Reminder: All Immigration Officers Are Dicks
So I arrived in Hokkaido today, my first time back in Japan in over a year and a half. Last time I was here, I was living the life until it all came to an abrupt end in December 2015. Business spiraled lower, and within a few short hours notice I was on a plane out of the country for good, turning my life a full 180 degrees in less than a day – a story for another time.
Back at the Chitose Airport immigration, I stood in line, documents in hand. Early on, I could tell something was awry, as all the people around me were unusually chatty and friendly with me – usually an ominous sign. The line was short so it wasn’t long before I was called forward. I proceeded as usual, remaining silent unless spoken to. As fate would have it, the young immigration officer, sporting a confused look while browsing through my profile on his computer, began to inquire about my past business 2 years ago. His concern was whether I was entering the country for the same business, which was not permitted since I no longer have a visa. I wasn’t and had nothing to hide, so I answered all his concerns, remaining calm as a cucumber.
Then without warning, I was told I needed to have a ‘chat’ with his superior. I was then ushered into another lane that was manned by an older gent, and the lane was shut closed off promptly after me – indication it was going to take some time. This man spoke with a more authoritarian tone, albeit he asked the exact same questions. Still unsatisfied, I was escorted to an off-reach dark corner of the wide room where I was told to ‘wait’ as he consulted another superior above his rank, as he too had no authority. If you are familiar with the Japanese working culture, this is fairly normal as if you happen to be anything short of the CEO, you likely have zero power to make any decisions on your own. Having done nothing in the past that would flag suspicion, I was confused as fuck as to what was going on.
I paced up and down in this dark corner for a good 30 minutes, wondering what the fuck they were doing. Meanwhile, other immigration officers and airport staff were having a blast, whispering to one another while pointing at me, as if I had brought along with me death and disease to spread. At this point, the room was completely empty as all passengers had gone through, and even the fucking airline staff came in asking why there was by their count still one person that hadn’t exited.
30 minutes turned into a good hour, and alas the same officer that told me to wait came out to interrogate me, accompanied by another. Asking the same questions, I gave the same answers, to which for some reason this time they were satisfied. Then they started asking about phone numbers, mine, people I knew, people I was associated with, to which I kindly told them to fuck off, which promptly marked the end of the interrogation.
I was escorted back to the immigration lane, dozens of other officers staring curiously as I walked. The officer that interrogated me continued back into his seat behind the counter, and proceeded to ask me the exact same fucking questions, perhaps just for good measure. He stamped my passport and I was finally let through the gate.
Exhausted, I headed straight for the exit, but was immediately stopped by the customs officers who then began to interrogate me in the same fashion. Those fuckers then went through all my belongings, which consisted of nothing but clothes and a book, and proceeded to frisk me like never before. I suppose they assumed that since I had taken so long and had been interrogated like a criminal I was certain to have a bag full of weapons and narcotics. The customs agents (they sent 3 on my case), looked almost surprised I did not have anything of suspicion in my bag or on my person.
I can imagine the airport staff were on high alert for a person with malice intent when I was finally let through. Mind you, I have never been in trouble with the law, and this entire episode stemmed from the simple fact that I used to have a fucking busines visa to live in this country. The questions they asked me mainly revolved around my work, with emphasis on why I had changed from the beauty industry to IT. To them, those are 2 completely different industries and to change jobs over industries is culturally unusual, to say the least – which apparently is immediate cause for suspicion.
I have been an entrepreneur since the day I hit adulthood and I have no regrets about that, nor am I ashamed. The mental attachment is tough and we are often ridiculed early on for choosing a different path, more so when we fail. Socially, we are outcasts, particularly in a society like Japan where societal norms are so strictly defined and entrepreneur-ism is still widely frowned upon. Thinking about it now, I know many successful entrepreneurs in Japan and they are all rebels.
Although I love this country, I vowed 2 years ago when I left to never again work in Japan and that still holds true today, albeit nobody knows the future. My failures here were tough, but that doesn’t mean others can’t succeed. To the entrepreneurs fighting hard in this country, cheers to you and all the best in your endeavors.