Alien registration card poll: results and responses

Many thanks to those of you who answered my poll (Poll: Show alien registration card when re-entering Japan?) and left comments via the post, Google+, Twitter, etc. (Commenters, you're mentioned in the article below!)

If you're interested in reading everyone's comments and the results of the poll (as of the date of the column), check out:

To carry or not to carry your 'gaijin card' upon re-entry? - Japan Times, October 25th, 2011

Also, if anyone has an interesting story to share about being stopped at Immigration without their alien registration card, please let me know, and I may use it for a future column.

Happy weekend to everyone!

Need help finding (or calling) a doctor in Japan? Try this resource.

If you don't speak or understand Japanese very well, trying to find a doctor or health care provider may be difficult at times (I've been there). How do you find someone who speaks English? Is there anyone in your location who does? What about the trouble of setting up an appointment in Japanese (even if the doctor speaks English, often the receptionists don't)?

Japan Healthcare Info, a newer, non-profit organization, has stepped in to fill the gap. You'll find a host of information regarding medical care in Japan on their website, including a long list of English/Japanese translations of common phrases and terms used at the doctor or pharmacy. Some of the info (such as schedules, costs, etc.) may differ slightly from what is true in your location, (currently, much of it is referenced from the Kanto region) but feel free to send them an email with info from what is most common in your region.

In addition to general medical information, JHI also provides various services to assist foreigners, including, but not limited to:

  • Finding and locating hospitals or clinics and doctors to meet your specific requests (such as English-speaking, a clinic to potentially match your prescription from home, etc.) This service is free.
  • Setting up appointments. Service fee ¥1000.
  • Preparing Japanese documents, such as hospital/day care admission or application for insurance benefits Service fee ¥3000-5000.
  • Interpreter services via phone
  • Possible in-person interpreter services (please inquire for more details about this one, fees vary)

HOW TO: Find and Enjoy Autumn Leaves (紅葉) in Japan

You may remember a post earlier this year about how to find a good hanami spot (cherry blossom viewing). Yet spring isn't the only time of year in Japan with lovely colors. In the Fall (or Autumn), trees all over Japan turn lovely hues of yellow, orange, and red for a short time before the coldest weather sets in.

Though it's likely you'll have some trees with colored leaves in your local neighborhood (some more than others), various spots exist around the country that are particularly known for beautiful foliage this time of year.

So, how do you find those spots?

Giving Birth in Japan: My Experience - Part 2, Clinic Stay

I wrote Part 1 of this "Giving Birth in Japan" series last week, so if you haven't read that already, you may want to before reading Part 2 below.


As I was being stitched up, I started shivering uncontrollably. Of course, the temperature in the room had been pretty low as I was sweating and hot throughout the labor and delivery. My husband changed the temp while the nurses helped me change out of my sweaty long t-shirt. (Note: this particular clinic, and probably many others, provide hospital gowns that women typically wear throughout their stay. However, the gowns at this clinic were really uncomfortable and stiff-feeling, so I brought my own clothes to wear for the birth and for the stay. We discussed this with one of the midwives at the clinic beforehand so it wasn't an issue.)

The nurses also had to put these giant pads on me that were sort of like a diaper as all of the blood came out (sorry, graphic I know), which they changed several times right after I had given birth.

After all this, baby was cleaned up and I got to hold her, and also try nursing her. One important thing I should point out is that depending on where you deliver, the midwives or nurses may have different ideas on the best way to breastfeed. We had been warned beforehand that this clinic wasn't that great with breastfeeding support, and it seemed like almost every nurse/midwife had a different idea about how it should be done. Initially, they only had the baby feed for a few minutes on each side, and then took her away for some tests. One of the nurses explained that the baby should only eat for 5 minutes on each side and then switch, and many of the others nurses also reemphasized this, but some of them didn't care about the length of time. And everyone had different ideas of how to manually express milk as well, but a pump was frowned upon).

I was still exhausted and a little out of it for that part, but if I went through this process again I probably would have requested to let her feed longer if she was willing to, instead of just pulling her off after less than 10 minutes. I also would have wanted more skin-to-skin time with the baby, since I was fully clothed again (like I mentioned in the previous post, modesty is preferred) and baby was bundled up as well.

Giving Birth in Japan: My Experience - Part 1, Childbirth

6 weeks. I can't believe it has already been about 6 weeks since our dear daughter Ai-chan joined us in world. It's mostly been a blur of sleep, insomnia, diaper changes, incessant feeding, incredible soreness and lots of baby time. But, reality shows up sooner or later and it's time for me to try and start adjusting back into some sort of routine (while I hope that our child also figures out some sort of routine in the coming weeks).

I want to say a huge thank you for your patience in the meantime, as I know I've been a bit absent on Twitter, Facebook, etc., and now catching up on emails! I also want to give a special thank you to the fabulous guest posters, Erica (x2), Amanda and Caroline, who helped me out and allowed me time to rest the past 6 weeks!

No, this isn't our daughter or the clinic I went to.
I've mulled over sharing this experience with you all many times, as I want to present it as objectively as possible, because to be honest I came away from the experience completely traumatized. NOT because of the fact I gave birth in Japan, just the labor and childbirth process itself. So, I'll do the best I can here, and please understand that this is only my experience. Everyone has completely different birthing experiences, no matter where they are in the world, and even in Japan, your experience may differ depending on your doctor or midwife, and various other factors.

However, I don't believe there is any reason to fear giving birth in Japan (and I do speak from personal experience now!), so rest assured that as long as you find a doctor or midwife you like and (hopefully) trust, you should be fine (well, as fine as you can be going through this kind of experience...)

Official Name Changes & Pension Pay-in Requirements

My latest Lifelines in The Japan Times addresses name change issues, specifically for married French citizens and the use of "ep" or "epouse" on their Alien Registration Card and other official documents in Japan. (If you've had a similar experience, please let us know in the comments). 

The article also delves into the Japanese pension system once more with someone wondering if they can still get a pension if they were to stop making payments right now.

For more, check out: 

Also, if you, or anyone you know was curious about re-entry visas and how they apply to folks affected by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, that has been addressed in the September 13 article (along with a brief explanation about how the new immigration law applies to permanent residents), 3/11: no excuse for skipping your re-entry visa.