Planning our travel to Japan has not been too easy. We are required to get a visa before entering the Land of the Rising Sun. Not that I have not done it before for my US and Canada visas but I have to admit, I can be a bit lazy when it comes to collating visa requirements. I sometimes wish I can just travel without having to collect documents, going to travel agencies or embassies to have it checked or interviewed and then do the same process again when renewing for the same visa or when applying for another visa for another country. However, we all know how easier it is today, to be secured of and approved of one, as Japan and other countries adjusted their travel regulations to promote their country’s tourism. With that said, if that process doesn’t stress you then getting a Japan visa will not be too difficult for you.
Moving along, one thing to be grateful for my Japan trip is that I have a lot of friends, colleagues and even acquaintances who have helped and suggested lists and what-nots that may come in handy to make it less of a trouble for me. They sent me their own schedule, gave tips where to eat and what to do and see but I did not copy them. Those served as a guideline. Why not do the same and look for your own connections? Also, how incredibly lucky are we to have internet access? We can google anything and get answers in a minute! There are travel blogs and a lot of travelers like myself who are willing to help other people without “donation”, monetary transactions or anything in return.
I have this travel philosophy to spend less when I travel but get the most experience out of it. Me wanting to save money, I decided to DIY our itinerary despite the worries and the hassle. There were times when I had to tell myself that I was crazy enough to think that. I would do it during lunch breaks and even spent sleepless nights when I was doing my detailed transportation cost estimate. It can be time-consuming but that’s how I really am because I want to prove to myself that I can and I really wanted to try and I did!
Japan is the first country with visa that I did not have any residing relatives to visit. I have friends who are living there but I did not want to pass them the burden of my plans and mess their schedule. Although they were accommodating enough to tour us around which will be posted in another entry.
Anyway, I am sharing below some steps on how I got me and my best friend a Japan visa.
1. Research. Do lots of them. List your purpose of travel. Jot them down if you must and go over them thoroughly. Take note too that there are risks involved when applying for visas. Are you sure you really want to go there?
2. Book your airfare. This is the risk I mentioned. You will need to do this as it is required for your visa processing. I was lucky enough to score a promo fare that costs Php5400 only for a roundtrip ticket already. I thought it will not be a loss if we will not be able to secure one.
3. Look and reserve for a hotel that lets you cancel just in case. There are countless accommodation in Japan depending on your needs from 3-star to 5-star hotels, hostels, AirBnbs and even capsule and love hotels. If the latter is your thing then who are we to judge. Love hotels can be affordable as with capsule hotels.
4. Finalize your itinerary—the places you want to visit, how many days you will spend in certain areas or tourist spot, where will you be staying on those days etc.
Click this attachment 2015aug-14-japan-itinerary-updated to download my itinerary. It can serve as a sample or you may use it for yourself.
I made a detailed itinerary as well but I will not be attaching it here as it is not required in the visa processing. Only the file I attached in the previous paragraph is used. I only did the comprehensive planning so I would know how to navigate ourselves just in case. Again my mantra then was no money should be spent carelessly not even a single cent.
My friend and I even met up in cafes and spent the afternoon in each other’s houses just to finalize and compute the estimated expenses of our trip. I did not want to waste money just because I forgot something. I even placed alternate routes and compared transportation modes and chose whichever is the cheapest except for our Nozomi shinkansen experience.
5. Collate your other visa requirements. These were some of ours at the time of application:
• NSO Birth certificate
• Certificate of Employment
• Bank Certificates
• Return Ticket
• Passport copy
I also included our hotel booking just in case. Scan and photocopy them if you must for your file. You will be submitting ALL of them to the agency.
6. Go to a travel agency. Japan embassy is requiring Philippine citizens to let authorized agencies process the visa. You will not need to go to Japan embassy unless they tell you so. As for us, I chose Discovery Travel and Tour in Makati because it was near my office and it is the cheapest among the list. You’ll pay Php800 only. Some agencies ask for Php2000.
7. Wait patiently and claim your passport. They gave our passports back after a few days with the visa in it. Discovery texted and informed us that our passports are available. They will not tell you if you were able to secure a visa and please do not ask them over the phone. Just think of it as part of the suspense when travelling.
Last but not the least, I suggest that you check the website of Japan embassy to Philippines for updates like the list of authorized travel agencies, visa requirements or for other inquiries. That is the part of DIY-ing your own tour. It can be that meticulous but worth it. Good luck!