Going to the immigration office is never simple.
The first couple of times I had to go, I had to go to the main immigration office in Tokyo, near Shinagawa. It was a long, hot bus ride to a building that not even Japanese people who could read the signs (only in Japanese) could find their way around. But I’ve written about the hours wasted there before (including my experience with the Brazilian She-male).
After that first time, my first real employer (the American School in Japan) actually had someone who handled the visa stuff for us, and it wasn’t until I got married and changed jobs within months of each other that I had to go again myself.
This time, at least, I got to go to the Yokohama Immigration office, located in a run-down building near Motomachi-Chukagai station. That wasn’t so bad, and I was usually able to go out for Chinese food afterwards. Also, most of the visa renewal processes are fairly painless there, and there never seemed to be a big crowd.
Motomachi-Chukagai Station is a little bit out of my way. I either have to take a train in to Yokohama and then backtrack on the Minatomirai Line, or switch to the Keihin-Tohoku line and ride to Ishikawacho and walk for 15 minutes to the office.
But really, not so bad, and the last few times I’ve been there, I haven’t spent more than an hour.
Until this morning.
It all started on Saturday, when I received a postcard from the immigration office telling me to show my face before June 24th at counter 4 on the second floor. The postcard looked the same as always, except that the stamp that said “revenue stamps are not available inside the building” was crossed out. “Oh,” I thought, “they must have put a machine in or something. Well, that’s nice, I won’t have to go to the combini to get them.”
Then, of course, knowing the system like I do, I wondered if that meant simply that I shouldn’t buy any because my application had been refused, and they just wanted to have me come in so they could tell me to their face.
I put my suspicions aside, sent a text message to my boss last night telling him that I was going to be about 90 minutes late today, got up this morning and trotted off for immigration.
I took the Minato-Mirai route to the immigration office, climbed out of Exit 4, and trotted along to the immigration building. I was prepared for the relatively simple transaction of revenue stamps for a stamp in my passport.
Simple, my ass.
The guard at the door waved me over as soon as I arrived. which was odd. He asked me if I was going to the immigration office, which I was, so he sent me over to another guard at a makeshift desk. The guard was a cheery man, who was talking to a couple when I approached… and realized what was going on.
The lovely, convenient, run-down Yokohama Immigration Office had moved.
I waited my turn, and the guard explained to me that the new immigration office was a 15-minute bus ride from Shin-Sugita station.
- Shin-Sugita is not a convenient station to get to from Motomachi-Chukagai; you either have to backtrack to Yokohama, or do the 15-minute walk over to Ishikawachou Station. If that had been my original destination, I could have gone two stops on the local train from my station, and walked for 5 minutes to get there.
- Yes, the new address was printed on the postcard. Actually, it was a label placed over the old address. It hadn’t rung any alarm bells with me, because, unlike the address it covered, it was in Japanese, which I can’t read without concentrating really hard.
- There was no other indication on the postcard that it was a new address, in any language!
- I’d just paid 250 Yen or so in train fare, and was about to add about 200 more to backtrack to a station that would have only cost me 190 to go originally.
- I am now going to be seriously late for work.
- The new office is in THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. You really do need to take a bus to get there. And the only food around is the combini on the first floor. Why they moved the office out of the most concentrated foreigner district in Yokohama, I will never know.
- Bus fare is 220 Yen on top of whatever else people pay to get here.
So, now I’m here. I’ve handed in my passport, Alien registration card, and form. I’m waiting for my number to come up. Except they don’t know how to use the number machine. Which means that the numbers on the display don’t match the numbers they’re calling out. Thank piss that numbers were the first things I ever learned in Japanese (Karate class, circa 1986). But it means that I can’t listen to music while I sit here.
Also, the office is more crowded than I’ve ever seen it… despite the fact that I see a lot of other people with maps in their hand (like me, they obviously were not notified of the office move).
Oops, my number’s coming up… got to go!