Thursday, October 16, 2008

A serious house on a serious earth

Judging from my previous post, it might seem like life in Tokyo is just fun and games, but I can assure you that this is not the case!

Recently I also had to visit one of the saddest places in the whole of Tokyo metropolitan area, a truly bleak and depressing place; the immigration office. Their homepage kinda refelects the general atmosphere of that place. Thankfully, through use of agents and stable visas, I haven't had to visit this place so often, but it is a truly depressive experience to go there.

First of all, the place is inconveniently located quite far off from the nearest train station, demanding a bus ride (I never ride a bus in central Tokyo otherwise!) with people trying to hand out advertisements for overseas phone services targeting us poor lost souls here in Japan.

To be fair, the building looks decent enough both inside and from the outside, not particularly rundown or anything, but nothing fancy either. The first challenge is to try and find the right desk for the particular errand you are there for which is not the easiest thing and the information service is usually not of the particularly friendly type. Last time I was there I asked for information about the documents for applying for permanent residence and was met by a cold "why? It's not given out to anyone you know" by a person who knew nothing about me or my current status in Japan. I restrained myself from saying anything nasty and just said "just give me the papers, please" which she eventually did, looking very offended.

Then you are ready to enter the heart of darkness, usually the place is packed with people from many different nationalities. Some of the people that stands out particularly are the imported asian girls that work in the "entertainment" industry, usually escorted by a particularly seedy looking older Japanese man and dressed up ready to hit the streets the moment they get their stamps. I always thought that it would make sense to leave the mini-skirt and high boots at home for this visit, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

Then there's usually also the tragic scenes taking place with people for some reason being denied a visa or something, crying and desperately trying to plead with the clerks at the desk to no avail as they just push the button for the next number in line. As far as I've been told, they also house a small jail on the premises for those cases that needs to be shipped out urgently, but for reasons I cannot fully comprehend, I have never been put there.

This time I just needed some minor stamps for a small thing, but regardless you are put on wait at least an hour until they take pity on you and press your number... For some reason this time I had a clerk that actually seemed to be capable of a little emotion and a vague hint of friendliness as I got the things in order and could continue salarymaning about.

Those foreigners living here for sure know what I'm talking about and if you're planning to come here for a longer stay you will experience this for yourself. If nothing else, it is an interesting experience...


john turningpin said...

Been there, done that. Was a bizarre experience, being surrounded by Filipina, ahem, entertainers high-fiving each other and comparing how many years their visa was for.

Oh, and lots of screaming kids. Fun.

Tokyo Cowgiril said...

Excellent post!

I myself have not encountered the immigration office, being as I am illegal and all, but I hope to soon. Preferably before Xmas, when I'm supposed to by flying back again.

billywest said...

Being at the immigration office puts it all into perspective. You're not a Canadian, a Swede, a Brit, an Aussie, an American,... You're nothing but a non-Japanese person asking for permission to live alongside Japanese people in their homeland.

ThePenguin said...

@Tokyo Cowgiril: is that an oblique way of saying you'll be tying the knot?

DrRogg said...

Best way to make yourself feel more sanguine about the whole ordeal: drive there. Apart from the immigration office and recycling centre (mmm), most of the area seems to be taken up by freight companies. Which means you get trucks. Big, big trucks, changing lanes with the carefree, happy-go-lucky cheer of the average bumper car driver. I did it on a scooter once.

By the time you get there and have to steel yourself for the actual visa process, you're just happy to still be sucking down oxygen.

Mr. Salaryman said...

Well TC! You surely have something to look forward to then as you can see from the other people contributing here!

It's not a particularly nice place...

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