First Day at a New Job

Last week I wrote about Trash talk and our Neighborhood Group… and this group theme has been on my mind.

Honestly, it’s been a new world since we started school a month ago, which has kinda shifted our local network and how we move within it.

For example, there’s a family that lives in our apartment, and they’re quiet folks. We saw them only in passing but we tried to be friendly toward them to open a door of communication.

Well, the door is now off the hinges, because we are both now part of our Neighborhood Group. We both have first grade girls this year… and though we could never get beyond much of a “hello” beforehand, now we see each other and small talk or discuss things in the morning while sending our kids off, and the kids often play together in the evening times in front of our building.

There’s a sense of acceptance of us, because now we’re bonded as part of the group.

This doesn’t have so much to do with us personally, I think it’s more to do with the fact that we all have to have a sense of harmony in the group.

But, nonetheless, it opens the door for actual friendship and community.

Next, let’s talk about what I’ll call the Orange Group. Our kids in our neighborhood area are subdivided into smaller groups (like the one I was talking about above). But we’re all part of the orange group– orange being the color of the little ribbon we had to sew on top of the kids’ hats.

We have a list of the people within closer groups and sometimes we need to communicate with them for patrol partnerships. And usually we all meet at a certain spot to meet the kids walking home from school. This is a group that I’m still trying to mingle with and get to know more.

But they all know me… and often times they know a lot about our family. I have another post I’m working on about that– about our fishbowl lifestyle.

Anyway, walking home from school, the kids all walk in a pre-determined place in a line. There’s a mom in this orange group who walks behind us. The first several days, I just spent the time chatting with my daughter (obviously in English) and asking questions to get a sense of what her new world is like and how she’s faring with new friends.

But on one occasion, this mom behind us invited another friend who speaks English to walk home with us so that we could all talk and she could get to know us. What a surprise that was!

And she was a bit surprised too to find out that yes, we do also speak Japanese.

Anyway, this has turned into her and her kids often stopping by for a bit after school to play in front of our apartment. That’s required a little adjustment in figuring out my schedule, but has been helpful in talking about church and being a Christian (again, fishbowl).

Others introduce themselves to me by telling me who I must be (“Oh, you must be so-and-so’s mom”)…. Whereas when they meet other Japanese moms, it’s not obvious, and they may or may not have heard of each other. We just seem to be an open book.

So, it’s taken a bit of mental sorting to figure out and remember all these new people and our relationships and how they all work… It’s kinda like your first day on the job, where you’re meeting all these people from all these departments and learning who’s who.

But I’m definitely looking forward to getting to know more people and learn from them… and hopefully be able to share my hope with them as well!

Daily Dispatches

There’s a special pink-zippered bag among my daughter’s school belongings that I’ve discovered is the most important item.

They call it the Renraku-bukuro (contact/communication bag).

But I call it “The Daily Dispatches” and approach it with a “Sir! Yes Sir!” attitude.

My daughter is the messenger, carrying all-important paperwork, notices and messages from the teacher neatly glued inside the renraku-cho (contact/communication notebook) and returning completed items and tasks the next morning.

But this renraku-cho has been my confoundment these last days.

It all began when I suddenly realized that I wasn’t entirely sure which was the front side and which was the back.

Both sides had a title. Both sides had a label for specific information.

Surely the side with the small bar code must be the back— which made the book Japanese style (binding on the right) as compared to Western (binding on the left). We do it both styles here, so it was a 50/50 shot.

On the inside(front, I assumed) cover, I was told to fill out information regarding my child, the school, and our job, which I diligently did.

At the ceremony, the lady in front made important communications regarding a special yellow paper to be put in the renraku-cho. I had heard of this paper and had heard of its importance. I sat up a little straighter.

She showed the yellow slip glued over the place where I had filled out the information on the front cover. And it didn’t look like she had any information like I thought I’d been told to do.

But what really tripped me up was that she kept saying, “glue it to the back of the renraku-cho”.

Now I was really messed up because she had clearly glued hers to the front. Is it a western book now? Was I not supposed to fill it out the information? Where did I go wrong? Which side is the back of the book?

Am I being gaslighted?

What is going on here?

I browsed my paperwork trying to read it more carefully.

Yup, fill it out and glue it to the back of the book.

Well, I wasn’t sure of the information to fill out on the magic yellow paper anyhow, aside from her name. I puzzled it out again later that night, figuring that I’d just have to find out the next day.

The next morning, I stuck the yellow paper in my purse, and took along a health card I had filled out with my daughter’s daily temperature readings and sleep times/breakfast confirmed eaten.

I asked a parent in our assigned group what to do with this health card. She gave me a look of panic and concern and told me to put it in my dispatch bag. She noticed the yellow slip was missing and quickly explained how to fill it out.

Happy to know how to complete it, I now asked her where to attach it.

“To the back of the renraku-cho.”

Great.

BUT WHICH SIDE IS THE BACK???

My daughter returned home. I demanded the dispatch bag, which contained paperwork to be completed.

