Thursday, April 17, 2008

Fingerprinting and Photographing: Japanese Immigration

Just for fun, I thought I'd throw this pic in here.

This is from our return leg to Japan (from Korea). As most people know, the new fingerprinting regime has long since been in place, and unlike other nations with similar systems in place for documenting foreign tourists, Japan likes to book all foreigners every time they enter/re-enter the country (even if they already pay taxes here).

Anyway, we were given this piece of paper after we were told to stand in the wrong line. It's intended to help them figure out how long people are standing in line. The immigration officials that are in charge or shepherding the hundreds of people coming off the planes every half hour stay on the move and try not to stand in one place for very long. It's mostly an act of self-defense as they know that everyone is angry and they are trying not to become a target for verbal abuse. One annoying side effect, at least in our case, is that they tend not to listen very well when they are walking around, so we wasted about 15 minutes in the mile-long line for tourists.

Apparently they have set up another line for people with re-entry permits (people who live and work/study in Japan) in their passports in order to expedite the process, but it was quite a challenge for us to figure out where that line was located. The immigration officials spent a lot of time escorting VIP's through gaps in the line to avoid fingerprinting/mug shot taking. Quick question: everyone knows that politicians are criminals, so shouldn't they be prime suspects for post-landing booking?

Well, we finally got ourselves in the correct line, and after a computer failure and the requisite reshuffling of the lines of people, we made it through immigration at about 2:21 pm. That's 31 minutes after we started standing in line according to the sheet of paper pictured above left. I have no idea how their system of checking waiting time works, but our case probably skewed some of their results. We undoubtedly spent less time in line than the tourists did (by my estimates they were waiting for 45-60 minutes), so if they use our 31 minute wait as evidence that the system is getting faster, then this post is evidence that they need to double-check their methods.

Endnote: when the computer was restarted after it crashed, it was just hilarious/ironic to see the Windows OS screen appear on the monitor as it rebooted.

Check this website, Re-entry Japan, for more information on this topic.

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