Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Building a Better Future...or at Least Repaving It...

It's amazing how such trivial things can turn into an adventure...or at least an experience.

As I said in a (relatively) recent post, the U.S. embassy sent me my new passport in only about half the time they warned me it would take. That in itself was a relief. However, I still had to go through the bureaucratic hassle of having my visas transferred to the new passport and having my records updated. That meant a trip to both the immigration office in Mito and the recently-promoted city hall of Namegata. Anything involving either of those two, let alone both, invariably involves a lot of waiting, so I had to try to find a weekday whose morning I could open up for the task. I was also legally obliged to do it as soon as possible.

My mornings at Ye Olde AcademyTM are generally busy and all but impossible to reschedule. Luckily, I have only one morning class on Thursdays, but that's the day that the homeroom teacher I assist takes her "training day" (read "training very hard to shop effectively"), so I have to look after our class. Today I went ahead and swapped out my one morning class, did the proverbial Japanese "shoganai" ("It can't be helped") thing with regard to the homeroom, took half the day off, and headed off to Mito timing it so I'd arrive at the immigration office when it opened at 9:00.

Ha ha ha. I can be so funny sometimes. Of course it wound up taking longer than that. Yes, traffic was a bit on the heavy side, but that wasn't the biggest problem. As it turned out, virtually every street I drove on from my house to the immigration office was under construction. I'm serious! Every single road had a lane blocked off or a shoulder walled in somewhere along the line, meaning plenty of flagmen and portable signals on the job. (How come they never use portable signals in the U.S.? Man, the Japanese just keep beating us at every turn!)

Even worse was all those damned speaker vans. As Pandabonium described in a recent post on his blog, there is an election taking place this Sunday, and all the campaign efforts are in full swing. As always, that means those damned vans driving around all day with loudspeakers on their roofs babbling away at high volume. I don't know how many of those things I passed today (quite often in slow motion because of the traffic, meaning that nerve-wracking babble rang in my ears for a looooonnnnnng time), but I do know that my finger kept searching for that elusive missile fire switch that I know has to be in my BLUE RAV4 somewhere!

I made it to the immigration office around 9:45, found a place to park (illegally) along with all the other customers there, went inside, and took a ticket to find to my astonishment that there were only three other people ahead of me in line. That meant a wait of less than half an hour. Processing my visa transfer and updating my records took about five minutes and didn't cost a thing. Happy to get that done with lots of time to spare, I stopped off to get a coffee and then aimed my car's BLUE nose back toward Namegata for the final bureaucratic hassle.

I'd only been to the "new" Namegata city hall (formerly Tamatsukuri town hall) once before, and only coming from my house. I'd never come at it from the other direction before, so I fired up the onboard navigation system to see if it could come up with a shortcut. Well, it did come up with a quicker way out of Mito(!), but then it tried to guide me along the same route as always...until I ran up against a road blocked by construction. The detour was narrow, curvy, steep, and kind of fun. It was also kind of scenic, and I was sorry I didn't have my camera (again...).

You know, it's interesting the way Japanese culture asserts itself even in spite of all the widespread Westernization. Looking at these road construction sites, the machines look like slightly more compact versions of those seen in the U.S.. The workers are dressed like those in the U.S.. Even the signs look pretty much the same (not counting the differing languages). But then again, if you actually look, you can see differences. I drove by one construction site to see the workers in formation going through their regular morning exercise routine. (Ever see anything like that in the U.S.?) In the States the end of a construction site is often marked by a sign saying, "End construction. Thank you for your patience." (I'd really like to know what percentage of drivers feel like stopping their car and peeing on that sign! Patience?? WHO'S PATIENT??!?!?!??) In Japan? The sign shows a graphic of a helmeted worker bowing full ninety degrees toward you, a formal apology. (Ever see anything like that in the U.S.? Somehow it actually does make me feel better, too.)

Anyway, I finally made it to the Namegata city hall, where I met the same "gaijin handler" who handled my business at the Aso town hall for eight years before the incorporation sent him over to former Tamatsukuri. The updating of my records took less time than it had to park my car. I rolled out of there with almost two hours left of my time off. I went home and actually doinked around a little on my Roland synth and one of my guitars, but then the in-laws started hassling me, so I went ahead and went to Ye Olde Academy early. That was probably a good thing. I managed to wipe out a pile of accumulated work. I'm now more or less caught up.

