Japanese Gulag For Social Media Activist Michael Q.Todd Spotlights Deportation Practices

His bio reads, "I aim to connect and promote great people who will make a difference by collaborating than individually. . . and my goals are eradication of poverty and a sustainable economy by 2015." One of his fervent passions and ongoing initiatives is to help save the Taiji dolphins from captivity and slaughter. Doesn't sound like a candidate for Japan's harsh immigration-and-detention system, does it? Yet Michael Q. Todd found himself taken into custody in the Shingu Jail on September 16h for a lapsed visa. 

Michael Q. ToddMichael Q. ToddSo, were the Japanese authorities within their rights to detain him? Or was there an ulterior motive to persecute Todd for his involvement with a Canadian film crew hired to capture the dolphins' abuse in an upcoming documentary?

Should the spotlight be turned on an immigration bureau's draconian policies? Is this case a continuation of human-rights infractions that The Economist labeled back in January, 2012 as "dark, chaotic and utterly incongruous with the country's image of friendly lawfulness?" In researching Japan's history of detainment and deportation policies, much of what I uncovered shockingly appeared to be something one would expect from a 3rd world country, not an advanced society such as Japan.

Presently, a fundraiser with a $10K goal has been organized by fellow social media marketer Jackie Bigford aptly titled, "Save Michael Q Todd," and software architect Steve Healey has helped piece together a chronology of events that led up to Todd's incarceration. Current events and history collide in trying to determine if this is a case for the Japanese government or the court of public opinion?

The record as cited by The Economist highlights detainee's requests to their homeland embassies as often being denied. Christopher Johnson, a Canadian freelance journalist experienced inhumane treatment that included being harassed by guards who tried to extort money from him and even threatened him at gunpoint. He was also also required to purchase a wildly expensive ticket for his deportation, including an overt kick-back to his captors.

Abubakar Awudu SurajAbubakar Awudu SurajA Ghanaian who overstayed his visa actually died in the custody of guards during his deportation in 2010. As Abubakar Awudu Suraj was being extradited on March 22nd, he was lifted and forced onto a plane in handcuffs with a towel gagging him and knotted in the back to restrain him. An autopsy failed to determine the cause of death, yet his widow saw facial injuries when she identified the body. Three days later an Immigration Bureau official admitted: “It is a sorry thing that we have done.”

People like Todd who possess a tourist visa, but qualify for a special residency permit (SRP), designed for those who overstay their visa but wish to remain, have been denied. This video submission posted by "Gimmeaflakeman" is as entertaining as it is serious pertaining to the steps involved in converting one's tourist status to one of a resident.

Forced deportations have become more frequent and rougher, according to the Asian People's Friendship Society, a Japanese immigrant-support group. Japan's Immigration Control Centres, where many illegal residents are detained, have faced special criticism. This year alone, two detainees have committed suicide, where one has publicly complained of abuse, and 70 inmates staged a hunger strike demanding better treatment.

These stories like Todd's and others are unfortunately swept under the carpet and don't surface for public scrutiny. One such iReport has been submitted to CNN for consideration, but to date, with over 16K pageviews, CNN has not vetted the story for public consumption.

While these practices are horrendous to fathom, it's important to note that passions normally run high when anyone is considered wrongfully imprisoned for deportation.

Currently, those that joined the Facebook Group "Free Michael Q.Todd" have found varying opinions and criticisms of the case. While some find the blurring of the "save the dolphins" issue with Todd's lapsed visa predicament as a wrongful tact, others are downright critical of Todd's defiance to follow the country's immigration rules. Others see the fundraiser as a hoax or an unnecessary life raft, while others are securing the names of lawyers and embassy officials that could potentially resolve the issue.

Based on the research conducted for this blog posting, I favor the position that points to utilizing every legal means available to act and resolve these types of cases expeditiously. Without mainstream media's assistance with their vast resources to dig far deeper than I, the more the clock ticks away, the less attention will be applied to addressing the crisis at hand.

The inhumane treatment of the Taiji dolphins is a prime example of this point.  While valiant efforts over the years have been put forth by Todd and Bigford to bring this story to light, in addition to now two documentaries on the topic, the issue still needs the wide attention and acceptance of a global audience for changes to actually occur and be enforced. Hopefully Todd and the dolphins will find their resolution sooner than later.

VIDEO UPDATE (September 23, 2012):  by Yldar Hakimo who asked Todd to assist him with translations for his documentary on the ill-treatment of the Taijia Dolphins in Japan. It appears that MQ's VISA was extended properly (within the law) - however at this point in time he is still being detained by the authorities. Check back for future updates.

