One step closer to the Empire’s borders

I’ve been planning a trip to the Land of Sakura, Sushi and Exorbitant Prices for a very long time, but all of my efforts would have come to naught if I failed to clear the first major hurdle: securing a visa.

Japan has visa exemption arrangements for over 60 countries and territories, but my corner of the world isn’t one of them. So unlike residents of, say, the U.S. or the U.K., the rest of humanity has to march up to the local Japanese Embassy and beg their Lordships for a Magic Ticket that will let them through Immigration without being manhandled back onto the first plane out. It’s not a difficult process, but putting together the dossier of documents required for a visa can be very time consuming, and there’s never any guarantee that your passport will return bearing the coveted sticker with the fancy paulownia hologram.

Fortunately, I just obtained my Magic Ticket, and I can finally start firming up my arrangements. I’ve still got a full two months before my planned departure date, but since I’m travelling during one of Japan’s peak tourist seasons I intend to finish bookings within the next week or so (lest I run out of reasonably priced accommodation options).

The precise details of my itinerary will remain under wraps, mainly because I may end up shuffling things around until the eleventh hour and also for the surprise factor. In any case, I’ll leak out more information as the date draws closer in order to elicit recommendations, tips and whatnot from people who have actually been there and lived to tell the tale. (For now, suffice it to say that I plan to spend a few days each in Tokyo and Kyoto, with JR Pass-dependent day trips to places further afield – Nikko, Himeji, Nara, etc. – programmed into the schedule.)

It’s worth bearing in mind that this will not be an anime otaku’s journey through the magic factory of his fantasies, but a Japanophile’s expedition to a nation whose art, architecture, history and culture are subjects of great interest to him. Though there will be time enough for Akiba and (possibly) Nakano Broadway, my schedule will be dominated by palace tours, museum visits and long, meandering walks through parks and gardens. In any case, just about everything an otaku can possibly want is readily available thanks to the miracle of online retailing, so why bother going to the factory floor and buying on the spot?

Save the shopping trip for the home PC. When in Japan, I say it’s best to take some time off one’s anime addiction, kick back and enjoy the scenery. Even Nagato can wait. 😉

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7 Responses

  1. Awesomeness. Seems everyone and their mom is going to Japan now.

  2. @Zeroblade: Yeah, I’m getting the impression that a Japan stamp in your passport is the must-have item of the season. 😉

    Apart from my interest in Japanese culture, history, etc., this year’s excursion fits into the broader objective of fulfilling one of my recent life-goal resolutions: visiting at least one new country every year. Two years ago it was Singapore, last year it was Macau, and this year it’s Japan. (I also visited HK last year, but I’ve been there before so it doesn’t count.) I’m sticking to Asia for now before casting my net wider.

  3. I wouldn’t be going on an Otaku trip to bring back a haul if I go to Japan. But I would have to visit Akiba, the Ghibli museum and the Kitaro town =P

  4. Personally, I think that alot of anime fans miss out on a lot things on their trips to Japan: most seem to just want to y’know just be in the anime part, whereby the visiting of tourist attractions etc are the bonus, when it’s supposed to be the other way round. 😄

  5. @Xcomp: Yes, the Ghibli Museum! I’m not sure I can go there myself, but I’ve got it marked down as a possible day trip from Tokyo.

    @Legionarion Conquistadorz: Yeah, there’s a danger in focusing too much on typical hotspots like Akiba, Harajuku and the rest, to the detriment of the really good historical sights. In my case, Akiba will receive its fair share of my time and cash, but no more than any other stop.

  6. Congratulations on securing your visa 🙂

    Japanophile’s expedition to a nation whose art, architecture, history and culture are subjects of great interest to him.

    I share your interest in this area 🙂

    Unfortunately, I have not visited the land of the rising sun yet, so I can’t offer any advice. If I recall correctly, blog Nihonhacks has many general survival tips.

    I expect you to publish a detailed report and many pictures 😛 Enjoy your trip 🙂

  7. @Kitsune: The hotels I’ve booked with all offer free internet access, so I might attempt a daily report while I’m there. Then again, I anticipate each day of sightseeing will wear me out completely so I might just plop down onto my bed every night without even touching my netbook.

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