There was an article late in 2004 that said that Japan Immigration at the major airports like Narita will start taking digital photographs of visitors coming into the country, much like what the United States had started doing recently. Prior to my arrival at Narita today, I prepped myself while still airborne, making sure that no one would take a horrible mugshot of yours truly after 11 hours of flight.
As it turned out, the photo-on-the-spot thing had not yet taken place, but what I noticed earlier was that the landing card had changed. It used to ask for a home address, which one was expected to fill in with a complete home address including street and address number, etc. This time around, only city and country needed to be mentioned. The space for “purpose of visit” used to be a very small block at the bottom corner of the disembarkation card, but is now extended with a multiple choice (business, tourism, transit, others…). They now also ask not only the address where you will reside during your visit, but also a phone number.
I was also oblivious to the fact that there was a fine print at the bottom of the landing card, advising me to turn the card around for more things to read and to fill. On the back side were four more questions about your visit and who you are, completed only when you sign at the bottom of the card. I failed to do this and was asked to do it on the spot. The immigration officer also asked the name of the person who was supposed to be my host. The officer was young, probably just out of college; he was very thorough and polite.
Customs did not give me any problem; it never has, really. The one time they did ask a lot of things, they got around in asking what I did. When I responded that I taught at a university, his demeanor changed. He thought I was a businessman. Apparently Japanese still have respects for academic figures; how quaint.