Thursday, May 1, 2008

Please submit…

The other day, a letter came in the mail to me from the Japanese Social Security Office. Those wonderful folk were kind enough to write me in English. I want to thank them for that. Not only do they make it easier on me, they bring back a flood of nostalgia for days gone by, when language such as this was part of my every day:

• Please use capital alphabets…

• Please make certain of filling the form and preparing all the necessary documents.

• For a certificate to submit together with the Report on the Pensioner’s Current Status (postcard), please submit one with a certification date after a month before your birth month.

The first paragraph reads:

For the “Report on the Pensioner’s Current Status for the National Pension/Employees’ Pension Insurance”, you have already submitted a notification verifying that you currently live abroad. Therefore, please fill in your name and address (written by yourself) on the enclosed Report on the Pensioner’s Current Status (postcard), apply to the Japanese Embassy (Consulate General) of your country where you submitted your resident notification for a “residence certificate”, and submit the certificate after its delivery by the end of your birth month, together with the enclosed Report on the Pensioner’s Current Status (postcard).

This is the first paragraph. It goes on for four pages, but since that has to do with things like what I should do if I have changed my address or bank account or died, I’ll stop with this.

I have been collecting Japanese Social Security (Koseinenkin) for two years now, and I assume this is a routine bureaucratic way of asking me if I am still alive (I am), if nothing about me has changed (nothing has), and so I proceeded to fill out the postcard and planned to go to the Japanese Consulate for a signature on the residence certificate.

Because last time I did that, they turned me down cold, I decided to phone and check first. Sure enough, what I got from the clearly annoyed consular official was, “We don’t provide that form for non-Japanese.”

The dialogue went like this from there:

“But I already have the form. I just need your hanko (official seal).”
“You only need that if you are Japanese.”
“No, I am collecting koseinenkin, and that means the requirements for me are the same as for any Japanese.”
“You don’t need to come here. You can go to any notary public.”

Ah! Now that makes sense. After all, if I lived in Scobey, Montana, the nearest Japanese consulate would be in Denver, 842 miles to the South. Or I could drive to Seattle, 1012 miles to the West. Or Chicago, 1172 miles to the Southeast.

So I went to Aardvark Rent-a-Relic, where I last rented an old vehicle in 1997, and whose proprietor is a Notary Public. He remembered me. I believe in those days it was called “Rent a Wreck.”

I now have a piece of paper for which I paid good money, attesting to the fact that I live where I live, and now am marvelling over this, the latest in curious bureaucraticisms. Nothing, I understand, changes based on where I live. Japanese social security is paid into a bank account, and my eligibility is not contingent on where I live. They do not pay me more if I live in Dubai, less if I live in Ouagadougou.

Taku is concerned that I did not insist the Japanese Consulate stamp my form instead of having a notary do it. It says, after all, “Note 1: If the report on the current status is not correctly submitted by the deadline (the end of your birth month), please note that payment of the pension is suspended.” He is not interested in the Scobey, Montana argument, in other words. He’s interested in what it says in black and white. Which means he’s also really disturbed trying to process the information that I should “submit one with a certification date after a month before (my) birth month.”

His experience with Japanese and other bureaucracies has taught him the wisdom of doing what it says in black and white, damn the torpedoes. I’m worried this may be like the Star Trek episode where Dr. Spock figured out how to disable a killer rogue computer by asking it to solve for π.

Will let you know if my pension payments come to a screeching halt.

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