While on a packed plane apparently hovering over Siberia, we’re all handed a set of form from Japanese customs and Immigration. As well as asking for our address in Japan and in Germany  it lists a series of increasingly paranoid questions including”How much money are you currently carrying?” “Have you ever been found guilty of any criminal offence?“ and “are you currently carrying …drugs… or explosives?“ As a conclusion it adds that criminal proceedings will result if we don’t declare “Everything you are currently carrying”

Sigh. That’s Japan: ‘Foreigners’ have historically been viewed with deep suspicion. Between 1600 and 1867 the nation was closed to outsiders and ‘Non-Japanese’ were forbidden from the mainland on pain of death, but now the government has to be content with asking invasive questions, fingerprinting and photographing foreigners coming in, a practice I’d thought went out of fashion with the Berlin Wall.

But then, my own country has a pretty poor record in the same area (this account on the PPE blog is not entirely exaggerated, from my experience) so I suppose I’ve no reason to get too grumpy about it when I’m on the receiving end.

What a negative post. More positive stuff about this fascinating country, and cycling here, will follow,  I promise.