“We need to talk,” she said.

My nerves leaped like I’d French kissed a wall socket. Talk? Talk about what? What had I done? In my experience, the only people who’ve ever said those words to me have been soon-to-be-ex-girlfriends and my mother. In this case, the woman speaking to me was Kaori Umeda, one of the young admins at the Ninomiya American Club, where I teach English during the week and the local sponsor of my Japanese work visa application. I’d been lounging, as one is wont to do, in the tiny teachers’ lounge yesterday at the Club (which, for the record, is rather more schoolish than clubby), when Kaori had burst in on me, face like a funeral, and made her announcement.

tn_japan.jpg“We do?” I replied, suddenly 12 years old again.

“There’s a problem,” she said. “We made a mistake with your work visa. You have to leave and come back.”

“Leave the Club?”

“Leave Japan.”

“Not really,” I said after a moment.

“Korea. Just for a day. Then come back.” She looked at me. “Tomorrow.”

Tomorrow, then, I will be in Seoul, South Korea, presumably in a hotel near the airport, since I’m returning the next morning – my birthday, as chance and circumstance would have it – to Nagoya, Japan, where I’m hoping with all my heart and every other applicable organ that Japanese Customs will willfully disregard the obvious fact that I was in Japan for exactly 90 days, left the country for less than 24 hours to hang out in a city just feet away from a nuclear-armed communist dictatorship, and am now asking to be let in again on another 90-day tourist visa. In the United States, this would be more than sufficient cause to perform a full-body-cavity search on me, hold me indefinitely, deprive me of sleep and water, suspend Habeas Corpus on me and all of my relatives, place me in painful positions, and subject me to non-stop Eminem at top volume. (It’s not considered torture until they put on the American Idol Finalists CD.)

This is all a big misunderstanding, I’ll say. You’ve got the wrong guy. What happened was, see, they told me at the school in Fukui where I was working without a work visa – waitaminnit, I mean was hoping to work as soon as I got a work visa, yeah, that’s it – they told me months ago that if my 90-day tourist visa expired before my work visa arrived, no worries, because as long as my work visa was being processed, I could remain in the country. Then just this week they learned that – whoops! – that would actually make me an illegal foreign national in Japan, which of course I deeply, deeply do not want to be, since illegal aliens here have slightly less legal protection than cockroaches. But, see, here’s the thing, my employers – that is, my guaranteed near-future employers – really want me to teach English to cute Japanese kids (have I mentioned how cute the kids are in your country?), and so only a day after I’d permanently relocated from Japan to an airport hotel in Seoul, they called me up and asked me to come back to Fukui so that they can definitely, positively offer me this job as a reputable, tax-paying, pillar-of-the-community-style English teacher.

So can I come back in? Okay, well while you think about it, can you turn off the Eminem? Uh huh. I see.

Is waterboarding an option?