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Did you hear the one about the Japan travel journal?

In October 2022 I took a trip to Japan.


Woman walking along a street in Japan eating a pickled cucumber

It happened on very short notice with much uncertainty, due to travel restrictions still in place after Covid.


Luckily I had time to make a travel journal.


And it turns out that this travel journal earned me entry into Japan!


After a LONG flight and even longer health check procedure I could proceed to baggage claim, only to be politely requested to step aside. Into the back room. Where the people with unsmiling faces and gloved hands waited.

First I was thoroughly investigated and examined. Then my backpack. And then my suitcase, which had gone for an x-ray in the meantime, got returned. The Japanese are polite to a fault, but I think customs and border control staff all need a certain temperament to do the job. The suitcase got upended (in a very neat Japanese style). All zips and pockets and linings were opened and scanned and frisked. Shoes were shaken. Toiletries opened and opened again. Tubes squeezed. Lots of bowing and apologies from the female officer present (they followed the good cop bad cop model).

Then a pair of men’s shoes raised suspicions. I was joining my husband, who was already there, and he needs an extra pair of shoes I explained. This explanation was met with blank stares.


Eventually I got brave enough to ask why I was singled out for questioning and extra observation.


The answer: my suitcase seems too big. My visa got approved only the day before and I come from a strange country.


But then, out of the last long sleeved top tumbles the most precious item: the handmade and embellished Japanese travel journal. This unexpected item stops all the staff in their tracks (2 males and a female at this point). I’m near to tears, tired, nervous and hungry.


“What is this?” A Japan travel journal. Can I show you, I ask. And I proceed to page through and take out tags from tuck spots and show flips and demonstrate hidden journaling spots and where ephemera would go. They smile at the little kokeshi dangle and marvel at the fact that I made such a thing just for a short trip.


Tourist? they ask. (Well duh I want to answer) Yes, only a tourist! You love Japan? Yes, it’s my second time visiting!


Okay. You go now. Apologies to your husband for waiting.

Deep bow.


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