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
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
by Nathan Andres