Japanese female influencer denied entry to Hawaii, suspected of prostitution

One of the bigger and somewhat stranger media stories of the last few days in Japan has been the case of a influencer from Osaka who was denied entry to Hawaii.

Considering the millions of tourists who enter Hawaii annually — many of them from Japan — it might seem like an odd story.

The border officer became suspicious of Karen Okajima because she had written she was an office worker on her ESTA immigration form but seemed to have a lot of clothing in her luggage for someone traveling alone.

karen okajima influencer denied entry hawaii

The 32-year-old says she was taken to a private room and questioned for a long time. She explained that she was actually an Instagram influencer and that she had brought a lot of clothing for wardrobe changes.

Okajima has around 45,000 followers on Instagram, where she claims to have visited 28 countries.

Large numbers of Asian women apparently enter Hawaii to work illegally as hostesses or sex workers, and Okajima came under suspicion.

Or it could simply be that she had de facto admitted she would doing her influencer work — i.e., taking selfies and posting them online — while a tourist.

karen okajima influencer denied entry hawaii

She was fingerprinted, swabbed, photographed, denied entry, and deported back to Japan. She won’t be able to enter the United States for 10 years.

It sounds a bit like an over-reaction by the border official and the situation was possibly made worse by miscommunication language issues between X and the airport staff. Or she paid the price for misrepresenting her profession on her immigration application.

But if no influencer is allowed to “work” while a tourist, it’s going to impact a lot of content creators who travel.

Since sharing her story on social media and being interviewed by the mainstream media, Okajima has faced a bit of a backlash online, leading her to delete her Twitter (X) account.

As we reported earlier in the year, the United States has long been a popular destination for Japanese women to work as escorts, but immigration control has become stricter in recent years, including checking people’s social media content. Women are increasingly choosing to travel to other parts of Asia instead, where it is often easier to enter and short-term stays doing sex work can be very lucrative. Hong Kong has become a popular destination but women still need to be careful, as the recent arrest of porn star Minato Maiha demonstrates.

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  • シン September 14, 2023

    “Okajima has faced a bit of a backlash online” For those of us that don’t have a Twitter account, any chance you can update this article with the nature/quotes of the backlash?

  • Tadashi Anahori (Post author) September 14, 2023


    As noted briefly in the article, she had to delete her Twitter/X account because she was criticized for lying on her ESTA application and trying to work as an influencer on a tourist visa, and then trying to play the victim, etc. Critics included Hiroyuki, who wields immense power on social media. Her recent Instagram posts also talk a bit about the backlash.

  • selfie. SPERM September 14, 2023

    good. keep her out for 100 years. we have more than enough airhead bimbos whose “work” consists of taking selfies.

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