Monday, August 31, 2009

Alien Registration & National Health Insurance

Today, Rob, Katy and I met up with Chihoko and walked to the Koganei City Office to register as official aliens, and start the procedures to buy Japanese National Health Insurance (国民健康保険, kokumin kenkou hoken), which we need to do as we're studying at a Japanese University.

It was pouring with rain, really heavily, so we all had our umbrellas up. It was due to a typhoon (台風11号, the eleventh typhoon of the year) passing right by the Kanto region. We all went out in T-shirts and shorts like we had been for the past few days but for the first time since arriving, I was actually cold! I was actually shivering by the end of the day, because the rain combined with the strong wind was very unpleasant!

The Foreign Registration desk was on the first floor so we walked in and took seats straight away. They gave us application forms to fill in, and spoke some English so it quite easy to do it. I remembered some of it from last time I had to register as an alien in Chuo-ku.

To get an Alien Card (外国人登録証, gaikokujin tourokushou) you need:
- valid passport
- 2 standard passport photos (4.5cm x 3.5cm)
- completed application form (supplied by the city office)

After you get the card you can use it to open bank accounts and buy mobile phones, and it also acts as a proxy for your passport, so you don't need to carry your passport round with you as ID.

After finishing the application process, and paying Y200 each for the certificates for the bank and phone companies, proving we had applied for the card, we got an A4 certificate that can be used like an Alien Card until the real one is ready for collection. Ours should be ready in mid-September, so we'll go back and collect them in a couple of weeks.

After that, we headed upstairs to the second floor and waited for the desk handling the Health Insurance to be free. We were called up separately and were talked through (in Japanese, but with Chihoko's help we all understood) the procedure. We signed some documents and were told that we'd be informed by post when we could go to the post office to pay for it.

We couldn't write down our individual room numbers because they only had our guesthouse as a whole in their system. We were a bit worried about how the letters would reach us, but we remembered that at the guesthouse head office they had told us we could register our individual addresses, including room numbers, at a post office. So off we went, in the heavy rain, to the nearest post office.

We asked for the relevant forms, which seemed quite simple, until we realised we'd filled in the wrong sections. We asked for new forms, and Rob and Katy both seemed very dishearted that we looked like ばか外人, baka gaijin), or stupid foreigners, but I think I've grown so accustomed to making stupid mistakes that I didn't really mind!

We filled the new forms in and gave them back. They took longer with mine than with the other two, but there didn't seem to be any fatal errors, so I assume it'll be okay!

We then met Rob's friend Kazuya, who met us at a Softbank phone shop. Rob wanted to buy a pay-as-you-go (プリペイド, prepaid) phone, like I did nearly two years ago (I couldn't believe it was that long ago!) but of course he had trouble like I did. Not as much trouble admittedly, because he's over 20, but he had to go into a shop, and with Chihoko's kind help, order one. They said they'd email or ring him (through my phone) in a week or two when it's ready for him to collect.

Then we relaxed and went to a Japanese McDonald's! It was my very first Japanese McDonald's meal, as I purposefully avoided it last time I lived here. I wanted to try something you can't get in Britain, so I went for a Teriyaki burger. It was nice but the teriyaki sauce was slightly too sweet for my taste. The chips were exactly the same as in Britain, and the others said their food tasted identical, so if you're ever feeling homesick here you know where to turn!

We chatted for a while and then all headed back to the guesthouse to do some kanji study. Big placement test on Thursday! We need to be prepared!

Tomorrow we're meeting a good friend of ours called Georgie, who's in Tokyo for just one day. We need to decide where to show her! I hope the rain clears up though, the typhoon is due to move north, but I hope it clears Tokyo in time!

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