He calls it a cosplay accessory, police call it a forgery.

Those deeply dedicated to the craft will tell you that true cosplay goes beyond just the costume. Sure, you have to have your clothes sorted, but what elevates a project from good to great is the little details, like props and accessories.

However, there are some pieces of paraphernalia that you really shouldn’t be duplicating, as demonstrated by an incident involving a 23-year-old foreign student living in Tokyo’s Taito Ward. In October, Oh Shicho, a Chinese national enrolled in a Japanese language school, was stopped by police officers on the street in the city’s Setagaya Ward and asked to produce identification (something foreigners can be asked to do at random in Japan). During the exchange, the officers noticed that Oh was in possession of a realistic replica of a Japan Self-Defense Forces ID card, bearing the bilingual Japanese/English guarantee that “This is to certify that the above-mentioned personnel is a member of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Forces.”

▼ The card Oh was in possession of

The card bore an actual photo of Oh with a fictitious name, but paired with a fictitious name, and listed an expiration date of July 15, Reiwa Year 5, corresponding to 2024 and thus claiming to be currently valid. In addition, Oh was found to be in possession of a second fake Self-Defense Force ID, with its printed expiration date having already passed.

However, Oh denies having been plotting any sort of espionage or subterfuge. Instead, he says he procured the cards for cosplay purposes. “I have it for when I dress up as a Japanese Self-Defense Forces member when playing survival games,” he told the police (“survival games” being the term used in Japan for pseudo-military games like paintball and airsoft). “I had a Chinese person I know from an online chat group make it for me, but I had no intention of actually impersonating a JSDF member.” Oh’s statement also included an admission that he had paid approximately 2,000 yen (US$18.20) for the non-expired fake ID.

▼ Sure enough, a Twitter account matching the rendering of Oh’s name, and with a profile describing the owner as a Chinese national studying in Japan who loves survival games, is filled with military cosplay photos.

Innocent intentions or not, the Japanese legal system doesn’t take kindly to people walking around with self-made documents that grant access to sensitive areas and strategic targets, and they saw Oh’s fake IDs less as “props” and more as “forgeries.” Oh has since been placed under arrest on charges of counterfeiting of official documents, and investigators are looking into whether or not either of his IDs were used to illegally enter JSDF facilities. No such incidents have been found so far, so he might still manage to avoid jail time, but it’d probably be a good idea for him to bend a little on his apparent commitment to authenticity in cosplay extending to his forms of identification from now on.

Sources: NHK News Web via Hachima Kiko, Yomiuri Shimbun, YouTube/ANNnewsCH
Top image: Pakutaso
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