Foreign journalist claims corruption, brutality, death threats from Japanese airport officials

Christopher Johnson, a Canadian journalist residing (until recently) in Japan published a ghastly account of his return to Tokyo after a short pre-Christmas trip. He was flagged at the border (he implies that this is related to his coverage of Fukushima), held, threatened, and shaken down for bribes before being detained without counsel or a phone call. He says he was eventually deported, though not before being ordered to sign a falsified confession and being threatened by an official at gunpoint, who demanded that he purchase a hyper-inflated plane ticket, which, Johnson believes, included a kickback for the official.

This time, he came back with a young, stocky guy. He was wearing a blue uniform. “Do you see this gun?” he said in Japanese, turning around to show me a weapon in its holster. “I have the legal authority to use this if you refuse to get on that flight. Now are you going to buy that ticket?”

I was angry now. They are forcing me at gunpoint to buy an overpriced ticket.

The [guards] ushered me out of the room and through the airport. They still had my bag, my passport, my wallet, credit cards, everything. I had no choice. They whisked me through the airport like a criminal. I didn’t have to line-up for x-ray machines or immigration. [They] pushed me through VIP lines, ahead of pilots and flight attendants.

Japan's outsourced airport detentions operation is the subject of its own Amnesty International report.

Gulag for gaijin (Thanks, arbitraryaardvark!)

(Image: Immigration, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from bryansblog's photostream)


      1. His whole story change so many times already that I wouldn’t believe anything he says. Besides that guy seems to be an enormous doushe, especially if you read his twitter stream and the comments he gives to respectable real journalists who live in Japan.

        And in the original story he claimed the rent-a-cops threatened him with guns. Which is impossible, besides police and SDF nobody is allowed to have guns in Japan. Especially not rent-a-cops.

        Here is a blog about this:

          1. Which means the rent-a-cops are all run by the Yakuza and every Yakuza has a gun? I highly doubt that is true. The amount of crimes conducted with a gun in Japan are really really really low.

    1. There are certainly many inconsistencies with his account and I would be unsurprised to find out that much of was exaggerated or invented.

      The most troubling details do seem to match the complaints made in the more credible, Amnesty International report though:

      Kamal, a 16 year old Kurdish child asylum-seeker, was shouted at during interviews conducted by immigration officials after he was denied entry to Japan in December 2000. Fearing beatings and being scared, he signed a document, against his will, that waived his rights to appeal against the decision of the immigration officials to deny him entry to Japan.

        1. If you read my comment a little more carefully you will see that I did not call him a liar. I said that there are  many inconsistencies with his account. Thanks to the wonder of the written word and the Internet I can examine his poorly written statement from the comfort of my home.

          I found it inconsistent to claim that he believes that his hard hitting reporting caused the immigration bureau to kick him out of the country and then to go on and speculate that his expulsion was a result of a criminal syndicate abusing its powers to extort money from randomly selected travellers.

          I found it inconsistent to follow up his theory of a cabal of extortioners in a private security organisation with a statement that an airline employee then tried to extort money from  his partner.

          I found it inconsistent that for someone who alternates between government and criminal syndicate conspiracies as reasons for his expulsion he is very coy about the current state of his visa. When queried about this on twitter he claimed that blaming refused entry to a country on an expired visa was like blaming rape on a short skirt.

          It may be that his account is completely true though. As I said in my original comment I just would not be surprised to find out that the more trivial aspects of it were not completely true.

          1. You’re using the word “inconsistent” to mean suspicious.  Inconsistent would mean that he’s claiming one thing in one place, and another elsewhere.

            If you’ve got proof of that, post it.

          2. @joshjasper:disqus
            If you read the comment you just replied to you will see that I did post such proof.
            To rephrase my first example to match your incorrect definition of the word inconsistent, in one paragraph of his account he claimed he was the victim of a targeted attack by the Japanese state.

            Elsewhere in his account he speculated that he was a randomly selected victim of employees of a private security company.

            Claiming to be targeted is different to claiming to be a random victim. Public is similarly different to private.

        2. “Were you there?”

          You weren’t there either.  None of us were.  The account relies on the word on a single person. 

