There's excitement in the air as the year draws to a close and people rush about trying to get things finished off in the old year. There are queues at the lottery kiosks. 600 million yen in prize money to be won this year (roku oku ６億, over four and a half million pounds). But I'm off. I'm going to spend Christmas with my family in England.
Panicked a couple of weeks ago when I realised my visa was due to run out but it's all done now and I was amazed at the new system. In July the law regarding immigration was revamped and we are no longer aliens! I don't have to register as an 'alien' but when I need one I can get a 'residency certificate' (juminhyo 住民票) like any Japanese citizen and instead of my 'alien registration card' I now have a 'residence card'. Neither do I need to get a re-entry permit to come back into the country. I remember the old immigration office on the east side of Shinagawa before it was redeveloped. It was not a nice place to go. And when I first came to Koriyama in the 80s I had to travel 2 hours to Sendai to get a re-entry permit every time I wanted to leave the country. Things have changed a lot.
I'm about to get the train to Tokyo. For the first time in decades I have a flight from Haneda airport. But I have to be at the airport at 4:00 am for my flight at 6:30 tomorrow morning. The agency I booked with (HIS) offers a unique solution. I will be spending the night at the hot spring theme park in Odaiba (Oedo Onsen Monogatari), bathing and resting on reclining chairs, before boarding a bus to the airport at 3:25 am. The things I do at my age. I'm going to be exhausted. But at least I'll be clean!
If I don't get another chance, I'll wish you all a very happy Christmas.