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Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2011

LIFELINES

Legal help for those on a limited budget


Reader GR is seeking legal assistance:

"I recently moved out of a house that I rented for about five years. A few weeks later the owner sent me a message asking for ¥450,000 on top of the ¥70,000 he had for the deposit. This house is over 35 years old and was falling apart when I moved in, and he never made any repairs over the five years I lived there. My girlfriend and I had bad health problems due to the black mold, bad sewage system, and the bats living in the roof.

"I just received a huge package stating I have to go to court next month and he now wants ¥900,000. He also included more lies and pictures. I have no idea what to do; I can't afford an attorney."

Fortunately, there are legal resources available in Japan for those with low or no income. The Japan Legal Support Center can connect you with a variety of other helpful organizations depending on your situation and location. As long as you have a valid visa and are residing in Japan legally, they can provide legal services for those with limited means. It's possible that not all resources will be in English, so you may need to call on a Japanese-speaking friend to help.

The Support Center has English-speakers, but they'll answer the phone in Japanese. The number is (0570) 07-8374. You can also visit their site at www.houterasu.or.jp/en/.

Additionally, depending on where you live, some municipalities offer free or low-cost legal counseling to foreign residents on a modest income. The Japan Legal Support Center will likely direct you to these as well, but if you live in or near a large city, you may want to check for legal resources on the city's English website, or inquire at city hall.

Keep in mind that in order to take advantage of these services, you'll usually be asked to provide proof of financial hardship.

Readers, if you know of any other legal resources in Japan that might be of help to GR, please let us know.

Andrew wants to know if residents should have their alien registration card on them when re-entering Japan:

"In your article dated June 28, 2011, entitled 'Permanent residency, legal query, a lost friend,' you state that 'it is perfectly fine to leave Japan . . . as long as you have a re-entry permit that won't expire while you are away.'

"Does one need to have one's residence card upon re-entry? It seems some immigration officers ask and others don't."

Officially, according to Immigration, you will be asked to show your registration card as well as your passport. In addition, you are legally required to carry your alien registration card at all times in Japan, so it makes sense to always have the card with you anyway.

As you mentioned, not all officials will ask to see the card. Nonetheless, to avoid any potential problems you should always carry your card with you when re-entering Japan.

Our lost camera story from July 26 had a happy ending. Alessandra writes:

"The camera owner contacted me by email; their English teacher read the article and advised them. They sent me a photo to prove they are the owners and tomorrow the camera will leave for Japan. Thank you, Japan Times!"

In a followup email Sunday, Alessandra added: "Koji and Atsuko received the lost camera yesterday. P.S. The story appeared in local Venice and national newspapers!"

We're thrilled to hear the good news! Thanks for letting us know.

Ashley Thompson writes survival tips and unique how-tos about living in Japan at www.survivingnjapan.com. Send all your questions to lifelines@japantimes.co.jp


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