Tuesday, July 08, 2008


THE KAFKA RIDE


"Strict Inspections Being Carried Out for the Prevention of Terrorism" declare the long yellow banners with blood-red lettering that now adorn the wall of the vast immigration hall at Kansai International Airport here in Japan (whose few 'terrorists' in recent decades - that's when we're talking about, isn't it? - have been purely Japanese-- Red Army long ago, Aum Shinrikyo less long ago), where we frazzled potential terrorists are strung out in a long maze of lines like for a Kafka Ride at Disney World (as I was leaving the US, after they'd x-rayed my backpack, boots, hat and everything in my pockets and I'd passed the metal detector and been bodily wanded they critically confiscated my unopened bottle of water but let me keep my chocolate-covered almonds and raisins; luckily I wasn't wearing my New York 1984 t-shirt). I think of taking a picture of the banners, but I then I think of Guantanamo... I have the strong sense that the J-higherups are delighting in this opportunity to tighten the reins of power on an increasingly freedom-demanding public...

Every immigration booth for non-Japanese has a helpful sign above it in blue-light lettering that says "Foreign Visitors," we questionable aliens zigging and zagging through the maze where it's only by accident (an official woman going along the lines checking that customs forms are filled out properly so as to save some of the time being massively blackholed by this entire procedure) that I am found to have Permanent Residency (lived, worked, paid taxes, sent my kids to school here for 28 straight years thus far) and so as a returning alien potential terrorist am privileged to be directed to either of two booths that have a helpful sign above them in blue-light lettering that says "Foreign Visitors" to distinguish them from all the other booths that have a helpful sign above them in blue-light lettering that says "Foreign Visitors," the object apparently being to dementiate any returning alien potential terrorists who - many of them, as today, with potential terrorist kids - will wind up being no more dangerous than these long jet-lagged lines of innocent travelers awaiting their turn to figure out how to mugshot and fingerprint themselves over and over until they get it right, so that they will never again try to get into this country and spend a lot of money.

The Japanese government meanwhile is shelling out billions to encourage tourism from abroad. It all makes perfect sense, if you've ever taken the Kafka Ride.

2 comments:

Nevin said...

I noticed the large, garish banner at Kansai Immigration this past trip.

For whatever reason, the lineup for processing arriving Japanese travelers was longer at Kansai than the lineup for non-Japanese; it only took about ten minutes to clear immigration. After flying into Narita the last couple of times, I couldn't believe how fast it was to clear immigration at lowly, rundown and underutilized Kansai.

I had boarded the plane in Vancouver straight from work, and so was dressed in "business casual" clothes. Everyone seemed to be getting their bags opened at customs, except me.

Bob Brady said...

I must have arrived at a bad time, with a problematic crowd...