Tweet of the Week #49: Racial Profiling For ID Check Has Twitter Fuming

Learn how to use the suffix 方 with this week's infuriating viral tweet.

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We’ve all heard the classic line “Japan is an incredibly welcoming country.” A place where everyone’s kind, polite, and eerily silent on the trains. And the crime rate? Oh! Ridiculously low! That’s in part thanks to the approximately 6,000 24-hour-staffed police boxes that cover the country in a network of uniformed protection.

Papers, please!

But does all that security come at a cost?

In Japan, walking around without identification papers on your person is technically illegal. Japanese law allows patrolling officers to stop a random person at any time to check their ID. The people they inevitably choose? Those who don’t look “Japanese.”

Even if you’ve done nothing wrong at all, if you’re caught empty-handed you could be arrested and taken straight to the police station. A couple of months back, an unlucky Indonesian tourist forgot her passport at her hotel and, while separated from her travel group, got held for several days by the police who mistook her for an illegal immigrant worker.

But I’m Japanese!

For a long time, Japanese society has entertained the myth that Japan is a homogenous homeland, free of discrimination because, well, everyone is the same.

But, in recent years, in particular, there’s been a steadily growing number of Japanese nationals of foreign descent (in addition to an increase in the number of foreign residents) that is challenging that misconception loud and clear.

Whether we choose to see it or not, discrimination exists in Japan. Among the body of evidence is how appearance-based identity control checks are conducted on the street.

Japanese nationals don’t have an ID card and they have no reason to carry their passport on them day-to-day either. But incidents like the one @zainulabaden experienced suggests that some Japanese people might have to—just to be safe.




= I’m Japanese of Pakistani origin. My nationality IS Japanese. Despite how I look, I am Japanese. I do a good job cooperating. But this way of asking from the start “Where’s your alien card?”, “Your passport?”, “If you don’t have it, we’ll have to arrest you” makes me feel bad. “Please provide a document showing your identity” is the appropriate way to ask. Yes, even with this face, I am Japanese. 

Shedding a not-so-glamorous light on identity controls in Japan, @Zainulaben’s tweet prompted people—Japanese citizens and foreign residents—to share their own experiences as well which you can read on the thread.

That’s the way to do it!

Time to learn how to use the suffix かた which expresses “the way (manner) to (perform an action)” or “how to (perform an action)”.

The construction is easy peasy, you attach to the stem of the verb, minus the ます form:

  • 履歴書りれきしょかた= way to write a resume
  • かんがかた= way of thinking
  • やりかた= way of doing
  • 使 つかかた= way of using

When the verb becomes a noun it looks like this:

  • 彼のかんがかたが面白い = his way of thinking is interesting.
  • 漢字かんじの書きかたは難しい = the way of writing kanji is difficult
  • パソコンの使 つかかたおしえてください = tell me how to use the computer


Japanese Romaji English
ぼく boku I
パキスタンけい pakisutan kei of Pakistani origin
日本人にほんじん nihonjin Japanese person
国籍こくせき kokuseki nationality
mo too
かお kao face
これでも koredemo even though it may appear like this
職質しょくしつ shokushitsu questioning (by police)
協力きょうりょくする kyouryoku suru cooperate
しかし shikashi but
最初さいしょから saisho kara from the start
在留ざいりゅうカード zairyuukaado residence card
パスポート pasupooto passport
逮捕たいほする taiho suru arrest
iu tell
かた kikikata way of asking
いや iya disagreeable
気分きぶん kibun mood, feeling
本人ほんにん確認かくにん書類しょるい honnin kakunin shorui identification document
提示ていじ teiji present, presentation
ねがいします o onegai shimasu please
適切てきせつ tekisetsu appropriate, pertinent
履歴書りれきしょ rirekisho resume
kaku write
かんがえる kangaeru think
使 つか tsukau use
かれ kare he, him
面白おもしろ omoshiroi interesting, funny
漢字かんじ kanji kanji
むずかしい muzukashii difficult
パソコン pasokon computer
おしえる oshieru teach
ください kudasai please

For more on learning Japanese

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