Friday, June 17, 2005

Something to Confess


I orchestrated my re-entry into Japan with the precision of an espionage training mission.

Objective: Penetrate Japan’s border as an illegal worker through hoodwinking immigration and customs officials.

Preparation: Obtain two different tickets for the same flight to Narita. Under the guise of a tourist, hide the one with my actual November return to NY, and create a bogus itinerary showing the same inbound flight, but with a July return, a date within the three-month tourist visa window. (I accomplished this with a $3,674.71 full-fare but fully refundable e-ticket, which I refunded just before I left.)

Methodology: Denials, lies, broad smiles, and quick speech to confound officials with a shaky grasp of English.

Handicap: My baggage weighed a ton. 79.5 lbs. to be precise, exceeding Northworst’s 72 lb. limit, and incurring $500 in excess fees. In the concourse of JFK’s Terminal 4, I transferred 1 lb. glass jars of Trader Joe’s peanut butter and 1 lb. bags of dry roasted almonds to my carry-on, and checked in without penalty.

Other contents hinted at my long-term, non-tourist intentions. I rehearsed responses for my ultimate fear: hand search of luggage. Feigning chronic halitosis could excuse my 1 liter tub of Listerine, which cost the same as an 8.5 oz. travel bottle in Japan. Love of carbohydrates surely necessitated importing three boxes of Kelloggs’ Smart Start cereal, two bags of Rold Gold pretzels, and three packages of Swedish fish – a nice change of pace from daily discount sushi dinners. I’d rather get cavities than parasites.

But just how was I going to explain three month’s worth of prescription pills? Or a nose hair clipper the shape and diameter of a vibrator. It’s true function would be lost in translation. I envisioned a demonstration for wide-eyed customs officers.

Having left most clothing in my Tokyo apartment, would anyone notice that I packed the same number of socks as jars of lightly salted crunchy peanut butter? I also would be at a loss to explain the 432 unsharpened pencils and 48 erasers emblazoned with American flags. To be used as student prizes, their boxes read ForTeachersOnly.com. “Of course I’m not a teacher, officer. Flag Day is this Tuesday!”

At Narita, I cringed when immigration stamped my passport on the same page as my initial April entry, which might induce questioning as to multiple trips. Therefore, I approached the weakest looking customs officer, a lady half my size, who true to form lobbed softball questions, including if I had anything to declare. “Of course not,” I lied through my best smile. Patriotic pencils and jars of peanut butter rolled in undetected. Mission accomplished.

5 comments:

Kitchen_Kitten said...

You had to buy two different tickets for the same flight? Man ... what a expensive mission!

Jesse said...

Congratulations! I was worried about
you getting stopped at the border...

Generally, a smile works wonders.

Jilly said...

I am glad you made it back with all the American goodies;)

ジェフリー said...

Ah, I forgot to mention one ticket (with the July return) was fully refundable. So only one ticket!

Jimmy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.