The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

A peace piece

Kabukicho host paece

I have just spent a ridiculously large amount of money to register and get passports for my kids to go to England. Really how can it cost that much to sign a piece of paper or get a little book for national vanity stamps? The Japanese passport for my kids, which I have to have as well, costs 6,000 yen, the British one (under twelves valid only for 5 years please note) costs 17,000!!!

With the recent good feeling we`ve been generating around the world with our Iraqi exercise in wannabe Americanism and other misadventures, owning a British passport is not quite the boon it used to be so why does it still cost so much?

Don`t even get me started on my wive`s visa for England. Please note consular people she is not an illegal immigrant, or a terrorist, she`s just brave enough to have married me and the application (all in English of course as a sort of pre-screening of the liquistically acceptable) is just not very welcoming.

I love the questions in the application, and I quote:

“5.10 In times of either peace or war have you ever been involved in, or suspected of  involvement, in war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide?”


 “5.11 Have you ever been involved in, supported, or encouraged terrorist activities in any country? Have you, (the comma is theirs not mine) ever been a member of, or given support to an organisation that has been concerned in terrorism?”

I mean who is going to answer yes to those questions? It`s a waste of paper, bad for the environment and just daft. And the English is a bit dodgy too!

Worst of all it costs 500 quid!!!

I know we have too much immigration and we need to cut it down and we need to make sure that applicants are genuine and all that but surely an interview and background checks can do all that. Cutting immigration just by making ordinary people with no war crimes history or terrorist sympathies give up their ambition to come to my, sometimes great, country because  they can no longer be arsed with all the hassle is really the wrong way to go about it. I mean if you`re asking  questions like the one above it means that there has to be some degree of such acts at which immigration is still acceptable and possible. And that can`t be right can it?

But bitching aside there was one funny thing about all this paperwork today. Getting my sons` passport photos taken was hard work this morning and I forgot I need to get them counter signed yet. But one thing at a time, early today, at the station on the way to nursery school we stopped off to take 4 little square pictures each of 2 little cute boys. easy no? No! The photomachines stool was not high enough so we ended up holding them up, balancing them on our shoulders, but, and this is very important, don`t smile, mouth closed, eyes front and open. My hands must not visible of course and don`t press that button Sola!!!!…oh, too late. So another 700 yen and the same balancing act all again; and to my eldest son, Sola, having lived the full Japanese culture: assimilating all the habits, ticks and mores of Japanese youth,  for his four and half years of life here, absolutely no bloody peace signs.

That`s all for now



6 responses

  1. An English friend who moved over to Japan with his Japanese wife a while back (married in England) had been working as a solicitor for local government in London before he left.

    He told me that the application for her visa, if unsuccessful, would have had to be made again from the beginning and would cost another 500 ponds.

    This for a marriage visa. Good grief. You are going through the wringer, but good luck and 頑張れ!

    February 21, 2008 at 10:49 am

  2. I walked in to an office yesterday and registered in Hachioji. It was so easy, it reminded me how much simpler all these things are in Japan compared with in the USA. (I feel terribly sorry for anyone who has to visit Immigration in Los Angeles, ever.)

    Anyway, my wife waited four years for a green card after we got married (in the USA). Now she’s always on the verge of losing it because I refuse to pay almost $200 per year for “extended probation” (or whatever criminal sounding term they use for people who spend extended time outside the USA).

    It sounds like the British system is even worse.

    No wonder immigrants in our countries end up hating us, eh?

    BTW, I thought George Bush was “wannabe British” when he invaded Iraq. Sure you got that right? 😉

    February 21, 2008 at 12:49 pm

  3. True Andy, things are sort of easier here, for example I got my permanant visa after just 3.5 years and the cost was next to nothing. Very welcoming in that respect.

    The British system I understand as a way to weed out the false and desperate but come on; there is no need for the blanket application of harsh rules to all and sundry. Let`s get some perspective here: Japan may not be the easiest country to live in at the moment but my wife is not an economic migrant. We have two kids and 5 and half years of marriage (and believe me I am hard work, I`m sure, as I bounce off the walls here with the wish to be out travelling and climbing) so she really does love me.

