I’m sure someone out there has dreamed of spending days in a tenth floor, waterfront suite in swanky Shinagawa-ku letting time roll by as you laze around, while looking out the window at Tokyo harbor as you wait for room service to deliver your breakfast. Am I right? Perhaps you have a cup of coffee and read a bit, or maybe you decide to succumb to the desire for a mid-morning siesta.
No work. No screaming kids. No responsibilities. Are you wondering where this mystical Utopia might be found? Are you asking “Oh sweet god. How can I find this Nirvana of which he speaketh?” It’s simple enough.
Just overstay, or otherwise violate the conditions of your VISA and make sure Japanese immigration hears about it.
I am as you read this, being detained on the tenth floor, “I” wing, of the Shinagawa immigration building. I have violated the immigration and foreign residence “law” by overstaying my VISA.
If you squint you can see me on the 10th floor waving from my penthouse prison. Come visit!
I know, I can hear the enraged cries for justice from the lynch mob gathered ten floors below. Their pitch forks and torches look ready to teach me a lesson indeed. “Villain!”
OK, so you hate me. “Give him the chair!” I hear you say, but please dear reader, don’t write me off just yet. I’ve made some mistakes, sure, and I’ll get into those eventually, but today I am only addressing the realities of being “detained” by immigration.
First off, the cops don’t run immigration and aren’t anywhere near here.
In fact this isn’t even a “jail.” If you have seen or spent any time with the cops in Japan you’ll know how much fun that is … FUN!. But things here are quite different. The immigration staff are generally friendly and cooperative. From the processing agents to the “guard men”, who all seem to be either 20 years old or 60, things seem to be geared toward making sure everyone is taken care of as opposed to being “punished” or “controlled.”
The rooms are tatami mats.
Half rooms or full rooms each has a proper toilet (The can even has a door!) and a flat screen T.V. connected to the greatness that is Japanese TV. Large sinks, like those found in most Japanese public institutions along with an electric water heater and two long tables, not to mention futons, are the basic amenities of each room.
From 0930 to 1200 the electronic doors to each room open and you are free to move around the wing. There is a vending machine, as everyone is allowed to keep their wallets and watches, and there are also public phones which may be used after purchasing a phone card.
We head back to the rooms at noon with lunch at 12:30 and then the doors open again from 13:30 to 15:30. One of my “roommates” wakes up around this time and habitually sleeps through the whole morning and nobody cares (Normal prison guards obsess with controlling every ones’ sleepy times). Showers are open everyday at your leisure during the open door hours as well as a full laundry. Shopping, from a catalogue of things you can get at most fully stocked convenience stores, is available although much to my dismay there is a distinct lack of beer on the menu.
“The bottom line”, as we Americans are so fond of saying, is…
…that the conditions are civilized and the “guests” fall into two groups; people waiting to go home to their respective countries and those of us that are trying to stay. Everyone has their own reasons for wanting to stay, and nearly everyone has a reason for overstaying (me too more on that next time) but my motivations for trying to stay are a collection of fantastic friends, misfits one and all, people I genuinely treasure, and finally and most potently, a four year-old reason that loves alligators, action figures, is a confirmed ma-ma’s boy and marches to a beat only he seems to hear. Too many shades of his father.
Stay or go, I love Tokyo and am forever linked with this city and for this reason I remember nothing is forever and nothing’s impossible.
PS: They don’t give me access to computers here so this has been written down on TP, smuggled out of the jail and typed up and posted by Yosomono. I feel like Nelson Mandela! [Yosomono rolls his eyes at that last comment]
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