As you most likely know by now, there has been a pretty big change in the Japanese immigration system over the past year or so. Gone are the "gaijin cards," replaced with more inoccuous sounding "resident cards." Even better, the expensive and terribly inconvenient "re-entry permit" (sai-nyukoku kyoka 再入国許可)that all resident aliens were required to pony up for before leaving the country. 

But little do many foreigners know, the re-entry permit system is not actually gone; rather, it has just been simplified and stream-lined, thereby removing the trip to the immigration authorities before you travel. Let's take a look.

The new entry permit is technically called a minashi sai-nyukoku kyoka ni yoru shukkoku-chu (みなし再入国許可による出国中), or as the authorities call it "departure with special re-entry permission." Let's just call it a "new re-entry permit" for now.

The new embarkation/debarkation card for residents
Remember that long, foldable card that you always have to fill out before you leave and enter Japan? Well that is still around, with a few important modifications. The biggest change is the check box toward the bottom of the card that asks whether or not you want to apply for "departure with special re-entry permission on the spot.
The re-entry permit is now stamped
on to your embarkation card

Make sure you check this box if you plan to return to Japan. If not, you will have to fork over your Resident Card and you will forfeit your status of residence. Your re-entry permission is good for one year from the date you leave the country (2 years if you are a Special Permanent Resident like an ethic Korean or Chinese).

According to the authorities, the re-entry window cannot be extended while abroad and, for all intents and purposes, no exceptions are made for those who spend more than a year abroad.

The actual permit itself is stamped on to the back of your embarkation/disembarkation card. The embarkation half of the form will be torn off by the immigration officer and the disembarkation half will be stapled and folded into your passport. Make sure not to tear it off!

If you are looking for more info, make sure that you check out the Immigration Bureau's English Q&A site or drop them a line for more specific council.

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