Fingerprints for all foreign visitors to Japan

Follow the lead of the US, Japan has also implemented a system of taking fingerprints for all foreign visitors as they enter the country. The new law will come into effect November 2007.

The ironic thing with all this is that Japan tried to implement a system where all Japanese citizens would be fingerprinted and the data would be encoded into IC for everybody to carry. However Japanese human rights groups obliterated the plan citing the blatant invaision of privacy and human rights. However this now appears to be an acceptable thing to do to incoming foreign visitors.

The part that has me a bit up in arms about all this is the invaision of privacy and how the “foreign visitors” are considered de-facto suspects in any crime that should arise. Additionally, there is always the possibility of there being a mistake and being wrongly detained. Worldwide there have been many cases where innocent people have been mistakenly put on crime-watch lists. Fingerprints are even fakeable (just do a quick search on Google). Finally, this kind of measure only adds to the stigma that somehow non-Japanese people have a higher propensity for commiting crimes. The prejustice that foreigners are the default suspects seems to be perpetuated by this new law.

Additionally there are 2 giant holes in putting this fingerpinting scheme in the “fighting terror”. Firstly, just about every, if not every, major terrorist attack in Japan has been commited by Japanese nationals (such as the Tokyo subway sarin attack) and secondly let’s not forget that all of the hijackers of the 9/11 attacks were all in the United States legally and not on any criminal-watch lists.

Link to official video from the immigration authorities (The video is in English)

The video is quite poorly done. But it emphasizes that it is for “a safe visit” for those entering Japan meaning a safe Japan is safer for her visitors as well. However, if this were really the motive of the japanese government, wouldn’t they fingerprint everyone coming into the country, including returning Japanese nationals? Why is the rule not the same for everybody? Its not that I don’t necessarily mind having my photo and fingerprints taken, its the obvious double-standard and discriminatory nature that makes this law just plain wrong.

Day 5 : Koichi -> Shimanto River

Original Date : May 2nd, 2007
Distance Travelled : 140km

Starting at the camp site near Koichi City, I was forced to double back a few kilometers before heading south. The main goal of the day was to ride over the mountains and into the Shimanto River valley.

Throughout the first half of the day, there was the threat of rain, though it never actually did. The climb over the mountains and into the Shimanto River valley was quite a bit harder than I was expecting and took most of the day to cover.

On of the key points along the route was the rice-paddy terraces that were near the peak of the mountain. There are referred to as sen-mai-da which means “thousand sheet field”

However, along the way there was another unnamed patty terrace that looked equally beautiful.

After a long, long descent of about 50km. I reached the campsite along the Shimanto River which was close to a pretty little town tucked into the junction of two rivers. From there I enjoyed a lovely sunset.

Depriving Oneself

Recently, I have found myself thinking of the sacrifices that I make for the “enviornment” (for lack of a better term).

As most people know, climate change is a serious problem for the world and the human influence is pretty undenaiable. The largest contributor being carbon dioxide. So, in that pretext, I try to minimize my ecological footprint as much as possible. The biggest thing that a single person can do is to reduce the amount of transportation-related fossile fuels they burn. Consequently, I refrain from flying. But sometimes I ask myself, “why?”

So many of my friends are flying around the world for 1-or-2-week vacations and are really enjoying them. I, on the other hand, cannot really justify dumping all of that pollution into the atmosphere that would result to fly myself around the world for just a few days. Recently, I have been asking myself the question : What is the point of denying myself these pleasures that so many otheres enjoy? To be honest, I don’t have an answer to that question.

It is my failure to be able to answer that question that has had me quaivering recently. Additionally, I know that since the availability of fossil fuels is at its all time peak (“Peak Oil”) starting within the next few years will start to decrease, air travel will become greatly more expensive and generally less available. So why shouldn’t I go flying around the world to my heart’s content? I have the disponsable income and the free time do to so? Since I love travelling, wouldn’t it be smarted to do all the flying around and travelling now, while airfares are still cheap.

Does not doing so make me stupid for not taking advantages of the opportunities in front of me? Or does it make me a model human being for restraining myself for the betterment of the Earth for future generations?

Day 4 : Kannoura -> Muroto Cape -> Koichi

Original Date : May 1st, 2007
Distance : 147km

When I woke up in the morning the weather was, as the weather forecast had correctly predicted, quite rainy. I decided that I would try and wait it out so I started to pack up the tent and reorganize my bag. At about 8:30 the 88-temple walker left with full rain gear. As I didn’t have raingear I was a bit worried about heading out because of the temperature. Additionally, I didn’t know how waterproof the bicycle bags were. At about 10AM I decided to just give it a shot. It wasn’t too bad at first, but about a third of the way through the rain just got stronger and stronger, I could feel the rain pelting against my back in thuds. Luckily there were almost no cars on the road.

As I approached the southernmost point of Muroto Cape the rain started to let up. After a rest, I started to continue towards Koichi. Along the way the sun finally came out and everything dried up pretty quickly.

Since I started so late, getting to Koichi Castle before it closed was quite a challenge, I had to try pretty hard most of the day to get there in time. I only took one small break in front of a historic clock along the way.

Along the way I saw a nice little shrine that was tucked into the shoreline
Continue reading Day 4 : Kannoura -> Muroto Cape -> Koichi

Day 3 : Anan – Todoroki Falls – Toyo

Travel Day : April 30th, 2007
Distance Travelled : 140km

Waking up in the morning, I knew that I had a lot of climbing ahead of me. The peak of the road would be over 1000m over sea level which is quite a feat with a heavy bicycle. However I had expected that it would be a gradually slow up since it was next to a river, but it turned out to be a two-steps-up-one-step-down kind of experience and it was throughally exhausting.

Before I left, though, I watched the sun rise. It was very beautiful.

The scenery was really nice the entire way. I really like the narrow valley with a river at the bottom. The colour of the water was beautiful as well.

I passed over the top a little after noon.

The main checkpoint for the day was Todoroki Falls and visiting these falls was the reason for travellng through the mountains. I probably could have travelled the shoreline route from Anan to Toyo in just a couple of hours instead of the full exhausting day over the mountains.

When I eventually arrived at the camp site I found out that it was over 1000yen and additionally it looked like it was about to rain so I though that somewhere that provided some shelter would be better. Luckily, just down the shore from the camp site, there was a tsunami shelter (in the case of a tsunami, you go up top) so I camped underneath it. There was another guy there who was doing the 88-temple walk on foot for aobut the same length of time as my bicycle tour.