Anyone who has been to Japan has nothing but praises.  The people, culture, sites, landmarks and the cuisine are flawless as they say.  As early as my childhood years, I have been hoping to visit the Land of the Rising Sun and currently even considered settling there for good.

Visiting and much more living in Japan is only for the wealthy.  Such statement has been inculcated in my mind as others speak of travel expenses.  Not until a seat sale came and I immediately grabbed the opportunity along with a good friend based in New York City. 

Travel period?  It was my birth month – the month of September. 

An early morning flight it was.

The rising sun will be a sight to behold for me literally.  It would be a day like no other (cliché sounding).  I have never slept for almost 24 hours and there I was at the airport anxious and waiting to be on board.  Contrary to anticipated delayed flights due to flight cancellations and rerouting on account of a typhoon that passed by the Philippines the day before, our flight departed on time.

my first sight of Japan

Ohayo Gozaimasou! I wanted to shout and greet everyone in Nihonggo at the Narita Airport as we disembarked.  Exaggerated as it may sound, but it was a fleeting moment for me – a realization of a dream.

As I wait for my travel companion, coming from New York City, I strolled around converting the airport into a park.  Surrounded by varied nationals, the overused surreal feeling emanated.

To make the vacation even more efficient the next time around, a lot of lessons learned need to be placed in the proper perspective.  Thus, planning is indeed vital and though I don’t usually make travel guides, the succeeding may be of help.


a. Go to the Japan Rail Pass Exchange Office.  To obtain the Japan Rail Pass, the Exchange Order must be turned in.  Note that a Japan Rail Pass cannot be purchased inside Japan. 

The Exchange Order can be purchased online or through the following accredited sales offices and agents: JTB Corp., Nippon Travel Agency, Kintetsu International, Toptour Corporation, Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways, JALPAK and other associated agencies.  It is further available only in:  Asia, North America, Europe, Central and South America, Oceania, Middle East and Africa.

Rates for the JR Pass as of 1 September 2014 are as follows:

38,880 YEN
19,440 YEN
29,110 YEN
14,550 YEN
62,950 YEN
31,470 YEN
46,390 YEN
23,190 YEN
81,870 YEN
40,930 YEN
59,350 YEN
29,670 YEN
There are two types of JR Pass.  The green ones refer to the superior-class green cars.  In our case, we opted for the 7-day ordinary JR Pass.

Honestly, the rates may look expensive.  But this is the most economical way to stroll around Japan.  You would regret if you purchase the JR tickets in Japan once you know how much it costs hopping from one destination to another (especially from Tokyo to Osaka).

Note also that within three (3) months from the date the exchange order was issued, the same must be turned in to obtain the Japan Rail Pass.  The passport needs to be presented and a date should be specified as the start date for the pass.  Once decided, it can no longer be changed.

b.    Have your money changed in Yen (Japan’s local currency) at a nearby foreign currency exchange center.  Rates can be quite competitive amongst currency exchange centers, but it would be advisable to have them changed even at the airport in order not to disrupt your intended itinerary - looking for ATM machines, Post Office and foreign currency exchange center within the city.

Note that if you are holding an HSBC Account – whatever type (savings, deposit or credit card), there are no machines available in Japan.  Online transactions can be made through the use of the credit card but cash advance is not allowed.  I speak from my own experience (speaking of hassle! – it really pays to do advance research which I failed obviously) 

As for foreign issued ATM Cards, we can withdraw at any Post Office and only at 7 Eleven convenience store, Automated Teller Machines (ATMs).

c.  Rent a pocket Wifi (optional). In this day and age where wireless internet connection becomes a necessity, if you are on a short-term visit to Japan, it would be advisable to rent a pocket wifi for an unlimited usage for a week. Mobile phones are likewise available for rent. Booths are available at the airport.

In our case, we availed of the services of XComGlobal.  What are the advantages?  There are no roaming fees and the cheapest as compared to other international carrier’s phone service ($14.00 per day).  Since cost will be divided, it was a lot cheaper as compared if I availed of the international roaming service of my local service provider.

d.    Have your luggage delivered to your hotel (optional).  There are booths available at the airport as well for such service though we did not avail one to be able to save money as well.

e. Download Hyperdia on your smartphone.  This is the most efficient and helpful guide to know the routes and fare of the complex railway system of Japan.

But before strolling at the airport, we Filipinos need to hurdle the visa application.  With the leniency that the Government of Japan has extended, as long as documentary requirements for visa application are complete, then, the dream of wandering in Japan becomes feasible.


With the assistance of Viaje Holidays Travel Services (Unit 2-C Door #3 2nd Floor LY Bldg. Marasbaras, Tacloban City) courtesy of Ms. Donna A. Batan (+639173049845), I got my Visa after two (2) days from submission of documents at Reli Tours – SM MOA.

Documentary Requirements:

1. Philippine Passport – broken lamination of the photo part is not accepted.  Must have signature and must have at least two (2) blank pages.

2. Downloadable Visa Application Form

3. Photo – 4.5cm x 4.5cm with white background and pasted on the application form

4. Birth Certificate of applicant

5. Marriage Contract (for married applicants)
Note: For (4) and (5), it must be issued by the NSO Main Office within one (1) year.  In case of non-record, submit certificate of non-record together with the one from the Local Civil Registrar.

Exemption: if the applicant has his/her passport (old/valid) with a used Japanese Visa.

6. Daily schedule in Japan (Taizai Nitteihyo)

7. (if visiting friend) Documents or photos to prove relationship

8. Invitation Letter from Guarantor in Japan – with downloadable format and must have handwritten signature.  This is not applicable for package tours

9. Bank Certificate

10. Income Tax Return (Form 2316)
Note: (9) and (10) not required for applicants eligible for multiple entry

11. Residence Certificate (Juminhyo) – applicable if guarantor is Japanese

12. Foreign Registration Certificate from City Hall – applicable if guarantor in Japan is not Japanese and if guarantor shoulders any part of living/travel expenses

13. Guarantee Letter (Mimoto Hoshosho)

14. Income Certificate from City Hall (Shotoku Shomeisho), Tax Return Certificate (Nouzeishomeisho: form2), Bank Certificate or Kakuteishinkokusho Hikae (Yokin Zandaka Shomeisho)

Armed with all the necessities, then we’re off to explore The Land of the Rising Sun – Japan it is!

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