Didn't know it until this morning, but we are in the middle of a very imporant month here, so if you are a member of a group who doesn't get racially profiled much, for example a caucasian in the US, and you're feeling left out now is a good time to come to Japan. Be sure to come to Tokyo, though. I have never been stopped by the police for anything anywhere in Japan, other than that one speeding ticket. Here is a great photo of a banner proclaiming the event in the JR Shinagawa Station. It is just one of the many bits of really useful information you can find at Arudou Debito's site.
For all you teachers here in Japan who live in an area where you may be stopped, here is a reprint of some mail from Arudou on the issue. It has brief descriptions of the laws that govern stops and ID checks. Print it out and carry it with you. It has the Japanese, too, so you can just show it to the cop if you need to.
1) IF SOMEBODY ASKS FOR YOUR I.D. (namely your "Gaijin Card"):
meaning a hotelier, a video store, a JR staff member, etc., tell them
that only the police can demand it, under Foreign Registry Law
(Gaitouhou) Article 13 Clause 2:
"The Foreign Registry Law, Section 13, Clause 2. Foreigners, when
asked to show their Gaijin Cards by immigration investigation
officials (as outlined in separate laws), police, coast guard, or any
other national or local public official or group empowered by the
Ministry of Justice as part of the execution of their duties, must
外国人登録法 第十三条 第二項 外国人は、入国審査官、入国警備官（入管
What you choose to show as I.D. is your decision. But some places
demand you display your passport or Gaijin Card just to receive
service. That is against the law. Next:
2) IF THE POLICE ASK FOR YOUR I.D.:
ask why. Because, under Police Execution of Duties Law (Keisatsukan
Shokumu Shikkou Hou), Section 2:
"A police officer is able to ask for a person's ID, but only if based
on a reasonable judgment of a situation where the policeman sees some
strange conduct and some crime is being committed, or else he has
enough reason to suspect (utagau ni tariru soutou na riyuu) that a
person will commit or has committed a crime, or else it has been
acknowledged that a particular person knows a crime will be
committed. In these cases a police officer may stop a person for
警察官職務執行法 第二条 警察官は、異常な挙動その他周囲の事情から合理
Meaning that there must be a *specific crime* or *suspicion of a
crime* before questioning can occur. Just being a foreigner is
insufficient probable cause, and without a good reason a policeman's
arbitrary questions to a stranger are against the law.
3) IF THE POLICE COME UP WITH A REASON FOR DEMANDING I.D.:
such as, if you are riding a bicycle, stopping you on the suspicion
that you may have stolen it (moreover, a sapient cop will know the
Gaitouhou trumps the Shokumu Shikkou Hou here), then, as a foreign
resident you will ultimately have to show your I.D.
However, there is a check. You can also ask the cop to show his
I.D., under Gaitouhou Section 13, Clause 3:
"The Foreign Registry Law, Section 13, Clause 3. Public officials
governed by the previous clause, if asking for the Gaijin Card
outside of their workplace, must carry a certificate of their
identity and present it if asked."
外国人登録法 第十三条 第三項 前項に規定する職員は、その事務所以外の
Once displayed, I recommend you write down the cop's I.D. details (he
will do the same for you--you might as well show him how it feels).
It will provide some deterrent against a cop overstepping his
authority. (If you really want to get serious about this, audio
record the conversation, and make sure the cop sees you are doing so.)
Note that legally, the cop only has to show I.D. if he stops you on
the street, or anywhere other than the Police Box. So, to avoid
4) IF THE POLICE TRY TO TAKE YOU TO THE POLICE BOX (kouban):
they cannot do so against your will, unless they formally arrest you,
under the Shokumu Shikkou Hou Article 2, Clause 2 and 3:
Clause Two: "It is possible to ask a particular person to accompany
the [police] to a nearby police station, police branch [i.e. kouban],
or any police administration area for questioning if it is determined
that this place is unsuitable for questioning because it obstructs
traffic or is disadvantageous to the questionee."
Clause Three: "Unless there is a regulation relating to criminal
action, officials may not confine, bring back to any police
administration area, or else coerce a person to reply to questions
against his will."
警察官職務執行法 第二条 第二項 その場で前項の質問をすることが本人に
警察官職務執行法 第二条 第三項 前二項に規定する者は、刑事訴訟に関す
which means that a cop has the right to ASK you to accompany him to
the Kouban, but you have the right to REFUSE, and he has no right to
restrict your movements without a formal charge or arrest.