    It shocks me that such general rudeness can exist regarding the treatment of other human beings that want no more to live in your country and as often as not contribute to it. Shit that`s a compliment if you ask me! But I read today that people seeking British citizenship will also be put on probation like America, if what you say is true Andy, and that is not nice.

    And yet it is we Gaijin, welcomed more or less openly to this country, that bitch and scream about every perceived lessening of that most generous of welcomes. Okay the entry procedure to Japan is now not that friendly but I was stopped in New York (and this was 16 years ago – long before 9-11) and told to sit in an office, my passport in a red envelope whilst around me some people were ankle-cuffed to their chair. Have a nice day indeed!

    Japan has been great at making itself my home. Maybe I`m lucky to be white and come from one of the countries Japan respects though; we have had an open invitation to be here so far. I have a Bosnian friend who is still waiting for his resident`s permit after nearly 20 years.

    That`s the thing, America and Britain think they are so superior to everyone else that all countries and their people are lower and must be out to get something for nothing from us even when, like Japan, I could not possibly imagine what that something could be. My wife wants to stay here if truth be told.

    I don`t know what to do. I hope that our history will be good enough for immigration, Nick, and I won`t have to pay for it all again.

    I think we in the UK are not yet that stupid. YET! Most of us are not that racist and reactionary. Not everyone reads the Daily Mail but it worries me that xenophobia and general anti-immigration feelings are becomeing more mainstream!
    The harshness of the questions we`re asked and the threats that hang over the application I feel are just intimidation for those that perhaps should be worried about the answers they give. I know in my heart that the process`s bark will be worse than it`s bite and we should get the visa no problem because we are real.

    Fingers crossed anyway.

    Talking of fingers, my son flipping up his peace sign for the photo machine yesterday was the highlight of the day. There are some things I won`t miss about Japan however and the peace sign in every photo is one of them.

    Thanks for stopping by though guys as I know of all that read this you two will understand best. Nick I`d like to comment more on your blog but blogger needs me to be logged in or something and I hate giving out more details than I am obviously already doing every day on this computer.

    Take care for now.

    February 21, 2008 at 2:41 pm

  4. Andy

    I’m increasingly becoming embarrassed at being British with the attitudes and actions of the current government. Sadly, poor timing on my mother’s part has stopped me from getting an Irish passport for travelling (how easy would it be to get into the US then!)

    Of course for an “even-handed” view of the whole immigration affair then you only need look at the Daily Mail (or as I prefer to call it, the Daily Bigot) A paper that’s been fuelling hatred of Johnny foreigner since god knows when

    February 21, 2008 at 5:25 pm

  5. Jesus, just read through some Daily mail pages via the link, Thanks andy, I feel unclean now, what to scrub my eyeballs and get this bile out of my mouth. I am happy that the Mail is still something of a joke in the UK but worried that it seems to be the tabloid paper of choice for all airlines that fly into and out of the UK. How`s that for a good impression to be giving. or if that is the paper that British tourists are reading they should have their passports revoked because no-one that small minded should be allowed to set foot outside of the country. They are too embarressing.

    February 22, 2008 at 1:28 am

  6. Thanks Damon, I have been having problems logging into my own site recently. Perhaps you could just use the anonymous option on the comment page? Dunno.

    I have to agree with you on a couple of points. We ARE very lucky to be members of the group of foreigners that Japan likes. It makes living here easy. I have gotten angry so many times about people like me from the west whiging non stop about this and that when the Brazillian factory workers are in work situations that we wouldn’t look at twice with no way out.

    Secondly, the visa situation is great here for us married peeps. I still haven’t applied for the resident visa but the spouse visa came through without a glitch and cost next to nothing. I wonder why this is so easy?

    The tone of your posting seems stressed. I’d be on a bottle of Junmai sake a day if in your position I think. Good luck to you and don’t let the ba****ds get you down!

    February 22, 2008 at 4:39 am

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