Even though I'm only here for about two weeks, I have enough material to write an entry about Japanese bureaucracy and all the joys and adventures that come with it. First it has to be said, that just because some authority is meant to deal with foreigners, it is not considered necessary that there is someone who speaks any other language than Japanese. To name an example: the migration office at the airport.
If you are going to stay in Japan for more than 3 month you need a visa. If you have all the necessary documents depending on the kind of visa you are aiming for, in my case a student visa, you apply for it at the Japanese embassy in your home country. This is where the fun begins, because you have to apply for the visa in person and also pick it up in person. This meant for me (and Peter, since he was kind enough to give me a ride) that I had to go to Vienna twice, which is a two and a half hours drive each direction from where I used to live, just to hand in/pick up some papers. But so far so good. I had my visa, we where ready to go to Japan.
The next hurdle I had to manage as soon as we set foot on Japanese ground. If you are migrating to Japan and not entering the country as a tourist, you have to go to the migration office at the airport. As mentioned above, working at the airport migration office in Japan does not require to speak Englisch any better than I speak Japanese, which is not good yet, to be honest. So there we were, two Japanese women and me trying to figure out, respectively to explain which of those unreadably words's meant to be my family name and what in the world an "ö" is without any common language. Well at least they let me in and at last they even got my name right on my residence card.
What you also get with the residence card ist a sheet of paper that tells you, that 14 days after you found a place to stay you have to go to the next municipal office and give them your address which they will print on the back of your residence card. I thought I might do that as well as soon as possible and went there on the next Tuesday. First, of course, I had to look up on the internet where to go, but that for once wasn't hard to find out. So I went there, took my time for some sight seeing on the way, and found the office without any bigger problems. It was a big building, there was an extra information desk for those who needed advice in english, and on the second try I even found the counter to which I was supposed to go. Even the woman at the counter was able to communicate in English a little. I got a form to fill out and everything went fine until she asked me for my passport. My passport! Since I had come here to have them print my address on the back of my residence card, nothing more, I hadn't thought about taking it with me. I told the nice lady at the counter, and suddenly her English got worse and she had to fetch a colleague to translate. She explained to her my situation in Japanese. They laughed.
Afterwards the second woman told me in English that I needed the passport, they couldn't help me without it, but I could take the form with me, fetch my passport and go to another municipal office closer to my home address. She even gave me an address and a plan.
I went home, got my passport, searched for the other municipal office via google maps and found it to be only a 6 minutes walk away. So I decided to go there before lunch.
The second office was closer to my home, but still harder to find, not just because there was written city office on the map I had and civil office on the sight in front of the building. But finally I figured, that they just had to be one and the same and went in. Inside at once an elderly man in uniform who had seen me puzzling in front of the glass door came to me and talked to me. He talked a lot. I did`t understand a single word. I asked him, if he spoke English. He kept on talking, so I guessed not. I showed him the map and the address they gave me at the first municipal office. He took a good look at it, turned it and decided that it had to be somewhere outside and began to walk me to the door while constantly talking. On the way there, from the corner of my eye I saw a sign in the back of the hall. "City Office" and something about residence. At once I knew, that's where I have to go. But what should I do about the man in the uniform?! "I think I have to go over there", I said. He kept walking me out, pointing down the street, still talking. I must have startet to panic a little, I really wanted to get this done before lunch, so I pulled out my residence cart and held it right in front of him. Since a Japanese friend of mine had read it out to me I knew that there was written on it in Japanese that I had to let my address be printed on the back. The man read it, smiled and showed me the way to the sign in the back of the hall.
When I entered the room the lady at the first counter waved me over and greeted in Japanese. I asked her, in Japanese, whether she spoke english. She answered in waving over another woman who walked around the office and seemed to work as a translator. Well at leased she translated what I said, the first woman took my form, and they talked in Japanese. Then the english speaking woman handed me another form and told me "write your name here, your address there...". When I tried for one moment to read the headline of the form she started to spell to me "R-O-P-P-O-N-G-I....", so I had no choice but to fill out the form as fast as possible, and also the next, and the next,... and then they took the forms and my residence card away and told me to sit down and wait.
After I had waited for a while and seen a lot of other people getting called to the various counters, mostly by number, fewer by name, I saw one of the women at the counters trying hard to pronounce something and I rightly thought, I guess that's me now. They gave me back my residence card, now with my address on the back and they also gave me a number and told me to wait again. I was a little confused, but I did as they said. I didn't have to wait for long this time. I was called to a counter by a man. He was at least able to communicate in English a little, and so I figured out that this hole thing was about my health insurance. I told him that I didn't want a health insurance, at least I had payed a lot back in Austria for an overseas insurance. Now the man was confused and he just let me go. It was already past lunch time, I was hungry and glad to get home and not to have to go back there any time soon!
The next day at the university they told us, we will all need to hand in a certificate of residence, which we would easily get at the next-to-home municipal office. Oh, and we all need to get Japanese health insurance...
So see you soon at the next-to-home municipal office,