When I got home from orientation, I checked my emails, and there was nothing new from the accommodation providers. So I called them. They speak English so I was able to explain my situation, they confirmed I would be able to move in to the sharehouse the following day. They asked if I had seen the email they had sent earlier explaining all this – as we were talking it popped up in my inbox, clearly my email server was having a take-it-easy day today.
I could move in but the house manager could not come and see me until the following day, Friday, so they would just leave the room open for me and the key “in the fridge.” Then I could sign all the contracts on Friday. This was a huge relief for me, because it meant I could check out of the hotel as planned without having to pay for another (expensive) night, and with a confirmed address I could get on with the registration process.
The only headache was that I had to go to training again in the morning, so I would have to check out before I went, and move in later in the day. However I didn’t want to be lugging my heavy suitcase around with me all day, so I would need to leave it at the hotel. But it was a long day the next day, with training in the morning then travelling to different schools for peer observation. I would need to put on my logistical thinking cap.
Fortunately the hotel confirmed they could look after my luggage after I checked out. I then had another logistical problem – I needed to go and register my address at the ward office for my district, Edogawa (informally known as “City Hall”) but looking on the map it was a long way from any metro stations. Walking would take too long and include a 100% possibility of getting lost, and while there were buses I didn’t know how to use them, nor would I know which stop I should get off at. It would have to be the expensive option of a taxi.
The hotel directed me to the taxi rank. In Japan they have taxi stops like bus stops, people wait in a line, and the taxi pulls up, and the back door opens automatically when the driver presses a button. I got in when it was my turn and gave my destination in English. The driver didn’t have a clue what I was saying (he was an older gentleman who may not have learned any English at school). He didn’t have any maps to point at and I couldn’t think of any non-verbal gestures to convey the concept of “administrative office” so by consensus he opened the door and let me out again.
A quick return to the hotel, and getting the receptionist to write down the magic words in Japanese script solved that little problem. I returned to the taxi rank just as another passenger was getting into the previous cab, so I would have a different driver. He still didn’t understand me so the written cue was extremely necessary!
1000 yen notes are the most commonly used bills, and they are worth midway between a fiver and a tenner in English money. Nevertheless it intuitively feels like a lot of money, and as the journey took longer and longer – most of it seemingly waiting for lights to change – the counter went up beyond 1000 and then beyond 2000. I knew roughly where the city hall was and was keeping an eye on the sat nav to make sure we were going to the right place. We got there at around Y2300, fortunately I had enough cash on me to cover that, and the driver helpfully pointed to the right building, though it was pretty obvious!
I went in and looked for the “English-speaking volunteers” I was promised. There were a couple of people wearing “information” arm bands, I spoke to one of them and was directed to a cashier, whose English was passable enough to get the job done. I explained why I was there and that I needed to register my address, and she went and returned with a bunch of forms that we went through to fill in together. She told me what else I would need to do while I was here – apply for health insurance and a “my number” which – I’m not sure – is some kind of tax code. I also asked about language lessons and got given some information about those. Then she took my residence card – to get my address printed on the back – gave me a ticket and asked me to wait at another desk.
I had been concerned that I hadn’t left enough time to do everything that needed doing before 5pm – I had about 2 hours – but after that initial wait, everything moved along quite quickly. I got my card back, went to another counter, filled in a form for Japanese government health insurance, got a health insurance card, got a certificate of residence, and I was done!
Now I had the problem of getting back home again. I didn’t fancy spending another Y2300 on a taxi, but there were no metros nearby. Perhaps I could have just walked south until I hit the tracks, but it would have been a long walk. Then I noticed at the bus stop that one of the buses terminated at Kasai Station – perfect! I could get on, stay on to the end of the line, then walk back to the hotel.
There was even some information in English about how to use the bus – it was a flat fare (only Y210), you got on at the front, dropped coins into the coin slots, and disembarked through the rear doors. Easy!
And no, I don’t have a story about how it turned out to be way more complicated – it really was that easy. Instead I can show you the fun designs for the bus seats, and tell you how the driver got out, moved people to make space available, and set down a ramp when a wheelchair user wanted to use the bus.
It wasn’t a direct route, we went over the next river (into the next district, I guess) and back again, but we ended up at Kasai Station as promised. As the bus emptied one young student was clearly asleep, as I was getting off I saw the bus driver getting out to go and wake him up.
I got back to the hotel just about ready to drop, but glad I had got a lot of the difficult administrative stuff to do with moving out here out of the way. Now I just had to think about tomorrow and handling check out, luggage collection, and when exactly I would move in. I did go and scope out my new digs before I fell asleep just so I would know how to get there quickly when dragging my luggage the next day, and that the entry code I had been given really did work (it did).