When living in a foreign country, there are many exciting and wonderful things to see and do. However, not knowing the local language can sometimes, initially at least, make ordinary and commonplace tasks appear somewhat daunting. One of these such things is dealing with official documentation and bureaucracy, particularly when doing so for the first time without any guidance.
So, when I foolishly lost my wallet on a sightseeing tour of Tokyo, I was less concerned by the loss of cash therein than I was of the idea of going about getting my official documentation back, particularly my residence card. As it turns out, I needn’t have been so worried.
The first thing I did was to head to the nearest koban (police box) to explain the situation. This worried me at first as my Japanese is barely passable and I was unsure how I could explain the situation. Luckily I remembered the word for wallet, saifu and mimed it disappearing, however if I had been paying more attention in my Japanese lessons I would have said Saifu wo otoshite, Zairyū kādo wo nakunarimashita. (I have lost my wallet and my Residence Card). Fortunately the police officer knew what he had to do. Using a multi-lingual form he took down my details. Then he took out a book with readily printed explanations of situations in various languages that helped me (after pointing out that although the characters look alike, I required the English section rather than the Portuguese) understand what would happen next
He then gave me a sheet with a crime report number. This was extremely important, the book explained, for without that I would be unable to have my card reissued. He also explained that it was important for me to carry my passport at all times, for if I were stopped without it after a period of 14 days without requesting a new card, officially I could be fined up to 200,000 JPY, though through gestures and facial expressions he made it clear that this was unlikely.
Once I returned to Nagoya, my next step was to go to the Nagoya Regional Immigration Bureau*. This can be found less than two minutes’ walk (turn left out of the exit and it is well signposted on your left) from Nagoya Keibajomae station, a thirteen minute ride from Nagoya station on the Aonami line. Upon arrival I found the information centre on the first floor where I explained my situation. The centre’s staff speak a variety of languages, but if you are unfortunate enough to come across a staff member who struggles with English you can say Zairyū kādo wo atarashiku tsukuremasu ka. (I need a new residence card). I was given an easy to complete form and directed upstairs to the main immigration centre.
It is important to be aware that your application form must be accompanied by a recent photograph. Photo booths can be found in many places of course, and you will even pass some on the street on your way there, however I used one of the booths in the convenience store actually inside the immigration centre on the second floor as, for 700JPY, it had specific settings for ID photos and I could be sure that there would be no purikura-style enhancements. You may laugh, but it has happened before.
After cutting out my photo (scissors are provided in the conbini) I entered the immigration office and took a ticket at desk number 10. When my number was called I handed over my application, photo, police crime report and my passport and, after a mere 20 minute wait I had a shiny new gaijin card. An unexpectedly painless experience altogether.
So, all in all, a happy ending, particularly as, two weeks later, my wallet was returned to me in one piece. Japanese honesty, definitely the best thing about the country.
*It should be noted that it may be possible to have your card reissued at your ward office; however I have heard from a few people that they have encountered difficulty with either long waits, translation problems or even flat out refusal, being told that they have to go to the immigration centre. It really is the luck of the draw.