I don’t think there’s ever been a moment in my life when I’ve actually (and hotly) anticipated a day as much as today, October 11, 2022.
For nearly three years since this hot mess of a pandemic dropped on us, I have exercised as much willpower as I could to wait for the day when Japan, one of my beloved travel destinations, would finally open up to the world.
Yes, Japan took its sweet time resuming pre-pandemic border regulations (without the need for package tours and bookings via an agency) but now that the day is finally here, we can all heave a sigh of relief.
That said, Filipinos still need to secure a visa—contrary to what some may have initially thought after Prime Minister Fumio Kishida made the announcement in September. But if you have a valid multiple-entry visa, then you may skip to the good part.
What are the requirements now?
Based on my experience reapplying for a tourist visa, it’s still pretty much the same.
First, prepare the necessary documents. For tourist visa applicants, here’s a refresher on everything you need (with my little notes):
- Valid passport (with at least six months validity)
- Visa application form to enter Japan
- Passport-sized photo (4.5 x 3.5 cm) taken within six months then write your full name and date of birth on the back
- Birth certificate issued by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) within one year (this isn’t required for those who have been previously issued a Japanese visa)
- Marriage certificate issued by PSA within one year (also not required for those who have been previously issued a Japanese visa and only if applicable, of course)
- Travel itinerary or your daily schedule of stay that includes the activities you will do as well as the accommodation/s and contact details. If you’re visiting friends or relatives, there are additional requirements that need to be fulfilled
- Bank certificate that you can request from your bank
- Photocopy of your income tax return or BIR Form 2316
And that’s it.
But in case you have a guarantor or someone who will shoulder all or part of your expenses in Japan, you will also need a guarantee letter on top of these basic requirements.
Remember though that confirmed flights and hotel bookings aren’t required. But if you do have them already, go ahead. A certificate of employment also isn’t listed as a required document, but I threw it in as well for good measure. I can never be too sure regardless if I’m a frequent Japan traveler.
What’s my experience like?
Okay, I won’t lie. As soon as Prime Minister Kishida announced in New York in September that Japan will ease COVID-19 border restrictions and resume individual travel, I immediately gathered all my documents so I can apply as soon as possible.
Don’t worry though since documents are valid for 3 months from the date of issuance. So on a sunny Friday morning, I woke up bright and early and went to my trusty travel agency in Dusit Thani Hotel, Makati to submit my application.
I was there 45 minutes early since they issued a statement on Facebook that they’ll implement a strict opening and cut-off system. After having watched scenes on TikTok of Korean visa applications getting out of hand and spilling over to footbridges and the main streets outside the embassy, I wasn’t going to take any chances.
But when I got there, there were no queues (yet). I was one of the first applicants to arrive. “Okay, this feels nostalgic and just like the last time I applied for one in 2016.” That tourist visa has since expired last year.
What I did forget though is to grab a queuing number as soon as the doors opened. Instead of being fourth in line, I was demoted to sixth. Fortunately, the agency staff was all fast (and diligent) when reviewing applications and documents. It didn’t take too long for this woman to call out my number and after several minutes of reviewing my and my parents’ applications, she blurted out, “Do you want to consider reapplying for a multiple entry visa?”
“I could. But I don’t have a letter of request with me right now.”
“I’ll just give you a request form. It’ll just be an additional P300 (a single-entry application costs P1,200) but there’s no guarantee.”
In my head, I was like “That’s life for you. And for me. And for everyone else really.”
“Sure. I’ve come this far anyway.”
And in a span of 30 minutes, I was done. Unfortunately, I’ll need to resubmit my parents’ visa applications since the birth certificate I submitted (since I had the noble job of being their guarantor this time) wasn’t issued within one year. (NOTE: PSA-issued birth certificates have permanent validity as of August.)
So that’s one thing anyone should remember. If submitting a birth certificate as proof of relationship between the applicant (parents) and guarantor (me), make sure it’s issued within one year—even if the website doesn’t indicate it.
When everything is done and dusted, just wait. From my previous experiences, Japan visa applications took anywhere between four to five working days before they got in touch with me that the passport is ready for pickup. But who knows how long it’ll take this time around.
My parting thoughts
Applying for a Japanese visa again after so many years felt great. Not just because I could be traveling again to one of my favorite countries but also for the thrill of retracing your steps that harks back from a simpler time.
Okay, that was cheesy.
Seriously though, this is just one facet of my potential Japan travel and that there’s plenty more hurdles for me to overcome. But at least Japan has since expanded the vaccines it recognizes to include those approved by the World Health Organization.
Anyway, going back to what I was talking about, I’m at that point in my life (read: age) in which things don’t come easy anymore in the memory department. There are gaps that need to be filled in my Japan memory bank, like remembering the process of navigating the city with my ICOCA card (West Japan Railway Company or JR West’s reloadable prepaid card that can be used on Japan Railway networks and most mass transit systems) or where to exchange the order for a JR Pass.
And then there are the new shinkansen regulations such as the size limits and reservations for your luggage. The two that would affect me the most are that the total length, width, and height of the luggage must not exceed 250 centimeters and that they must not be more than 30 kilograms.
For someone who isn’t a light packer (overseas), this is going to be an issue. But I’ve found a nifty alternative in worst case scenarios. Then there’s also the fact that the most reliable timetable search service Hyperdia has been discontinued.
But then again, these are all part and parcel of the return to a country I have loved since I first stepped foot on Japanese soil.
Let’s just hope they want me back real soon, too.