A trip to the immigration office.

After almost a year here, the time had come for two renewals: my contract and my visa. I’d done the former already, and with surprising ease, but the latter would require me to go to the Immigration Office, and Japan excels at bureaucracy. The company gave me a collection of papers and a copy of my contract to take along, and mentioned an office near Shinagawa. I couldn’t very well go during a workday, but お盆 was nigh, so I had some unexpected weekdays off.

I had other errands to run as well, so I decided to make a day of it. I left Thursday afternoon and got off in Shinagawa. My first stop was the bank, where I deposited some money and cancelled my debit card (since no one takes debit and I was going to have to start paying to have it.) Next up: Immigration.

The Immigration Office isn’t located near the train station; rather, you have to leave the station (which required me to walk its entire length) and catch a bus. First was the downstairs counter, where you submit (or fill out) your paperwork. I’d forgotten to bring a pen, so I asked to borrow one. The lady told me they were all in use, but I could go buy one at the in-building Family Mart. (No, thanks.) Next, I needed a photo — which I didn’t have, but could get from a nearby photo booth (800円 for two passport size and two square). Finally, I handed them the stack… and was told I was missing a form. Specifically, the one that said how much I paid in taxes. “That’s all they gave me,” I said. “You can call them if there’s a problem.” No, they said, just go on upstairs.

Upstairs was where the real immigration work gets done. The place looked like a DMV, complete with kids running around, different kinds of counters, and a neverending number display saying who was next. I stood in a long line so I could be told I was missing a form — I know, so please call my company and talk to them, okay? — so go to this other counter. There was no line there, and the guys handed me back my papers with a numbered ticket — 524 — and asked me to have a seat. The current number being served was in the 340s.

The next couple hours are a blur of naps and boredom. I dozed off enough times that I couldn’t any more, and I had neglected to take headphones, so music was out. I left one time to get a drink and snack from that Family Mart, but that was it. After far too long, it was my turn. The lady kept most of the paperwork, told me my current 在留 card was good until October, and said I should get something in the mail in three weeks. At that point, I would have to come back in for my new card. As for the missing form, I was told to have the company get it to them within a week — difficult, since my school was closed for the holiday, my boss was on vacation, and I wouldn’t be back in my home school until the following Thursday.

Three hours after starting the whole process, I was finally able to leave. I took the bus back to Shinagawa, then a train to Oomori, because I had business there. First was a long-overdue haircut at QB House (seriously, the last one was before I went to the States). Next was Book Off, to sell my old prepaid flip phone (which I’d remembered to bring this time). The guy at the buyback counter there actually ignored me and dealt with the woman behind me first, which was infuriating, and I called him on it immediately after. In the end, I ended up selling the damn thing for 400円, which actually made me laugh. Finally, I went to Ito Yokado for a surprisingly-unsatisfying meal and some paper towels. After all of that, I decided I needed a draft, and chose a cozy-looking place I’d passed many times before. No one was there except the owner’s family, who all looked at me funny, even after I said I just wanted a draft. I figured I’d sit at the counter, but he suggested I sit in the back. I asked if the counter was off-limits or something, and he said no. I finally got tired of discussing it and asked, “Where do you want me to sit?” Off to the back we went. It was tiny and empty, and I said it felt like he was hiding me. He ended up staying and talking, which made it a little less awkward, but I don’t see myself going back there again. I drank my Asahi and I went home.

In the end, despite how much I’d gotten done that day, the multiple annoyances I dealt with made it feel like I hadn’t accomplished a goddamn thing. Here’s hoping they grant me the five-year extension I asked for, if for no other reason than it’ll save me from having to go through the hassle for four years.

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