First-time Traveler’s Guide: TOKYO, JAPAN

LEGIT VACATION: (adj.) rest,  free from stress,  few days of exciting adventures, meeting new people, more learning

That’s how I define my vacation.  Well,  it doesn’t have to be extravagant, high-class or pricey. 2-day vacation trip or so outside Metro will do.

Been working for almost three years now as a media practitioner and it ain’t easy. So,  I needed a break.  Been actually longing for “legit vacay” for years. Good thing my friend, Gelyn,  randomly booked me a round-trip ticket to Tokyo,  Japan for P8,500 from CEBU PACIFIC. Seat sales like “Piso Fare” is rarely found. So, make it a habit to always check social media accounts of various airlines like CebuPac, Air Asia and Philippine Airlines. Without thinking twice,  I bought the ticket before the 24-hour deadline in the nearest Bayad Center.

THE WAITING GAME: Passport Application, Show Money and Visa

October 2016,  6 months before my flight—March 1, 2017, I was hesitant if I should pursue my so called “vacation” or not. First,  I don’t have a passport.  (Whut? But yeah!) Second, I’ve never been in any other country and haven’t been in an airplane…yet.  Third and which was the hardest part, my savings was not enough and I still have dues to pay. I considered it as a “tough battle”. Thank God. He never abandoned, but encouraged me not to give up.  With His grace,  help and support of my family and friends, I was able to get my passport. Kudos to Department of Foreign Affairs- Alimall for the efficient service!

For first-time passport applicants like me, list of requirements and some tips will surprisingly save you.

Read and Complete the General Requirements

• Personal appearance
• Confirmed appointment
• Duly accomplished application form (may be downloaded from the DFA website, www.dfa.gov.ph)
• Birth Certificate
• Valid picture IDs and supporting documents to prove identity

TIP 1: SHOW UP AND BE ON TIME. Make sure to show up on your chosen appointment date or else, you will be banned to book again online for 30 days.

TIP 2: DRESS APPROPRIATELY. Come on, that’s an application. Avoid wearing slippers, sando and shorts.

Visit the links below for helpful information:

After 15 working days (which may vary depending if it’s a regular or express processing)…I could already smell and roughly feel the crispy leather cover and freshly printed pages of my passport. One down! Few more things to fix up. Fast forward to February 2017. I already collected enough show money for my visa application.

NOTE: Japanese Embassy only requires bank certificate not a bank statement. Some applicants thought it is better to submit statement to show the flow of your money…which made their visa denied. The embassy only requires certificate…why bother to make it more complicated. Right?

TIP: For first-time solo traveler on a 7-day Tokyo trip, it is ideal to have P30,000 to P50,000 on your bank account. Most especially if you are an average earner like me.

FLIGHT 5J 5754: 30,000 FEET ABOVE THE GROUND

 

4:50AM… boarding gate opened.  I was nervously walking in the tube towards the aircraft.  I was only wearing my fave mint green v-neck shirt and jeans. Carrying a bit heavy bag…which added exhaustion to my already nervous heart. Call me dumb… BUT I DIDN’T KNOW EXACTLY WHERE TO SIT.  Examine your tickets, ladies and gentlemen, before flight.  There’s a lot of information there. So, after I found out where to sit..I giggled. The.  Entire.  Flight. I am beyond thankful to have the window seat on my first flight! Whatever Gelyn did during the booking process,  I’m in awe.

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Sea of Clouds.
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Aerial View of Chiba.

Thousands of feet away from the land, there’s no more trace of “Pinas”. After hours of dancing-like sea of clouds view…I witnessed how artistically the structures and farms of Japan were built. My heart kept on pounding due to excitement. Ecstatic. I’m wickedly stunned and it felt surreal.

ARRIVAL: Warm welcome yet a cold one…5° Celsius to be exact

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Street in Kaminoge, Setagaya (courtesy of Gelyn Lee)

Finally arrived in The Land Of The Rising Sun. Breeeeze. It was really cold… but I didn’t mind. Air tickled me from my hair, passing through my skin…and lingered in my chest. My heart was beating hard. But this time, it’s because of an overwhelming happiness. ‘Is this really happening?’, I thought.  I was no longer in the boundaries of Philippines. Even I, myself was surprised, that my feet were already stepping on Japan’s territory. I am breathing the same air as Makoto Shinkai…the creator of THE big hit movie “Kimi No Na Wa: Your Name” is breathing. Savoring the cold yet sweet taste of Chiba. Announcements and greetings in Nihonggo that I couldn’t understand (even a single word) became music to my ears. Japanese kept on smiling and were religiously bowing, I was really amazed. So, I said…’this is just the start of an exciting journey’.

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At Yasukuni Shrine, Chiyoda (courtesy of Gelyn Lee)

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