Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Very Important - VISA

Sometimes we take this subject for granted. I have friends that literally had to sleep in an airport cell (yep, like in jail cell) because they did not know that they were supposed to have a Visa to enter that particular country.

So... Japan is a country that requires Visa for some nationalities which is my case. By the way, US citizens don't need a Visa for Japan. We paid US$27/person. Some quick tips:
-The Japan consulate requested 3 business days to issue the Visa. Their recommendation was to request the Visa a month prior to the trip.
-They issue the Visa for certain fixed period of times (15 days, 30 days, etc.). They asked me to provide our lodging commitments for the whole length of the trip to grant the Visa. Of course, I didn't have it so I had to make some on-line reservations just for the sake of the Visa and then cancelled them afterwards (make sure that you find hotels that have flexible cancellation policies in case you need to do this).

Hope this will help some people avoid "unnecessary" headaches.

(By the way, I also carry Mastercard and Amex! )

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Preparation - Transportation within Japan and Itinerary

Transportation within Japan and itinerary are things that go hand in hand. As far as transportation is concerned, I considered flying to the distant places and taking trains for the other destinations (Japan has a very extense railroad system). JAL has something called Yokoso/Visit Japan fare for foreigner travelers. If you travel to/from Japan using the OneWorld alliance, JAL offers you up to 5 tickets at the cost of 10,000 Yen (a little less than US$100).

In the end, we decided to purchase the JR Pass which gives you unlimited usage of the JR line, except the Nozomi Shinkansen. So the first big purchase was this pass: 2xUS$400 + 1xUS$200 = US$1000, 2 adults and one child (I will round the numbers to make it easier). This decision definitely saved me some planning time and I expect it will help us during the trip as well.

"In general terms", this is our plan:
-Tokyo ( with potential day trip to Nikko)
-Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Himeji
-Yokohama (day trips to Kamakura, Hakone/Fuji-San)

Arrival and departure are from Tokyo (Narita airport). I had a special Interest in visiting Hiroshima to see where an important piece of modern history took place. Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and Himeji are within 1-hour distance from each other and seem to be very interesting places. Finally, Yokohama is where my brother lives so no questions there.

Of course, there are many other places that we could have chosen but I think we are happy with these choices.

Next I will talk about lodging. Stay tuned.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Tome cuidado com o que vc diz...

Bate-papo relatado por minha esposa, entre a minha filha e uma amiga (rumo a um McDonald's):

-E esse seu amigo, como ele é?
-Ele sabe tudo de tecnologia!
-Então... ele usa óculos?

(neste momento, minha esposa entra na conversa)
-Mas pra gostar de tecnologia ele tem que ser nerd?
-Como assim?
-Por que ele tem que usar óculos pra gostar de tecnologia?
-Não é "nerd", é "Geek".

-Mas qual a diferença entre Nerd e Geek?

-Nerd usa óculos E aparelho!

(As duas no banco de trás ficam em silêncio por alguns instantes)

-Ihh... Eu vou ter que usar aparelho logo, logo.

(Mais silêncio)

-Eu também.

(Silêncio até chegar no McDonald's)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Trip Preparation (Air Tickets)

I guess the best way to avoid unpleasant surprises is preparing in advance. As much as I like to do that, my work schedule does not give me the necessary spare time to put together a proper preparation. So, we are doing what we can but for those of you reading this blog, I recommend doing much more!!!

Why Japan?

In my case, it is a matter of finding my own roots. All my grandparents are Japanese and my father was also born in Japan. Add to that the fact that I have a brother living there. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, my wife wants to go there (I guess that seals the case).

So, first things first: Air Tickets.

The biggest benefit of my extensive traveling routine is the generous amount of miles in my frequent flier account. That translates into free trips for my family and occasionaly for me. The drawback is that we needed to firm up the dates way in advance. In this case, it was booked in Nov/07 and the trip will start in early June/08. Since I have a 9-year old daughter, our travel schedule is bound by the school calendar and we were lucky to find a departure date right after the end of school. The other factor is my work. I would love to spend a full month traveling but the job does not allow me to have this luxury. Still managed to take 2 1/2 weeks off.

Next I will talk about itinerary and transportation within Japan. But this will have to be in the next post. Kind of late now.

First Post

Hi all,

First time blogger here. Decided to create my own blog to write down my first experience visiting my ancestor's land: Japan. I will try to make this an informative post so that future travelers can take advantage of it (in a positive way, of course).

You will see posts in English and Portuguese.

So, we will so how it goes.

Comments are welcome!