Getting A Re-Entry Permit

Today I took the day off work and went to get my re-entry permit (sai nyukoku kyoka) You need this if you want to leave Japan and then re-enter during the period of your work or study visa. As I’m going home for Christmas, I need it so as not to be turned away at the airport when I get back. 

You need – 
1. Your gaijin card
2. Your actual passport (not a photocopy, they stick the permit in your passport). 
3. 3000 yen for a single re-entry permit or 6000 yen for a multiple re-entry permit. 
4. A book. It might be a long wait.

I got mine at the Immigration Bureau (nyukoku kanri kyoku) in the nearby Big City. I had to get two trains and then a taxi because I wasn’t quite sure where it was. I was pretty sure that if a foreigner got into a taxi and asked for the Immigration Bureau, they’d know where to go. 
The taxi headed off immediately, and when we were a few streets away from the train station the driver asked if it was in a certain area. Having checked the address, I confirmed. When we got there, it was deserted. Clean rectangle on the side of the wall where the sign had been. 
Taxi driver hummed to himself for a while (meter running all the time) and then took off across town. Eventually we arrived at another building. I’m pretty sure I got screwed. 
Anyway, I arrived during lunch so I filled out my form (you can download and print the form here and bring it with you) and watched some tv. Learned about cleaning products. Saw the bento lunch that was served to world leaders at the G8 summit in Hokkaido this year. 84,000 yen. That’s $840 dollars for a small box of fish, rice and veg. Nice. 
At 1pm exactly the curtains opened. I was elbowed out of the way by a middle-aged Japanese man (what he was doing at the Immigration Bureau I have no idea) but made it to second in the queue. I was told to go to another floor where I had to pay 6000 yen and was given some stamps. I returned, waited a bit for the lady I had been dealing with to be free, handed her my form, my gaijin card (Certificate of Alien Registration) and my passport. She stuck the stamps to the form. I sat down. Watched a little more tv. My name was called and I got my passport and gaijin card back. Walked out of the building. Time? 1.21pm. 
All hail Japanese efficiency. I had brought my ipod and a book to pass the time, but it wasn’t necessary. Obviously, I think it would be a different story in Tokyo or Osaka, but in a less-populated city it was a breeze. 
I walked back into the city centre. I wandered round some shops and marvelled that it’s almost Christmas (it seems to have passed my little town by). I had a coffee from St*rbucks. I got the train home. 

Tales Of The Classroom

As previously mentioned, I teach English in a small after-school place in rural Japan. 
I’ve been there 3 months now and the fun just never stops. Not really. It’s often not fun. It’s often hard, tiring, boring and annoying. The lesson plans are pretty repetitive, the kids are boisterous and I get no breaks between classes. 
However, at this point, I’ve started to bond with the kids a bit. It’s tough, considering I teach well over 100 different kids. In fact, there are two sets of over-100-kids. I have one set and the other teacher has the other. Every two months we switch. Last time, it didn’t make any difference to me, I didn’t know any of the kids anyway. This time (1 December was the switch date), it was hard. I’ve been busting my butt to learn all their names and it’s so damn hard. I mean, for one – they’re Japanese. 
Not to say that “all Japanese look the same” or anything, but they kind of do. They all have straight dark brown hair and brown eyes. Every single one of them is ethnically Japanese. In many countries there would be variations in skin, hair and eye colour. Not here. Also, I don’t recognise the names. If they were called John, James, Sarah and Claire, it wouldn’t be so bad. 
Here, not only do I not recognise which names are boys’ and which are girls’, a lot of the names are the same, or very similar (in one class I have a Tatsuma, a Tatsuya and a Takuma – there’s a Takuya in another class). It’s an exercise in frustration to try to address them by name. 
Anyway, now and then funny things do happen. This week – 
1. In one class, I have six girls and one boy. He’s a slightly weird little kid (maybe 6 or 7) who refuses to sit (kneel) like all the other kids in the circle. He turns around to face the other way, mashes his face into the carpet and points his bum at me. His skinny little bum. It’s weird. Anyway, the other day while breathing in carpet fluff, he found a hair on the rug. A long, blond hair. Mine. He showed it to me and the class (who got all excited about it – it’s not like they don’t see blond hairs on my head every damn week). I apologised and told him to put it in the bin. He put it in his pocket. Then resumed his butt-pointing. 
2. On Wednesdays, I have a class of 1st year junior high school boys. They are rowdy as anything. Yesterday, I decided to let them watch the movie “Robots”. One of them was sitting where the tv is supposed to go, so while two other boys were carrying it across the room I tried to get the boy to move. I gave a quick “Hup! Hup! Hup!”. The other boys thought I was saying the f word (in Japanese there’s no proper f sound, it’s more just blowing through pursed lips, like the start of “which” if you don’t say it like “witch”). The two tv-carriers set down the tv and almost wet themselves laughing. The others started doing star jumps around the room shouting “F*ck!!” I tried to shush them and not laugh at the same time. I failed. 
Oh, if you’re wondering, that’s one of my little ones dressed as a ladybird for Hallowe’en. He has an apple in his mouth. It’s a teeny tiny mini-apple. Yes, he’s that small. 

