Living in Japan: Eating with Chopsticks #2 – Non-Alien Registration

Today after lunch, a department staff kindly took me to the Hayama Town Hall to register myself as a resident. The building was familiar; I remembered seeing its image when googling about the town. There, I was comforted by the system and people’s efficiency. Registering as a new long-term resident is convenient. Let me explain from the start.

Weeks before my arrival, I was asked to fill in a form to create an “eligibility certificate” at the Ministry of Justice. I proceed to the Embassy of Japan with the certificate (which I received quickly) and after four days, my visa was ready. At the airport, I just had to show both the certificate and visa at immigration desk, registered my fingerprints, and waited five minutes for the card. Today, my colleague helped me fill a registration form and my address was printed on the back of that card in five minutes. This card and the registration proof will be required for opening bank account, subscribing to phones, and signing housing contract. I know it sounds a little tedious, but the service to support this system is efficient. Staffs were eager to help and instructions were clear, even if English was not the first language. Even English instructions are getting more common.

I can’t help comparing this to previous experience in Pavia (Italy, in the G7, OECD, so-called developed countries group with Japan), where I had to make three trips to the Town Hall, each with one hour queue and observing people rant to obtain my residence card. In addition to that, the card could only last one year even though we were registered to a master program that needed more than a year to graduate from. However, Italy’s phone subscription only needed a copy of passport (and you can easily put new sim card in your phone, unlike in Japan). Banks are the same.

In Indonesia, I queued at district office without number and the officer eventually lost my new citizen identity card. In Malawi, short-term visa just required a stamp on the passport (no other document was produced, this was in 2012) and waiting some days when it needs renewal. But the instant visa-on-arrival process in the latter country wins over the usually long queue at the Jakarta airport. Well Malawi’s maybe a little alarmingly too instant.

Coming back to Japan, its visa process still wins over Schengen’s – big time. Not even mentioning free visa policy for some countries, provided an “electronic passport” is used. Japan is obviously in bigger need of people than Europe (its society older than Europe – another interesting topic). This registration system I’m lucky enough to go through was newly established in 2012. In fact they abolished the term “alien registration system” and replaced it with “residency management system”. Japan is opening up to the foreign world – it needs to. And everything possible is being done to do so.

So which one wins? I’d say it’s one for Japan!

Hayama Town Hall (Wikipedia)
Hayama Town Hall (Wikipedia)


In Hayama Town Hall
In Hayama Town Hall

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