06 June, 2016

Remembering that we're legal aliens in Japan

That's not pretty garden there, that's weeds.
It's eleven years next month since we first moved to Tokyo and since we first visited the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau in Tachikawa. I remember the first time we went there (and every time since) being amazed at this little grungy building at the end of a gravel road. It's got barbed wire on one boundary because it backs onto a military area and isn't at all what you'd expect of a Tokyo immigration office. It isn't in the midst of high rise buildings or a city centre. It's about two kilometres from the main CBD of the area.

Admittedly they've done a little to make it look more presentable in the eleven years we've been going there. The toilets have had an upgrade (that counts big with me, I do tend to rate places by their "facilities"). They may have painted the building and done a bit of work on the main waiting area. The access road even looks a little less like a country back-road. But it still seems a rather out-of-the-way place. It makes you feel that immigration isn't a big priority and something they want to shove away into a forgotten corner?

Anyway, I find any contact with immigration departments a little world-rocking. It is an admission that we don't belong here. That anytime someone could pull the rug out from underneath us and change our lives significantly. I know that that is unlikely. We're here with a respected organisation, live responsible lives, and have legitimate visas. But still, there's nothing like having to depend on a visa to make you feel like an alien.

Outside the immigration office at the end of the access road, which is only
partially sealed.
Today we had a dream run. We left home at about 7.45 a.m. and got there (only 13 km away) in about an hour, a good run. We grabbed a number in the queue and found ourselves at 16th, 25 minutes before the counters opened. We only waited until 10 a.m. and were home by 11.15. As I said, dream run! Now we wait for our self-addressed postcard to arrive with the news that our visas (hopefully five year versions, not three year ones) are ready for picking up (we hope).

Other immigration department stories
Here's what happened in 2013,  the last time we applied for visa extensions: lots more waiting, chaos, and driving, and makes today look very pedestrian.

Last year we had our scariest encounter with immigration, at one of our more vulnerable moments: in a Tokyo airport about to leave for a conference in Thailand.

But after saying all that, I'm glad we work in a country where we can be open about who we are (Christians and missionaries) and where we can get good, reasonably lengthy visas.


Hillary said...

Our 'local' (45 min drive from us) immigration office us rather on the grungy side and quite out of the way too!! But on the plus side, the staff is usually quite helpful!

Wendy said...

Helpful staff are always a bonus!