Thursday, 10 December 2009


Last night while I was intently trying to read about the formation of Israel in a children's world history book in the Akarenga library, I received a phone call from the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs wanting to verify that I had indeed invited Vicky to come to Japan and  requesting further documentation. (The fact that I am written on Hiro's place of residence certification - juminhyo - is insufficient proof of my address - foreigners have a different registration system...) They also wanted tax certification  verfied by local govt. and not Hiro's employer...

I decided to take the documents into Kasumigaseki - where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is located - rather than have it sit in post boxes for the day around here - they had to be originals not emailable/faxable.  It's a quick trip in - one train and a bit of a walk and I was there in less than 30 mins.  The gaimusho, as it is called in Japanese, is like Fort Knox.  There are two very narrow entrances and no-one passes without a pass.  I suspected it was probably like so - there are quite fanatical political groups in Japan - mostly on the extreme right these days but historically also on the extreme left  (notably the Japanese Red Army) that are violent and disruptive in intention.  A number of key places are targetted by rightwingers - in particular the Russian and Chinese embassies but also seemingly the MOFA.  Police are on 24 hour guard and have barricades to pull across in the event that a right wingers truck tries to drive past with loudspeakers blaring xenophobic obscenitites (like 'give us back the northern islands, you Russian swine...' )   A couple of times I have seen it near Hiro's work - police that are for the most part bored senseless by being on guard spring to action to block the way of offending vehicles... and the offending vehicles eventually retreat.... quite childish of them really.. and an awful waste of resources..

I asked one of the guards outside MOFA if there was some internal mail system that I could put my documents into... Apparently not.. but there was a PO directly opposite. I handed it over the counter and the documents should be there in the morning.  The gaimusho official that I spoke to yesterday was very pleasant and it seemed like a formality to have the documents rather than any particular concern with the application.

What could have been an irritatingly uneccessary trip into town turned out to be a great chance to see Hibiya park in autumn glory.  Hibiya park has the imperial palace to the north, the staid government area of Kasumigaseki - devoid of cafes, convience stores, izakaya, karaoke and all other typical signs of life seen in a business district -  to the west and south, and the vibrant shopping, hotel and head office area of Yurakacho to the east. Hibiya Park, a Europan Park in part modelled on parks in German,  along with Ueno park would be Tokyo's most egalitarian: there is no entrance fee, there are 'hiroba' - large open spaces that are often used for political protests and rallies, homeless mix with suited bureaucrats out on their lunch break, people flock to paint pictures and uniformed school children play there at lunch.  There is a library within the park confines, but it's not very quirky and not very obviously Japanese - attributes which tend to put something on the tourist circuit.  Despite being on the fringe of tourist ville it never seems to have many foreign visitors.  Though it's probably deservedly not on the top 5 tourist spots in Tokyo it's a pretty park that is a pleasant contrast to the hussle of central Tokyo.

I will attach some pictures tomorrow - my camera is acting like it needs to be put out to pasture - a trip to Canon might be in order.

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