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Band’s Nightmare: Japanese Immigration

The bureaucratic tangle allegedly resulted from simple incomplete paperwork, according to drummer Eric Kane and other sources close to the band. Legions of small- to midsized international performers stream across borders every month without official paperwork, and normally a band Strike Anywhere’s size can slip in and out under the radar. “We ended up getting the one immigration officer that was suspicious,” Kane says. “These people, that day, seemed to care quite a bit.”

The only member who made it through was guitarist Matt Smith, who entered the country as a visitor (sidestepping the paperwork) and went on to greet fans and sign autographs by himself at the sold-out shows.

The band was let go, according to the band’s online tour diary, after immigration officers allowed them a harried 10-minute Internet session, during which they e-mailed a friend, who helped get them released.

Band leader Thomas Barnett wrote of the event in a July 15 entry on the group’s online diary, describing a surreal place of both electronically locked doors and round-the-clock guards, but also of charming “green tea and unbelievable Japanese television.”

One of the most striking things was the profusion of writing all over their rooms, “hundreds of pen-written paragraphs, the grief- and rage-stricken testimonies of previous occupants,” Barnett recounts in often florid prose:

“Every language I had ever seen in print was represented in triplicate, as well as at least seven different alphabets. ... These paragraphs, each signed in desperate, earnest, angry flourish by the imprisoned author, were not only covering the walls. Once, I opened the night table drawer and the inside was thick with writing. When we turned on the lamps in the room, the insides of the light shades glowed like some inverted spider web with the scrawl of the disappointed and the damned.”

Strike Anywhere arrived home last week after the tour’s Australian leg. Despite the ordeal, Kane says the band hopes to return to Japan in the spring. “But we’ll try to get proper paperwork this time,” he says, “even with the extra cost. I think it’ll be worth it.” — Wayne Melton

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