September 30th, 2006


When will I see you again?

On December 3rd last year my Japanese girlfriend Hisae was returning to Berlin from London, where she'd been working on a film with some art school friends. When she arrived at Schonefeld airport, though, there was a problem. The passport officials told her that she wouldn't be able to enter Germany. They kept her in a police cell overnight. She was allowed to call me (it was a very tearful conversation). I was allowed to bring some clothes and personal possessions the next morning, although not to see Hisae. She was then put on the next flight back to London.

The problem was that, unbeknownst to either me or Hisae, you can't just come in and out of the Schengen area and get an automatic three month extension on your visa each time. Within any 180 day period, a tourist can only stay a maximum of 90 days in Europe. Hisae was studying German, so she should have changed her visa status to "student" once she got here, but we'd been somewhat blasé and had got into the habit of making day trips to Poland or the UK pretty often and assuming that the visa issue was taken care of. Although Hisae's overstay was only a couple of days, the German authorities took it pretty seriously, and put a black mark on her passport record.

I stayed in Berlin through December, recording the lonely ballad Nervous Heartbeat, with its poignant refrain "when will I see you again?" Hisae, meanwhile, had no choice but to return to her family home in Osaka. I joined her there at the end of the month, and we spent January and February in Japan together. The top photo shows us at the Sea of Japan resort of Kinosaki on my birthday in February.

Since then we've been apart, me in New York and Berlin, Hisae in Osaka and London (where she finished the short film she's been making with Joji Koyama in April). Hisae was supposed to join me in my new apartment in Neukolln in early July, but again visa problems intervened: the German Embassy in Osaka told her at the last moment that she needed to await the outcome of a tribunal before she could return to Germany.

Finally, earlier this month, Hisae was told that her application for a one year working holiday visa in Germany had been approved. She arrives tonight. You'd probably never know it from reading Click Opera, but these past few months have been a difficult time for me. From about 11 o'clock this evening, things are going to be a lot sweeter. For a year, at least, no petty officials or police cells will come between international lovers.