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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.

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