Anyone who has had to go to an immigration office to get a reentry permit, visa renewal, or conduct any other such transaction has probably experienced the frustration of long lines. This is particularly so at the main Tokyo Otemachi Immigration Office, where the majority of foreigners in the Tokyo area end up going.
For those of us here in Tsukuba, going to immigration involves a lengthy trip, the expense of getting there, and, if you go to the main office as most people do, a wait of usually several hours. Those who live in Tokyo and who can get there early at the head of the line can get in and out fairly quickly, but to do that from Tsukuba would entail getting up very early.
Fortunately, there are other alternatives to the long lines at Otemachi. Here in Ibaraki, there are two small immigration offices, both located near the docks of the major ports of Kashima and Hitachi. However, you really need to have a car to get to either easily. Of these two, Hitachi is the best bet. Kashima is just as close (or just as far, depending on how you look at it!), but it takes a good bit longer to get there since there is no expressway going in that direction. Also, that office seems to discourage people unrelated to the shipping industry, and they even require you to make an appointment ahead of time ? but it can be done. It is located in gMinato Koenh (which is worth seeing, with its enormous observation tower overlooking the harbor). If you have some other reason for going to Kashima (such as going to the beach), it may be worth a try, but call ahead (or have someone call who can speak Japanese) to check (0299-92-2600).
Hitachi is a small, two-man operation, but the officers are friendly and do their best to get you in and out quickly. No appointment is needed, and any of the usual transactions can be handled there. If you are fortunate enough to hit a good time (which is often the case), you should be finished within 30 minutes or so. There is no guarantee, however, and if youfre unlucky enough to come in just after a number of other people do, it will take some time (but nowhere near as long as Otemachi). If you have a car and use the Joban Expressway, you can be there in an hour. The office is located near the junction of highways 293 and 245, south of Hitachi. To get there using the expressway, exit at the Hitachi Minami-Ota exit, proceed towards Hitachi on highway 6 for a short distance, and turn right onto 293. Shortly after going through the railroad track underpass, youfll see a two story building on the left with a reddish-brown roof next to a lumber yard (second entrance from underpass). The office is on the second floor (tel. 0294-52-0582). The office where you buy revenue stamps for reentry permits, etc. is located in a separate building a few hundred meters away, at the first entrance after the railroad underpass. The office is in the building to the right of the entrance at the back. If you know what revenue stamps you need, it's best to go there first.
There are other options, of course, such as the Urawa office in Saitama, the Yokohama office and the Kisarazu office in Chiba. One wonders why an branch has not been opened in Tsukuba since there are so many foreigners here. With all of the other foreigners in southern Ibaraki, there would be plenty of business for a small operation such as in Hitachi. There is, incidentally, an "immigration center" close by in Ushiku, but unfortunately, it is not the kind that you would want to pay a visit to ? it is a detention center for illegal aliens.
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