Signs and lines

Unlike my book, which was translated by professionals, this blog was partly translated by an automated translation program. Therefore, the translation may not be perfect.

“Oh yes, and I need you to do one more thing…” Mikako, my bank account, visa and tax contact, walked me through the to-do’s for renewing my visa. “You have to take pictures of your office. From the entrance to the elevator, the front door, and then of course inside. It is important that there is a nameplate on your door. It’s even more important that it not only says Toeps Media, but also 株式会社.”

Kabushiki Kaisha, the Japanese equivalent of Ltd. Because a Japanese company is not real until it has an official-looking sign on it. Stamps, signs, logos and titles: they love them here. So I went online, found the most retro sign shop in Japan and ordered three kitschy signs (in pink, of course) with my company name, my own name, and both. One for the front door, two for both my mailboxes – of course they want a picture of that too.

Somehow I was a little disappointed. Pictures? So they’re not coming over? If you start a start-up in Kobe, the municipality wants to see you every two months. I haven’t heard from anyone here in all this time. Yes, from Mikako, of course. But the government won’t come again until I apply for my extension? Darn. I was just looking forward to showing off my beautiful office. Well, if I have to clean up very soon and get to work with my camera, then I’ll also shoot some snapshots for an upcoming blog. Or video. Or something like that.

It’s all almost done now. Riemer took my NAS with him when he came here a few weeks ago, I have closets upstairs and about a third of my clothes (the rest is mostly winter stuff and will come later – it’s 30 degrees here every day now anyway) and Rakuten has finally accepted me for a business bank account. Not for a phone plan for 30 euros a month, no, that was going too far. I may try that again when I have extended my visa.

Yes, it was all a nice idea, that start-up program. But where in some other cities you get it for a year, Tokyo gives it to you for six months. And that’s a problem. Because for almost every institution six months is the limit. If your visa is shorter than six months, you get no internet, no mobile phone, and only a bank account at Japan Post Bank, which charges 25 euros for each transaction, because it is considered an “international transaction”. Even if you just transfer money within Japan. Because: the account holder is a “foreigner”, with too short a visa.

My short visa runs until the beginning of September. That means that next month we are going to apply for the extension. If that succeeds, I’ll get an additional year.

“Do I really want that?”, asks a little voice in my head. On social media, I see Maria, whom I interviewed in Tokyo a few years ago, having her bachelor party. She was taking pictures at the Kop van Zuid in Rotterdam, at Riemer’s doorstep, because Maria, the chick who said she never wanted to go back to the Netherlands, is back. She wanted a future, and that future was in the Netherlands. And in a way I understand her. Because it can be lonely here. Especially now.

How different the world has become.

One of the nice things about “Japan” was always that everyone came along. Maan, Charlotte, Riemer, my little brother, Aafke, Charis. But also friends and acquaintances who happened to be here, like Jeske, Amadea, Mascha, Tjarda… You only have to watch my video from 2016 to see how nice it was. How different it is now, with visa hassles, PCR tests, air travel that takes twice as long, costs twice as much, and then there is Schiphol that loses your suitcases and make you stand in line for four hours. Of course, hardly anyone comes along.

Riemer did come, which was pleasant, but also difficult. Because I was not used to so much contact anymore and really needed some moments/days to myself. Which is stupid, because of course you want to make the most of that scarce moment. We went to the train museum, to Disneyland and Legoland and the Off-House. We ate at all the restaurants where I would feel too uncomfortable on my own. But still.

When Riemer left, I had to shift gears again, but in the opposite direction. I felt pathetic and alone, doubting my choice. Until I remembered how sad I felt in the Netherlands, and how I only saw all the people I miss so much once every few months. Especially in lockdown time, but even before that. I was never good at this. Japan was just a hack for that too: It’s Japan! There is no better reason to visit. It’s a tactic I used as a teenager: I was always the person who organised the sleepovers, who planned the Disney trips. Because then they happened. And then I had social interaction.

I think I need to try harder. Or well, how do you say. Have to pull more strings. I also threw out some new lines, which resulted in me having a cup of tea with someone from Facebook on Monday.

Yesterday, not only did I visit Mikako, but I also went to the hair salon. Hair salon Assort. In 2018 I photographed for them in Japan, and not much later I was hair model for Nancy, a Japanese who works in Assort’s Amsterdam branch. Yesterday I was cut by her colleague. We chatted about moving abroad – she is leaving for Melbourne soon.

After an afternoon of visa, bank and tax matters, a couple of hours strolling around the Omotesando and two hours of washing, cutting, blow-drying and smalltalk I came home totally fried. I have that tea date on Monday. I hope I’ve recovered enough by then.

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