Yesterday I took a trip to Takasaki to visit the local branch of the Tokyo Immigration Office. I was there to trade my old Alien Registration Card in for one of the new "residence cards" that were launched a year ago. The new card system represents a major effort by the Japanese government to make the country more "gaijin friendly" by eliminating little frustrations foreigners sometimes experience here, like the need to pay $60 for a "re-entry stamp" if you want to leave Japan and return again, and having a strange, specialized registration card with that makes people think of Xenomorphs and facehuggers. As usual, it was interesting to be sitting in a waiting room with other gaijin from so many countries. There was a nice married couple from Bolivia who helped me figure where to go to get a passport photo taken (they didn't speak English and I don't speak Spanish, so we conversed in Japanese), a few couples who had emigrated from South Korea and China, a family of nikkei ("of Japanese descent") Brazilians who had come to register their baby's birth, and one lady from either France or Belgium, I couldn't tell. We made quite an interesting group: about 40 people in all, each with varying levels of Japanese language ability and (this being the year 2013), all of us pecking away on smartphones.
The Japanese government has good news for gaijin.