Tuesday, February 8, 2011

8 Things Japan could Improve: No. 6. The Paperwork

I can't claim to speak as an expert on Japan, but I thought that some might be interested in reading my thoughts on things Japan could improve. This is staggered with the publishing of my list of 8 unmistakable pleasures of Japan.

    This really has more to do with customs than anything else. In Japan, oh country famed for its efficiency, if you want to enter, you have to fill out three paper customs forms, have an interview with a customs officer, have your picture taken, and give the address of where you will be staying for the majority of your stay. A paper is then stapled to your passport with a tag on it which any investigator with a cellphone can read. And that is all for a 90-day stay, nothing to declare.
    By way of comparison, when entering Italy, we got a quick glance at the passport, a barely noticeable glance at the face, and a stamping motion that left me wondering if the officer's elbow had slipped, until my passport was returned to me, and I was hurried out of the way. I am not advocating, dear Japan, that you go this far, merely saying that if you are going to all the trouble of tagging me like a wolf released into the wild (really, how long before tourists will have RFID radio transmitters in their passports, or should I not mention the idea?) you might make me fill out a little less work on paper for your line of customs workers to then enter back into the computer. At very least, give me the option of filling out your form from home, giving you some advanced notice by internet, so I'm not scribbling down my flight number in the haze of a twelve hour flight, while the landing gear falls out below me and the one and a half inches of elbow space I have is constantly being intruded upon by an elbow rest with a lust for blood and a mortal fear of landing.
    By the way, while all the customs officers were pleasant and helpful, was seeing three of them really necessary? Could not the one who checked my passport, the second who checked my paperwork, and the third who checked my luggage really all have been the same person?

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