Not many people know this, but Japan thrives on paperwork. To do anything past personal shopping, and hobbies, you will need to fill some form or document to complete the process. Even with the advent of current technology, there is a heavy need for paper and ink documentation for everything. These forms will sometimes have English versions of the required forms, but you will always have the original Japanese versions. With these forms being so important to your lively hood, you will need some way to understand what you are about to sign. It’s never a good idea to just blindly put pen to paper for these forms.
Ask a Friend
This is an obvious answer, but one that still should be said. If your ability to read, write, and speak Japanese is too low to help you in those situations, simply ask a friend to help you. They usually allow anyone who can translate to join you, as they want to make the process as easy as possible on themselves as well. Sometimes this is extremely necessary as one mistake can cost you time, money, or even the ability to stay in the country. If you don’t have any friends to help you out, you can ask for English forms, if they have a translated form, or there are translators you can hire to help you out. Even though it is an option, this is pretty expensive most of the time, so only use if you really need some help on very important documents. If you work for a big enough company, you can ask the company to send someone with you to get the forms filled out correctly.
Use a Translation App
Our cell phones have become fantastic machines that can do all sorts of things that don’t involve making phone calls. One of the most helpful things is the easy and fast translation of foreign languages. At the touch of a button, you can turn an unreadable document into an easily understood one. They make emergency translations a snap and can make sure you fill out the form completely and correctly. With that being said, translation apps are not perfect. The kanji used in Japanese can have multiple meanings, and sometimes the apps cannot properly translate the true meaning of some words. Add to that the Japanese language being grammatically different from English, and you can find yourself just as confusing as if you had never translated it. If you do run into this problem, try translating smaller portions at a time. The app may not be able to handle a whole page perfectly, but it will have an easier time doing one or two sentences. There are a few apps to choose from, and there are even translations devises that will translate spoken language instantly. You can use those as well, and just ask the clerk to help with whatever part of the form you can’t understand.
Ask Clerks at Information Desks for Help
When you are at the office where you receive the forms, you ask the clerks if they can assist with the paperwork. Some may know enough English to help you through it, as they have had to deal with foreigners on a regular basis. Just point at the parts of the sheet you need help with, and they will assist you as best as they can. If you are at a town office, there may be an information desk with some workers manning it. Sometimes the workers will be able to speak some English and be able to help you with forms as well. These workers are usually extremely helpful when you are stuck on some of the paperwork. Never be afraid to ask someone around the office for help.
Use the Internet
This is also another obvious piece of advice, but it should be written. There may be images uploaded by other people of the documents with everything translated on them. These can be extremely helpful in the filing process. Most things won’t be uploaded as they may be sensitive documents that the offices don’t want floating around on the web. Another thing you could do is use a message board site to try and ask other people who have filled out the forms before. The problem with those websites is that you run the same amount of risk of finding someone who will try to mislead you, as someone who is trying to help you. If you decide to use the internet forums, try to get as many people agreeing on the same idea before acting on it.
The amount of paperwork that is involved in simply living in Japan is staggering. If you don’t have a company helping you out, it can be extremely stressful. From getting your visa to applying to change addresses it can be a confusing and unwanted mess. Take your time and find the best option that works for you. The most common thing that most people will use is the translation app, and it will most likely be the easiest way to get these things done. Once you finish filling everything out, you can relax knowing you finished everything correctly, and won’t need to do it again for a long time.