Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Getting through the paperwork to get rid of a car

Diverging once again from the topic of houses, I got a call from the garage that took away our old car. In order for them to scrap it, they need a document showing that it was my car. Documents in Japan are often very precise. You can't just show a passport or driving license to show who you are. You need to go to the city hall and get a document showing where you live. This is called a juminhyou

The important point with the paperwork for scrapping my car was that I needed to show that I lived in the house where the car was registered. Since I moved last year to my new house, I had to a get a juminhyou showing my previous residence, which is normally kept in the city hall's records and can easily and quickly be added to the form. 

At this point I should say how helpful and efficient Matsumoto City Hall have become over the time I've lived here. You used to have to wait for about an hour to see someone, then get looked down the nose at and met with surly grunts, then sent away to be called up again at their whim. Another hour later they would tell you the document was ready, and then you had to pay for it, which was at their convenience and would take another hour. This usually meant taking half a day off work. Heaven forbid you try to go in your lunch hour. 

Now they have become much more efficient. Often the person at the counter simply presses a button on their computer, walks a few metres across the room and collects the document from a printer, then hands it over and asks for the fee. It's like being in a shop.

Perhaps this is the benefit of new technology, but I think it's more than that.

They smile. They say thank you. They are helpful. This also adds to the impression of being in a shop, rather than being a pitiful peasant paying homage to the king of the local castle, or presuming to seek audience with him. I think the change came about when the mayor changed from an old-school bureaucrat to a doctor who had spent some time in Chernobyl helping children with thyroid cancer. 

Anyway, going back to the documents for my car, the problem was that the law changed in July so instead of being registered as foreign residents, foreign residents are now registered in the same way as Japanese citizens. Previously we didn't get juminhyou, but some other document, the name of which I could never remember, and now I no longer need to. Generally speaking this is good news as a layer of discrimination between Japanese nationals and foreigners has been removed, and a layer of fog has cleared. 

Unfortunately, I'm now only registered as having lived here since since the new system started in July, and all previous records, including my previous address, have been sent away to the Ministry of Justice in Tokyo. 

So, the very helpful staff at Matsumoto City Hall carefully talked me through the process and the five things I needed to send to the Ministry of Justice: the form I had to fill out, a 300 yen revenue stamp, a juminhyou, a photocopy of some form of ID, and a self addressed envelope. They said it should take two to three weeks, but maybe longer as it's a new system and they probably don't know what to do.

Back at the garage they seemed to be happy with this. I suppose if they'd been in a hurrry they would have contacted me a couple of months ago.