Some good news for foreigners living in Japan: a new Alien Registration System is coming which will make it easier for gaijin residents here. The new system has several new benefits, the most welcome being the elimination of the "reentry stamp" system, a $60 official stamp foreigners had to get in their passports if they wanted to be able to re-enter the country after going abroad, which was both inconvenient and potentially a big problem since it was easy to find yourself with an expired stamp suddenly. (We refer to it as the "gaijin tax" usually.) Since the problem of Japan's declining population is only going to get worse -- this year the number of "new adults" turning 20 years old was just 1.2 million, exactly half the peak of 2.4 million back in 1970 -- I believe the country should take real steps to encourage people to immigrate to Japan permanently. Just to be clear, I'm not knocking the treatment foreigners in Japan receive currently, as I know that we gaijin have it better here than foreigners in almost every other country. But making changes that make it easier for foreigners to live easily in Japan, like getting rid of that annoying re-entry stamp system, is a positive step forward in my book.
This is the current Alien Registration Card, which will be renewed soon.