in regards to bloody “Nenkin” or commonly know as superannuation (Retirement funds). I have been paying into it for around 10 years and have been doing research on what I would likely get back once I turn 65. (Haa anyone that knows me also knows that it is highly unlikely that I will live that long anyway!!)
      It turns out that the wasteful government will not have the funds to pay people at that time but still we have to pay it!! I have the responsibility to look after my wife and have now realised that all the money I have paid into it has been a bloody waste.
      For the government to turn around and say this, is truly appalling due to the way they use taxes now. I just saw an article on how the d#ckheads are given 2 billion dollars to help clean up pollution is Asia and would have thought that if they can do that, then they certainly could top up retirement funds!!
      Japanese business has the thought process that if a company is on the rocks financially, then they must spend money on creating a false image that they are solvent. This according to them is a way to get new business trust from clients who mistakenly think the company is going great and can be trusted.
      I have seen this first-hand many times and now feel the Japanese goverment is doing the same. They are so God-Dam concerned with their image of being a wealthy nation, that they forget their own people and only worry about what is at hand at the time!!
      This sounds like Japanese bashing and mmm well it is and I feel I have a certain right considering how much of my own money has gone into their coffers!! (120.000.00 dollars to be exact and not including the ridiculous taxes that i pay as an employer!!)
      Aaaah I know I sound like a whinger and I’m truly aware of the World’s problems but mmmmm I really am sick of dumb arse liars who spread b#llsh#t to their own people!!
      I do love many aspects of Japan and have wonderful friends here and just wish my voice of concern had the chance to find the right ears!!!!!!!!!!! (Extremely wishful thinking!!)

  3. I just love the fact that every single act of terrorism carried out in Japan, was committed by a Japanese! It’s sad how people are just giving in and becoming afraid of everything… Terrorism could happen but the chances are so low… it’s all just blown way out of proportion..I wonder how much it’s costing to setup all these programs…. probably astronomical…

    1. Probably, yes. And to think that the money I pay in tax is being used for a system that might one day keep me out of the country!

      Interestingly, it seems the winning bid to implement the whole system was just 100,000 yen! That’s less that $1,000, folks! Details here at

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