I opened the renraku-cho to find a note from the teacher glued in. Sometimes homework comes in this notebook. Sometimes I stamp, sometimes I’m to sign it. At any rate, I now assumed that this must be the front of the book, confirming my original suspicion that we were dealing with a Japanese-style book.

I flipped to the back to glue in the yellow slip and to my dismay, found the health card (which I had thought missing) folded and glued on one edge like a fold out. Apparently the teacher must have done this.

Well, now what to do??

In the meantime, I sent a message to the aforementioned neighbor to confirm the information I was to fill out.

THANKFULLY, she sent a picture. And as I zoomed in, I looked for clues on the edges of the yellow slip to see where she might have glued it in.

And I think I figured it out guys.

The yellow paper was to be glued onto the back of the front cover of the renraku-cho– glued on the top edge, laying over the information I’d filled out.

I said I think… but that’s the way it’s going to be guys. Because I glued that thing in, washed my hands of it, and put it out of my sight for the evening.

I have the whole weekend now to finish the rest of my tasks and submit my Dispatches to the teacher on Monday morning.

Nyuugaku

So the day I’ve been preparing for for months finally arrived– The Nyuugaku-shiki or Entrance Ceremony for first graders beginning elementary school.

The gymnasium was lined with thick red-and-white-striped material on the walls, flowers across the front, and a wide, high desk on the stage. Chairs were social-distance spaced, and overall, a guarded silence pervaded the room as we waited for the children to enter and the event to begin.

The actual ceremony contained the parts of a “ceremony” we’ve come to recognize in all meetings Japanese– an official declaration of beginning the event…. speeches from so and so…. standing, bowing multiple times and eventually an official declaration of ending the event.

This time we got to listen to the national anthem, which was moving.

At one point (all the parents were seated behind the classes), I smiled behind my mask to see all the little boys in row line swinging their little legs (some of which barely touched the floor) while the girls in the next row to them held still legs.

During the course of the morning’s activities, the children learned who was going to be in their classes, who their teacher was, where their shoe cubby was. They turned in paperwork and received name badges with colors and numbers that all meant something. They deposited items we had been told to bring to their respective places, received their text books and… so. much. paperwork.

Class pictures were taken with everyone in their finest, and families looked forward to their individual celebrations at home or in the home of a friend.

It’s a big deal here in Japan and the start of a new season for children AND parents.

Legalities: Babies in Tokyo

This post is intended to outline what an American parent will need to do in Japan to get their newborn baby legal here.  It’s for future reference for myself (I’m rather doubtful of the need at this moment) and for anyone other applicable person who stumbles across this page. (As a disclaimer, though Tokyo is listed in the title, we lived in Saitama)

A couple of days after the delivery of your baby, the staff of the hospital or clinic will give you a Birth Report (Shussei Todoke/Shussei Shoumeisho), which will have two sides.  One side is filled out by the hospital and the other side is for you to fill out.  This will begin the grand process of legalizing your baby… and for us, it created a giant pool of confusion!

(Random note: there is a postcard that goes along with your coupon book for the appointments; fill that out and send it in.  I’m not sure why [yet], but you’re supposed to do it.)

City Hall

Within 14 days of the birth of your child, either (or both) you or your spouse will need to make a trip to City Hall to register the baby’s birth and receive the birth certificate. The baby does not need to be present.

Documents Needed:

  • -The completed Shussei Todoke/Shussei Shoumeisho
  • -The Mother/Child Health Handbook (Boshi Techou)
  • -Your National Health Insurance Card
  • -Both parents’ Passports and Residence Cards
  • -Your Hanko (personal name stamp)– though this is needed less and less these days for foreigners

First Stop: Birth Register Desk

Present these documents at the desk and eventually, they will give you them back, with a paper attached to the Shussei Shoumeisho showing you have registered the birth.

Now here came the kicker for us: the guy at the desk insisted that our daughter’s name should not be written the way that we wrote it– he insisted the Japanese way to do it was the reverse the order of the middle and first name. (Japanese don’t have middle names, thus the fuss)

Too bad I’m not Japanese. I’m really glad I wasn’t there for this discussion.

It’s not a big deal, though a pain in the tuckus in the long run.  What complicated our situation a bit more was that he added the middle name to the last name box, so in effect, it appears that our daughter has two last names.  I don’t know what the deal is because no one else I know has had a problem like this.

Believe me, I asked around. I think it was just a power kick, or that he ran into some troublesome foreigners earlier in the day.  I don’t know.

But as the guy at the US embassy told me (though we had some dramatic pauses while they examined our daughter’s two last names…)– you can name your kid whatever you want in America.

Next Stops:

The NHI counter for health insurance, the child health program (to get the free doctor visits postcard) and the Jidouteatte counter. *Note that you will be issued a temporary health insurance card until the baby’s visa is established.

Documents to Collect While at City Hall:

-A copy of your Residence Record (Juminhyou) with your new child’s information on it.  Note: Make sure that you get everything listed on the Juminhyou– you will need your residence card number, type and expiration dates printed on there as well.  Don’t ask how we know.

