3 things you should keep in mind

How to request background investigation in Japan

There are a couple of major issues. Western clients will often face in the background investigation in Japan. You must be aware of these before requesting background investigation in Japan. Due to the bellow mentioned issues, background investigations in Japan are more challenging and cost consuming than most other countries.

Provide subject’s name in the Japanese character

Often the case, overseas clients can not provide subject’s name in the Japanese character. This is a huge disadvantage regarding the background investigation. Japanese name in the Alphabet typically produces around 20 combinations of the Japanese characters. In some cases, we can’t tell which is which in the results of searches unless we know the correct Kanji or Hiragana of the name.

Ask if it’s a public record in Japan

Almost all the government records about personal information are strictly confidential. Only the exception is the real estate registry records and company registry records. For example, criminal records and litigation records in the court databases are not searchable from the name in Japan. A police officer can get access to the criminal database, and if you happen to know a corrupted police officer, you may be able to get it. But are you willing to violate the local laws for your due diligence purpose? Perhaps, you should better limit your investigation within the field where you don’t break any laws.

Ask if ordinary Japanese talk frankly to the strangers

Japanese nationals, in general, do not speak to the strangers openly. Regarding business, people get to know each other through a referral from the mutual acquaintance. Therefore, inquiries (source interviews) are harder than in the society where people speak each other more frankly.

Typical Background Investigation

We will explain the particular source situation in this table.

Item Sources
Personal Information Address History, Marriage status and Family members are registered on Juminhyo residence records and Koseki family registry records in Japan. But they are strictly condfidential. We need to have a legal purose to obtain those records. Usually, it’s imposible to obtain them for a mearly due diligence or empoyment screening purposes.
Professional History Education records are confidential in Japan. Japanese universities can not disclose any personal information without a signed release form the subject due to the privacy laws. And most of the companies do not anser the questions regarding the past enrollment of the former employees.
Financial Status Bankruptcy search is available in the database of National Gazette. However, the records list only the full name and the address of the person filed bankruptcy. Therefore, we need to have an address history information to run a perfect search.
Sieger records are listed on the real estate property records at the Legal Bureau. But we need to know the residence address of the subject first.
News Media/Internet There is no problem in searching news media archives. However, sometimes, media is biased by the commercial interests. News medias may not cover a scandal of a company that is the primary sponsor of their advertisements. And other times, they don’t cover the scandal or criminal incidents because they are simply busy covering something more serious. Scandals and tip-offs are often covered by 2CH or Japanese textboard.
Assets Name based search is not available in the real estate registry database at the Legal Bureau.
Ownership search from a name for bank accounts, real estate properties, vehicles, aircraft, and watercrafts are not possible from the public records. We need to get a court order or a subpoena from the Bar Association to get a disclosure form the each bureau. However, we can search real estate properties in our proprietary database which covers around 30% of entire properties in Japan.
Shareholders information is searchable if the subject owns more than 5% of shares on the publicly traded companies in Japan.
Criminal/Civil Records Court records are confidential except supreme court records in Japan. We have to rely on news media search for the information.
Business Interest Individual name search is not available in the company registry records database at the Legal Bureau. So it is not possible to run a complete search for the directorship from the name. However, a name-based search is available in proprietary databases such as TSR (Tokyo Shoko Research) or the company credit reporting agencies.
Regulatory Records It is mostly available in the website or the particular ministry of the regulated industry. However, disciplinary orders are mainly not posed to the individuals but the companies. It is relatively rare for an individual to operate a regulated business as an individual. Moreover, disciplinary orders are applied only to those who retain the license or permission from the government.
Human Intelligence In general, Japanese business network is based on the closed communities composed of mutual acquaintances. And reputation intelligence is considered to be a part of the personal information which must be protected under the APPI (Act on Protection of Personal Information) in Japan. So, we will make greater efforts to make someone talk about the subject than other countries.

Fishy confidenrtial sources before 2012

There used to be various confidential sources inside the public or private offices including city halls, social insurance bureau, motor vehicle bureau, credit reporting agencies, FSA, police, cell phone companies, etc. before 2012. But after
the series of crackdowns against PI sources (more than 40 rats or
pretexters indicted) in 2012 and 2013, Japanese PIs lost almost all
the sources (those like TLO, Tracers Info, etc. in the US). Those confidential sources had been socially accepted, and they had been operating in the gray zone.

What trigļ½‡ered deadly attacks against sources

The crackdowns began due to two incidents:

  1. Yakuza (Japanese Mafia) members extorted a teenage daughter of a police investigator after obtaining household information through a PI agency in 2011.
  2. A stalker murdered his ex-girlfriend after locating her address through a PI agency in 2012. The victim repeatedly filed criminal reports to the local police. But the police never responded properly
    due to the flaws of restraining order system in Japan. Therefore, all the social criticism and the wrath of police targeted PI industry.