Patchwork Yokohama
8. Bureaucratic Yokohama
by Pencil Louis
          Vince had a  healthy  distaste  for  paper work - tax forms,
          application forms, competition entry forms never agreed with
          him. He always felt guilty after filling them in. It was not
          that he lied.  It  was  just  that the forms never asked the
          right questions. He  always  seemed to be in a category that
          wasn't covered by the appropriate form.

          Not surprisingly, he  found  most  distasteful  of  all  the
          mountains of paperwork  that  was required to stay in Japan.
          He had gone down to the local government Midori ward offices
          to register as  a  foreign  resident in the days just before
          the finger-printing law  was  abolished.  He  had  the print
          taken from the  index  finger  of his left and wondered what
          would happen if  the  yakuza  got  a hold of him and chopped
          that finger off  as Japanese gangsters had a habit of doing.
          The whole process was speeded up by some sympathetic clerics
          in the ward  offices  and it had still taken an afternoon to
          get the paperwork through.

          Before they could  obtain  a  foreigner's registration card,
          both Vince and  Connie  had  to  get visas beyond the normal
          three month tourist allotment. This had always been a hassle
          for the Patchworks. In their first year, it had meant a trip
          to smog-ridden Seoul  and a two hour wait in a queue outside
          the Japanese embassy.  When they had finally got their visas
          after two days,  Vince  had  discovered  that  Connie's  was
          correct - a  spouse  visa  for one year - and his own was an
          entertainer's visa for  three months. It had taken Vince two
          further days to  convince the officials in Seoul that he was
          an instructor not  an  entertainer.  This  was a significant
          clerical  error  although   it  might  sometimes  have  been
          difficult to tell  the  difference  between foreign teachers
          and entertainers in Japan.

          When he went  to  renew  his  visa,  Vince  was  relieved to
          discover that he  didn't  have  to go to Seoul. He was given
          the morning off  work and told to go down to the Immigration
          Office in Ikejiri  Ohashi. Vince and Connie arrived there at
          8 o'clock in the morning to discover that there were already
          40 people waiting.  When he finally reached the front of the
          queue, the woman  behind  the  counter  took one look at his
          form and told  him  that  he  was  in the wrong office. As a
          resident of Kanagawa  Prefecture, he would have to go to the
          office in Yokohama.  It  was  already 9:30 and Vince saw his
          morning off ebbing away.

          At break-neck speed, he raced down to Sakuragicho station on
          the Toyoko line  and caught a taxi to the Immigration Office
          near Yamashita Park.  Breathlessly,  he  raced  upstairs and
          found that he  was  in a room with 80 other people. Each and
          every one of  them  looked  very  grim  and Vince could only
          think that the happy ones had already been given their visas
          and sent on  their way. Grimmest of all were the two men who
          sat  behind two  counters,  looking  as  if  they  needed  a
          cigarette. All the  seats  faced  them, so it was impossible
          not to look at their downcast frowns.

          An hour and a half later, when he was finally called up, the
          two men looked  grimmer  than ever. It was nearing lunchtime
          and they would  undoubtedly be able to get that long awaited
          smoke soon. If  that  was  the case, they seemed in no hurry
          with Vince's visa.  The man who called him up fired a couple
          of questions at  Vince,  looked  totally  unsatisfied at the
          answers and asked  him  to  sit  down  again.  Vince  obeyed
          hesitatingly. He was,  however,  very  relieved  when he was
          recalled  a matter  of  minutes  later  and  presented  with
          another visa. Legal for another year.

          Somewhere during the  duration  of  his  second  visa, Vince
          discovered how to  play  the  game. He filled out the papers
          beforehand, ambled into the office at 4:55 in the afternoon,
          five minutes before closing time. The man behind the counter
          didn't even look  at  the  papers or scrutinise his passport
          for some criminal  record.  He  merely  lifted  his hand and
          stamped it. Vince  and  Connie  left  Immigration  at  4:57,
          wondering if they  had  created  a  new world record for the
          fastest double visa in Japan.