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Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2008

LIFELINES

Trouble on two wheels; moving out


Gaijin on a bike!

"I have been harassed by the police while riding my bicycle," writes FC. "I happened to get the bike from a friend and it turns out it actually belonged to someone else. The bicycle is very, very old and worthless, but they tracked it down and apparently it was 'stolen.'

"It seemed to me like an excuse to harass me, but they said that all bicycles are registered and many are stolen."

Technically the police are right: All bicycles are registered and are often "permanently borrowed" — usually from train stations. The registration system for bicycles is strict, and that's why we recommend that you never buy a used bicycle unless you have the registration document that goes with it.

As bizarre as it may seem, bicycles have registrations just like cars, and this system is often abused by police, who use it as an excuse to bother cyclists, particularly those who happen to be non-Japanese.

The most straightforward solution, particularly as prices are much lower than they were in the past, is to simply buy a new bike.

At the same time, if you have a used cycle, you can take it to a bike shop and get it registered.

You should make sure you get a note from the person you bought it from proving that they sold it to you.

The bike shop can check the registration, and if everything seems to be in order they should be able to get you a title for the cycle from the Bicycle Rating Agency, which acts as a clearing house for registration.

Leaving company flats

TJ has lost his job in Tokyo but is still living in company housing.

"I will now have to find a new place, but I don't know how to find a new apartment and how to get a sponsor."

Particularly since the collapse of Nova Corp., a lot of foreign residents have found themselves in a similar situation to TJ's. Luckily for them, renting an apartment in Japan is a great deal easier than it used to be.

Discrimination in the real-estate business still exists: There are still landlords that won't rent to foreigners and real-estate agents that refuse to help non-Japanese. On the other hand, however, there are more apartments today that you can rent without having to give a down payment. Second, landlords are becoming more flexible as the competition for renters heats up.

First, we suggest you talk to your previous employer and ask them to allow you to stay where you are until you can find a new place. A grace period of six months would be a reasonable request.

Second, we suggest you find your next job before you move. Having a job and a sponsor can make the whole process much easier. If you don't have time to find new employment, try to find a Japanese friend who can help you with the paperwork and act as your sponsor.

If all else fails, there are a lot of real-estate agents that can match you with a sponsor. We can recommend Mini Mini ( www.minimini.jp ), Mr. Yamaguchi at Zaikei Real Estate ( www.zaikei.info or info@zaikei.info) or Ken Arbour at Century 21 Sky Realty ( www.century21japan.com or k.arbour@century21.ne.jp). Mr. Nakai at www.tokyovisa.co.jp can also arrange a sponsor for you for a fee.

Ken Joseph Jr. directs the Japan Helpline at www.jhelp.com or on (03) 000-911. Send questions to lifelines@japantimes.co.jp


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