So, with the promise of a job in Japan, I was once more invigorated. I immediately began looking for a new place to live, and found a nice apartment not too far from Kyoto Station. Then, after a brief visit to my home town back in Sweden, I returned to Kyoto once again to start my new life.
The first thing I did, as any responsible foreigner looking to stay for a long time in Japan should do, was to go to the immigration office and apply for a working visa. Having given them all the documents they asked for, I went to check out my new home. It was small, yes, but big enough for me. My girlfriend came over and helped me get some necessities like a frying pan, plates, chopsticks, a desk etc.
Then came the first day of work, or rather, training. Perhaps it is appropriate to explain my job in further detail here. In short terms, I would work as a salesperson in an electronics store. This entails approaching potential customers and try to make a sale, provide information about our goods and services, and register the customers' cell phone contracts. Having little interest in technological gadgets, not to mention cell phones, this was all very new to me, and quite daunting. Being an introvert, having to talk to dozens of strangers everyday, and at the same time be cheerful and try to persuade them into buying something, sounded downright scary to me. But, a job is a job, I thought, and decided to do my best.
So, after four days of training, learning everything about price plans and phone specs, I finally arrived at the shop. My co-workers gave me a warm welcome, and I thought this might be pretty nice after all. And so my days working at Softbank began. Let me tell you, working in retail is tough. Extra tough in Japan, I would imagine. If you've ever been to almost any store in Japan, you know how polite and proper the sales staff behave. There is a strong focus on correct behaviour and respect for the customer, and usage of proper respectful language. Couple this with the fact that I as the only western employee stood out like a sore thumb, and you can imagine the pressure I feel. Like I am constantly being watched.
Be that as it may, the work seemed fun at first. A lot of the customers took an interest in me when I talked to them, and many of them were surprised that I could speak Japanese so well. There were also many foreign customers, and a lot of them seemed very relieved to get assistance in English, since most of the Japanese staff could not speak English very well.
The first shocking news arrived a few days after work had begun. Upon returning home one day, I found an envelope from the immigration office in my mail box. The letter inside informed me that I needed to provide them with additional documents in order to get my visa application approved. Among the necessary documents were my diploma from Lund University, Sweden. The problem? I had not yet officially graduated. The bigger problem? Receiving my diploma would take ten weeks. Far longer than the immigration office was willing to wait. Devastated at first, I could feel the world crumble around me. But, I refused to give up. Maybe I would still be able to get my working visa after all. At the moment, I was only legally able to work three days a week, and my boss had already expressed impatience with this. I explained to him that I needed to gather a few more papers before I could get the visa and start working full time, and he told me to hurry up as much as possible.
And so, my struggle to secure my place in Japanese society had begun.