How to Get a Japanese Visa via an Awesome Friend

So, I owe someone an explanation, or rather an account of how I acquired a Japanese visa. Actually, I owe him this and a food trip, too, when he comes home.

Short version of the story of my attempt to go to Tokyo. I was lucky enough to score a round-trip ticket to Tokyo about same time last year via CebPac P1 Seat Sale (scored it for around 7k!). First, I wanted to go because of the Tokyo Open (Rafa eventually didn’t participate in the tournament). And second, to experience fall (which was not gonna happen had I push through because the date I picked was way too early for the leaves to actually change colors and fall). I could say it wasn’t really the perfect time for me to go because of several instances. There was a minor accident (I was so thankful, I decided not to push through with my original schedule), a storm in Tokyo (which I was also thankful for, I got a refund!) and the fact that there was a major change happening in my life in the last quarter of 2014 that I couldn’t, for the love of me, squeeze in a major and expensive trip. It was a Failed Fall, you could say.

So there, I wasn’t able to use the visa, which I easily acquired, despite not having a hefty bank account to prove that I can afford to visit Tokyo (that’s the easiest way, I think).

You can check out the Embassy of Japan for the full list of requirements for the different visas available for Filipinos. Visa application is via accredited agencies. I went to Attic Tours for mine because it’s the nearest agency to the Embassy of Japan in the Philippines. It’s in Pasay.

I applied for the visa for visiting friends or distant relatives. Here are the requirements/steps:

1. Have a very awesome friend in Japan. Preferably one with a foreign registration certificate and who is willing to help you out and act as a guarantor. As for me, I am thankful to have a good high school friend [Thank you, Glen!] who went out of his way to prepare and send me the following:

  • Invitation Letter. You can download that from the Japanese Embassy website. It’s in Word document so filling it out is gonna be easy. It will ask for the details of your guarantor/friend, your details and the reason for visit. There is no special answer in the essay part, but I think it pays to be honest and concise.
  • Foreign Registration Certificate from City Hall. It’s like your friend’s identification card in Japan, I think.
  • Guarantee Letter (MIMOTO HOSHOSHO). You can download the Word document from the Japan Embassy website. This will say that your friend will take full responsibility of you during your stay in Japan. It will also bear their seal, which is so cool.
  • Income Certificate from City Hall (SHOTOKU SHOMEISHO), Tax Return Certificate  from Tax Office (NOUZEISHOMEISHO: form2), KAKUTEISHINKOKUSHO HIKAE. Or a Bank Certificate (YOKIN ZANDAKA SHOMEISHO) would do, according to the Japan Embassy website. This is to prove that your friend can afford to have you as a visitor.

Remember that these documents should be valid for 3 months from the date of issue. So I requested Glen to send me these roughly a month before my intended flight. Meanwhile, I prepared the other requirements on my end.

2. Acquire the OC Attitude. Because you will need that to prepare these:

  • Valid Philippine Passport. Get yours from the DFA if you still don’t have one, or if yours is expiring in 6 months, you must renew it.
  • Visa Application Form. Check it out here. You can actually print it from there or save it so you can fill out the PDF format and be sure your answers are readable and there will be no erasures.
  • Photo. It should be 4.5cm x 4.5cm with white background. Let the studio know that it’s for a Japanese visa. If you don’t get it right, Attic Tours can take your photo for P200 (I think).
  • Birth Certificate. It should be NSO issued with receipt and valid within (1) year. You can order it online or go to NSO or request via SM Business Center, which I did because it’s more convenient for me since I wasn’t mostly at home during those times to receive it from the courier.
  • Tour Itinerary (TAIZAI NITTEIHYO). There is a sample here in English. It’s in Word form so you can just edit it. As for me, I made a real itinerary. There’s no harm in being honest. Show this to your friend/guarantor (or consult them), too, in case the Japanese Embassy would check with them.
  • Documents or photos to prove relationship. Good thing we took photos during meet-ups. Hehe
  • ITR and Employment Certificate. It’s not really part of the requirements, but I submitted these anyway, to prove that I am employed and I am returning back to the Philippines and does not intend to marry some Japanese and never return. hehe

That’s it! Bring all these to your agency of choice. Here are your choices. While the Japanese visa, when granted, is free, you have to pay the agency a processing fee. I paid P1500 (+ 12% tax) to Attic Tours. I submitted the application on a Thursday and got a message from them the following Tuesday saying my passport is ready for pick-up. Very quick! They won’t tell you if your application is approved or not. You have to feel the anticipation, you know! It’s part of the experience.

