November 28, 2008 / 5:40 AM / 10 years ago

Japanese man flies to Mexico, camps at airport

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - A Japanese man who flew into Mexico City’s airport as a transit passenger 12 weeks ago is refusing to leave, but his reasons for staying remain a mystery and his government is taking a hands off approach.

Hiroshi Nohara, 40, from Tokyo, drinks a cup of coffee at the international airport in Mexico City November 27, 2008. REUTERS/Henry Romero

Hiroshi Nohara, in his 40s and from Tokyo, has remained in the airport transit lounge since September 2. He has a valid visa to Mexico and a return ticket home but refuses to budge.

“I know I’m doing something weird,” Nohara told Reuters Television in Mexico City this week.

“I don’t know how long I’ll be here. I have a visa until March, but I might leave sooner than that.”

Nohara has become a sort of celebrity, with airport staff and other transit passengers plying him with free food and drink, as well as stopping to take his picture and autograph.

He has given several media interviews, with some local media speculating that Nohara came to Latin America in search of love, and that he was on his way to Brazil via Mexico City.

Mexican officials and the Japanese embassy have failed to persuade Nohara to leave, but they say they are unable to force him out of the country because he is not committing any crime.

“Mr. Hiroshi has decided by his own will to remain here at the airport. He spends his time walking around the fast-food area. He eats there and practically sleeps there. His stay is legal for the airport,” said airport spokesman Victor Mejia.

A Japanese Foreign Ministry official in Tokyo also said there was little they could do for Nohara.

“It’s up to him whether he moves. We can’t force him. Only the Mexican government can decide whether to order him to get out or allow him to stay,” the official said.

Nohara’s situation has echoes of the 2004 film “The Terminal,” in which Hollywood actor Tom Hanks is a traveler from a fictional East European country who is stuck in New York’s JFK airport after his passport is revoked following a coup back home.

That film was inspired by the true story of an Iranian-born man who lived in Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport for 16 years.

Reporting by Isabel Reynolds in Tokyo and Reuters Television in Mexico City; Writing by Miral Fahmy; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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