Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Yokoso! Japan: Day 01

Narita International Airport

My flight landed 30 minutes ahead of schedule! Turned on my Nokia 6680 hoping it would find a signal, and true enough it did! Happily roamed on the Vodafone KK network.

Walked to the immigration counter only to be stopped. I was told, "Malaysians need a VISA to enter Japan." Oh-oh, I didn't have one. I had checked online before I came, this is what I found on the official Japanese embassy website:

Since 1993, Malaysian nationals are strongly encouraged to obtain a visa prior to entering into Japan.

The visa-exemption arrangements between Japan and Malaysia are still effective, and Malaysian nationals who meet relevant conditions can enter into Japan without a visa for a period of stay not exceeding three (3) consecutive months.

However, in order to cope with the large number of Malaysians who overstay in Japan and work illegally, the Government of Japan decided in June 1993 to encourage Malaysian nationals to obtain visa prior to entry into Japan in order to ensure smooth entry.

How would you interpret that? I interpreted it as "strongly recommended but not required". However one should NEVER argue with immigration officials.

They led me to a waiting room for an interview. I waited about 15 minutes after which I was interviewed by a nice but stern looking lady, via an interpreter. This interpreter was one cool dude! He spoke fluent English, several Chinese dialects and Japanese. And he was really friendly and helpful.

I was asked to write an apology letter for not getting a VISA since I was not aware of the requirements (hey no problem), after which I got my "landing permission" stamp! The whole process took about 30 minutes. Very efficient!

In any case, WARNING to Malaysians going to Japan: Get a VISA before you go!

Asakusa Sky Court Hotel

After finding my way from the airport to Asakusa TOEI station, I started looking for my hotel. It was located in the neighbourhood of Asakusa, one of the suburbs of Tokyo famous for its temples. The whole area seemed to me like one huge village. Very different from the neverending walls of big buildings in HK, Bangkok or even Singapore.

This was my first ever stay in a Japanese "business hotel". The room was tiny! The toilet reminded me of an aircraft lavatory, only with extra space for the shower. But it was clean and convenient - they even had a little electric stove.


I quickly dropped off my stuff and made my way to Yokohama where I met up an old classmate for dinner. If you're wondering how I managed to navigate the complicated Japanese railway system, there is a superb website which gives directions with exact train timings!

The website was also viewable on my Nokia 6680. Highly recommended!

Continue to Day 2 / Back to Yokoso! Japan Index