Oh, by the way, all the requirements won’t be returned to you, except for the photos. I don’t think they want to keep them. Why would they? Hehe

There you go. I was warned that I may have a hard time getting another visa (I am not yet giving up on you, Tokyo!) since I wasn’t able to use the visa they first gave me, but I am trusting the Universe that all will be fine when it’s really my perfect time to visit the Land of the Rising Sun and Murakami. 🙂

Wedding Whatnot

This is actually a post that is more about what not to do during weddings. I’m learning the ropes of event coordination and I have been exposed, sort of, to a number of weddings, so I guess an entry about my observations is due. It’s either I do that or I would continue on whining about them with some of my close friends, and I think I pretty much made the rounds already.

I may strike some ego here because I have no editor to please nor advertisers that I owe flowery words to. So let me warn you that this entry is riddled with somehow blatant observation and apologetically peppered with sarcasm.  Now that that is clear, let me get something straight this early.

Unless it’s yours, a wedding is not AT ALL about you. It’s about LOVE, and, yes, the couple that is getting married and, to some extent (because our society is what it is), their immediate families. If you do not belong to the two categories, stop thinking that it is your event and start being a considerate guest.

That being said, here are some of my unsolicited wedding insights, ladies and gents.

This means “répondez, s’il vous plaît” in French, which means “please reply” in English. If I should go my way, I would replace “RSVP” with a little note that goes: Please confirm your attendance on or before (insert date that is at least two weeks before the wedding). Failure to do so would mean you’re not attending and you are giving us the liberty to assign your reserved seat/s to someone else. Thank you.”

And then I may add a PS that would say: We really mean it. So we would really appreciate your reply. As in.

I don’t know how some people plan their schedules, but not really having the courtesy to even reply with a yes or no to an invitation is just plain rude. The couple is spending their hard-earned life savings on their wedding (mind you, that wedding invite is expensive, too) and they want you to be there to witness it and be a part of this very special event. Please have the decency to let them know if you are going or not. The fact that they are asking for a reply only means that they need your confirmation. It’s not just something that they are doing because everybody seems to be doing it these days. It has a purpose, people!

In case you’re still wondering, it’s basically for the headcount for the reception, so the couple would know how many guests are coming. So that they can also adjust their expenses. Because getting married doesn’t really mean the couple won the lottery and is all-out in spending money. They are working on a budget, too. Unless you know that they are multi-billionaires, of course. But then again, if you are friends with those kind of people, you would really know what RSVP is for and would act accordingly, wouldn’t you?

The +1 Privilege
I say it’s a privilege because it really is a special privilege. With the exception of the relatives and really close family friends, chances are the invitation is only for the person whose name is written in the envelope. Unless your entire family is very close to the bride and groom, then Mr. and Mrs. (insert your name) are the only ones that are officially invited to the wedding. But if the couple are really generous and the invitation says there are 3 or more reserved seats for you, then you can bring the kids, specially if the couple knows you do have kids/s and they welcome little kids to their wedding.

Please don’t ask the couple (specially right at the moment they handed you the invitation) if you can bring someone to the wedding when it’s clearly stated in your invite that they have reserved 1 seat for you. It is RUDE to do that. Not only are you putting them in an awkward position to answer in a shy “no” or forced “yes”, you are also adding actual expense to their budget.

And to tell you the truth, in case you are really oblivious, wedding receptions held in hotels or event venues are not cheap. Unless it is held in a fastfood chain or someplace that is not horrendously expensive, don’t ask if you could bring someone (or some people) if the couple didn’t say so at the onset.

A tip to couples: if you really want to refuse their +1 request, tell them politely that you would look into your guest list to see if there are still free seats and that you will inform them before the wedding if they can accommodate their “guest”.  Then inform them, through your coordinator, that they cannot bring a +1.

To the friend who was refused of the +1 privilege, don’t feel bad. It’s the couple’s special day, not yours. But, if you really, really want to bring your current SO to the wedding, because you thought that it’s a good dating venue and you’re just so cheap the couple hasn’t met him or her yet, well, just don’t. There is a different social event for that. It’s called a get-together.  Invite them to a dinner or coffee and introduce your special someone. I’m sure they will know him or her better in that kind of social setting than during their wedding, when they are so busy enjoying the moment, you know, because IT IS THEIR WEDDING.