Snowboarding at Yeti

So I finally went snowboarding last weekend. After a rocky start to the day (read – slept in til 11am when was supposed to be on the bus at 7, again) I met up with my new friend and convinced her to come with me. She has a car!

Note to Yeti Snowpark – your directions are rubbish! No directions should include the phrase “Find route 24”. It nearly killed us. Much simpler would be “if approaching from south, turn left onto route 24 when leaving expressway”, or “if approaching from north, turn right onto route 24 when leaving expressway” – we could work it out ourselves. Sheesh. 
An extra hour of driving around and stopping into five (5!) convenience stores for directions, we found route 24. Jubilation all around. 
Yeti park itself is a small snowpark by Mount Fuji. On the way there I took about 40 photos of Fuji, even though Friend said that once we got to Yeti we’d have the most amazing view. Good thing I ignored her, by the time we got there it was dark. 
Because it’s so early in the season there were only two slopes open. Or rather, one slope with two start points – they converge in the middle. There was only fake snow too, which usually would irritate the hell out of me, but because we arrived so late they had just spread a new layer for the night session so it was fine. 
Quick stop at the rental shop as Friend had to rent gear (2500 yen for clothes) and then on to the slope! It took a few goes to get the snow legs back and lose the Fear (the last time I snowboarded I fractured my nose) but soon I was careening down the mountain like the best of them (the beginners that is). 
It was my first time boarding at night, but I liked it. According to Friend, the park is packed during the day at the weekend. Buses come from the nearby cities and unload hundreds of people all at the same time so there are queues for everything. Tickets, rental, lifts, food, drinks, toilets. At night there was no queueing for anything. Even the lift queue moved as fast as I could skate on the snowboard, so it was perfect really. The slopes weren’t even that packed. 
The only downside of Yeti is the cost. You have to pay to go on the private road up to the park (500 yen). Then it’s 1000 yen to park. Plus the cost of the ticket. Plus rental. 
I didn’t have to pay for rental because I had already bought all my gear. (Post forthcoming on how to kit yourself out on the cheeeeeap.)
In conclusion – it was fun. I took a few spills, and there were a couple of crashes, but nothing a hot bath wouldn’t sort out. 
There was a minor freakout on the way home though when three rest stops in a row didn’t sell gas and we had to leave the expressway to get it. The poor car was running on vapours by the time we found it. 
Lesson – fill up whenever you can. You never know when your car’s next meal is coming from. 

Reasons To Clean

As said before, I live alone. I find it hard to motivate myself to clean when no one else will see it. Also, the apartment is tiny and I haven’t gotten around to acquiring storage furniture (plastic boxes). 

It’s not actually dirty, just very very untidy. Piles of books, clothes, blankets, bits of paper, cosmetics, you know. 

Today though, I think I’m going to have to clean. 
1. I seem to have lost all my clothes. Particularly socks. I just wear the same few pairs over and over again (I do wash them). 
2. Right now there is a bug so big I can hear it moving around and I can’t find it in the mess. 
Arg. I’m fairly sure I have a bag of cleaning products around here somewhere…