What a concept.

The Kashima Philharmonic concert is now two days away.


  • haha, that is not too bad at all.

    US and Jap are both working toward efficiency... for once.

    and less bureaucracy is always better..

    and yes, it is always good to enjoy a morning bliss when everyone else is working

    By Blogger Robin, at 6:23 PM  

  • I wanted to install the missile option on my Toyota pickup on Maui. It would have had missile that homed in on the bass frequency of "boom boxes" installed in vehicles that always seemed to end up in close proximity at every traffic light. Would work well on those political campaign vans too.

    Perhaps the technology of noise cancelling headsets could be adapted deal with them as well - that would be cool.

    Interestingly, the government is now considering a law to allow gasoline taxes in Japan to be used for things other than road construction. As your post shows, there is more than enough of that going on already.

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 7:31 PM  

  • Hang on - we had portable signals in Houston!
    But then, there is lots of road construction going on there all the time too.

    At the checkout counters here in London, where the lines are often abominably long, once you finally get to the till the cashier often says "Thank you for waiting." What can you say? Westerners always do this "thank you" thing when it comes to testing patience.

    And I must say, to even be acknowledged as a human being by customer service in the UK is a huge improvement, but that's beside the point.

    Would love to say more but got to run.

    By Anonymous Olivia at Work, at 10:13 PM  

  • Japanese people sure do have lots of funny culture. And the really maximize their time by working and "maintaining" their health at the same time too.

    Speaking of Japanese exercising, I once came upon a Japanese show which supposedly teaches English lesson, but I just can't understand why they have to include the synchronized exercise movements and monotonous chants by a group of girls. =_=!!!

    Worse, they said, "I was rubbed by 2 men"!

    By Blogger YD, at 3:18 AM  

  • Oops. I forgot to put the link

    Japanese English Lesson

    By Blogger YD, at 3:19 AM  

  • YD- they said "robbed" not "rubbed". It also doesn't look like NHK, but some obscure broadcast from a decade or more ago. Moody could probably judge much better than I, but he had a concert to play Sat. night....

    Anyway, never judge a country by a 3 minute clip.

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 9:03 PM  

  • Okay, I watched the clip. Judging by the music, the type of dance, and especially the appearance of the women, I'd say it definitely looks very '80s...maybe early '90s at the very latest. The biggest hint is the fact that all three of the women have black hair. Nowadays that would be considered an abomination.

    Also, that kind of stereotypical "crime is something you encounter every day in America" theme was something that was widespread right about the time I first came to Japan (in 1990), but started fading when Japan's own crime rate started climbing from around 1996 or so.

    Now it just looks very silly.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 9:46 PM  

  • You only took a half-day off? Even though I'm a homeroom teacher, I make it a point to take the entire day off. Something tells me you're really truly becoming Japanified, Kevin. Although at our "academy", most wouldn't even notice I was gone for the day except maybe my Assistant Homeroom Teacher -- "What are you increasing my workload for?"

    By Anonymous Obliquai, at 9:27 PM  

  • you know, that's something i've always wondered about w/ respect to japan and china.. the exercise they do in the mornings. do all companies adhere by this or just some?

    you know, you talk about crime, i was reading in the paper the other day about drug use in japan. a big thing there is speed - or something called shabu. it's starting to be a problem here in bahrain. actually, it's meth. i was reading about it after reading an article in the paper - because i had not heard of it before - and come to find out that japan is the first country to start using speed years ago. and now, many use it for daily tasks, like studying for exams, and such.

    do you hear about this drug there? they say it's being brought into bahrain from the philippines.

    By Blogger tooners, at 6:00 PM  

  • Drug use is actually a lot more widespread here than one might think. Yes, a lot of hard-core students and businessmen use meth, and they do get addicted to it. (Ironically, they say most of it actually comes from North Korea.) A lot of teenagers sniff paint thinner, much that it's actually considered more or less a given in some circles. It's something that's known about but not talked about.

    Heck, I'll never forget the time I went to a school banquet at a hotel near Kashima Shrine, and while I was standing by the famous shrine gate afterward waiting for my wife to pick me up a seedy-looking character came up to me and said, "Are you looking for a friend?"

    Fortunately, I said no. I found out later that that's the standard slang phrase for, "Do you want to buy drugs?"

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 12:41 AM  

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