Living in the terminal – for real

Sure, it sometimes feels like you’re living in a terminal when you’re on the road all the time.  I even did 60 hours inside security back in March on my way to Tokyo via Seattle and Baltimore a couple times.  But I can’t think of anyone who’s story comes even remotely close to that of Feng Zhenghu, a Chinese citizen who has moved into Narita Airport’s international arrival concourse

Feng has been denied entry to his native country eight times over the past month, four of them after actually arriving on the ground in China; the other four times Japanese officials denied his boarding attempt because they knew he’d be denied on arrival.  Not good at all.  So Feng has decided to live in the arrivals hall at Tokyo’s Narita airport, and he’s been doing so for over a month now.

He’s written a message by hand on a t-shirt and wanders the halls, explaining to folks who will listen that he’s been denied one of the most basic human rights, the ability to return to one’s home. 

And he’s living wholly on the generosity of other passengers passing through the facility.  Narita’s arrivals hall has no concessions facilities.  That means no access to food unless it is given to him by strangers passing through the terminal.  Days that he receives more than one meal or a hot meal are a special treat for the political refugee. 

He’s been generating quite a buzz of late, with some passengers producing pamphlets for him to hand out and by giving interviews via his mobile phone.  He’s also got a computer and camera with him in the terminal and he’s been using twitter ( quite extensively over the past month to raise awareness of his situation.  Japanese officials have offered him asylum and asked him to leave the terminal but there isn’t really much they can do to force the issue.  They cannot deport him to his home country because China won’t accept him and they cannot force him to immigrate.  It is very much an awkward situation for them.

Truly a strange story and also a rather sad one.  Not being able to go home would truly suck.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.