An interesting FRANCA Japan meeting

I went to a meeting of the Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association (FRANCA) of Japan tonight—three hours.

It was pretty interesting. I am an alumnus of several Nambu quarterly meetings, and I say alumnus because those were quite a test of endurance. In those instances, I usually left feeling like I would never have those three hours of my life again. But the FRANCA was a little different.

Arudou Debito is the “daihyou riji” of the organization, so I went at his invite. The things he organizes are almost always very serious, so I presume this is no exception. He is in town to meet with the UN representative for migrant issues, and so that prompted the FRANCA meeting.

I have to be really honest: I am generally skeptical of foreigner groups. Almost always the people who join have a personal agenda, and they want other people to devote time and resources to their personal agenda. And it wouldn’t be so bad if weren’t so crystal clear this is what they are doing, and so just come out and say it.

In other circumstances, it attracts people who like to hear themselves talk. Those kind, you know? And so, you end up spending several hours listening to someone who likes to hear themselves talk. How worthwhile is that?

I mean, if it’s somebody who can do something for you, and you listen to them go for a while, and then they can do something for you, that is one thing. But if it’s somebody who goes on-and-on, and they really can’t do much more for anyone in life except that they are a motormouth, well, then you get that existentialist crisis. You feel like God or whoever put you here gave you those couple hours to have, and you just wasted them for nothing. Like I say, I have had this happen to me in Tokyo, and of course back in America.

So it will be interesting to see how FRANCA goes. Some of the issues being put forth are obviously serious shit. Like divorced parents who don’t get to see their little boy or girl, because of Japan’s cruel rules about single custody. But then there’s bullshit about how people don’t like to be fingerprinted. Hey, I took the New Jersey and Pennsylvania bar exam (fingerprints), sat for and passed the CPA in New Jersey (again, fingerprints), worked for four different financial institutions (requiring, ehem, guess what?) and have gone through Narita under the new system requiring those very same fingerprints.

I hear people bitching about fingerprints and I go blank. We’re leaving them everywhere we go. If some administrator is collecting them, I don’t know what to say. As long as they don’t use them for a bad purpose, they are a part of my identity. If I have to show I am me, how else do I do it?

The same deal with the Alien Registration Card. How else (other than a passport) do I show that I am me? Granted, getting hit with a $2,000 fine if I forget the thing is an issue. But having or not having one, well, how do you show in a foreign country that you are you? How?

For me, as readers here know, it’s about whether the normal rules of Japan are being applied equally to Japanese and non-Japanese. Law really only works when its coverage is over everybody. Otherwise it’s just a system of privilege.

So I have to see how FRANCA goes. I didn’t join tonight, and I didn’t do much than attend the event (even though my eyes were killing me for some reason). But if the people build it up locally, and it involves general issues, and I’m around, then I’ll join it.

6 thoughts on “An interesting FRANCA Japan meeting

  1. Hi Hoofin!
    I was in that meeting too, sitting near you. 🙂

    Nice to hear a different opinion.
    But for the record, I want to clarify why me and many attendees are so anti-fingerprints: the problem is not the fingerprinting per se, it’s the reason.

    In your native US you take your fingerprints for an exam and many others; in my native Spain all citizens and foreigners are fingerprinted for the ID. But here in Japan, who do they fingerprint? Only criminals.

    Oh, and foreigners since Nov. 2007.

    So fingerprinting is the result of being considered a threat. As it is officially anounced by the J government (prevention of “international crime and terrorism”).

    I’m sure you’ll have a lot to say since the US started collecting fingeprints for the US Visit program before Japan, but the two countries don’t have the same needs.

    The US has been involved in a number of wars in the last few years (I’m not judging) and above all suffered a devastating domestic terrorist attack in 2001. Not that I justify all the paranoia with terrorism, but still it happened.

    In contrast, the two biggest terror threats in Japan’s history have been caused by Japanese: the Japan Red Army and Aum-Shinrikyo (the sarin gas in Kasumigaseki station in 1995).

    Whew, this got long! I guess I’m the kind of people that like to hear their voice. 🙂
    So just to set this straight: I’m against being considered a threat just because of my nationality, especially when it doesn’t reflect reality, like in this case.

  2. Jair, your opinion is completely valid, and it’s not like you’re the only one with it. Many expats here feel this way.

    For me, it’s not a big issue. I am leaving my fingerprints all over Japan. As long as the government doesn’t use them for a bad purpose, they can have them.

    People point to the 9/11 movement in America, but I think the fingerprinting here went back decades before that.

    What I have found is that the “troubles”, when they do happen, are in the time between the fingerprints being left at Narita. (That is, normal day-to-day life in Japan.) People who aren’t focused on the time in between make me wonder how well they have it here, actually. (They just don’t like being given a hassle at the airport, but otherwise are living like princes.)

    Yes, if you recognize the style of shoes you know I was there. Except those are the 923’s and New Balance is up to 927.

  3. Was I at that meeting? As one of those Americans that has been fingerprinted countless times (public schools, investment banks, intelligence agencies), I was also one of those that presented the unpopular opinion of “what’s the big deal? They should fingerprint everybody.”

    Jair: technically speaking, Japanese does not fingerprint “only criminals”. Many ATM cards and machines have biometric options, as well as the express automated immigration gates at the airports. There are many other examples as well.

      1. Ha! I never made the connection!

        You don’t look like your Facebook photo… 🙂

        Continuing: not sure what happened on Nov 2007, but I was fingerprinted when I first arrived in Japan in 1992. And back then, they had a useless single print on the ARCard.

        1. If you age-enhance it by 5 years, that should be me.

          I was fingerprinted when I worked as a bank teller at age 16. Again, at age 18. I sat for the Pennsylvania and New Jersey bars, and needed some then. Again. When I worked for a trust company, at 32.

          When I came back from Sydney two years ago, the regular Japanese had a long line. I had a line of zero, except I had to do the finger print routine. I was at the baggage area well ahead of everyone else.

          Government can identify me. As you say, Eido, they have many other ways. This fingerprinting is almost a feel-good measure. I am much more concerned with what the government does with the data, than whether they collect it.

          I just remember an interesting fellow who was going on-and-on. He was on the left side of the room. He kept making a big deal about the Narita finger prints; and also kept dropping hints that he was a long-time gaijin with connections. And it just turned me off, because I kept thinking that if the finger printing is the worst headache this guy has in Japan, he has it really good. How about being ripped off in job situations? How about being ripped off on housing? “Hey, you want fingerprints? Fine. Fix the other crap.”

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