How-tos | LIFELINES

Advice on HIV tests, Japanese pensions, rugby and reuniting with kids

by Louise George Kittaka

Contributing Writer

In this installment, Lifelines works through a selection of topics that have come our way recently.

We start with MR, who writes: “As a foreigner, I just want to know who to contact regarding HIV concerns. I can only speak basic Japanese.” He is looking for a doctor in the Kanto area.

Ann Endo of the Foreign Nurses Association recommended several resources. Dr. Joe Kurosu at Primary Care Tokyo is a bilingual doctor, and provides a testing service for HIV. If a patient needs ongoing treatment, they can be referred to a specialty center (see www.pctclinic.com/std-testing-treatment).

The HIV Testing and Counselling Map site (www.hivkensa.com/language) has comprehensive information in nine languages, including “simplified Japanese” for those with some language skills but who need a hand with kanji. There is also information on counseling services in other languages.

Finally, Endo reminded us that TELL has an excellent English website that includes information and resources on a wide range of health and welfare topics (www.telljp.com/more/resources)

Pension progress

Getting a Japanese pension continues to be a hot topic at Lifelines, following the recent changes in rules for eligibility (see bit.ly/jtpensionprobs). JB, a retired foreign national based in Japan, realized he was eligible for some return on his pension payments and wrote in to share his experiences.

“In large part prompted by your recent article, I decided to try and see if there was anything I could get back from a pension system to which I had contributed without ever receiving one single yen in return. So, I gathered both my courage and whatever information I could still retrieve from my computer and bravely went to confront the ‘Shinjuku Sōdanjō’ (街角の年金相談 センター, Machikado no Nenkin Sōdan Sentā; 03-3343-5171).”

It took JB two visits and several hours, but he reports that the staff were patient and helpful in working through the various issues that came up.

“The helpful ladies and I were confronted with various forms of a single but rather difficult problem: how to transcribe my name, and in what order (name and surname), as well as the names of the various entities I worked for. Just to make things more interesting, three of the outfits I worked for had since been merged into different companies.”

Contributions through two of the employers were eventually proven, while requests for more information have been sent to the respective city offices of JB’s other former employers. His situation was further complicated by the fact that his country has a reciprocal social security agreement with Japan, and he had been contributing to the pension system there, too. He notes that he was given a form to notify the authorities in his home country of the Japanese application.

“As a result, if everything goes as planned, from next month onward I should be receiving a very modest, but unexpected, pension from the Japanese government,” he writes. “This may be somewhat increased in time if the requests sent for further investigations bear fruit.”

He also reiterates the need for sound Japanese skills — or taking along a fluent friend — when navigating the system. Thank you to JB for this helpful report.

Aid for left-behind parents

Next up is K, a foreign father in a situation that is, unfortunately, not uncommon in cases of divorce after international marriage in Japan.

“I got married in Japan in 1996 and my son was born in 1998. Due to some business problems, I left Japan a year later, and I haven’t seen my son since then. I went back to Japan in 2012, and the court granted my wife a divorce, and even then I couldn’t see him. He is now 20 years old. Is there any advice on how to try and contact him?”

K can start by contacting Kizuna Child-Parent Reunion (Kizuna CPR: www.kizuna-cpr.org), a Japan-based NPO group that advocates for left-behind parents and their children. Do any readers have other helpful resources to share?

Rugby enthusiasts sought

Finally, while Olympic fever is igniting for 2020, Japan will be hosting another international sporting event in 2019 in the shape of the Rugby World Cup. Samuel Mino writes from Argentina in the hope of linking up with fellow rugby enthusiasts next year.

“We’re a group of ex-rugby players from Argentina, between 35 and 45 years old and we’re planning to be in Japan for the World Cup in 2019. It would be great to organize a few matches and promote friendship and swap experiences through rugby.”

Samuel can be contacted at: supercabeza@hotmail.com.

Kiwi Louise George Kittaka has been based in Japan since she was 20 years old. In the ensuing years she has survived PTA duty for three kids in the Japanese education system and singing live on national TV for the NHK “Nodo Jiman” show, among other things. Send all your questions and comments to lifelines@japantimes.co.jp.