Chris Johnson Posts New Article: Says He Was Using 90-Day Tourist Visas
Here’s an update on the story of Christopher Johnson, a Canadian freelance journalist whose article about being denied entry to Japan has stirred debate in on Japan blogs and forums. In previous posts, I mentioned how a considerable number of readers were confused about Johnson’s reluctance to provide details about his visa status, with some speculating that he lacked a proper work visa. This led Johnson to send me an angry cease & desist letter, accusing me of slander and demanding that I delete my blog posts.
On February 15th, Johnson posted a new article on his blog: “Gotcha Bureaucracy and a Freelancer’s Visa Status.” It provides details about his visa that were not included in the versions of his story that appeared in his first blog post, the Economist, Debito.org, and Asia Times.
Below are some examples of what some critics have been writing about the new article.
Some “cliff notes” from Scott Urista on the NBR Japan Forum:
– You sponsored yourself for a ‘Specialist in Humanities’ visa in 2005
(often used by English teachers and language instructors)
– This visa was renewed in 2008
– This visa expired in 2011, while you were overseas
– You then (repeatedly) entered Japan on 90-day tourist visas on the advice
of immigration officers at Narita
So it is clear why you were ‘arbitrarily denied permission to enter Japan’: It wasn’t arbitrary at all; you were trying to enter Japan to work without a valid visa.
From VK on Tepido.org:
Basically, he’s now saying he was using tourist visas to go in and out of Japan because immigration had been messing around with his visa renewal for over four months. He was, he claims, being given a big run around by them, given contradictory advice and capricious requests. Everything sounds a little bit more plausible now. But it’s a very different story from the one he told previously, and states as facts things that he previously denied. At the beginning it was all a big mystery to him why he wasn’t allowed to enter, but now it’s much clearer and less arbitrary. He also stated he had a work visa, which he now admits he didn’t.
It’s a real puzzle why he didn’t mention all this at the beginning. And it makes his lurid cold-war thriller account – contemplating Solzhenitsyn, Mandela etc – all the more ludicrous. If he’d said Kafka, it would have made more sense. He’s still trying to insinuate his reporting caused the problem (which story did he break?), even claiming now his volleyball reporting caused problems.
Because it’s so different from the previous versions, and because it includes information that he had no reason to conceal (in this new version, his visa status is central. Originally, it was no one’s business) , I’m tempted to think he’s just spinning another yarn.
And the Flyjin.com blogger:
in late December he went to Korea and returned on December 23, without a work visa and without a re-entry permit. At the Narita immigration gate he apparently requested at least his 4th (or 5th or 6th or 7th?) 90-day temporary visitor visa of 2011.
Mr. Johnson’s visa post ends here, and we still do not know what the content of the immigration interview was at Narita that day. We can guess that the authorities saw someone who had repeatedly gone and come on tourist visas, who was obviously working in Japan, and who said he had had a visa application (not a visa renewal application) in progress for the past, who knows, 8 or 9 or 10 months. It sounds to me that he just ran out of luck. He made it through 3 or more times in 2011 without a work visa, and then he didn’t.
Given the contradictory and changing stories that immigration was telling him, I would have been very nervous about putting too much credence in a single immigration staff person’s outlier statement that “you can continue working in Japan and going in and out of the country” despite the lack of a work visa.
The Flyjin blogger has also posted a longer article that addresses the content of Johnson’s older blog post.
Mulboyne on the FG Forums has commented on how Johnson claimed to be “working legally and never broke laws in Japan.”
If he was resident in Japan, working as a journalist, but with no visa to support that status, then he clearly would be guilty of breaking a law. We can argue the toss about how serious an offence that may be, but it would constitute an offence.
There have also been some interactions about this on Twitter.