Good. Now click here. Then here, and here and here. What do these pages have in common, besides being the websites of foreign embassies in Japan? Well, visual appeal for one (all right, the Italian site is pretty ugly), clarity (the Swedish one is even available in English!) and ease of navigation (I speak neither Italian nor Portuguese but I now know how to contact the embassies of both countries, thanks to their websites). I also learn that the countries have several additional consulates situated around Japan, which is only fitting, considering how important a trading partner it is, and how many of these countries’ citizens live and work here.
I mention this because, the Canadian Consulate in Osaka having recently been shut down, I have been forced to waste an evening trying to work my way around *this* completely uninformative mess. The Canadian Embassy’s website is easily the cheesiest of the lot. Quick – how do you contact them by phone or e-mail? Eventually, you’ll find a number, but many of the links send you straight to generic Government websites back in Ottawa (or a Japanese page, which is great for a newcomer from Moose Jaw, or wherever). A little link saying “Contact us” – is it beyond the computer skills of my compatriots? (2010/01/12 – Well, whaddaya know? They finally put one in. Welcome to the 21st century!) The whole thing is cold, unhelpful, unwelcoming. And it hasn’t been upgraded since 2005 (i.e., under the previous government). Really gets the message out, folks. (2010/01/12 – Although it’s finally been upgraded – see above! – it’s still not very user-friendly)
Since I was in the enforced cyber-vicinity of Ottawa, I went to the Government of Canada’s website and found what looked to be a small town online newspaper edited by Borat or some other former Soviet apparatchik. It reads suspiciously like a pre-election party newsletter, something you’d expect (more appropriately) at a political party’s official website. Very depressing.