And if you couldn’t really, really, really accept the fact that you are going to the wedding alone, despite the fact that the bride or groom was a classmate or an officemate and surely there would be other classmates or officemates invited to the event whom you could mingle with, then don’t go at all. Clearly, you have mental issues are better off not going to an event that is not yours.

The +1 Rules
Yay! Your very generous couple friends gave you a +1 (or +2 or +3) Privilege! It means that they value their relationship with you that much (or they are really thoughtful since you’d be a total stranger on the wedding because the only people you know are just, well, them. True story).

Now that you get to have your own “guest” as a guest, consider giving a gift to the couple even if they really didn’t say gifts are mandatory. It’s a sweet gesture that means you really appreciate them to have invited you and your “guest” to their wedding.

Also, it is only apt that you let the couple know who you are bringing to their wedding, that they have been preparing for all their lives (special stress on that description) because, I couldn’t emphasize more, IT IS THEIR WEDDING. Cut the “it’s a surprise” crap, please.

Now, let me give you some ideas on who you should NOT bring as your wedding date.

The Uninvited – Do you know that someone–a friend, batchmate, classmate, officemate, cousin or whoever–you and the couple (either one) know yet didn’t get an invitation? There’s a reason he or she didn’t get an invite. Take a hint. And please don’t let him or her be your +1. If the couple wants them to go to their wedding day, they would have gotten an invite, too.

The Anti-wedding Person – This is a bit self-explanatory. Just don’t bring someone who is so against weddings. Don’t let photographers capture one poor soul in the photos that the couple paid for to treasure forever. Don’t bring with you the bad vibes.

The Out-of-Place Date – Your date, your responsibility. It’s your duty to brief the +1 on what to wear, who’s who and how to behave, specially if he or she is a stranger to the couple or to everyone, for that matter. It’s also a good idea not to bring someone who couldn’t hold down alcohol that well. I haven’t experienced a ruined wedding because of a drunkard, but just to be safe, don’t bring a potential threat to the affair.

Kid/s – A wedding is considered a formal event, an affair for the grown-ups. Unless it is clearly stated (or hinted) by the couple that kids are welcome, consider that they are not. Simply because kids, however cute they are, can be obstructions to the event, specially if they are aplenty (read, more than five). Sure it’s great that the photographer caught a cute moment of them during the ceremony (kids are cute, I have no objection to that). But these same kids will get in the way of the official photographers when unsupervised, which usually happens specially if you’re part of the entourage.

In case you really don’t have any idea, most of the couples pay thousands of money for their wedding to be covered by professional photographers just because their wedding is one of the most special moments of their life together. They want it to be as perfect as possible. Let them have that.  The photographers (and all the suppliers, actually) are working their ass off to make the wedding run as smoothly as possible. Don’t let them be bothered by kids, please.

And don’t get me started with the incessant crying of babies during the ceremony. The horror!

So, unless they are part of the entourage, consider not bringing kids to the wedding specially if it’s a super formal one. Besides, kids would be bored with wedding ceremonies and receptions are mostly not kid-friendly. You would know, you’ve been a kid once.

A wedding is not just one of the most important events in a couple’s life. It’s also a celebration of relationships, both with the couple’s family and with their friends. If you have been chosen to be part of the entourage, that means the couple considers you as someone very important to them. So it is only appropriate to return the favor by playing your part. And play it well, please. Don’t be just there for the photo ops.

If the bride is shouldering your gown, be there for the fitting. If she’s the kind that is too shy to ask for favors, go ahead and volunteer. It could be to accompany her to scout for suppliers or just to go in for a massage or a mani/pedi. A phone call or a text message to say hi and ask her about the wedding would mean the world to her. Or you can volunteer to drive for the groom in one of his wedding errands. If you know you can help out, go ahead and help.

Organizing a wedding is huge and can be very stressful. Don’t add to the bride and groom’s stress by letting them feel you’re not into their wedding 100 percent. If you think you cannot play the part really well, beg off and state your reason. If you are really in good terms with the couple, they would surely understand. It would be better to be considerate than letting them down.

A tip to the couple: consider family members and friends that you can count on to be part of your entourage (and guest list, too). Even if you could hire the best and most expensive wedding coordinators and suppliers, there is no better support than the one that is from the people who truly loves you.

After all, a wedding is all about LOVE, and you, the bride and groom, of course.