In response to our previous pension articles, "Japan pension answers often case-specific" (April 19) and "Pension 'gap years' and missed payments" (May 10), we've received several reader inquiries and comments regarding kara kikan, or "gap years."

Kara kikan is a period of time during which you do not make pension payments and simultaneously do not qualify for an exemption from contributions (such as for being unemployed, on low income, or a student (in special cases), for example), yet which still counts toward the 25-year minimum pay-in requirement to receive a Japanese state pension.

While conducting research for the aforementioned articles, we were told by the pension office that kara kikan no longer exists. One reader wrote in saying their local pension office had told them otherwise in regards to permanent residents. We inquired at the pension office again, and they confirmed kara kikan does exist for permanent residents and Japanese citizens, but not for nonpermanent residents, and also stressed that an individual must meet specific conditions to qualify. So, it is important to note that though it exists as a possibility for permanent residents, this does not mean that anyone with permanent residency will automatically qualify for kara kikan.