          And the single person, when asked to provide important details, is evasive.   Even worse, his behavior has been anything but professional:  he has hurled insults at people who ask reasonable questions.

          The distrust of Johnson even extends to the readers of, a site that is usually very sympathetic to this kind of story.

          “Debito, this is honestly getting ridiculous. First Chris refuses to discuss his visa due to “privacy concerns” – this despite his freely giving us all (through his blog, and then here) his name, his partner’s name, the band she plays in, his father’s name, his brother’s name, the bands his brother is associated with, where his house is in Tokyo, his dogs’ ages, breeds, colors etc. etc. etc. Basically his entire life history, with all the personal bits left in, except his visa status on December 23rd.

          Then he tells The Economist he can’t reveal his visa status “on his lawyer’s advice”. Fine.

          Now he says he can’t tell us because he was “undercover” for the Washington Times, and they are paying him, so he has to leave some details for them to print.
          What’s next – he was actually working for CSIS on a top-secret clearance, and he could tell us the truth but then he’d have to kill us?

          And how could Chris have been on an undercover assignment for the Washington Times, or any other paper, trying to uncover what actually happens in the deportation centres or the holding area at Narita if all his papers were in order and he was legal in Japan, as he insists? If he were legal, he wouldn’t have been denied entry, would have sailed through immigration and back home, and no story. If he were really undercover, he would have had to have known he’d be stopped and held. These two possibilities are mutually exclusive.

          It is time to cut Chris loose. While there are very real problems with the private security company that handles those denied entry to Japan (as you and the mainstream Japanese press have documented, but sadly without a real solution being reached), and with the detention centres run by Japanese Immigration (as you and Amnesty have documented), the very serious questions about Chris’ honesty and integrity as well as Chris’ own behavior when challenged have become a serious impediment to getting to the bottom of the issue. Sadly, Chris has made this entire story about him, and he has also made it all to easy to discredit what he says due to his omissions, fabrications and obfuscations.

          And Chris – you’re not helping yourself by endlessly coming up with new excuses for withholding information that is crucial to understanding exactly what happened to you on December 23rd and 24th. Nor does your hyperbole and name-dropping help, especially when you name-drop and get key facts wrong or else omit them. Your supposed roommate, Christian Wurtenburg, was not killed by “Serbian Chetniks”, he was assassinated by Jorge Eduardo Rosza Flores, commander of the so-called International Brigade (PIV). Christian went undercover and joined the PIV to expose the source of their funding and weapons, was discovered, and Flores had him killed. This is all well documented, surely you noticed your roommate was a “mercenary”, or at least knew the truth behind his death?
          And Danny Bloom? He has told his own story online, he was not in a “fiery crash” in Alaska, his plane had an engine fire in-flight, scary enough, granted, but landed safely. There was no “crash”, Danny’s own version of events made that clear.

          You have a story to tell, about an important issue that needs to be made public. Tell that story, with all the facts, and without the hyperbole, and you may yet get people on your side. Perhaps. It may, however, be too late. You’ve lost a lot of people already, including a lot of people here, like myself, who want to see the problems at Narita and the detention centres addressed and resolved.”

          1. There is just something weird about the whole article. The name dropping, the back and forth between first and third person, the lack of details and names, his insistence on his support of Japan, the side-bar listing his various accomplishments, abductions and assaults, all just give me weird feeling. 

            That all coupled with the disorganized and amateurish story telling makes me disbelieve his account. It reminds me of reading A Million Little Pieces, something in the voice and writing style made it seem fake (which it turned out to be).

            Also, I can’t help to think, if he has a story to tell and all this freelance journalism experience, why wouldn’t he write and sell an article to a reputable publication which might make enough noise to get someone in Japan to reconsider his deportation so he might go home?

          2. why wouldn’t he write and sell an article to a reputable publication which might make enough noise to get someone in Japan to reconsider his deportation so he might go home?

            Apparently he’s going to get a version of it published in the Washington Times, one of America’s least reputable newspapers.

            (See the 2008 BoingBoing post “Short documentary on Rev. Moon” for more details on the Times. )

      1. Have to agree, sounds like he was deported. that what happens to you. As far as the gun that sounds very much like bullshit. Cant imagine that actually happened, and that is based on living in Japan for 14 years.

