Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Abyss

I must apologise for a month without posts, this is not because my life has suddenly regained some level of normality, but is due purely to a series of run ins with Japanese bureaucracy at its finest. Essentially due to several seemingly minor mistakes in the paperwork concerning my scholarship, I was told that although the Japanese government was quite happy to keep paying me for the next 18months, they wouldn't pay for me to actually do any study during that time or afterwards.

Now an 18 month paid vacation is always tempting, but I am reasonably keen to do a PhD, and I am even more keen to have them pay for me to do it. This lead to an adventure through the Japanese paperwork jungle that took 3 weeks, and was filled with as much weirdness as you would expect from Japan. I won't give a full account, but here are some highlights.
  • Startlines and Deadlines: In Japan Applications not only have a deadline when they have to be submitted by, but they also have a startline which they not be submitted before! Generally the difference between the two is about 1 week.
  • Triplicate: Whenever submitting documents multiple copies are required, luckily this is why we have photocopiers right? Unfortunately in many cases all of the copies have to be hand written!
  • Internationalism: Despite my scholarship being only available to foreign students, with no requirement of Japanese language ability, all information about it is only available in Japanese. And not the sort of friendly Japanese you see in the real world, that type of impenetrable legalistic Japanese that caused several of my Japanese friends to shrug when ask about its meaning.
  • Submission: I went to the office and asked where I needed to submit my application to. They said "here", so I preceded to hand it over, only to be met with shocked faces. Turns out that although it has to be submitted "here", it has to arrive by post.
A few of other interesting points:
  • Less than a third of the staff at the international office speak a language other than Japanese.
  • Any time you apply for anything you must submit a passport photo.
  • CV's in Japan must also be handwritten. And yes, this means if you make a single mistake while writing them out you start again.
  • Students start looking for jobs over a year before they graduate university, and if they haven't got one less than 6 months before its generally seen as too late.


Anonymous said...

Best of luck trying to navigate, "The system"! Oh and tis Helen.

KellYg@n said...

hi.Luke..I have not seeing you for a long time..how are you?

Anonymous said...

Sorry but I had to laugh out loud as I read your little adventure through the Japanese "Yakusho-shigoto" (bureaucracy crap).
It is so typical of my country to help tax payers getting things "sorted" in the very Japanese way. I can only apologise for their incompetence for serving the public. The system probably hasn't changed much since 16th century.
Good luck and take a deep breath before you scream!

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