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Why have Japan’s policies on the entry of foreign nationals during the pandemic been such a mess? For the many would-be residents and visitors waiting to enter, this whole ordeal should serve as a primer on how Japan’s bureaucracy operates, writes Rochelle Kopp.

The pandemic has produced no shortage of immigration horror stories, but the ordeal faced by a Filipino known as Pato was compounded by her status as a foreign trans woman. As Elin McCready reports, Pato’s traumatic experience of months of effective solitary confinement after overstaying her visa highlights Japanese bureaucracy’s lack of provision for those who don’t fit the neat binary template.

Demonstrators show their support for detainee Pato, a trans woman from the Philippines, as they pass the Tokyo Regional Immigration Services Bureau last summer.
Demonstrators show their support for detainee Pato, a trans woman from the Philippines, as they pass the Tokyo Regional Immigration Services Bureau last summer.

On a somewhat lighter note, one bureaucratic trial the pandemic has offered foreign residents respite from is the occasional trip down to the immigration office, with many procedures now doable online. Tokyoite William Lang, however, has mixed feelings about no longer having to make the trip out to the physical space itself, which was always an eye-opener — even for a blind man.

Finally, German resident Andreas Neuenkirchen decided the time was right for his family to move house in Tokyo — then the pandemic hit. In a three-part series, Neuenkirchen takes readers through the full monty — from house-hunting to packing, the move itself and settling in — offering invaluable lessons for any foreign resident considering taking the plunge.

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