    1. I, for one, wouldn’t dismiss Mr. Johnson’s story out of hand.

      Japan is a much more monochromatic, monolothic state than, say, Canada.  It would be very surprising if undertones of racism and of brutality with dissenters wouldn’t develop, especially in figures of authority.

      Look at what’s happened in the USA in the past decade or so, if you need convincing.

      1. I’ve heard Canada is plenty racist up there, especially towards the Chinese immigrants, historically and to the present.  Is this correct?

        1. If I had to say Canadians were “especially” racist toward anyone, it would be First Nations, Inuit, and Metis (although Islamophobia is wafting north).  

          Just read comments on any online Canadian media related to Aboriginal peoples to have any other ideas you might have about our nation obliterated.

          1. Canada racist? 

            Well, my sense is that it’s much less racist than many/most countries.  Mind you, I don’t listen to right-wing talk radio, or any commercial radio, so my feel for it might not be representative.

            I used to have a very good friend who had fled Vietnam at the time of the war with/against the Americans.  He had lived in France for a while.   At one of our many late-night suppers in Montreal’s Chinatown, I said that Canadians are racists. 

            He replied: “You don’t know what racism is.  Here, it’s not really racism.  Yes, Canadians are polite and less overt in their racism.  But on the street Canadians won’t spit on your face, call you names, and tell you to go back home.  In France, I had experienced this.”

            While, of course, there’s still much left to resolve, how many other countries now call the peoples that the first colonists and immigrants displaced/killed/marginalized, ‘The First Nations’?  In Alaska, they still call the Inuit ‘Eskimos’.

            When I was a kid, the (not my) preferred name given to aboriginals was ‘savages’.  I used to call them Indians, until I learned that they call themselves Mi’kmaq.

            I’m not saying that Canada’s perfect, but you can easily do a lot worse.

      2. I lived in Japan for several years and was once, about 3 years ago, held by immigration. 
        I found his story in direct conflict with my experiences. On the other hand I was pretty nice and deeply sorry for the confusion, and they let me into the country, no guns or anything!  Mr. Johnson doesn’t appear to be particularly nice or sorry about anything.

  1. Well, the Economist isn’t exactly a tabloid. Not to say they don’t make mistakes but they hardly have a reputation for putting their name above unsourced articles. I’d assume that there was at least a nominal level of fact checking and background before this went to print.

    1. For whatever it’s worth, they address this point directly.

      Mr Johnson’s own rambling account of his saga appeared on his blog, “Globalite Magazine”. It must be considered as unverified, despite The Economist’s attempts to check relevant facts with the Japanese and Canadian governments. As a result, we cannot endorse its accuracy. We present edited excerpts, below, because they are deeply troubling if true.

      In other words: we don’t really think this is fishy, but caveat lector.

      1. Well, David Icke’s account of the world being ruled by reptilian aliens would also be “deeply troubling if true”. Perhaps they should publish those as well (if they haven’t already, I’m not a subscriber).

  2. Another interesting take: Hiko Saemon, on immigration in Japan compared to other countries:

    The article suggest that we are missing some key pieces of information in Christopher Johnson’s account, and notes that the story published by The Economist wasn’t subjected to fact-checking and had already changed.

    Of course, Christopher Johnson’s account is troubling. But he’s hardly the only journalist to write critical pieces about Japan, surely.

  3. I see a lot of disbelief about this, and I wonder why that is. Could it be because of Japan’s public image as a progressive modern nation, where everyone’s polite and honorable?

    The only part that sounds odd to me is his conjecture about his treatment, that it is tied to his journalism.

    What I do know is that Japan’s immigration system has a history of corruption. He may only be guilty of taking his treatment personally, though it is only human to assume this, if only to make sense of it all.

      1. I once left a Pacific island nation on an expired visa (didn’t have the proper papers with me, doh).  The guy had me wait a couple minutes,  stamped my passport indicating such, and wished me a good trip. 

        You know, that trip we were planning to Japan might have been fun… 
        But forget it.  No way.  Never going there. Ever.

