Gaijin Express


Tôkyô, Japan. 25 May 2010.

You shouldn’t listen to UNKLE when you get off Shinagawa Station to catch the bus to the Immigration Bureau. The Bureau lies two islands away, the islands are man-made. Rectangles in the sea, from straightened  and piled-up concrete and waste, only to carry more concrete and waste. A bus filled with silent foreigners rolls through the valleys of an industrial landscape where seagulls appear and vanish between the vertical shadows of monorails, gray towers and mile-long highways stretching over the waters. I can see a large chimney on the near horizon, breathing new clouds into the sky. It belongs to a chemical facility that has a clamped-in globe at its heart.

JR Shinagawa Station resembles an airport. The baffle gates channel the passengers into a spacious architecture which allows sunlight to drop on the heads. A lavish number of flat panel displays leads my passage out to the bus stop. That was two weeks ago. I need to take the same route again to pick up my working permit. That is tomorrow.

Entering the Tôkyô Immigration Bureau for the first time evoked a remote echo of Meredith Monk’s movie “Ellis Island”. A tower of blue glass hosting convenience stores, ATMs, a small restaurant and dozens of facilities to process the needs of hundreds if not thousands of foreign residents each day. Cameras prohibited. The sheet I am handed carries the number 203. Fifty numbers of time to read a book or to have my mind whisked white by the humming sound of different languages in the waiting area. An Austrian couple sits in my back, that talks about a professor they need to see here.
I don’t need to see a professor, I need my working permit.The song by UNKLE drowns the noise down to a gray murmur.

My mind is in a state
‘Cuz all I seem to do is tempt my fate
Well I try a real space
But all the while, I’m crashing at the gate

This time I’m with God. I can collect my visa tomorrow morning. Shinagawa Station. I will take the Gaijin Express to that rectangular pile of trash again. Maybe the chimney coughs me a white cloud that I can sit down on to sail to that wooden window of yours. I miss you, too.

2 thoughts on “Gaijin Express

  1. Newton! Good to hear from you! Yeah, I’ve been an official foreigner for the last five years, it shifts your view on things. I definitely relate to the pleads of foreigners in Germany a lot better than before. Open up those borders!

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