Living in Japan: Do you have your papers?

So I’ve been living in Japan for a good while now so I think that it’s safe to say that if America is becoming a paperless society, then Japan is probably a society with some long standing vendetta against trees. In the past four months, I have been presented with more miscellaneous forms, files, official documents, and records than in the rest of my life combined. Rest assured, if you do anything in Japan, there’s probably some sort of form for it in a random office somewhere.

Yes, Japan is meticulously organized. But sometimes there is such a thing as being too organized. Now obviously a lot of the papers in my situation have to do with the fact that I’m a twenty-two year old Japanese citizen who pretty much blipped back onto the Japanese radar after twenty years of living abroad. That said, I have heard horror stories from both gaijin (foreigners) and Japanese citizens alike about the struggles of completing the requisite papers needed to set up a life in Japan.

Now my Japanese reading skills are far from perfect but the Japanese used on these documents is usually (a) very official (read: confusing) and (b) filled with kanji combinations and characters heretofore unused in modern Japan unless your job is reading these forms. When you open up an envelope and see a solid string of ten elaborate Chinese characters typed across the top in bold letters, you know you’re in for a fun night.

So if you’re interested in living in Japan, just beware the papers. I know Kafka was writing about German bureaucracy but I’m pretty sure he meant Japan. So brush up on those oft unused kanji. Or marry a Japanese person the second you get off the plane. Either way, have fun.

-Stephen

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