        So, so, so, so, so not worth it.

        1. Really?  Plenty of people go to Japan and have a blast.  Plenty of people come to US and have tons of fun.  Try to come to either nation without proper visa, you can pretty much forget about warm reception (it’s probably the same deal with EU).  Gaming a visa?  Expect to be detained.  What’s wrong with following the damned procedures if so many people have absolutely no problem with it?

          1. Reminds me of all the people who start spouting off all sorts of worries when I said I was visiting Turkey.  “Oh, what about Midnight Express?” (a 30+ year old movie) “They are Muslim there you know.”  Ummm, duh.

            Turned out to be one of the best places I’ve ever been.  Went there twice.

        2. Because of some 90% inaccurate article? Trust me, you will be treated better by japanese immigration than in most other countries.

        3. I once overstayed a tourist visa in Japan. (My fault, I counted days wrong.)  When I passed through immigration the guy asked me a couple question, stamped my passport and sent me on my way.

          He didn’t wish me a good trip though.  Bastard!

          (But hey, Japan’s probably better of without a visit from someone who’s so knee-jerk judgmental. So I’m not really trying to convince you otherwise.)

    1. wow, can’t even exercise?  that’s fucked.  kinder to just do what they’ve done for years on the other side of the Sea.  At least that’s prompt service.  

      On the other hand, why not use that wanton depravity– “For years, they wait, knowing they could be killed at any time with only a few hours notice.   Now, once a year, they are compelled to dress as giant costumed animals and dance for the pleasure of the Kyushu Prefecture…”

    2. Well, we have over 3,000 death row inmates in US, where as your article states 107 in Japan.  Considering that Japan has roughly 1/3 the population of US (300M vs 100M), I’m not sure if Japan is as fucked as you describe.

      [Edit: oops, I should read more carefully – 3000 is a horrific number. I’ll correct soon]

      [Edit2: oh, ok, I am right, the population of death row prison inmates in 2011 is 3,222 That IS bad. :( ]

        1. Well, indefinite death sentence and 99.7% conviction rate by themselves sound pretty crappy, and I wanted to see what it was like compared to where I rather comfortably reside.  

          If I misunderstood what you meant, I apologize. :)

  4. Without knowing anything much about it (but then this is internet commenting) I would guess he was trying to game his visa, and then when the security guys caught him they shook him down. Although Japanese people are usually so nice and kind, cops and other such types can be complete nasty pricks, if they think you are in the wrong. (I would hear stories from gaijin friends when I lived there when they would get into trouble while out drinking.) Whether all the details are right there’s even less point speculating.

    I was trying to chain tourist visas going back and forth from Malaysia to Singapore, and I had to pay a bribe. It was a very scary experience…

  5. There is enough exaggeration and just plain ignorance in this rambling rehash of a blogpost to make me question the whole thing. He claims that ¥170,000 is exorbitant for a one way ticket to Canada. Hardly. One way is always overpriced and he can’t be so ignorant as to believe that you get a discounted fare for a last minute purchase. Claims ¥50,000 for the same ticket round trip from HIS? Looks like the unattainable advertised special to me. 

    Weasel words.

    “Without even looking through my passport, where he might find proper stamps for my travels, he marked a paper and gave it to another immigration officer.”

    Might? If he was so sure his documents were in order, he should have written “would”. He’s an experienced writer who should know the difference.


    I’ve been detained and questioned at immigration in Japan. It wasn’t fun, but I knew my documents were in order. Plus, I knew from Immigration’s point of view, they had what they thought was good reason to pull me out of line. So, I just answered all of the seemingly loony questions. It took a while, but it ended and they let me through. Now when my wife was stopped by the INS in the States, that was a nightmare. They let her go (as was legal) but only after a really scary experience.

    1.  Yeah, I know once I see a gun my memory is PERFECT after that. I can understand your disbelief, but your deconstruction is no more useful than what you’re calling bullshit on.