For more on the Taiji Dolphins and how you can help, please see my previous posts:
Taiji DolphinsTaiji Dolphins

Please sign up to get my latest updates here.

Ron Callari
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Sep 21, 2012
by Anonymous

Michael Todd

Dear Ron
I think you have done an excellent job of investigating a potentially dangerous situation for a friend of yours and mine and many other people.

I can't imagine that this entire scenario was set up just to create attention for him and his cause. Anyone who has had contact with Michael aka mqtodd over the past 3-4 years knows that his intentions to help others, wildlife and the planet are good, without going to extremes.

Anyone can make a mistake, and by the looks of it after reading your blog, he simply got caught in a no-win situation designed by the Japanese government. The measures seem quite harsh and a detained person needs an advocate to make sure they have proper treatment.

I don't know how many people it will take for him to be safely released, but we must speak up for Michael.

If you have any knowledge about who to contact or what we must do, please keep us informed.


Sep 21, 2012
by Ron Callari

Michael Todd

Debby, I would suggest aiding in the fund-raiser that Jackie Bigford has initatied. Right now, the greatest good that can be extended to MQT is financial assistance in securing him legal representation --> http://www.indiegogo.com/SaveMQTodd?a=1364970 Thanks for your interest.

Sep 21, 2012
by Anonymous


Nice Google and Adchoices ADS for IMMIGRATION companies above, along with your story. And very smooth of you to wrap it all up with, "For more on the Taiji Dolphins and how you can help, please see my previous posts:"

Sep 22, 2012
by Anonymous

Thank You

Thank you Ron for this fantastic article. We all hope mainstream media will pick up the story. I have been working on the New Zealand press. I will certianly be sending them this

Sep 22, 2012
by Anonymous

Thank you for all the

Thank you for all the information and updates on what is transpiring. Let hope things progress smoothly and Michael Todd will be released soon.

Sep 23, 2012
by Anonymous

Gaijin Gulag and C Johnson (Economist story) False Reporting

Interesting comments but I advise you to read through this about the Gaijin Gulag story you mention. The case is grossly misreported and It turns out the "journalist" has a rather unsavory reputation. To use this as a case against immigration here is not reporting the facts:


This article is a good overview of the immigration situation here and how the view taken that it is somehow a barbaric, inhumane system is rather skewed.


Whilst it is a shame he has ended up in this situation, nonetheless it isn't as though he is not at fault here. I hope it comes to an amicable end.

Sep 24, 2012
by Anonymous

Helping Michael

G'day, I'm also a friend of Michael and very sad to hear he is in immigration detention - which I know to be pretty awful in Japan. I hope someone familiar with his situation has contacted the NZ embassy to ensure he receives full consular assistance.

Sep 24, 2012
by Anonymous

"which I know to be pretty

"which I know to be pretty awful in Japan"
Compard to what?! Halas immigration system is above and beyond places like Thailand, Vietnam, China, Nigeria....I could go on and on. What experience do you have to prove that it's bad in Japan?

Seriously people, when someone is illegally staying in a country wtf do you expect?!

Sep 24, 2012
by Ron Callari

"which I know to be pretty..." & "Gaijin Gulag" reporting

Of course, everything is relative - and I'm sure there are countries whose immigration and deportation policies are much more severe than Japan -but my post details some of the horrendous conditions that exist in Japan today that I wouldn't even expect from a 3rd World country. And as far as one of my sources being marginalized as an unsavory character, I based that reference on the reputable reporting of The Economist - a publication that is well-respected by noteworthy journalists worldwide. Thanks all for your input and feedback.

Sep 24, 2012
by Anonymous

The law is the law

While MQ's supporters endeavor to portray him as a victim of an oppressive bureaucracy, Todd has only himself to blame for the situation. Knowing full well he was traveling on an expired visa, he went to an area frequented by foreigners with a history of trespassing - he should have expected to have his documents checked and been prepared for any and all consequences.

Regardless of whether Todd's cause, mission and/or activities are admirable or not, Japan's immigration laws apply to everyone and info is readily available: Todd isn't the first to be in this exact situation. There's no need to demonize the country for enforcing its own laws.

For a fair and unbiased discussion of the facts of Todd's case, the applicable Japanese immigration laws, and Todd's rights under them, check the discussion thread at Ecademy.com (http://www.ecademy.com/node.php?id=180778).

