Customs officials allowed $800 worth of Girl Scout cookies sent to U.S. sailors to enter Japan duty-free Friday, and Japanese spokesmen said a misunderstanding was the cause of their being returned to the senders earlier this month.
The cookies arrived at the Tokyo Airport at Narita on a flight from Texas and were taken by vans to the Atsugi Naval Air Station for delivery to sailors aboard the aircraft carrier Midway, which is based in Yokosuka, Japan.
The 402 boxes of cookies were sold by Brownie Troop 807 in Beeville, Tex., to the crew of the Midway, with free shipment provided by American Airlines.
At the Japanese Embassy in Washington, spokesman Jim Caldwell blamed the airline for press accounts that Japan had sought an import duty on the cookies.
'Didn't Know the Procedures'
"American Airlines didn't know what it had and what the procedures were," Caldwell said. He said the airline only asked what the duty was and was told 24%. "The airline took it upon itself to return the cookies," Caldwell said.
A Navy spokeswoman, Lt. Janet Mescus, said Tuesday that the sailors were prevented from picking up the cookies May 2 by Japanese customs agents unless they paid a 20,000 yen duty, approximately $160. Some accounts had the duty requested as high as $2,000.
Mescus said the cookies were returned to the Beeville Girl Scouts, who had been corresponding with sailors on the Midway.
The cookie affair started when one of the sailors wrote that he missed Girl Scout cookies. The girls sent a mail order form to the ship, then on patrol in the Indian Ocean, which the sailors filled out complete with payment, Mescus said.