    2. Exactly.  You obviously have your shit together, don’t do wrong things, are patient and have a good disposition as a person.  Yes, immigration and security can really test a person in any country. People in suits with badges and guns like to power-trip.   But I believe that reasonable people prevail nearly always.  
      I had my nuts fondled by a Swiss gorilla, but I was like, ok, wevs, I just want to get on with my vacation.  I had obnoxious shit happen with TSA, and it outraged me, but I got through it and things were fine.  Mostly just fly under the radar and don’t give them any excuses to fuck with you.  DON’T bring jars of cupcakes, anything even resembling liquids or whatnot… just leave it behind.  There is no reason for trying to test them.  Just fuck ’em.  Get past the gate.  Get on with life.

      1. Mostly just fly under the radar and don’t give them any excuses to fuck with you.

        Why would you counsel people to collaborate with evil?

        1. Perhaps awjt is evil him/herself!

          Or perhaps going through the TSA line without deliberately trying to call attention to yourself and provoke a confrontation is not actually “collaborating with evil.”

          Tough call. 

        2. Because some of us aren’t in a sufficiently stable position of privilege to challenge the establishment in the face of (potential) great personal expense?

          1. I’m more like the behind the scenes arms dealer guy supplying the IRA, rather than the meat-monkey on the ground pumping ’em full of lead. I’d prefer to go stealth. Feel more effective that way, but that’s just me. Ymmv

        3. That’s just practical advice as far as I’m concerned. You don’t have an automatic right to enter a country other than your own; you can be refused entry for arbitrary reasons. “Don’t stick out” is the #1 rule here; especially if you have visa problems like the douche in question.

    3. Not a comment on your skepticism but you’re reading too much into the use of the word ‘might’.
      ‘might’ is also used as a polite suggestion: “You might try the larger size”.It’s clear that this is the nuance he has in mind. A somewhat sarcastic politeness. (I’m not sure if this a sense that is not used everywhere).

      1. Maybe I am reading too much into what was just meant as a bit of snarky “politeness” but that attitude won’t get anyone far with immigration anywhere. And, there is context of not being upfront with his visa status. If he was a legal resident with a stamp in his passport, then I expect he would have written that very clearly, not just hinted at it.

        I guess he updated the original to include that his work visa was last renewed in 2008, which would almost certainly mean it expired in 2011.

        Looks like one too many tourist visa runs to Korea.

        1. Yeah, who knows his attitude when he was in immigration itself. I suspect as everyone else does that he was on a a tourist visa.

  6. Yes, articles like these reek of xenophobia, but spend a few weeks traveling across Japan as foreigner, and you will find that  Japan itself reeks of xenophobia.

      1. Yeah, it is like anywhere else, about 10-15% of people are going to be jerks. I lived there for years and never had the slightest problem with discrimination. But of course if you go looking for stories on the internet you will find them.

        Edit: Of course this is just one more internet opinion. Also I am a white guy and I speak Japanese. I can imagine things might be different if you were e.g. Chinese.

    1. I live here for 9 years and I have to contradict. There is no more or less xenophobia than any other country around the world.

  7. Yup sounds like he was on a dodgy visa and it appears he is unwilling to answer questions about his visa status “following legal advice”. He should have paid the bribe if his papers weren’t in order, it sucks but it’s better than a direct flight out of the country. 
    I speak from a little experience,     …damn you smiley Indonesian imigration man!!!

  8. I remember this guy from March. I had to send photos to CTV to counter his exaggerated claims of panic in Tokyo at the time. Fortunately they updated / filled out their stories as other fact checkers sent corrections. 

    The justice system here isn’t perfect, but it had recently undergone an overhaul. (SendanChair, welcome to the Japan Justice fight. I assume you are new to it, if you’re using that number as a bad thing.)

      1. Generally, the japanese justice system only prosecutes people when they’re really sure they can get a conviction.

        Doesn’t necessarily mean all 99% of those people were guilty, but still, the high conviction rate is mostly jsut ebcause their threshold for when they actually bother prosecuting is higher then most places.

  9. Over my decades living in Japan, I have had a couple friends detained for being drunk and belligerent and as a suspect in a murder. I’ve heard of lots of people being stopped for bicycle registration checks. I read lots of outrageous stories, some true, about brutality by prison guards, false convictions, etc. But never before today, have I read of someone being asked for a bribe!  

