Hiroshi Nohara had a mega layover in Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International Airport – 117 days to be exact. After visiting the city in the fall, the Japanese man returned to the airport on Sept. 2 and did not leave until January. He left on Monday to fly to San Francisco and on to Japan.
Why he finally left is just as much a mystery as to why he stayed in the first place. Even he can’t explain it. "I do not understand why I am here," Nohara, who is originally from Tokyo, told a local television station through an interpreter. "I don’t have any reasons." Nohara’s job in Tokyo was cleaning office buildings. He had originally stayed in a hotel, but left because of the cost. He carried his clothes, blankets and belonging in plastic bags.
He had a valid visa good until March, so there was no legal way to force him to leave, in spite of Japanese embassy efforts to pressure him to return home. And except for a foul smell emanating from the unwashed and unshaved tourist, he caused no trouble, spending his days quietly sitting in a food court chair and eating food donated to him by vendors and airport passengers. When the interpreter was present, he talked and laughed with him for hours.
When the strange situation was reported to a TV station, he became a celebrity of sorts, posing for photographs and signing autographs. Although he submitted to these requests, he preferred to be left alone, he said.
The parallel with the 2004 film, “The Terminal” in which Tom Hanks is stranded at a New York City airport, was not lost on him, but he denied it was his inspiration. "My life," he joked, "is ‘The Terminal 2.’"
“Another Japanese person came for him yesterday,” said Victor Manuel Mejia, head of the airport’s press office. “They left in a taxi after spending 117 days in the airport,” “We can’t remember any similar cases in the past, it was totally atypical.”
It will be interesting to see if any details emerge regarding Nohara’s motivation behind his bizarre extended visit to Terminal 1 of the Mexico City airport.