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. 🙂

Fifth Pelikcula

It’s our fifth year to attend the Spanish Film Festival organized by Instituto Cervantes at the Greenbelt Cinema 3, and it was fun, as always. I watched the first one with Marvin. He had to travel from Baguio and back for this. Can’t break a tradition, says him [Thanks!]. And then we watched the next one with Jel and Anna, mis amigas whom I always look forward to seeing.

I kinda regret not writing entries for the previous films we saw. I only managed to write about the very first two, “Unforgettable La teta asustada” and  “Disturbing Desierto adento“. I cannot believe I didn’t write something about “Biutiful”, one of the most beautiful films we’ve seen so far at the festival. But then I remember writing about it for my online job and got it published here.

In an attempt to break the regret streak, I will try to write about the films we’ve seen this year.

2 francos, 40 pesetas
It’s a film about the crisis in Spain in the 1970s, when Spaniards were forced to migrate to Switzerland to search for work. Albeit that premise, it tells the somewhat lighter side of the story. It’s about family and friends coming together to Switzerland from Spain to celebrate a baptism.

It’s a funny film that could easily make you laugh without exerting too much effort to appreciate the humor. Each character is amiable in their own way, and they become more lovable when together. My favorite part would have to be when they finally get together for the baptism. The scenes are full of stereotypes represented by each one and they are hilarious. There’s that scene of awkward dancing, the endless bickering of the two grandmothers, the tension created by illicit love affairs. And that drunk priest singing wailing his heart out cracked me up for a while. And, lest I forget, that scene with the black doctor in the earlier part is just painfully funny. Even in Switzerland, there is discrimination for black people.

We also had fun watching Howard Wolowitz (seriously, one character looks so much like him!), and I particularly enjoyed ogling the very attractive Pablo, portrayed by Adrian Exposito. Ah, those eyes of his!

The picturesque Switzerland is also a treat to our eyes. And the variety of accents (there’s German, French, Spanish, if I’m not mistaken), is just like music to the ears, and sometimes, just plain funny. We can now say “milk” the way Germans do. Such a good lesson this film had taught us!

10000 noches en ninguna parte
Have you seen a film that made you scratch your head and go, Huh? It’s that kind of movie. Well, at least for me us (speaking for everyone now). I can confidently say that because the majority of the movie house shared the same look of bewildered amusement (was it, really?!) after the movie. Most of us were standing and ready to leave the cinema even before the lights were turned on.

Okay. I shall come out clean now. When I learned it was R18, I immediately thought it’s one of those “art film bordering porn” kind of movies. For someone who saw “Lust, Caution” (Ang Lee, 2007), that was what I was kind of expecting. Well, I wasn’t THAT disappointed, not really. Sorry to spoil it a little, but the R18 part of it was a mere 1 minute (I think it was less than that, actually) of an orgy of four people in broad daylight.

Now that that is out of the way, I think the reason for the R18 rating is people under 18 would not understand the film. We are over 18 and, guess what, we didn’t get it at all.

We tried to make sense of it to no avail. The line between reality and fiction is very blurry, one could easily get lost just like the protagonist (is he even real?). Perhaps that’s the main objective of the director, Ramon Salazar, to let the viewers feel how it is to get lost and be nowhere. It’s called “10,000 Nights Nowhere” in English, and that would have to be a give-away.

The story goes like this… You know what, never mind. It’s just too complicated. I have seen “Vanilla Sky” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and there is no way I can make a decent summary of those movies. This film easily becomes an addition to that list of mine.

It’s not that it’s bad. Also, I’m not saying I didn’t like it (“Mondo Manila” is one particular movie that is bad and I did not like).  In fact, the cinematography is beautiful. That cemetery scene is unforgettable, and so is the colorful party. The characters played their parts well. I hated the Mom but felt pity towards her, too. The menage a trois are a lovable bunch of perky and stoned hippies. And Andres Getrudix’s portrayal of the main character is effective in making him the center of the story, when in fact he doesn’t seem to be in it. It is a complicated storyline. Forgive me if I’m not really making sense.

Perhaps the film is just too profound and there’s room for improvement in the narrative. But it’s an interesting film, nonetheless. And I’m grateful I got to see it with friends.

Looking forward to next year’s line-up!

August 31st

It was a Saturday. I was 12. There was an invitation from a neighbor whose name I’ve forgotten now to a birthday party at their house. I wanted so badly to go with my cousins so I asked permission from her. She said it was okay to go; so we, my cousins and I, were at the neighbor’s house when someone from home came to pick me up telling me to rush home. Nanay wasn’t okay.

It’s a hazy memory now and I could only remember bits and pieces. What I couldn’t forget was the look in her eyes, the most loneliest eyes I would never ever forget, looking at me as I leave the room to frantically contact Tatay. I couldn’t remember how many messages I left on his beeper that day. It could have been dozens, but I couldn’t remember the exact messages now. In retrospect, I might have been thinking that if Tatay gets home, everything would be okay. Nanay would be okay.

But that didn’t happen. He eventually came home but it was too late. Nanay was gone. And Tatay wasn’t at her side, neither was I. It’s the biggest regret I have up to this very day. I should have been on her side.  I wish I didn’t leave her side. I wish someone had told me to never leave her side. That she needed me to be by her side. I was only 12, I was very afraid and I didn’t exactly know what to do.

I could have said it’s okay for her to go, that we would be okay. That she needed not worry. I could have lied to her and perhaps those lonely eyes of hers would have never been my last memory of her.

It took me 18 years to write about that day. It was the most painful day of my life. I couldn’t bring myself to write about it in those 18 years. Every year since then, this scenario has been playing over and over in my mind especially as her death anniversary approaches. I guess I just couldn’t translate the memory to words. It’s that painful.

It’s been 18 years of questioning God why He took her away from me, from us. Why did she become sick? Why did the symptoms come out after my 12th birthday? Why did she have to suffer? Why did I have to take that frightful ambulance ride with her during that one time she needed to be rushed to the hospital? Why did I have to be the one to go to the pharmacy at the wee hours of the evening to buy the expensive medicines she needed while Tatay stay with her at the emergency room? I was only 12 years old then.

Why did she have to lose her wonderful short hair? Why did a wig cost so much way back then? We could have bought her one so she’d still feel pretty even while undergoing  the painful chemo and cobalt therapies.

It’s been 18 years, and it’s still painful.

The questions are just there being answered each day in one way or another. I may never find the exact answers to all of them but I get consolation and strength that I know it’s part of God’s plan.

This year as I remember her more fondly day by day, I’ve come to realize that instead of feeling greatly devastated about her death anniversary,  I should be thankful for that one Saturday in 1996. It was the day God ended Nanay’s physical suffering and called her home, where pain has no place and everything is bright and wonderful.

At this moment, I picture her looking at me from where she is, smiling because I am writing about her and maybe laughing a little at her “naning”, who’s once again shedding tears just because.

I miss you, Nanay.