Monday, August 29, 2011

We're all terror suspects now

I'm sitting in the expansive spaces of Renzo Piano's four-storey airport outside Osaka, sipping an Awake tea from Starbucks and waiting for my bus home. I've chosen to live in Japan for the past 20 years, and I know its rites as I know the way I need tea when feeling displaced, or to head for a righthand window seat as soon as I enter a bus. A small, round-faced Japanese man in his early 30s, accompanied by a tall and somewhat cadaverous man of the same age, approaches me.

"Excuse me," says the small, friendly seeming one; they look like newborn salarymen in their not-quite-perfect suits. "May I see your passport?"

When I look up, surprised, he flashes me a badge showing that he's a plainclothes police officer. Dazed after crossing 16 time zones (from California), I hand him my British passport.

"What are you doing in Japan?"

"I'm writing about it." I pull out my business card with the red embossed logo of Time magazine.

"Time magazine?" says the smiling cop, strangely impressed. "He works for Time magazine," he explains to his lanky and impassive partner. "Very famous magazine," he assures me. "High prestige!"

Then he asks for my address and phone number and where I plan to be for the next 89 days. "If there is some unfortunate incident," he explains, "some terrorist attack" (he's sotto voce now), "then we will know you did it." more