When the security guard in the Tokyo Narita Airport asked to put my bag through the X-ray machine a second time, I couldn’t help but tense up.
“Hi,” I said, assenting in Japanese. It was one of the few words I knew—along with some basic greetings and a handful of numbers. My language was limited, and as the bag went back to the conveyor belt, I started running through worst-case scenarios: With my limited Japanese and their limited English, how would I explain the thing I was carrying in my bag—the thing I knew they were looking at, the thing they couldn’t quite understand?
I wasn’t carrying anything illegal. I wasn’t doing anything wrong.
But as they unzipped the lowest pocket of my pack, plastic gloves on, and asked me if they could search my bag, I braced myself.