Let’s go to Japan
I went to Tokyo, Japan only my mom and my sister. It was a bonding time just for the girls while Joaquin and my husband Wally had a bonding time of their own at home. This trip was more of a spur-of-the-moment thing. Since last year, my family of origin has been planning a trip somewhere in an exciting part of the world for this August. It’s really a very exciting destination plus being with my complete family (even those based in Canada and Singapore) makes it even more wonderful. Together with Joaquin, Wally and I want to go with them. But since we’re open for Baby # 2 and hoping and praying about it, we can’t plot out long distance trips like those in the “far-off” future because we don’t know our “life” by then. If we are to take a trip, it should be very, very soon!
I actually initiated the trip and was surprised how fast things moved. We only had 18 days before our preferred date. I invited my mom and sister for a ‘girls only’ Japan trip. Within 3 days, we finalized the schedule, prepared the Visa requirements, reserved the flight and the hotel. My mom has a Japanese friend who made the appointment with the Japanese Embassy and reserved our flights. She also has an officemate who has a sister who works in Shibuya Excel Hotel Tokyu who made our hotel reservations there.
Requirements to go to Japan for Filipinos
Here’s the complete list of requirements necessary if you want to apply for a Visa to Japan.
(1) Valid passport six (6) months from the date of travel including old passport/s
(2) Completed visa application form
(3) Two (2) recent colored 4.5 cm x 4.5 cm in size photos with white background – applicants are suggested to be in decent attire, preferably dark color with collar and sleeves (You can just tell the photo studio that it’s for a Japan Visa and they’ll know the correct size!)
(4) Original authenticated birth certificate issued by the National Statistics Office (NSO), within one (1) year from the time of filing (for applicants without previous and used Japan visa) (You can order this online at www.ecensus.com.ph, pay it at accredited banks and have it delivered to your homes. The documents arrived at our house 4 working days after we had paid.)
(5) Original authenticated marriage contract issued by the National Statistics Office (NSO), within one (1) year from the time to filing (for applicants without previous and used Japan visa) (Same process as in #4)
(6) Certificate of employment stating position, tenure of service and with gross annual Income (For employee); DTI Business Name Registration and or SEC Registration Certificate (for Self employed)
(7) Original bank certificate
(8) Copy of latest Income Tax Return (ITR)
(9) Daily schedule / Itinerary in Japan
After a few more days, we were set to go to Japan! Japan was set to be the 22nd country in the world that I’ve been to. It was only then the reality started to sink in. Yes, I was excited to set foot in another country (the last “new country” I’ve been to was back in 2006) but I also started to miss Wally and Joaquin already!
After our “exciting” adventure from the Narita Airport to our hotel, we were also excited to rest and sleep. The weather forecast for the next day was still a snowy day, so we hoped and prayed that we’d have the perfect weather for a tour the next day. And true enough, when my mom opened the curtains, this was what greeted us. Oh hello there Mr. Sun!
Our Japanese friend, Teruko San came to our hotel and briefed us on how the Snowstorm had affected Tokyo. She was very worried about us the night before since she didn’t know how to reach us until we arrived at our hotel. Apparently, some of the other flights that landed in Narita after ours got cancelled and there were a lot of tourists who were stranded at the airport. Some of the train lines were also closed and there were also a lot commuters who got stranded in transit. How thankful we were that we were able to get “home” to our hotel safe and sound. We were also more thankful because we had a beautiful sunny day to welcome us on our tour around Tokyo.
Going around Tokyo
Our local guide began by teaching us how to use the Tokyo Metro. Even if we figured it out on our own, it still difficult to use because the aren’t a lot of English translations around.
Our first stop was the Sensoji Temple (Asakusa Kannon Temple). According to legend, there were two brothers trying to return a a statue of the goddess of mercy, Kannon to the Sumida River which was in turn given to them the next day. The temple was built to honor her.
Asakusa was where we where able to buy the Rice Crackers and other pasalubongs that we brought home. From here, we were also able to see the Tokyo Sky Tree. This opened only in May 2012 and is the World’s Tallest Tower at 634m., nearly twice the height of the Tokyo Tower. We were also able to see more snow on the streets, the trees, and the buildings. And Oh, were also finally able to see a snowman! (Cue: Do you want to build a snowman?)
Our Lunch was a blockbuster! I love Japanese food! Of course, nothing will beat the real, authentic thing! The restaurant was tatami style. But it had two tables on the left side. A Japanese with an American guest stayed on one table while we stayed on the other one.
We had Sukiyaki which was unbelievably very good. Nothing less than Kobe Beef. Y-U-M-M-Y!
Tokyo Imperial Palace
We then went to the Imperial Palace. Or at least at the perimeter of it. Most of the palace grounds are not open to the public except for the East Gardens, which are only accessible on select days. This is where the Emperor of Japan makes his home.
Since we were seeing Tokyo after the Snowstorm, the otherwise green traditional Japanese garden grounds were still partially white.
This area is also the area where Japan’s seat of government is located. We were also able to see the National Diet Building which hosts Japan’s Legislature. You can find their two chambers of government here – the Shūgi-in (House of Representatives; the Lower House) and the Sangi-in (House of Councillors; the Upper House).
We were relatively lucky on our tour day because there were not a lot of people on the streets. Since the forecast for the day was still snowy, many people did not leave their homes anymore.
After Asakusa, we headed to the Ginza neighboorhood. This is where you’ll find all the luxury brands from Japan and all over the world. Name the top stores and you’ll find them here in Ginza. Chanel – Gucci – Fendi – Mikimoto are just a few of them. This is a shopping mecca for major major major shoppers!
Next stop was the Shinjuku Area. This is also famous for offering a wide range of attractions from beautiful gardens, modern architecture, shopping and entertainment. Just a bit of trivia, the Shinjuku station is apparently one of the busiest in the world with more than 2 million users daily!
We ended our Tour at our very own backyard, so to speak. The Shibuya neighborhood is where our hotel is located. The Shubuya crossing is known for the bulk of people crossing it, bright neon lights and giant video screens which makes the nightlight oh-so-lively-and-alive. This is where you’ll see teen culture, hip kids and more shopping, shopping and shopping. This is also where you’ll find Park Hyatt, the hotel made famous in the film Lost in Translation.
We ended our day by looking for our other favorite Japanese food – SUSHI! We ate Sushi in this cute little restaurant where you will get your individual screen and you can just order your favorite Sushi by tapping the screen. (You just have to be careful because you may get carried away and ordering a lot because of the touch screen.) Viola, the plate of sushi will be delivered right in front of you! Cute and yummy sushi too!
So that was our 2nd day in Tokyo. You can read about Our Tokyo Adventure: In the Middle of the Snowstorm here! More posts to come about Our Tokyo Adventure in the next few days ! :)