Even Izumi Mori complained! Is “border control” safe? The Digital Agency’s immigration service is a piece of work….
Corona-infected people also go through! Quarantine” procedures upon returning to Japan are too lousy!
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, countries around the world have been implementing DX in a wide range of areas, partly for the purpose of preventing “three-way smuggling. This also applies to entry rules and entry/exit systems in various countries.
Meanwhile, in Japan, the Digital Agency’s “Visit Japan Web” is currently available for immigration services. In addition to the existing “immigration” and “customs declaration,” “quarantine (fast track)” will be available from November 1, 2022. The entire country is appealing that a series of immigration procedures can be smoothly completed by pre-registering on the Web and simply “showing” the screen of a smartphone at the airport.
However, immediately after the launch of the service, people who have actually used the service have been very negative about it. What? This is digitalization? Japan is out of date, and what it does is too clunky.
The online service for immigration procedures has arrived with much anticipation, but… it is only a formality of DXing.
The “Visit Japan Web” service requires users to first create an account and log in. Then, “user information,” “travel schedule,” and “necessary procedure information” are registered before entering (leaving) Japan. The QR code displayed on the smartphone screen is then presented during immigration procedures upon arrival in (or departure from) Japan.
The fact that the previously separate “quarantine,” “immigration,” and “customs declarations” can now be done all together, and on the Web, is quite a breakthrough.
What is your health condition just before traveling to Japan? Physical condition information” can be registered even more than a month in advance.
The most important item in the quarantine process is probably the “physical condition information” section of the quarantine system, which is required when the number of visitors to Japan increases. In the case of “Visit Japan Web,” quarantine can be registered at any time in advance. For example, even if you register more than one month in advance, the “blue” screen will appear once the advance procedures are completed.
In the case of Korea’s Q-CODE quarantine system, health declarations can be made three days prior to arrival. Singapore also allows online submission of the “SG Arrival Card/Health Declaration Form” on the Immigration website three days prior to arrival. Isn’t it important to declare one’s health condition immediately prior to travel to Japan?
The “Visit Japan Web” is currently not available at all airports in Japan. Moreover, it is not “mandatory” and the traditional “paper” application is still available. If new cases of infectious diseases were to occur, it would be necessary to use human resources to search for and locate the person in question from the vast amount of paperwork. Half-hearted digitization will eventually take time and effort.
For example, countries around the world, including the U.S. Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), manage entry information digitally, and if something goes wrong, the data can be found instantly. Korea’s “K-ETA” (Korea Electronic Travel Authorization System) began on a trial basis on May 3, 2021, and is now mandatory. When it’s mandatory, you can’t even board a plane unless you’ve already pre-registered.
A large number of staff members visually check your passport upon arrival…even if it is a screen shot of someone else’s passport!
The number of cases where passengers are not allowed to leave the plane immediately upon their return to Japan, and are forced to wait in the cabin for a while, has increased due to the new COVID-19 crisis. And when they finally do get off the plane, they find a large number of staff and “people” waiting for them at the immigration checkpoint.
The staff members were now calling out to the passengers, “Please show me your Fast Track! and if the smartphone screen is blue, a pink piece of paper is handed to the passenger. The pink paper is actually a marker for the “visual” check by the staff.
After passing through the quarantine booth, you will arrive at the immigration checkpoint, where you will realize, “Oh, no, they don’t read the QR code for quarantine? You will notice that the QR code is not readable. Come to think of it, there is no machine to read the QR code. After all, the QR code was only checked “visually” by the staff. In other words, even if you show someone else’s screen shot, they won’t notice it.
Passports being read repeatedly…contradiction of “empty rows of paper
Finally, there’s customs. For many years, it has been the practice to fill out a customs declaration paper distributed on board and submit it to the customs staff. With “Visit Japan Web,” customs declaration forms can be pre-registered online, and a QR code is displayed. All you have to do is hold up the QR code. You’ll be through in no time! But then a “machine” in front of it read the QR code and my passport, and I was finally able to pass through.
After immigration, I had to register my passport again. I had already registered my passport on the “Visit Japan Web. The different authorities in each country do not work together at all.
Furthermore, when customs takes time to register with the machine, it takes a long time because of the large number of staff members who have to go through the trouble of explaining everything from scratch. It is a situation that goes against the grain of digitalization.
The “Visit Japan Web” operation manual is a PDF file, and it is 95 pages long!
The operation manual for “Visit Japan Web” is posted on the official website of the Digital Agency. It is a 95-page PDF document. Frankly speaking, anyone would be discouraged to read it.
Clicking on the table of contents takes you to that page, but you have to scroll endlessly to get back to it. If you want to see more detailed information, you are taken to another site, and when you go back, you have to start from the cover page of the first page again. It is not user-friendly at all….
Japan is not reducing the number of “people” and “paper,” and is going against the trend toward digitalization in other countries.
It is not the first time that Japan’s immigration system has lagged behind the rest of the world. In particular, the new COVID-19 crisis has clearly revealed the old “bureaucratic” nature of the system.
For example, it is still fresh in our minds that the Japanese people were forced to submit a “paper form” in the “format designated by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare” for a negative certificate within 72 hours prior to entry into Japan, and were given a thick booklet containing information on the quarantine period and other matters. The previous “MySOS” application did not complete the procedure within the application, but instead jumped to a browser screen in the middle of the process, and when the screen froze, the smartphone had to be restarted and the process redone.
Incidentally, the author experienced five overseas trips during the COVID-19 crisis. As a result, the reality that “we (Japan) should no longer expect our country (Japan) to be as advanced as developed countries” has become completely ingrained in me.
Nevertheless, I noticed a lot of “paper” in the beginning, and even now, I notice a lot of staff and “people” at the airport upon my arrival. However, there is still a time lag of a few minutes to a few hours from the time of application to the completion of registration, both during the “MySOS” period and at present. I would like to think that this is not true, but even if the system is digitalized, the work is still being done by the “people” inside the system. It is too sad to think that paper, people, and digitalization are all paid for by “taxpayers’ money.
Text and photographs： Shikama Aki (unless otherwise noted)