David Chart's Japan Diary

September 26th 2003

I have my visa for Japan. Getting it has proved to be one of the least difficult things to do, which I suppose is not surprising given that I already had the Certificate of Eligibility.

I went up to the Japanese Consulate on Tuesday, taking my passport, the certificate, a copy of the certificate, another passport photo, and a form applying for a visa. Next to the consulate's visa window was a sign on A4 paper saying that they didn't deal with visa applications for people who weren't long-term residents of the USA. Clearly, what I was doing didn't count as applying for a visa, despite the title of the form, because I already had the certificate that said I met all the requirements. Anyway, it took about ten minutes in total, because the person behind the counter had to check all the documents I brought, and then I got a receipt for my passport (which I had to leave with them) and left. My uncle had dropped me off and then gone to park the car; I was down (from the seventeenth floor) just as he got into the building. So that was nice; I got to have lunch with my aunt and step-cousin instead of having to hang around in the consulate.

I did have to go back, and I went yesterday. Yesterday, I took the train to LA (yes, I took the train in Los Angeles), and my youngest step-sister, who lives there, met me at the station. She drove me over to the consulate, and it actually took a bit longer to pick the visa up than it did to apply, because the visa window was unstaffed when I arrived and so I had to wait a little while for someone to turn up. I paid $10 as a processing fee, and got my passport back with a visa stuck in it. I spent the rest of the day with my step-sister, seeing where she lived and worked, and chatting with her, so it was a good day.

My visa is a Pre-College Student visa. This is slightly strange, since I have a doctorate, and the Yamasa Institute awards graduate certificates and diplomas. However, I assume that the visa type depends on the type of course, rather than on the qualifications of the applicant. I'm doing an intensive Japanese course with a maximum duration of two years (although I'm only going to do one year), so I get the visa designed for people doing those sorts of courses, most of whom are preparing to study at Japanese universities, and thus are pre-college students.

I'm much more relaxed now that I have the visa. Most of the stages of my application have been delayed, and there isn't really any time for further delays, since I fly out in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Now I have the visa, however, there is nothing essential left to be delayed. I can relax, and look forward to getting to Japan, seeing my friends, and starting at the school.

I've been describing my mental state at the moment as three parts excitement that I'm going to Japan, one part regret at leaving the people and places I know for a year, and one part stark, abject, terror at the idea of going to Japan for a whole year omigodwhatwasIthinking. I'm rather hoping that the fear will subside after I've arrived, and I'm no longer heading out into the (largely) unknown, but rather enjoying new experiences, meeting new people, and dealing with concrete problems.