Return to Japan 2013: July 8 – Driver license offices are slow everywhere

Aside from visiting family, one of the other reasons for our trip to Japan was so the Wife could renew her Japanese drivers license, which can only be done in person. Going to another country to see all of the tourist stuff is fun. But to really get a feel for the lifestyle you need to get out and do some regular, boring, day to day stuff as well. We loaded the family into the car and drove to the Numazu driver license centre.

The Wife had a 12:45pm appointment. We arrived at 12:00. All of the staff were on lunch break. As soon as they came back, all of the people sitting around suddenly rushed to form orderly lines in front of the various windows.

Bureaucracy is an art form in Japan. People are moved from the stacks of forms to the first window. Depending on what they are at the office for, they then proceed to windows 2, 3 and 4 or windows 3, 4 then 2 in that order. Showing up at the window with an incorrectly filled out form will have you sent back to the stacks of forms and then to the back of the line that you came from. Sitting and watching the dance of bureaucracy in action is actually pretty fun.

The Wife’s Japanese license had expired completely, so in addition to the forms and lines, she was required to watch a driving safety video. After the video she found that she had filled out one of the forms incorrectly and had to redo it.

While I was waiting I spent some time talking with The Mother in Law. Her mother passed away last year, so she has really been lonely with her daughter half way around the world. The Father in Law is great, but is completely incapable of small talk. At the end of our short conversation which was limited by my Japanese ability, I wanted to give her a big hug. Public hugging is not very common in Japan. I will give her a big hug later.

After talking with The Mother in Law, I spent the remainder of time watching the motorcycle license tests out the window. If you have a foreign issued motorcycle license, you need to pass a road test in Japan to get your Japanese license. Two Brazilian looking men were taking the test, navigating a series of narrow turns, slaloms and bumps. A female friend was inside recording the test with her IPhone.

Finally, three hours after we arrived at the license centre we were done. We rewarded ourselves with delicious cold ramen at Gomi Hatten. Although not the most interesting use of 3 hours, I did get a good insight into life and bureaucracy in Japan. Also, the driver license office was about as much fun and excitement that my jet lagged brain could handle.

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