Some info on Japanese visas and quitting your job

I went to the immigration office in Yokohama today. Very post-apocalyptic place. Anyway, I thought I'd write here about my findings, because it might be useful for other foreigners who either quit their job or finish their contract and still want to stay in Japan. Keep in mind that everything written down here was told to me: a European guy with an engineer visa who has been employed as a contract worker in Japan for four years. Things will be probably be a little different if you're a Chinese refugee who arrived in a container.

So, my engineer visa is valid until 2012, and I assumed that I could stay in Japan until 2012 and do whatever I want until then. This is absolutely not true. If you are unemployed by your own choice, meaning you did not get fired but you chose to quit your job or your contract finished, then you have three months to find a similar job in Japan. Or else. Or else what? Exactly.

I asked the immigration bureau about the 'or else' part after explaining my situation, and the counterguy told me that if I can't find a job after three months I have to come back to the immigration for '相談' (soudan - consultation, advice). I'm not sure exactly what this means, and the guy wouldn't give me any extra info. However, if I am any good at reading between the lines, I think it means that it's quite possible to talk it over and extend the job-searching period for a couple of months. I asked what would happen if I found a job 5 months after I quit my job (2 months over the allowed time period), and this should probably be okay, provided that the job is in the same sector, meaning in my case that I have to find a job as an engineer. No butler's cafe for me!

After becoming unemployed in Japan it's customary to go to an agency called ハローワーク (Hello Work)、and register yourself there. Once registered, you will receive a percentage of your previous salary for the next three months. To be eligible to receive this money you have to go to the Hello Work office in your city at least once a week (not 100% sure about this as I haven't done this yet), so that they know you're still searching for a job and qualify to receive the money.

So how does this affect me? Well, in my case this is a bit troublesome (困る), as I'm about to embark on a cycling trip and won't be near 'my' Hello Work office for at least 2 months. If I do decide to stay in Japan and find a job (right now the chances of this are about 70%) then I'll have just under a month to find a job, provided I fly back from Kyushu at the end of May. If the trip takes longer or if I cycle back then I might not find a job in time. In that case I have to go back to the immigration office and hope that they'll be kind to me. If this also fails then I'll have to go back to Holland and try again from there. That's the options I have if I want to stay in Japan.

I'm trying not to think about this too much. It would suck if I went back to Tokyo at the end of May, spend three months finding a job, fail, then get deported. That's the worst case scenario, because I would be spending three months doing something very boring without any positive result. "Well, it won't come to that". Cross my fingers.

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I still can't believe it

I really did quit my job today. It's 3:47AM right now and I just came back from an awesome drinking party with two Japanese friends. I'm still 85-90% drunk, but I feel like I want to record this feeling right now, cause it won't be the same tomorrow. Here goes...

The day started off peaceful enough, with me cleaning my hard drives, preparing the final things for the tool transfer. Then lunch, then a meeting, and suddenly I experienced the last hours ever in the company that I've grown to love over the past four years. Cleaning my desk, talking to everyone in the company, sending the farewell mail, it all seems like a rush, and looking back on it it all seems like it happened in a flash. So many things happened in those couple of hours, my mind is currently (still 85% drunk) incapable of recollecting everything. For some reason I remember the period afterwards really well though: cycling from the company towards the station seems like it took forever, and I distinctly remember saying 'WTF' at least five times during the ride. As I type this I am looking out my room's window towards the building I used to work at, and I still can't get used to the feeling that I'll never be going back there. Unbelievable.

Saying my goodbyes to everyone in the company just felt surreal, and even writing the farewell e-mail seemed like it wasn't really happening, and I was just going to show up again next Monday and continue working as usual. But that's not true. This is really it. This is the end of my life here. From now on I will not go back to that building, and I will seek meaning in my life elsewhere. I have no idea what that means yet, but as I was leaving the company for the final time I was incredibly sad. It's a sadness I never felt before, because I never cared for something so strongly as I care for this company. High school, university, I never really felt very 'connected' to those environments. But I feel a very strong bond with this company and its people, and I think this bond will stay strong forever. I'm just that kind of person.

I feel bad for writing the final farewell e-mail only in English, but I had no time left. I also didn't finish my to-do-list exactly the way I wanted to, but I guess that can't be helped. My friends and I managed to leave the company at around the same time, and we had a great dinner together afterwards. Most of the people went home to catch the last train, but my local friends and I stayed behind and drank like there was no tomorrow. Which, in my case, was fairly accurate.

I'm not sure how one would define 'drunk', but I'm fairly sure I tested the boundaries of drunk today. While cycling to the station I realized slightly what I'd done, and from then on I just stopped caring about everything, and figured that tonight of all nights would be a great night to get as drunk as possible. Tonight I had the best of friends accompanying me, so I felt ready to just let go and get drunk as hell, but I rather failed on that point...

After about 5-7 strange high-alcohol drinks (I remember some shochuu's..) I was still quite in control of myself, so my local friends and I went to a different place and continued drinking. We were three, and me and one other wanted to get rather drunk, so we ordered a drink called 'Spyritus', which apparently contained 96% alcohol, according to the waitress. I'm not sure about that, but it did evaporate on my upper lip before it reached my mouth.. Interesting feeling. After that some interesting beers helped in keeping me drunk, but didn't really push me over my limit. One of my friends was asleep on the bench, and the other one had decided not to drink too much, so that's where it ended tonight. I guess I'm quite strong in keeping my liquor.

I've been trying to avoid this feeling ever since my last hours in the company today. I still can't believe that I quit my job. I still can't believe that I'll never go back to that office, and I'll never again work on the software that I created during my time there. In my current 80% drunk state it still feels unreal, and I can fall asleep in peace, but I think I'll be in for quite a shock tomorrow. Pretty much all of the world I knew suddenly disappeared. I  know I chose this path myself, but actually experiencing it is a whole lot different from planning it three months in advance.

I'm not sure how I'll feel about this tomorrow, but I am sure about this: I am really going to miss my work, and the people at Asahi Kasei. They've been my life for the past four years, and I only really realized how much I'll miss them until after the last party finished. A very large part of me is regretting quitting the company right now, and I wish I could have stayed longer. I know from a logical point of view that the decision I've made makes sense, but right now my feelings are just too strong, and all I feel is sadness for leaving and regret for not staying longer.

This is to all the people who work or have worked at AK: thank you all so much for making the past four years a great experience! Despite my constant complaing those four years have been the best years of my life, and I have become a completely different person thanks to my experiences here in Japan. The real adventure starts from here!

Posted in Daily Life , Japan , Thoughts | Tagged , ,