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. 😉