Keiko Iwata is the representative of the NPO Heart Connections, which provides non-Japanese students with consultation services to help them solve problems related to living and studying in Japan. Iwata authored the book "Asian Spirit" (published in February 2004).
Visas trouble travelers everywhere. It is becoming increasingly difficult every year to get permission to enter Japan. Except in the cases of foreigners who have permanent residence or who are only traveling for a few days, those who are in Japan are required to carry their visa and Alien Registration Card at all times.
Hye-gyong had received two Student Visas: one for the Japanese language school and the other for University. But to continue her studies in Japan, she needed to make a third application.
She had been initially "free of worries" about this after graduating Tokyo University of Foreign Studies that March because she had planned on getting married to Q-chan.
Mother had said that there was also the "option of adoption," but Hye-gyong felt that she wanted to take care of this problem independently. Although she had the guarantee that she would become a full-time employee at the business company where she worked part time, she hadn't told them that her visa would expire this June.
The acceptance of a visa largely relies on the evaluation of the "sponsor." "Who should I ask. . ." she thought as time passed. "I'll see if the president of the company can help me."
She timidly approached the president, who replied, "I can't guarantee that I can get this visa for you, but I'll do what I can."
She thought solving a problem "depends on daily devotion" and felt truly thankful for her fate.
Having been guaranteed backup from her current part-time job, Hye-gyong applied for a working visa. But not long after this, an illegal immigrant was arrested. It was an Asian foreigner who washed dishes at a restaurant where one of Mother's friends worked.
When the foreigner had showed his passport at his interview for this restaurant job, the interviewer had noticed that the number on his passport was different from the number on his Alien Registration Card. The foreigner explained to the interviewer that his "new visa was coming soon." Because the restaurant lacked employees, they decided to hire him under these conditions, but they became distrustful when the worker repeatedly put off showing them his "new visa".
However, this was only the tip of the iceberg.
According to a specious rumor on the street, 90 percent of travelers in Japan who are from Asian and Arab countries enter Japan illegally.
This information reached Hye-gyong from a reliable source.
Many foreigners live sporadically along the train tracks from Higashi Nakano Station to Koenji Station on the JR Chuo Line.
In this area, one case of illegal immigrants has become evident.
In an apartment building, there is a room where three men from other East Asian countries live. They exchange as little information among themselves as possible. To earn a living, each of them works part time at Chinese restaurants or Japanese-style pubs called Izakaya. This dimly-lit, six-mat room gives off an impoverished vibe with only a long-unmade bed, TV, and an electric fan.
Even in the summer, they never open the window more than ten centimeters. The curtains are closed all day and night so that their neighbors can't ever see inside.
Among the three, one of them is the "boss" and takes care of duties such as rent payment and cleaning the room. The 70,000 yen monthly rent is divided among the three, with 10,000 yen for the boss and 30,000 yen each for the other two.
The reason the two pay more is that "the boss pays for the renewal fees." This boss is the seventh from when the first lease contract was signed as many years ago. But today, no one knows where the person who signed the contract has gone and the contract itself remains valid without any questioning.
The people who live there frequently change. When they feel uneasy about living there, they quickly gather their belongings such as their futons (Japanese-style bedding) and clothes and leave for friends' places. When there are unfortunate accidents or illnesses among their relatives, they receive the news through international calls. Then they somehow get the money to pay for illegal methods to return to their home countries within the day. As Hye-gyong heard more of these stories, she began to feel a bit frightened. She thought, "If they suddenly can't pay the money, it could lead them to commit a crime . . ."
Hye-gyong pleaded to these people, "If you're going to make excuses for your illegal immigrant status, don't tarnish the images of the legitimate students from foreign countries by claiming that your 'initial intention was to study in Japan'."