Wednesday, March 25, 2015

July 8th - say goodbye to your gaijin card


A significantly less painful process than feared. Although there is virtually no parking at the Shinagawa Immigration Office, the actual process took less than thirty minutes. And for the first time ever, no fee required! Fill in the form, provide an updated picture and hand over your passport. Soon you're foreign immigrant and no longer a gaijin...

The ubiquitous gaijin card, the foreigner's registration card, is about to be consigned to the annals of history. Until now it has been a legal requirement for all foreign nationals residing in Japan to carry their identification card with them at all times. The rest were supposed to carry their passports. Non-compliance could result in a fine and police were allowed to stop and require this proof of identity without cause. But that said, in over twenty years I've never actually been requested to show my card, except occasionally at Narita when leaving the country for some reason. 

The big change is a question of who's in charge. Up until now registration as a foreign national residing in Japan was a matter of turning up at the local ward office, filling in a form, handing over a photograph and receiving your card in due course. It was a local matter managed by the local government. And now it's a national matter, managed by the national government. And as a guest in the country I don't see a major issue with this. I'm simply moving from one database to another.

Except.... it's actually not a question of civil liberties. I get it. Foreigners living in Japan need to be registered with someone. All Japanese are registered in one way or another too so there's no big deal there. No, the issue for me is  practical one. I used to be able to walk to my local ward office to renew my card. The staff were friendly and actually spoke great English making life easier. But not any more. Hello Shinagawa. An hour's walk, train, bus (ok, taxi) away from here. And if you arrive after about 11.30, bring a good book. July 8th, if you live in Japan, that's your deadline.

And we're off to Shinagawa!


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