Visa and Vanes

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Fri 4 Apr 2014 11:10

Alongside Fukuoka
Weather: overcast, showers, mild

Today's goals were to inquire into the visa requirements for a yacht entering the Republic of Korea, progress my US visa application, and pay some money into a Japanese bank account.

I arrived in town just after twelve which was very bad timing on my part as both the RoK and the US consulates do not do not take any inquiries between the hours of 11.30 and 13.30. So I went to a large bank to deposit the money. This was to pay for some zinc I had ordered to be manufactured to allow me to make up my own sacrificial anodes for the engine’s heat exchanger. I ended up being served by a young female teller who was very helpful but spoke no English. There were also some additional problems created by the fact that the name of the bank branch I had been given was incorrect, but the young lady soon worked this out based on the name of the account. She then got me to write out the details she needed to know on a piece of paper, then she took a photocopy of the form that needed filling out and transcribed the details into Kanji characters. Once that was done she gave me the original of the form and told me to copy her writing onto the form. Now I am sure most people know how complicated Kanji script is. I looked at her and, knowing that she did not understand a word of what I was saying, said to her, “You do know that you Japanese are completely crazy don't you?” I then tried to suggest to her that what she was asking was very difficult and that perhaps she could fill out the form for me, but no, I must fill out the form in my own hand.

This requirement for someone to fill out a form in their own hand seems to be common to the Japanese bureaucracies. I haven't yet worked out the logic behind it, but things then got even sillier. When it became clear to the teller that I was rather flummoxed at the idea of transcribing all those Kanji characters she hit upon the idea of depositing the money using an ATM. We went down stairs to where all the machines were. Now we did the electronic equivalent of me transcribing Kanji into the machine. All the instruction were in Kanji and of course  I could not read any of the instructions.  So the teller would point to the touch screen where it needed to be touched, and I would touch it. For all I knew I could have been depositing the money in her holiday fund. Again it was a bit beyond me why she could not have done the deposit entirely herself. I was merely an automaton between her and the machine doing exactly what she instructed me to do. It seemed even crazier than me trying to transcribe all that Kanji script onto a form. Nonethe less it was all soon completed.  I thanked the young lady profusely, for she had indeed been very patient, and I then headed to the Korean consulate.

Here I met the stone wall of a security guard, who looked at me like I had fallen out of the sky. He also understood no English but, with the aid of a kindly English gentleman that was passing out of the consulate, I learned that if I wanted to make any inquiries about visas I needed to come between 9.30 and 11.30 in the morning. OK, while not achieving what I really wanted, at least I had learnt something. I then walked to the American consulate. Here at least the guard was courteous, even though he too spoke very little English. He ended up putting me through to someone by phone who advised me that there was a whole heap more stuff I had to do online in order to secure a interview for a visa application, and that the Fukuoka consulate only conducts interviews twice each month. This situation seems a far cry from the last time I applied for a US visa in Trinidad Tobago.  Then, now about twelve years ago, it only took me three days to get a visa from start to finish, with nary an online form involved. Progress!

Once back at the boat I am pleased to say that I had a win that offset the earlier disappointments. The stainless steel tube for the wind vane had arrived while I was banking and hunting visas. I spent the rest of the afternoon putting the wind vane back together, though as there was only a few hours of daylight left in the day, I only managed to get it half back together.

Tomorrow I shall get an early start and go to the Korean consulate, then in the afternoon I will finish putting the wind vane back together.

All is well.