Re: “Barred from Japan for a teenage pot conviction” (Hotline to Nagatacho, Feb. 1):

As others will no doubt have already pointed out, you should never have admitted to anyone, anywhere in the visa application process or at Narita, that you had a minor drug conviction. That was extremely naive. You yourself state that the marijuana conviction was no more serious than a traffic fine. Would you have ticked off that criminal history check box if the only blot on your record was a speeding ticket or two?

Japanese bureaucrats are notoriously inflexible; appealing to common sense or compassion will avail you nothing. The Japanese bureaucrat’s default response is always “kisoku wa kisoku da” (“a rule is a rule”). Japanese are hierarchical creatures, and the thing the Japanese worker fears above all else is calling unfavorable attention to himself, thereby exposing himself to possible reprimand.

No matter how sympathetic any of these functionaries might genuinely be about your predicament over a beer after work, none of them — save maybe the guy at the very top of the food chain — would be willing to expose himself to criticism from higher-ups by bending the rules and cutting you some slack. In such a situation, it’s much safer just to haul out the rule book and find some unambiguous directive to tell him what to do so that no matter what happens afterwards, his ass is covered.

To sum up: You were not expelled from Japan because of your minor drug problem, you were booted out because you called attention to yourself and then put a bureaucrat in a position where to protect his own butt he was forced to deny you entry.

There are two rules in life: Never admit to cheating on a wife/girlfriend, and never tell a bureaucrat anything he doesn’t need to know.


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