Sep 24, 2012
by Ron Callari

The law is the law

There is no dispute that the "law is the law." But that shouldn't prevent any of us from criticizing the types of laws or practices that are in place in Japan. We protest our own laws and have the right to critique others when we feel they are inhumane or unfair. Of course MQ should have been more careful in making sure his paperwork was in order - but as you feel we shouldn't demonize a country for its laws - we should demonize an individual for missing the mark unintentionally.

Sep 24, 2012
by Anonymous

"I based that reference on

"I based that reference on the reputable reporting of The Economist - a publication that is well-respected by noteworthy journalists worldwide."

Have you actually read any of the critique around that article? The Economist is a reputable mag, true, but that particular article is very far from the mark and has come under an immense amount of scruitiny. The story was exposed for exactly that.."a story", hugely distorted and closer to fiction. Similarly to this article The Economist didn't check their facts or sources with that particular story. Rather than cast wild aspertions and throw around pure speculation you would be better off redirecting your energy and appealing for help to get a man out of a pickle rather than sentionalizing the scenario.

I do hope Todd is able to rectify the situation and that somehow he can scrape out of the problems he has ended up in and is able to remain here with his family and friends, I'm sure with what will be a new respect for the system. Focus on the problem, a man who made a mistake with his visa, you might find that people don't need wrongly demonized enemies to spur them into action and they just want to help.

Sep 24, 2012
by Anonymous


He was arrested for being in the country with an expired visa.
No lawyer in the world can change his situation.

Less emotion and more reality is needed in this story.

Sep 24, 2012
by Anonymous


" we should(n't?) demonize an individual for missing the mark unintentionally."

Um, what part of not having your visa in order is "unintentional"? Crossing an unmarked line and walking from a public beach onto a private one could be "unintentional". But remaining in a country after your visa, which is stamped in your passport with big letters "VALID UNTIL XX/XX", has expired? Nothing "unintentional" about that. It is called "being an illegal alien", and there is no excuse for that short of fleeing for your life across a border into a neighboring country while your own is in a shooting war.

Last I heard, New Zealand was not at war, so this individual would not be in fear for his life. Just another illegal, breaking a clearly-defined law, and being dumb enough to go where the authorities were checking people out.

Sep 24, 2012
by Anonymous

The Economist "Article"

Re the article, two points:

1. It wasn't _actually_ in the Economist, it was in the Economist's "blog" section. Much lower calibre in terms of fact checking and journalism standards.

2. The article was so bad that the journalist who wrote it, Kenneth Neil Cukier, was pulled from his Japan assignment and recalled back to London within a month after publication.

Sep 24, 2012
by Anonymous

Overstaying a visa

When you overstay your visa and get caught you get arrested. It's as simple as that. This guy deserves no sympathy and his claim that the paperwork was lost is ridiculous because when you apply for an extension you also get a stamp in your passport that allows you to stay for a certain period of time. This guy is getting the same treatment that almost any other person who gets caught on an expired visa does. FYI, if you turn yourself in, you don't get detained and are allowed to some time to get your affairs in order before you leave. Please don't donate to his cause. Worst case scenario he'll have to buy a plane ticket home and won't be able to enter Japan again for a long time.

Sep 25, 2012
by Anonymous

Kenneth Neil Cukier

"journalist who wrote it, Kenneth Neil Cukier, was pulled from his Japan assignment and recalled back to London"

Is there any evidence for this? I thought it was strange that he changed his job to "Big Data" from the Asian beat. It seems rather a sideways (and partially down) "promotion." But I think that Anonymous here is just making it up and doesn't have first-hand information about the motives for Cukier's job change.

Sep 25, 2012
by Anonymous

blog topic

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Sep 26, 2012
by Anonymous

blog topic

Asking questions are actually helpful if you are don't understanding something completely, but this article gives fastidious
understanding. Thanks.

Oct 1, 2012
by Anonymous

What is going on?

What is the update with this? There is a different story being told here


Can you give us the facts?

Oct 2, 2012
by Ron Callari

What is going on?

Thanks for submitting this link from Japan Probe. While there are a lot of questions as to whether MQT did or did not seek to file the proper paperwork to extend his VISA - I feel that this piece is very harsh in criticizing not only Michael but also the group of supporters who have been working tirelessly in trying to raise enough funds to obtain Michael's release and allow him to return safely home. I have personally come to know a lot of the Michael's followers online, and trust their genuine concern and judgements as to what steps to take to assist in this process. I would direct you to their FB page if you would like to receive reliable updates as they are received. http://www.facebook.com/groups/FreeMichaelQTodd/ - Thanks for your concern and feedback.

