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Miyagi AJET - Newcomers' Info - Travel and Transport

 

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Traveling with Miyagi as your Home Base

 

Hello! Welcome to Japan! By simply joining the JET Program and coming to Japan, you have already completed one of the longest flights in the world, that is, assuming you came from North America, Europe or the South Pacific. From where ever you have come from, you are now in Japan and the rest of Asia exists within your backyard. In this brief article, I would like to explain a few things about traveling in and out of Japan. It hardly seems appropriate to start talking about leaving Japan, especially when you just got here, but believe me, those holidays come creeping up on you quickly and preplanning is essential and necessary.

 

For those of you who have a vested interest in Japan, the travel opportunities are, if a bit expensive, definitely endless. Japan is a unique place to travel and there are numerous sight seeing opportunities. Miyagi prefecture abounds with some glorious scenery and onsens (hot spring spas) in both Hanayama and Naruko. There are numerous small town and city museums of local interest scattered around the countryside, too. Of course, Sendai, the largest city in all of Tohoku, is a cultural center unto itself. Discover Miyagi, there is more than meets the eye here at your doorstep.

 

Without taking too many steps, you can find cultural heritage and other landmarks in and around Tohoku. Aomori prefecture totes several lakes and mountains as well as the famous Osorezan National Park. Iwate prefecture has preserved the "Kyoto of the North" in the town of Hiraizumi just over the Miyagi-Iwate boarder. Additionally, Iwate is famous for the wan-koh sobs eating contest where contestants try to eat as many bowls of sobs noodles as possible. Akita prefecture is noteworthy for Lake Tanazawa and numerous onsens, as well as its kiritampo rice snack. West of  Miyagi is Yamagata prefecture mostly noted for its scenic views of Mount Zao. There are various festivals in and around Tohoku all year long. venturing off to a festival is a good way to see surrounding Tohoku and experience the conservative, traditional, northern Japan.

 

Any trip to Japan is not complete without a trip to the famous places often captured in coffee table photography books. Such places as Nikko and suburban Tokyo can be reached easily and comfortably in a day. Other places take more travel time as well as more "discovery time" to fully comprehend the vastness of ancient Japan. Travel itineraries should include Kamakura, Nara, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, arid Okayama in the Kansai Area; Hiroshima, Miyajima in the Ghubu Area; and Kyushu and Shikoku remain left as places all to themselves. Okinawa, if time, is worth a good look, too. Of course, these are only ideas to begin your adventures. Oreate your own itineraries and discover the true Japan.

 

If you intend to climb Mount Fuji while in Japan, remember that the mountain rest houses and pathways are officially open July 1 to August 31. Take a good pair of shoes or boots and a light backpack.

 

 

Moving around Japan is easy but expensive. Just about every place in Japan is connected by rail, road, or ferry. Cost is the underlying factor. The Shinkansen, or "bullet train" is an efficient way to move quickly through Japan. But, time is money and you pay for time; so if cost is an issue, remember to try alternate methods of transportation.

 

If you want to see Japan and get the "inside scoop, buy a travel guidebook about Japan. Both The Lonely Planet Japan and Japan Handbook are recommended. Both are available at Maruzen Bookstore in Sendai.

 

As stated before, Japan may not be the only place you want to discover. Being half way around the world and living in Asia provides endless places to visit, shop, study, or just relax.

 

Hawaii, Singapore, Seoul, Pusan, Beijing, Hong Kong, Guam and Saipan are International destinations reachable from Sendai International Airport. The rest of Asia and the world is yours to explore from Tokyo Narita International Airport.

 

If you intend to travel outside of Japan there are a few things you need to remember.

 

First, you must secure your Japanese visa. In order to do this you must obtain a re-entry permit. The r-entry permit allows you to enter Japan again on your current visa. There are two types of re-entry permits, a single r-entry permit and a multiple-entry permit. A bit obvious, a single r-entry permit allows a single re-entry into to Japan and costs 3000 yen.

 

At 6000 yen, a multiple re-entry permit allows as many re-entries into Japan as possible for the duration of your current visa. The re-entry permit is valid for a year from issue or when your current visa expires depending on the time you obtain your re-­entry permit. If you stay In Japan a second or third year, you must renew your visa as well as obtain new re-entry permits each year. Miyagi JET participants can obtain re-entry permits from the Sendai Immigration Office.

 

The procedure is easy. Take your passport, alien registration card gaijin card), and application to the Immigration Office. You also need to buy a Federal Revenue Stamp of 3000 or 6000 yen. You can purchase this stamp (called an IInshin in Japanese) at the post office. Take all of these materials to the Immigration Office and make an application before 4pm. The application and the re-entry stamp in your passport can be processed in the same day. Once you obtain your re-entry permit your are all set to travel the globe from Japan.

 

Remember, too, that if you travel to countries which require visas, you must obtain that country's visa from Japan There are a variety of ways to procure a foreign visa. You can have a local travel agent procure a visa for you for a nominal fee; you can apply for the visa through the mail; or you can go to the Embassy or Consulate of the country you want to visit and procure the visa yourself. Do some research on the country first and find out whether your nationality requires a visa By the way, there are many visa free countries in Asia including, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.

 

Finally, a helpful hint! Remember, you are a registered alien resident of Japan. (Your gaijin card proves it!) Upon arrival back in Japan you can go through the Japanese line for immigration control at the airport instead of the line for foreigners. This will speed you through to the baggage claim area and get you back home efficiently.

 

Before leaving Japan, don't forget to take your passport, gaijin card, and insurance and health cards. Remember to keep copies of these documents at home and take a copy on the road with you in case your real documents are stolen or lost. Copies of all documents in the event of theft or otherwise will help expedite new documentation. By living in Japan, you are already half way to most Asian destinations. This means most tickets from Japan to other Asian destinations will often be cheaper than from your home countries. There are many travel agents in Japan who can provide discount air tickets and travel packages. Most of these agents are located in Tokyo and there are a few agents in Sendai, too.

 

Perhaps one of the best discount agents in Japan with offices in Tokyo and Osaka is STA Travel. They can be reached at (03) 5391-2922. You can ask for Akiko or Tomoko. They both speak English. There is also an Australian man who works in that office by the name of Todd Snell. I highly recommend STA. Other agents in Tokyo would include: World Vision Travel (03) 3585-1O76; Across Travel (03) 5391-2871; No.1 Travel (03) 3986-4291; Just Travel (03) 3362-3441 and others. Most agencies in Tokyo have English speaking agents. I am told that HIS Travel in Sendai next to the station is a good agency and also has English speaking agents. Ticket prices are always flexible and usually really cheap to Asian destinations. However, be aware of cheap prices. Generally speaking, the cheapest tickets are for seats available on, to be honest, some less than reputable airlines. If safety is of concern, ask about the airline company before booking a ticket. Of course, you can always request your favorite airline. Also, perhaps inquiring about a mileage program may be an incentive to take a free trip some time somewhere!

 

by Nathan Andres

 

 

This page was last updated: 02/14/00

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