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Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2004

LIFELINES

Cop capers, sailing and tattoos

More police capers

Ian writes in to share some unpleasant experiences he has had with the police here, and wonders if any readers have had similar problems.

Ian writes: I was studying in Tokyo for a semester. During my stay I had been stopped by police officers five times in only three months.

The first time I was pulled over by a policeman who wanted to check the bicycle's registration.

The second time I was stopped was coming home after school one night. I had neglected to put my light on on my bicycle and the officer standing outside the koban stopped me. He checked the bike's registration, then asked me to step into the koban where he and three other officers questioned me in Japanese for nearly an hour.

The issue was the bicycle was not registered in my name but was registered to the host family I was staying with. After explaining the discrepancy they allowed me to go.

Two days later I was stopped again.

At this point I was pretty annoyed and asked why I had been stopped. I was told there had been a number of pickpockets in the area so they were checking all foreigners' registration.

A few weeks later I was stopped again. This time the officer saw me riding my bike past the koban one morning.

On a later trip to Japan I was again stopped by the police to have my passport checked -- by an officer I'd spoken to at the koban earlier that day!

I wonder if this type of profiling is common in Japan as I know in the U.S. racial profiling is illegal?

(For more information on this topic, and a rundown of exactly what your rights are when stopped by the police in Japan, see www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20040727zg.htm )

Power Squadron

Tony Whitman, of the Tokyo Sail and Power Squadron, has written in in response to John, who was trying to to find out whether the Tokyo Power Squadron is still in existence.

John, and anyone else interested can get all the information they need from the group's Web site at www.tspsjapan.org

Tattoos

Reader A. is furious at the behavior of his local gym over the issue of his tattoo. Have any other readers been treated shabbily, and unfairly, because of tattoos?

A. writes: I'm a foreigner living in Sapporo. I'm a member of a local sports club. I've been a member there for a year now and have never had a problem. Recently, however, I was pulled aside and told another member complained and that they were going to revoke my membership due to my tattoo.

While my tattoo is very small, a cross on my upper back, the tattoos I've seen on Japanese members have been much larger and more ornate, including Buddhas and carp.

Furthermore, several of the employees at the gym knew that I had a tattoo and have never mentioned that it might be a problem. I'm curious as to what legal options might be available to me.

Send your queries, questions, problems and posers to: lifelines@japantimes.co.jp


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