Every year, taxpayers in Japan, foreigners and locals alike, troop to tax offices or city halls all over the country to apply for a tax refund. It works like the tax exemptions in the Philippines but in Japan, people pay first, then claim later.
So this morning, I went to the town hall to file Ariel's claim. We have been doing this annually and I was tasked to do the same in 2007. I got to town hall at a little past 9AM. I took a number and sat down. I was 16th to be served, 10th after the current number on the marker. I looked around and saw that I was the youngest person in the waiting area, all the others were Japanese senior citizens. Three counters were already open followed by two more a little later.
I have always admired the efficient service in government offices in Japan. Back in the Philippines, I always dreaded going to government offices because I always get very frustrated with the very lousy service. I remember going to the city hall in Butuan one afternoon and saw employees mindlessly chatting, eating snacks or applying make up, despite the long line of people waiting. Some employees were even having massages! The stench of massage oil was everywhere. There were none of that in Japan, at least based on my experience.
After a few minutes of waiting, my number was finally called. I immediately recognized the same guy who served me two years ago. He evaluated my supporting documents and asked for the birth certificates of all the listed beneficiaries. I looked in my folder but didn't have the documents. It seems that they are stricter this year because they didn't ask for this before. I was told to come back when I already have the documents.
I rushed back to the apartment, found the birth certificates and went back in the afternoon. There were only 2 people waiting this time. I was served in another counter by an androgynous anime-looking Japanese. After evaluation, I filled up a few forms and was asked to check our bank after a month. I said my thank you's and did the customary bows and went on my way.