I laughed until I cried at the story Peter Garrison told about his trip to Japan [“Two Bobs,” September]! Having experienced flying into Japan myself, pre-9/11, I certainly understood what he encountered.
In 1987, I was working for an American auto-parts supplier, which was gearing up to make body parts for the soon-to-be-introduced Ford Explorer. A decision was made to buy our large stamping presses from Komatsu, a major producer in Komatsu, Japan. I was among those sent over to learn about and certify these giant presses.
Because the total bill for the presses came in at more than $36 million, Komatsu took every effort to assure we had a happy trip. So we traveled to and from Japan on a 747, in the “piano lounge” of a Northwest Airlines flight. At Narita, we were scheduled to go through customs and then board a “local flight” on another 747 to the city of Komatsu.
After arrival at Narita, we were ushered into a secure room where we met a bureaucrat and an armed man pointing what appeared to be a fully automatic weapon at us. The bureaucrat pointed to each of my friends and said, “You have a lethal weapon in your right pocket!” In both cases, this “lethal weapon” was a pocket knife, which was confiscated. When we arrived at Narita for our return trip home, a man came to return the pocket knives to my two friends, who thought they were lost forever.
Exactly as Mr. Garrison pointed out, no one in the United States was the least bit interested in whether we were carrying knives or guns. We went through two more airports each way, and no one ever considered whether the pocket knives were a threat — or, as far as I can tell, even knew they were carrying them.