  10. According to my pal who is a master of studies in Asian culture and history – Japan is the asshole of Asia and always has been.  If nothing else, the stories he told me and things like this BB post remind me to keep a suspicious eye on everybody all the time….   fuck.

    1. And that’s why I take this story with a heavy dose of salt – there are plenty of countries who have an axe to grind with Japan, some are very justified, but just as many or more are ridiculous but would like to corroborate with sensationalist stories like this one to vent out…whatever problem they have.  I kinda know what could go wrong with a visitor in Japan, and this account doesn’t sound quite right.

      1. Yea this entire situation seems very strange and counter to what I understand Japanese bureaucracy to look like… oh well.  Stay neutral and learning.  That’s what you gotta do.

  11. I am also a long-term expat living in Japan, who has gone through immigration here dozens of times. Japan is far from perfect. However, two things about this story are certainly untrue: 1) That immigration would have targeted him for his reporting; and 2) That he was asked for a bribe.

    Both are extremely unlikely, if not totally unheard of.

    Especially when one considers the ridiculously low amount of the alleged bribe. The difference–if any!–between 170,000 yen and a last-minute, one-way plane ticket to Canada would be chump change to a government official in Japan to risk what is considered a very, very good job. Impossible.

    Was he treated a bit roughly? Probably. Illegally? Possibly–but I see no reason to jump to that conclusion from this story. On the other hand, did he make his own situation worse by having visa issues or by being unnecessarily belligerent? Highly probable.

  12. Japan is unified, yes-a democracy, not. 
     “It is a shame for Japan,” . “Embarrassing.” 
    A great place for sure, but kept in check by some of the heaviest abuses of authority.
    not many see the underbelly, and not often is it’s nasty heaviness exposed, as many just ‘behave’ as they have been conditioned from birth to do.
    happy, nice, kind, kawaii and monolithic hive-minded

    don’t believe this? perhaps it’s easier to nuzzle the teat of warm authority than dissent (damn, even that sounds wacko socialist)
    but it’s true, nobody wants to hear bad stories like this, but doubt it? not entirely, and that’s because if you’ve lived with some consciousness, you’ll have seen this evil crap happens way too much, very much so in Japan, read Nagoya prison, or even actual, real fact based stories of Japan’s Immigration deaths and scandals.

    1. Yes, most countries have their dark sides.  China has de-facto gulags, we have our Guan… you get my point.  But the account of the blogger is pretty damn fishy – if it is true, of course Japanese government needs to fix whatever went wrong.  But don’t go painting pictures as if Japan is North Korea.

      1. aa, so des, ne? I think I may have used inflammatory language to excess, you are right, so sorry. 

        the facts I stated are such, and I have always enjoyed Japan as a safe calm place, but it is because of its population all behaving that this is so. And it is very tight in regards to behaviour and monitoring.

        Now, and since a long time, most States are just as bad as ‘North Korea’, so don’t be surprised.

        now taking photos of an apartment building in North Korea, I thought it was the same ones I see in Japan! ;P

  13. Assuming his story is true, he should’ve had the balls to call the guy’s bluff when he was threatened with the gun. Shooting someone involves a lot of paperwork and investigation, and if his claims of corruption are true, a lot of daylight would get put on the situation.

    If someone tells you they’ll shoot you with a gun, they’re generally scared to actually pull the trigger and are trying to negotiate with you to do what they want so they can avoid following through on their threat. Exceptions: Military, crazy people, hardened criminals. 

    1. If someone threatens you with a gun, they might not be willing to use it, but they might still be willing to use something else to ruin your life. And under the circumstances, there’s not much you can do about, for example, beatings, rape, or being added to various watchlists.

      1. Of course, the caveat that I’m sitting comfortably at home saying this, while this guy allegedly was being held in essentially custody and being threatened with a gun, so my feelings on the matter might not be applicable when the situation actually happens.

        But I also don’t like bullies who use weapons as intimidation tools.

    2. Um…. sorry, a gun = winning in most conflicts.  I would even venture to say that when a government agent is pointing a gun at you, you have less chance of being vindicated than if it was some street thug.

