Though this blog is was originally intended as a resource for offenders in Massachusetts, much of what I write about is applicable to sex offenders in every other state and many countries around the world, especially in Western Europe. Even other non-sex offenders trying to navigate prison, probation and parole, or employment and education opportunities can glean relevant information from this blog and apply it to help overcome their own struggles.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Tsunami, Earthquake, and My Previous Attempt At Visiting Japanese Family & Friends

Like many others, I have family and friends in Japan who have been experiencing the unrelenting horror that has been playing out since Friday.  I was relieved to hear from those I know saying they were okay but know aftershocks continue and winds today could take any significant nuclear material from reactors in the affected region south toward Tokyo and Osaka.  It's not over.

A few years back, I received permission from my chief probation officer and a judge to visit Japan for work and family reasons.  But it wasn't going to be that simple.  I had a ticket in hand and boarded the long flight to Tokyo.  This was my first international flight and when the customs card was passed out, I filled it out truthfully and completely.   That means checking the box that said I was a convicted felon.  Now, in the etherial world of honesty, this was an awesome choice.  But in reality, when I passed the card to the customs officer after disembarking, she asked me if I had really checked the correct box.   I, of course, said yes, and she called over a supervisor.  Long story short, I was denied entry to Japan and was put on the first flight out, which happened to be to Hawaii.  Not a bad thing, I suppose, because after almost a full day of flying I spend a day in Honolulu, rented a car, and went swimming during my layover.  Overall, I was disappointed and devastated.  Stupid me...

I should have done some research on customs but maybe I didn't want to know the truth-that Japan really doesn't let anyone in with a declared criminal record.  The exact regulations aren't clear. One website says if you spent more than a year in jail/prison you aren't allowed entry.  Whether or not they know beforehand of any criminal record-I don't know.  I'm not suggesting to lie if you are a convicted felon but I wonder how things would have gone if I hadn't been so honest!  Naive...

Within the next few years, I do plan on petitioning the consulate here in Boston to try and get an official to allow me to gain entry to Japan, which I am sure involves connections and a fair amount of money.  I've never seen my family in Japan but recent events make this wish more imperative than ever before.  At the same time, I also have had a recent offer to travel to Thailand, too.  Yeah, I know, totally looks bad as a RSO but there is nothing nefarious about the trip at all.  I love to travel and that is a dream vacation no matter who you are!  A friend of mine has a "connected" family in Bangkok who will host me and show me around.  I should try and go before laws get passed stripping RSO's of passports.