TOKYO -- A Japanese-American man who started a petition urging U.S. President Donald Trump to temporarily stop landfill work for the construction of a U.S. military base in Japan's southernmost prefecture of Okinawa was questioned for nearly two hours by Japanese immigration officials upon arrival at Kansai International Airport.
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At a press conference held at the House of Representatives Members' Office Building in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward Feb. 20, fourth-generation Japanese-American Robert Kajiwara said he'd been to Japan many times before, but that this was the first time he'd been subjected to such treatment. He said he believed he was harassed for starting the petition, and that it was also likely an attempt to discourage him from taking further action.
After he touched down at Kansai International Airport on the afternoon of Feb. 19, the 32-year-old Kajiwara was to catch a connecting flight to Haneda to meet with a suprapartisan group of legislators and supporters in Tokyo. According to Kajiwara and others involved with the case, however, when Kajiwara tried to get through immigration, the Osaka Regional Immigration Bureau's Kansai Airport District Immigration Office took Kajiwara to a separate room. There, they questioned him for around two hours about the purpose of his entry into Japan and the events in which he would be participating during his stay in the country.
The Kansai Airport District Immigration Office told the Mainichi Shimbun, "We confirmed whether (Kajiwara) was entering the country for the purpose of receiving remuneration. It was common procedure for someone who frequently enters and leaves the country. We've received complaints by phone that we've 'interfered with peace activism,' but we have no particular agenda."
Kajiwara tweeted about the incident on Feb. 19: "I was detained for 110 minutes while trying to enter Japan. Immigration took me to a separate room and interrogated me, asking me a bunch of questions about Henoko." The Kansai Airport District Immigration Office says it is receiving a large number of inquiries concerning the case.
A resident of Hawaii, Kajiwara started the petition on the White House website called "We the People" on Dec. 8 last year. It calls on President Trump to stop landfill work in the Henoko district of the northern Okinawa Prefecture city of Nago for the construction of a U.S. military base until a prefectural referendum on the base construction is held -- which, after several twists and turns, is now slated for Feb. 24. The U.S. government is meant to provide a response to any petitions on the site that gathers more than 100,000 signatures within a month; the Henoko petition that Kajiwara started collected that many signatures 11 days after it was launched. The petition has spread internationally, prompting the likes of Brian May of the British rock band Queen to sign it, and has rounded up approximately 210,000 signatures.
(Japanese original by Jun Ida, Evening Edition Department)