Tag Archives: Japan

Street Legal Go-Karts… Only in akiba

On last week’s Tokyo Eye (NHK World, every Wednesday 9:30pm GMT) they featured some excellent alternative transport for getting around Tokyo, and in Akihabara you can rent street legal go karts to make your way around town. At the time of watching it was 2000¥ for an hour which they said was about enough time to drive to Ueno and back.

More details on their blog if you read Japanese http://ameblo.jp/akibacart/
Alternatively Kotaku have a post up here http://kotaku.com/rent-go-karts-in-tokyos-geekiest-neighborhood-476415858

Unfortunately NHK World doesn’t have catch up, but you can watch some shows online. If you’re interested in anything at all Japanese it’s worth taking a look at their schedule (and a lot of the shows are interesting even if you’re not specifically into The Japanese aspect)

Schedule here http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/tv/genre/index.html

Mount Takao – Tokyo

Mt. Fuji has just been granted World Heritage status, which is great and I’ll be writing about it again in the future; but it isn’t the only mountain worth visiting in Japan. Tonight’s (Wednesday June 19th 2013) Tokyo Eye was about a place that holds great memories for me – Mt. Takao (高尾山). We first heard about it on this same program before going to Tokyo on holiday in 2010, and I thought this is as good a reason as any to go through the old photos and put up a post.

Tengu statue at shrine

This Tengu statue is one of many outside the shrines along the mountain paths of Takao-San

The mountain is famous for being home to many Tengu, guardians if you like from Japanese folklore, taking the shape of anthropomorphic birds of prey. You can read plenty about Tengu from around the Internet so I’ll leave you to follow the link for more details, but one thing I always find interesting about them is that the more human a Tengu looks, the higher ranking they are and the more powerful they are. That said, even ‘human’ Tengu are recognisable by their huge Pinocchio style noses.

Any gamers among you reading might also be familiar with the miserab;y unfair final boss from Dead or Alive 2:

 

To get to Mt. Takao just hop on a traing along the Keio New line at Shinjuku. This is a private line and therefore not covered by a normal ‘JR’ pass, but it’s only about 370yen (about £2.50) at time of writing and the trip takes around 1hr 20 according to Google Maps. There might be better ways to get there and it’s becomming more of a tourist spot in recent years, but even in 2010 we had no problem finding our way there.

View Larger Map

It’s abundant in greenery and wildlife, and there are currently three trails that lead to the mountains summit. Along each walk there are a number of shrines, temples, statues and breathtaking views of Tokyo.

Also half way up the trail we walked is a rest area where they freshly prepare exclusive Tengu shaped Taiyaki (and yes, they are delicious).

So if you want to get away from the city for a while, or try somewhere of the typical tourist track, hop on a train and make a day of the mountain. Other people have written some great detailed guides to the history of the shrines and temples so I’ll leave you with a couple of links and a gallery of Diana’s and my own photos from our walk. I’ll be sure to update this post when we go back there later in the year.

http://aroundtokyo.net/blog/2012/11/20/mount-takao-hiking-in-the-tokyo/

http://www.japantoday.com/category/travel/view/mt-takao-a-fun-day-trip-from-tokyo

Tokyo Fan Week

This year there was an event set up in Harajuku called Tokyo Fan Week. Despite the title it took place throughout February and offers a chance for tourists to take tours of lesser known areas, and shop staff wore badges saying it was OK to take photos of them (typically in Harajuku shops you’re not allowed to take photos, despite all the cool thing you might find).

You can find out more about the event here https://www.gotokyo.org/en/tokyofanweek/index.html and hopefully they’ll be running it regularly in the future.

Our working holiday visa was approved :D

Yesterday morning we were surprised to get a knock on the door. It turns out the Japanese Embassy had been super efficient in processing our documents and we eagerly ripped open the bag.

Inside was this:

my-japanese-working-holiday-visa

Needless to say we’re excited and a little nervous. After so many years I finally get to spend more than just a two week holiday in my favourite country, enveloping myself in culture and learning the language; but at the same time there is so much to prepare and so many “What ifs..?” But now is not the time for what ifs, now is the time to grab an opportunity and believe everything will work out if we put all the pieces in place.

As you can see in the picture the visa was issued on May 1st and we have until May 1st next year to activate it.

So what next? First of all we have to put up a fence with our neighbours, so not very exciting, but once that’s done we’ll be on with making plans to rent our house and at the same time I’ll be getting a jump on writing to people over there and trying to arrange some freelance work. I’ll also be making a dream list of all the bands I want to shoot (photograph, I’m not some crazed maniac) and I’ll likely write about my love of live music in the future.

I hope you’ll stick with us through the journey and if you’re thinking of a trip yourself, I hope my future ramblings will help answer some questions.

How to apply for a Japanese Working Holiday Visa in the UK

The process of actually applying for the visa was pretty straight forward. Save some cash, fill in some forms and hand them in at the Japanese Embassy in London (or Edinburgh if you live further north than York at time of writing, the embassy website will let you know where to go).

OK, so there’s a little more to it than that, and with that in mind I’ve split the application process across two parts: How we filled in the forms and if you scroll a bit further I’ve talked about how to get to the embassy if you’re not familiar with London.

London Tube Map

The first thing I will say is that most other blogs I read while preparing my own application made a point of having to go back and collect their passport from the Embassy around a week later. I don’t know if this changed recently but when we handed our forms over today the man behind the desk said if we pay and bring back a pre-paid special delivery envelope they can SEND THE DOCUMENTS BACK TO YOU! Hurray! Now it’s not like I’m trying to hide my application from work but having to pay out another £100 in rail fares and book a last minute day off was not something I was looking forward to.