-The most recent tax payment certificate (Nouzei Shoumeisho/Kazei Shoumeisho).  If one parent is a dependent, you will need that record that they were listed as a the taxpaying parent’s dependent.

Immigration Office

Note that your deadline to complete this is 30 days. One parent (or a guarantor) can do this, and the baby does not need to be present.

Documents Needed:

  • -Application form for Permission to Acquire Status of Residence- no need for a photo of the baby. Also, the working parent is to be listed as the guarantor/legal representative on the form.
  • -Both parents’ passports and residence cards (and a copy of each)
  • -Baby’s Passport (but if you don’t have it, that’s ok)
  • -A Certificate of Employment (with employer’s hanko on it) (each working parent will need this) This needs to be issued within the last 3 months
  • -The above mentioned Tax Certificates (Note that if you moved to a new city within the last tax-paying year, you will need to visit the prior city hall for this document)
  • -Above mentioned Juminhyou
  • -The registered Shussei todoke shoumeisho (birth certificate)
  • -Boshi Techo
  • -Shitsumonsho (Parent’s info form which can be got and filled out at the IO)
  • Your Hanko

Submit all these documents and viola!  You will be issued a residence card for your little one.

Once this process is complete, your city hall will then mail you a health insurance card for your baby with a longer expiration date and a “my-number card” application, which you will need to fill out (can be done online too) and send in.

Note that if you do not complete the above two processes within the allotted time, they very well may try to deport your baby. It happened to a friend of a friend, so if need be, collect all the applications and documents (beside the Juminhyou- you have to wait for that) ahead of time.

US Embassy

This one’s a doozy guys! Thankfully, there’s no real deadline for this part (unless you plan to travel soon).  We went when the baby was two weeks old because of all the unknowns with the middle name and how that would affect her at immigration (resolution below).

Also, both parents will need to be there (or a notarized document stating why it’s not possible) and the baby needs to be present as well.

Documents Needed:

Every document you possess.

Just kidding, but here we go:

  • Completed Application for Consular Report of Birth Abroad- Note about the times of physical presence in the US: though the form says you have to be very specific about dates, the rep I talked to and every other person who’s gone through the process says that only major chunks of time outside the US need to be accounted for. Don’t stress over a week here or there for vacations.
  • Completed Passport Application
  • Completed Social Security Number Application
  • The Shussei Todoke Shoumeisho (if both parents are American) and a copy
  • An English translation of the above document- you can get a template on the embassy’s website; it does not have to be done professionally.  Note: The issue date is the date that the document is registered;  the title is the title of the document and the name is the name of the person who registered the document (on the attached paper of the Shussei Todoke Shoumeisho).
  • The Affidavit of Child’s Name (which we used to fix our daughter’s name)
  • Parent’s Marriage Certificate and a copy (if divorced or widowed or unmarried at the time of the birth, refer to the embassy’s page)
  • Parent’s Passports plus a copy (we were asked for two, but the website requests one) -In our case, one parent is a naturalized US Citizen.  You are supposed to bring the original certificate plus a copy, but we were told we didn’t need it.  Go prepared though!)
  • Evidence of Physical Presence- though we were not asked for it.  Consider using transcripts, job evaluation records, tax records, medical receipts or prior passports, etc. Note that only one parent needs to present this info.
  • Both Parents IDs (plus a copy)- your drivers license or Japanese Residence card will work.  This is also something we weren’t asked for.
  • Application Fees in yen or USD or credit card
  • A Passport Photo for your Child
  • A self-addressed Letter Pack Envelope (you can purchase at a the Post Office or the Family Mart nearest the Tokyo Embassy.

You will need to schedule an appointment at the embassy (arrive early to go through security– note that if there’s a line, you can skip ahead if you have a baby!… and you better, because baby has to be there).  Print out the appointment sheet when you schedule online and take it with you.

Submit all these documents at the counter, sign when prompted, pay and swear the oath that you’re telling the truth and then wait at home for your documents to arrive!

Resolution about the Name Mishap

So, it’s a bit confusing, but all our Japanese documents list our daughters name as Last Middle (,) First.  We ran to the Embassy to hopefully get her passport issued before needing to go to Immigration but it didn’t arrive.  So we crossed our fingers and headed to the IO.

The Immigration representative told us that because there’s no essential name difference (just a difference in the order of the name), that they would issue it as is- according to the City Hall paperwork- and when it comes time to renew her residence card, it will be changed to read like the passport (like everyone else in our family).

So, no problem, but essentially we’re delaying dealing with the difference until later.

At this point, I don’t care!  The fact that after a c-section we accomplished all the above- two of the offices being an hour away- within 30 days means that I get a golden star.  Or at least a participation ribbon showing that I am now the mother of a bonafide citizen of the US and resident of Japan.

But realistically, it just means I have a lot more paperwork to file away.

We-Can-Do-It-Rosie