Too many Bamboos

Leaving Japan was more complex than I anticipated.


I arrive at the check-in counter. The lady smiles at me and takes my passport. The processing begins: She scans my passport, types on her keyboard and generates the boarding cards. Then she types some more, checks my passport again.

„You transfer to New Zealand?“

She checks some more on her computer.

„Do you have a ticket out of New Zealand?“
„Yes. To Australia.“

She checks some more. Her smile becomes a little bit static.

„Do you have a visa for Australia?“

She looks at her screen for a while, does not do anything, except smiling. A minute passes. She apologizes and excuses herself. She has to get her Supervisor.


Her Supervisor appears. She smiles. I answer the same questions all over again. This time the Supervisor wants to see a copy of the visa and the ticket. I have no printouts, but I have the files on my computer. She smiles what I think is a worried „That is not the correct way, but this time I make an exception“-smile. Someone close by offers to translate. The Translator and the Supervisor talk for a while in Japanese.

In the meantime I dig for my laptop. I open the visa and the ticket.

The Supervisor touches the screen and recoils. She talks to the Translator for a while. Basically she apologizes for touching the screen. She was expecting a touch screen. She made a mistake. She apologizes. I do not really mind. I am worried about something else by now. I scroll the documents for her. Then she scrolls some more herself: Up. Down. Up. Down …


She talks to the Translator. She cannot find a number of a certain length she is supposed to enter into a field in her interface. After some time she concludes that the number is not in the documents. There is a date, a time, a flight number, even payment details.

I have a visa. I have a ticket. A number is missing.

„Do you have more documents?“
I have one more PDF. I open it. The number is missing.

She smiles. I smile.

She talks to the Translator. She excuses herself. She has to call the airline. It takes some time. When she comes back, she smiles yet another way. No number. It seems the airline itself could not produce it. The Supervisor has to contact her Supervisor, who is actually the man who for the whole time stood quietly in the back. She talks to him for a while and comes back.

She asks me if I can show the documents on my laptop at any point in the world. I guess that is how laptops work.
I answer „Yes.“

She smiles relieved and hands me my boarding cards.

This is a condensed version of what happened. The whole process took more than half an hour.


What happened in New Zealand?

En route, I filled in an arrival card which basically asked: Why do I come to New Zealand? Am I a Criminal? Do I carry severe biohazards, like apples or muddy shoes?

The lady at Auckland Airport read my card, stamped the visa into my passport and said „Thank you.“, all in about ten seconds.

I remember the proverb that literally translates „ … to not see the forest because of all the trees.“ and basically means „ … to get so lost in details that one completely misses the point.“ I  would suggest a japanese proverb “… to not see the grove because of all the bamboo.”, but I am afraid this does not comply with Japanese Culture.


I am in fern country now.

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