Oct 2, 2012
by Anonymous


I understand you are trying to help your friend, Michael Q. Todd. Obviously you thought crying out of harsh treatment in Japan's jails would raise awareness in favor of him, and allow him to stay in Japan. It would NOT.

1) Mr. Todd overstayed his visa. He will be either deported, or be allowed to stay due to his marital status etc. in Japan. If he can stay in Japan, it is not because he "qualify" to do so as you mention in your article, but because the minister of justice shows mercy. It is not a matter of qualification.

2) The situation in detention centers at airports as described in Amnesty International reports etc. needs improvement. The security guards there are hired by airlines (not by government), who are responsible for the detention of persons to be deported. It's not the detention center where Mr. Todd put himself in, which is run by the government. These are two separate issues.

3) Chris Johnson has been criticized even before his written piece was taken up in The Economist blog. You have conveniently ignored them. Trying to raise awareness based on a biased information do not work...

4) It is clearly stated in Yldar Hakimo's video that visa was extended based on what Michael told Yoriko. Michael has changed his explanation and is now claiming that his passport was stolen. Also it has been pointed out that Michael was on a tourist visa, which is not extendable in Japan.

Oct 3, 2012
by Anonymous

'social media expert' = no-skill muck that failed life

I feel that this piece is very harsh in criticizing not only Michael but also the group of supporters who have been working tirelessly in trying to raise enough funds to obtain Michael's release and allow him to return safely home

Soooo....shall we start counting the lies?

This was in the first indiegogo update from a 'Jackie Bigford':

Michael is in the process of trying to get his visa extended and because the paper work has been misplaced by the Japanese Government and he had no documents, the police arrested him on Sunday Morning

A few days later, Jackie Bigford posted this on the indiegogo blog:
Yoriko returned to Yokohama to get the passport. and found that the visa has expired

Which is it? He was 'in the process' of updating his visa, but his fiance only found out after the arrest that the visa had expired?

Secondly - it's already been pointed out elsewhere that there is no 'paperwork' to misplace from the JPN government. *IF* you have a valid visa, and *IF* you apply for an extension before it expires, they stamp your passport to show that your extension request has been filed.

It's almost impossible to extend or change a short-term visitor status. There is no chance in hell Michael had applied for an extension for a 'tourist' visa.

A few days after that, a Steve Thompson posted on the group's Facebook page that 'Michael's passport had been stolen'. In that case....how the hell did Yoriko know that 'his visa had expired'? The only way she could have known the visa had expired was...by looking at the passport. Which according to Steve had been stolen.

Steve also tells us that 'Michael had already purchased a plane ticket and was waiting to leave the country'.

But, but...I thought he had met 'the love of his life in Japan' (maybe fourth time's the charm?) with roots in Japan, and he planned on staying and building a life in Japan'. Why was he leaving?

Further...if he has already purchased a plane ticket...why does he need donations to 'allow him to return safely home'?

Oct 11, 2012
by Anonymous

Story changes again!

Really please just give up trying to lie your way out of this. Starting to look like the botched alfresco where the lady started to go wrong and panicked resulting in a rapid downward spiral that eventually turned into a hillarious joke. This is where we are at now, it is a joke!


YOU CANNOT apply for an extension of your visa without having your passport!!! Ridiculous. STOP GIVING MONEY TO THIS CAUSE!

Oct 17, 2012
by Anonymous

Australian Gulag

Have you heard about Australian Gulag?

"The Commission’s longstanding concerns about Australia’s immigration detention system have escalated over the past year, with ongoing troubling incidents across the detention network. These have included six deaths in detention (five of which appear to have been the result of suicide), suicide attempts, serious self-harm incidents including lip-sewing, riots, protests, fires, break-outs and the use of force against people in detention on Christmas Island by the Australian Federal Police. These incidents have occurred in the context of a detention network that is under serious strain due to a number of factors, but most importantly because thousands of people are being held in detention facilities for long periods of time.

As of 11 March 2011 there were 6819 people, including 1030 children, in immigration detention in Australia – 4304 on the mainland and 2515 on Christmas Island. More than half of those people had been detained for longer than six months, and more than 750 people had been detained for longer than a year.[5]

The Commission has repeatedly raised concerns about the detrimental impacts that prolonged and indefinite detention has on people’s mental health, and has repeatedly recommended reforms to bring the immigration detention system into line with Australia’s international obligations.[6]"

From 2011 report by Australian Human Rights Commission