December 7, 2007
Visiting Japan Isn't as Hassle-Free as It Used to Be
When did Japan get so paranoid about visitors? At some point between now and when I last visited in July, they've instituted American-style immigration check-point, with photo taking and fingerprint scanning (in fact, they've gone one-step further and scan both of your index fingers).
Plus, their customs is now almost as invasive as Customs Canada. It used to be you could just breeze through customs, you didn't even need to fill out a declaration. Now, they are carefully searching through nearly everyone's luggages. They even took my tripod for an x-ray and asked me a ton of questions about where I'm from, where I'm going, what I'm doing, etc, etc. Even padded me down for good measure.
What the hell are they so afraid of?? Customs Canada's excuse is that they want to soak every last cent of every poor Canadian who travels, but what about Japan? Do they have such a huge smuggling problem that they need to do this to every visitor? Or are they just targeting us Taiwanese?
Anyway, perhaps because of their unfailing politeness or my unfailing love of everything Japanese, all these added invasions of privacy didn't really seem all that unwelcoming. You get the sense that the people doing the searching are just following new bureaucratic rules versus a lot of the U.S.
immigration officers sorry, I meant Homeland Security officers who seem to be on power trips over all their expanded powers to keep you out. A few smiles and "thank yous" go a long way.