With the recent addition of fingerprinting foreigners at immigration, there has been a lot of talk this past month about the treatment of foreigners in Japan. Here is something you probably don’t hear much about:
Last week, I had to go to one of the government offices to get some documents changed. I recently had my work visa extended and so had to get my foreigner registration card updated. There is a local office that takes care of several towns (the ward office), and it is two stations away. The last few times I have been there (only once every 6 months or so) I was helped by the same man. He always greets me with a friendly and warm smile. He is very sincere, helpful, and really goes out of his way. In addition, he remembers me! He actually knew my name!
The week before, I had gone to the Yokohama immigration office. Yokohama is a big city, with a population of somewhere between 4 and 8 million, depending on who you talk to! The city has a long history of having a large number of foreign residents. As such, the immigration office is always packed with people, as you can imagine. Each time I go there I am treated pleasantly with respect and kindness.
Such kind treatment is not what I ever expected coming from a government office employee! I remember going to the government offices in my hometown to cancel my Alberta Health Care, and was treated extremely rudely. I encountered the same experience when I got my name changed on my passport in my hometown. What a breath of fresh air to be treated with kindness from a govt. employee!
This experience is perhaps unrivaled anywhere.