      People who use force (guns) to solve social problems are cowards.  Government agents who use force to deal with “problems” are tyrants and ought to be hanged.  That being said, the individual always needs to be able to use both reason AND force to get out of bad situations.  Force isn’t going to work on a government agent, but it might work in other situations.  Predators and Criminals only speak in “force”, so the individual always needs to be willing to use either, depending on the situation.  Even running is a form of “force”.

      Ugly realities of life…

  14. In my younger sillier days I was arrested in Tokyo once after getting a little too boisterous and unknowingly my gaijin registration card had expired the previous week. The police were actually very nice and patient with me as I organised for my passport to be delivered to the station.

    I also met a lot of stressed-out expats over there who would kick up huge stinks when things didn’t go their way, but usually after digging into their stories you would unearth a few inconvenient details they had left out of their stories.

  15. The more I look at what this guy has written, the more I realize I should add the disclaimer: I hate him.
    He makes a big deal in this Gulag article about getting no credit for his sacrifices for the nation:  “But I didn’t flee Japan like thousands of foreigners after the March 11 disasters. I made personal sacrifices to tell the world about the plight of disaster victims, to generate sympathy for Japan.”
    No, he didn’t leave Japan. But he did flee to Shizuoka and from there he continued to post rubbish about conditions in Tokyo.
    March 16th, CTV: 
    “But the reassurances haven’t stopped tourists and residents from fleeing the capital, said freelance journalist Chris Johnson.
    “I’m one of the last people I know to leave Tokyo,” Johnson told CTV’s Canada AM.
    “All of my other friends left earlier.”
    “However, Johnson said many people don’t have the money or means to flee Tokyo and are waiting out the crisis as best they can. ”
    The crap he was feeding to CTV was what my parents were reading. He made my mom cry.
    It’s just as well for him that there’s now an ocean between us, for I’ve been waiting for the day our paths crossed. I’d love to slap him. And I’d risk the trip to the koban for it.
    So that’s my disclaimer, for what it’s worth.

  16. Japanese authorities do not ask for or accept bribes. He was probably told to pay a fine for trying to enter Japan with the wrong visa and his crappy Japanese misinterpreted it (or they tried to explain in crappy English).

    The “confession” he had to sign was probably just a document promising not to try to re-enter Japan for a stated period.

  17. As someone who researches Japanese policing and surveillance, and the targeting of vulnerable foreigners that does go on, a lot of this simply does not ring true, especially with regard to the bribery allegations. I suspect embellishment, self-justification and exaggeration. Plus a large dose of generic orientalism (you know they are all corrupt don’t you?).

    When I talk about the targeting of vulnerable foreigners, I refer to the South-east Asian women who work in the night economy, the Africans who take crappy security jobs, the Brazilians who work in factories and so on – the ones who are harassed and surveiled and deported after they’ve serv(ic)ed the Japanese economy. I specifically do not mean privileged western men who get a bit mouthy and self-righteous at the airport when their visa irregularities come to light and misunderstand what is happening to them.

  18. Come on, lets face facts, besides Japan’s problems with immigration and daddy state leanings, this guy is so full of shit his eyes are brown.

  19. I have tremendous sympathy for Johnson and disdain for the immigration officials in the story, even if it turns out that there was some valid reason for refusing entry (which is just speculation).
    What I can’t understand is the shock some people are reacting with.  Whether it’s Japan, Canada, the USA or just about any other country I’ve heard about, immigration officials can, in practice, do pretty much whatever they darn well please to the people in the immigration line and their property.  Whatever “rights” you may have won’t be relevant in the least.  Fortunately, only a miniscule portion of people trying to enter a country have experiences akin to Johnson’s — and in turn only a miniscule portion of those cases involve white professionals with journalistic connections — but as deportations go I think his was quite routine.

  20. Sorry, I absolutely don’t believe the gunpoint allegation, and I tend to not believe the bribe allegation. Maybe this happens in Uzbekibekibekistanstan, but not Japan, for all its flaws.

  21. BoingBoing, you ought to be ashamed of yourselves for running these crazy allegation as though they might contain even the slightest shred of truth.

    Security guards in Japan aren’t even allowed to have guns (and neither are immigration officials) and there’s no reason for airport police (the only people who are allowed to have guns) to get involved with an immigration issue happening inside the airport like that.

