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Pensions, wills and helplines

by Ken Joseph Jr.

Pensions

I will be leaving Japan soon — I’ve been here for two years — and have been paying into the National Pension System. How do I go about applying for the refund? I have also heard that there are agencies that do the paperwork for a fee.

You simply go to the local city office — kuyakusho, yakuba — where you got your Alien Registration Card and go to the “nenkin” section. They will give you a form to fill out. You will need to have bank account details for an account where they can deposit the refund.

You take the form with you and mail it back to the city office and they will deposit your refund after you leave the country.

The guys who do the work are “gyosei shoshi” or legal attorneys. They can do it for you too. A good one is Mr. Nakai. You can reach him at (03) 6402 2593 or www.tokyovisa.co.jp

Bank accounts

I have heard that in Japan if someone dies — Japanese or foreign — nobody can touch their bank account if they die. I have been living and saving money in Japan for a long time for my family and am wondering what kind of measures can be taken ahead of time.

Upon the death of a person, their bank account along with all that they own is under the control of the court while measures are put together to assign what they have to the closest family members.

It can get very complicated — we are just in the middle of one with The Japan Helpline — as family members vie for a “cut.” The simplest way to take care of it all is to prepare a clear will that designates what goes to who and it will be done exactly as you request.

For this you will need to meet an attorney and have them prepare the documents for your family.

One such attorney is Mr. Watanabe (03-3226-0051).

The Japan Helpline

The Japan Helpline, which offers 24-hour emergency assistance for the international community in Japan, celebrated 30 years this autumn.

Beginning in the fall of 1975, when four expatriate students born and raised in Japan traveled overseas, the service began initially as an assistance service to Japanese outside of the country.

Utilizing a network of those who had lived in Japan and were now living overseas to provide assistance to Japanese travelers, students and those living overseas, The Japan Helpline quickly expanded to Japan setting up a similar network, which forms the core of the operation.

Initially a telephone service, with the dramatic rise in the use of the Internet and cell phones the service provides 24-hour assistance anywhere in the world and in Japan through a network of local volunteers.

Contact ranges from individuals traveling in Japan to local and national government, embassies, airports and students.

Those accessing the service simply go to www.jhelp.com and open the “help” icon. The telephone number nationwide in Japan is (0570) 000-911.

In addition to the 24-hour assistance services, The Japan Helpline operates The Japan Emergency Team, which is Japan’s only nongovernment related disaster relief team currently operating in Houston, Texas, in connection with the recent Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, as well as in Iraq, where the team works in a large compound in central Baghdad providing food, medical and other assistance.

Supported by donations from the public and taking no funds from the government in order to be able to maintain the privacy of callers, The Japan Helpine depends completely on the community that it serves to stay operational.

Those wishing to assist The Japan Helpline as a local volunteer anywhere in Japan are asked to see www.jhelp.com for details.