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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Managing the Legalities: Do You Need a Visa?

Visa-Free Traveling
For folks from the US, you can stay in the country without a visa a maximum of 90 days(as in 90 calendar days, not 3 months), which is more than enough time for most folks to get their kicks before they return to the reality waiting for them back home. As for the rest of the world...

You need a passport if you're from...
Brazil, China, India, Russia, South Africa or South Korea*(plus others not mentioned)
*if part of a school group, you can stay up to a month

You can stay 14 days if you're from...

You can stay 90 days if you're from...
Andorra, Australia, Barbados, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hong Kong, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Monaco, New Zealand, Poland or Slovakia

You can stay 3 months if you're from...
Argentina, the Bahamas, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus(the country), Denmark, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Finland, France, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Lesotho, Luxumbourg, Macedonia, Malta, Maritius, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal*, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Surinam, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey or Uruguay
*exception if originally attained in either former or current colonies of the country

You can stay 6 months if you're from...
Austria, Germany, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Switzerland or the UK*
*only for UK citizens

Why Would I Need a Visa?
Short answer: the authorities can kick you out immediately, if they catch you after your visa-free time is up, and you don't have one. Long Answer: If you're going as an exchange student, worker, teacher, are visiting a relative long term(e.g. A year, or so) or otherwise need to be there for something other then tourism, you'll need to visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan's long term visa section of the site and look up the one you need.
     Afterward, look up a local Consulate-General of Japan and call them up for anything you may need to do concerning getting the needed visa. Should the country's charm stay with you after you visit, definitely give this stuff a moment of serious thought if you ever want to do something long term over there. While we're on the subject, let's take a look at the next phase of going to Japan: Where you want to visit for your vacation. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Managing the Legalities: What to Watch for Before and During a Trip to Japan

An experience often thought of as a milestone is when someone travels to a country highly unlike their own, like someone raised in Italy traveling to Brazil, a South African denizen exploring the Irish countryside and a kid raised in America taking a journey to Japan. Through that trip, they begin to see beyond the things that make them different from others and look for the things they have in common, thus helping them see deeper into the way we all speak to each other and crafting a more meaningful understanding-or at least, that's supposed to happen.  
That kind of growth often isn't achieved in one trip, and if the things they held true are reinforced on their travels, they might even grow more narrow minded about the culture they experience. For example, say someone coming to NYC for a vacation thought that Americans were all arrogant, fat gunslingers who care only about themselves; if the only people they ran into there fell met those expectations, then they'd grow even harder to break, because now they have anecdotal evidence to back their claims(for those curious, the term for this is Confirmation Bias, and it's even worse when they meet those same people as completely blank slates to be shaped by whatever happens).
Before any of that stuff can take place, though, one has to handle things at home, so they can set foot in the country without getting turned away at the door, and 2 crucial aspects of world travel are the passport and the visa(which you'll see more of later on). If you haven't been outside your homeland, then you haven't had much of a need for either, but for traveling to Japan, they will become a necessity, especially the passport.

Getting a Passport
The general things you'll want to do are to...
  • Hit up your gov't's travel site
  • Visit the section dealing with passports
  • Fill out all the needed paperwork
  • Seek out the needed fee money and documentation for your passport(e.g. Birth certificate, Driver ID, etc.)
  • Head off to get your picture taken for it
  • Then turn everything in to the proper channels and wait for it to arrive.
The exact procedures will depend on how your govt does things, your current situation and many other variables, so be sure to look that stuff up and find out what you need. If you happen to be a US-citizen reading this, however, I can give you a few pointers on what you need to do.

Tips for US 1st Timers to the Passport Process
To keep it simple, for getting your first passport, the Post Office is your friend and will stay so throughout the whole process. When you're there, you can find out what you need, how you need to dress, how long you'll be waiting(which can be somewhere between 2 weeks and 2 months if you don't have the $60 to speed things up) and many other things.
Before going there, though, be sure to hit up and check out the Passport and Visa sections for the specifics on what you need in your situation, what paperwork you'll need to do, and documentation you'll need on hand-Fair warning, though: this process won't be cheap(as of this writing, the whole package is about $160, minimum). As long as you head to your local Post Office, though, they'll be able to help you through the nitty-gritty red tape, and move on the next part of traveling to Japan: whether or not that passport needs further approval by the proper authorities for further travels, whether or not you need to get a Visa.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Essential Phrases and Body Language #10

Gesture #10: Culturally Flipping The Bird
Actual Gesture: Using the pointer finger, pulling down the lower eyelid and sticking out your tongue
It's Function?: Like flipping the bird, it's meant to show the ultimate, most childish disrespect towards its recipient
Any Associated Phrase?: With this one, the phrase is あかんべー!(Get bent!), which comes from あか(Red of the Eye, which is what you're displaying in the gesture), and can be said in two parts, あかん, as you're bringing the finger to the eyelid, and べー! as you're pulling it down.

Anything else?: As the most disrespectful-and highly childish gesture, this won't produce anything good if you do it in front of the person, so most people want 'til their back is turned to show their disdain, possibly in the more emphatic form of あっかんべー! Sticking out the tongue, by itself, is a more feminine gesture used to show that they made a slight slip up in something, much like when someone says '”Whoops!” after drop their wallet when they pay for something.

Phrase #10: ただいま

Literal Meaning: Just now

Intent: "I'm home!(and similar meanings in translation)"

Usage: To let someone know you've come back to some place, home or otherwise, much like the phrase "I'm back!"

Notes: 只今かえりました is the full, formal version of the phrase, both recognized by the other person/people there with the phrase 「お帰りなさい」, 「お帰り」 being the informal version of that.

Example: 只今帰りました

(I've come back home, ma'am)

お帰りなさい、おきゃくさん。(笑) まったく、アントニ、タメでもいいね。仲間なかまなんでいいじゃないじゃない? ユックリしてね!

(Welcome back home, valued customer. *laughs* Honestly, Anthony, it's okay to talk casual. We are pal-y-pals, so it's all good, ain't it? EASE it up, there.)  

And now that we're through the 10, it's time to move to the next phase: learning how to plan a trip to Japan and what to do once you get there!