Sunday, May 30, 2004

Please take a number. . .

I went out to immigration today, but it was just a couple of minutes before noon, so when I got up to the window they said to come back in an hour because they were closing for lunch. They're only open from 9 to 4, and then they completely shut down for lunch! I went downstairs to their cafeteria and peeked in. There, sitting at rows and rows of tables were a whole slew of government workers, or "salarymen" as they're called, in their white shirts and black pants, eating their lunches. I turned around and went next door to a sandwich shop. When it was a few minutes to 1:00 I went back to the same counter to get my passport stamp and the lady said that I needed to go to another floor to pay for my "stamps" ($100). I went upstairs, waited in another line where there was just a little tiny hole-in-the-wall window at about waist level. Inside a closet-sized room sat a middle-aged lady who just sold "stamps" for passports. You had to practically bend in half to look in the little window where she sat. So, I paid my 10,000 yen, got my stamps and went back to the counter where I had originally tried to get my papers processed. She looked at my stamps, smiled, and entered another stamp in my passport and handed it back to me. "All done." Whew! What a hassle!

So then I went out to get a taxi to take me back to the train station (it's really too far to walk). He asked me where I was going and I said the train station. "What line?" he asked. I said, "Yokohama Line." So, off we went. After about 10 minutes I realized that we weren't heading to the train station, so I asked him where we were going. He said, "Yokohama." Well, that's not exactly where I wanted to go--by taxi! I just wanted to catch the Yokohama train a few minutes from the immigration center! Neither one of us knew exactly who was to blame for the misunderstanding, but it ended up costing me $21 for what should have been about $7. I guess I just have to chalk that up to "lost in translation."

I then wandered around in the Yokohama station trying to find the right line to catch back home. It's an enormous station on many levels with department stores and all kinds of shops and restaurants. I really had a tough time finding my way to the right train track, but I finally found it and headed home. Little by little, I'm becoming more comfortable with the train system and already can't believe how many places I've gone by train. It's a great system!

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