For me the path to French citizenship goes through the Japanese consulate here in Paris. One of the items I am required to provide is a police report from every country where I have lived in the past 10 years and there are only two: France and Japan.
Getting a French police report is surprisingly easy. It can be ordered here from the Ministère de la Justice et des Libertés (The Minister of Justice and Liberties). I was able to do it on-line and all they asked for was a scanned copy of my Carte de Resident. It arrived in the mail just a few days later. Mine is "vierge" which means I have no convictions for illegal activity here. I was sure that was the case but it's very reassuring to have the paper that proves it.
Japan is a little different. For one thing, they do ask you to justify the request and you must go down to the Japanese consulate and fill out the paperwork in person which I did last week. A very cheerful and pleasant consular officer took me into a room, helped me fill out the forms and then took a complete set of fingerprints. I think the last time I had this done was 46 years ago right after I was born in a hospital in Seattle. It was quite messy - all ten digits were covered in black and I ended up in the washroom desperately trying to scrub it all off. While I was doing that all my things (my purse, my residency card, my passport and so on) were back in the room sitting on the table. You know, I didn't even think twice about it - it was as if by entering the consulate I was actually in Japan and in Japan you can forget your purse in a restaurant and it will still be there two hours later when you come back. So there was nothing to worry about.
The process will take about two months - time for the Japanese authorities to check me out and, I imagine, run my fingerprints through a database. I will have to go back and pick up the results in person when they are ready. Interestingly enough I will not need to get a translation of the document since it will be in at least four languages and one of those languages is French. Hallelujah!
So, how do I use the next two months wisely? Well, I am a bit concerned about the history test. I never took French history in school and everything before the Revolution is a big blur to me. However, some former colleagues of mine came to the rescue earlier this week. I came into town on Monday, had lunch with them and then they dragged me off to the nearest Fnac (a chain store that sells books, DVD's, electronic equipment and many other things). They sorted through what was available in the history section and gave me a big stack to choose from. I selected one that seemed pretty simple and gives a good overview (no, it was not "French History for Dummies") and a second by one of my favorite authors and historians, Fernand Braudel, entitled L'Identité de la France (The Identity of France). I'm about a hundred pages into it and I am already enchanted. It's that good. There is a wonderful map on page 49 of my copy that divides France up into different regions based on the material used for roofs: tuile canale (like ceramic drain pipes cut in half), ardoise fine (thin slate), chaume (thatch), lauze de calcaire (limestone) and so on.
Just looking at roofing styles is a fine way to get some idea of the diversity of France. This "patrie une et indivisible, parce que diverse et chatoyante..." (This nation one and indivisible, because she is diverse and shining/shimmering/glistening...)