Over the weekend I got to know the Japanese law officials. Don't worry, I'm not writing this from jail... this story has a happy ending.
On Saturday, my betrothed and I decided to go take an innocent trip to a shopping center about a half hour's drive away. Nearing our destination, we came across a cop on a bike who stopped to help someone with a flat tire. He was finished at the scene, and was waving traffic by as he prepared to leave. He waved me by, and I cautiously drove by. I continued down the road when the same police guy sped up beside me on his bike and motioned for me to pull over.
I went into a full panic.
I couldn't think of anything I did wrong. I was prepared to cry at any moment.
He asked me for my license and foreigner card. For those of you who don't know, the "foreigner card," or the "gaijin card," is an identification card all foreign people must carry with them at all times in Japan. It replaces your passport as your identification, because it proves you are a registered (and legal) alien in the country, and it has all your info on it. When you come to Japan, everyone warns you that the police could stop you on the street at any time and ask for it. I've never had that happen, even in the cases where I've encountered an officer. I assumed it was a myth that only happened to those out causing drunken trouble late at night.
Well, in this case, it was a bored officer on a Saturday afternoon who just so happened to recognize a foreigner in a vehicle.
He looked over my card and noticed I hadn't updated my visa renewal information. That's about the point where I started sweating buckets. I renewed my passport's visa in August, but thanks to a hectic job during the weekdays I hadn't gone to city hall to update my visa information on my gaijin card. They simply couldn't let me go on my good word that I was a legal foreigner. They escorted me to the nearest station.
They needed to see my passport with the visa info, but it was in my apartment over a half hour away. I couldn't go, but luckily, my betrothed could go fetch it for me. Without hesitation, he went out to the parking lot to practice driving my stick shift car in order to depart on his mission (he was very rusty). After he left, I sat in a small questioning room trembling over what they would do to me while he was gone. Would I get interrogated, tortured? They repeated the same questions over to me, in order to make sure my story was straight and I understood their Japanese. After that, the atmosphere cooled and I sat around and chatted with the officers. We discussed lots of things, like the smelly and non-smelly forms of natto (a Japanese food) to the sizes of McDonald's food in America vs. Japan (I get that question A LOT). As calming as the conversation was, I was hoping my man would get back with my passport ASAP, which he did. After they confirmed it, they let me go without issues and told me I should get that info on my card updated when I had the time.
Needless to say, I made sure to promptly get out of school today to do that.