The World: The Man Who Never Returned

The accomplishments of bureaucracy affect individuals in wondrous ways —and nowhere more so than in Japan. Consider the case of Herbert Freidman, an American businessman living in Japan. One day last month, he climbed aboard a plane at Tokyo airport and flew off to Okinawa, dutifully surrendering to a customs agent the alien-registration card he carries. His passport was stamped to show that Freidman was leaving the country. According to procedure, his passport would be stamped again when he returned to Tokyo, and he would be issued a new alien-registration card.

The only problem was that during the week that Freidman spent...

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