    As for the kickback to the official, what the hell kind of airline operating out of Japan (this isn’t some third world banana republic here) would do that? Why has nobody else reported this kind of thing happening?

    Even your link to Amnesty International (which I’m not disputing) doesn’t mention anything like that happening.

    Do you really think the government of Japan gives a crap about what some asshole blogger from Canada writes in criticism about them?

    And don’t think that adding the word “claims” to the title later on makes your lack of fact checking any better. If you want journalistic integrity, you go work for it like other journalists do.

  22. I have never seen more brand-new Boingers come out to astroturf against a negative story.

    Someone spent a pretty penny trying to make this go away.

    1. If by “brand new,” you mean “not interested in commenting on every post about home-made ukeleles and knit Spock-ear muffs,” then I for one am guilty as charged.

    2. Yeah, no, probably not.

      Japan is one of those internet topics that brings out defenders and attackers…

      I think because some of us get really into Japanese culture and aesthetics, and maybe defend the place too much, that generates another group that tries to stick the boot in. It is a country that gives rise to strong emotions, much more than say Norway.

  23. ‘“Do you see this gun?” he said in Japanese, turning around to show me a weapon in its holster. “I have the legal authority to use this if you refuse to get on that flight. Now are you going to buy that ticket?”I was angry now. They are forcing me at gunpoint to buy an overpriced ticket.’

    *BZZZZZT!* Hyperbole. That’s not “at gunpoint”.

  24. Contractor with guns and unsubtle request for bribes simply do not pass the smell test.  Maybe the guy was tripping on some hallucinogen. There are enough real immigration/wrongful incarceration  related nightmares (anywhere in the world) without resorting to pure fiction, where the story line is unlikely because of wrong props and dialogue.

  25. What it comes down to is that this guy didn’t have a valid visa; he almost admitted as much in his post before he edited it and now deflects all questions regarding his visa status by saying “that’s not the point!1oneeleven”

    The lesson is that you don’t let your visa expire and if it does happen, you sort it out with immigration (Japan actually does have procedures in place for exactly this situation). You don’t leave and enter a country on a dodgy visa, anywhere, period. If you do, bad things (including detention) can happen in Canada, the US, Europe, almost anywhere. Not saying it’s right but that’s the way it is.

    I’m somewhat irritated that he mentions the words “Westerners” and “white” so often while taking the time to point out that one particularly nasty immigration lady had “dark freckled skin” as if that had anything to do with his situation.

    Also, the way he renders some words and phrases (the BS “KB” issue as pointed out on Debito’s site) suggests that he may have misunderstood some of the communication between immigration and him. (I might add that the Japanese word-dropping throughout his “article” and his insistence that the folks he interacted with really, really, really spoke Japanese — imagine that, in Japan! — is a sure sign that he’s not as comfortable with the language as he thinks he is. Why elevate an insignificant detail to such prominence?)

    In summary: yes, immigration folks are dicks, especially when they deport you (which they can do for pretty much any reason, again anywhere, including Canada). This guy doesn’t realize how privileged he is as a white Canadian and that he was denied entry for a valid reason; you don’t want to be Filipino, Indian or Bangladeshi in the Japanese immigration system.

    The solution is to do everything in your power to not get deported (which, again, is much easier for white guys than others), such as having a valid visa. His corruption charges are probably a misunderstanding. As others have pointed out, a cushy government job is highly desirable in Japan; nobody would risk that for a bribe. Just doesn’t happen. Japan is also not in the business of censoring the press or journalists, domestic or foreign. Highly unlikely that some low-level immigration official is even aware of his blog.

    That is all.

    Edit: After re-reading his rambling account, it’s pretty clear that his Japanese is barely good enough to get by. This should of course not be a problem and they shouldn’t make him sign documents he can’t read or understand. He’s making a big deal out of the fact that he was in jail (understandably, I’d be shocked too); but I don’t think calling airport detention facilities a “gulag” and writing that he thinks he might die adds to his credibility. This is just pre-deportation confinement and happens to foreigners in similar situations in his precious Canada, too.

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