Another common question that doesn’t get answered is ‘Have you been refused a WH visa?’ The assumption is that unless the quota has been filled, or you blatantly don’t match the criteria, you’ll be fine. I also assume that anyone who has been refused wouldn’t want to pour their time into telling everyone about it. We find out next week whether or not we’re successful and if I’m rejected, I fully intend to put an update for anyone else applying.

On to the real info!

Japanese Embassy plaque

This information is all available in detail here on the Japanese Embassy website and you can download all of the forms you need there. I am not a representative of Japan etc. and recommend you read through their information fully before applying. Also, things do change, so if any of the info below turns out to be wrong, please do let others know in the comments.

Personally, I found reading other people’s accounts more helpful than the information on the embassy website alone as they put it into plain English. I also thought it would be useful for fellow wannabe travellers to put up my completed documents here so you can ‘take inspiration’ if you need it.

Checklist:

A valid passport

If you don’t know what this is, you’ve stumbled at the first hurdle. Sorry.

£1.5K in cleared funds (or £2.5 if, like me, you haven’t bought a return flight yet)

You will be asked to show the last three months worth of bank statements to back this up. Why 3 months? So that the embassy can see you ‘own’ the money. You haven’t been lent it the day before you apply etc. Other people have written how they accepted a bank statement with a letter from parents explaining it was a gift but I can’t vouch for that. My missus had her money in an ISA rather than a regular account and this was also fine if you’re wondering.
An application form (you can download it here, and they had some available at the embassy).

There is a space for a passport photo on the form. We didn’t know whether it had to be the full 45×45 mm as British passport pictures are generally 35×45 mm. I handed a regular photo over and it was fine, they stuck it on for me. The Embassy website also has really clear instructions on how to fill this in so I won’t go into detail, but don’t worry about filling in every box. Things like ‘country issued I.D. number’ don’t apply to most people in the UK.

A C.V. or personal history.
I took my existing work CV and cut it down so everything fit on a single side of A4. I would put it up here but obviously a lot of personal details on there. If you need help writing a CV there are plenty of websites out there that can help.
I heard of people being asked to rewrite some of their documents and figured it would be best if everything was written to fit on one side of paper.

A written reason for wanting to apply for a working holiday visa.
You can read my written reason clicking this link (BenBradyJapanWHVApplication). This was probably the hardest part of the application for me because at first the question sounds quite daunting. Why DO I want to go to Japan for a year? In my head the answer is simple, I have always wanted to have a go at living over there and love many aspects of Japanese culture, but one line wasn’t going to cut it here. Everybody has different ways of writing documents whether its a school essay or a workplace user guide, and We found it easiest to tackle this from the angle of “What can’t you do on a regular Japanese holiday?”; from here we started listing bullet points of all the things we knew we wanted to try while over there. After we had a few we left it for the night and came back to it the next evening. With a fresh mind we started writing these bullets into a full sentence and before we knew it rather than a gushing love song to the country we had a full page of good solid reasons for wanting to spend a full year travelling around the whole of the country.

A full itinerary for the proposed trip.
One thing that isn’t clear reading the embassy site or other blogs is exactly how you should structure the itinerary. After all, planning a month of regular life in advance can be difficult, let alone a whole year in a foreign country. Luckily we found this great example on Adventure Paul’s blog (big thanks and kudos) who had already written something that sounded like what I had in mind. There are hundreds of things to see on all of Japan’s islands and lots of good books and websites to check before you fill this bit in.

My personal favourite is this one from Dorling Kindersly:

Dorling Kindersly Japan Guide

It’s full of colourful pictures, maps and a few more original places that really get your excitement levels climbing compared to more text heavy info guides. You can get a better look inside at Amazon (and help support this blog if you use this link)
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So with all of this in hand we ventured into the Embassy. Leaving our hotel 5 minutes from Kings Cross we followed the Victoria Line down to Green Park.


View Larger Map

Getting off the tube we took the Buckingham Palace exit. You should see this fountain in front of you (although it won’t be sideways – will fix later :P.fountain in Green Park

and this is where you came from

View from the fountain

You walk out into the park, turn right and follow the fence along (or go up to the road if you prefer) and in about 2 minutes you’ll see the Japanese flag waving outside. If you come out of the street exit from the station and can see The Ritz, you’re pointing the wrong way:The Ritz

We walked through the door and were greeted by the nicest security guard I’ve ever come across, and working as a music photographer I’ve met a lot of nice security. Any bags or bits and pieces you have will need to go through a security scanner, a bit like an Airport. I don’t know what is / isn’t allowed in the Embassy buy my bag had deodorant, DSLR camera, and all of its accessories, and other normal travel things. This was fine, although my mobile did set off the metal scanner.

After the scan we walked to the reception where a kind lady checked we had filled in the correct application and told us to press the ‘visa’ button. You get a number, and when it’s called you go to a window. All very informal so far. The waiting area had a comfy leather sofa and after about 5 minutes our numbers were called.

The man behind the counter read through all of the details I’d written thoroughly and asked me to fill in a space on the application I’d accidentally missed about she were travelling. We haven’t bought our tickets yet but told him we intended to fly in July.

He then asked me how old I was. My heart skipped a beat because this was the thing that had worried me. I’m 31 in May and the criteria states you must be 18-30 inclusive at the time of applying for the visa, but I couldn’t shake the feeling I was cutting it close. I answered and after what felt like forever (but was likely only a second or two) he nodded and said ‘Ah, OK’ and smiled.

number ticket and receipt

And that was it. We had to go and buy the envelope so they could send our documents back (and pay the £23 fee upfront) but this time next week we should have the visas and we can go about planning how we rent the house, sell the car and expand my freelance work contacts. Either that or cry into a cup of sake and blow the two and a half grand I’ve saved for the trip because we’ve been refused.