Japan, Travel Tips

A Quick Guide to getting your Japan Tourist Visa

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to go to Japan. My dream started when I was still a snot-nosed eight year old kid with a bad case of crush with Alexis (aka Shaider). In my mind, Japan was the land of flying robots, of magnificent hide outs under volcanoes, of cute felines and their friends. As years passed, I fell more and more in love with the culture of Japan.

When I started working–I made a point to save up in order to travel. I started with visa-free countries, until I got to the nerve to apply for a South Korean and Taiwanese tourist visa. While a part of me wanted to try my luck to get a visa for Japan, a bigger part of me was holding me back–afraid that I might not qualify for a tourist visa. I knew the disappointment will kill me.

However, this year I resolved to throw caution to the wind and just do it.

chibi

I began to religiously follow fare guides and forum exchanges for tips and tricks in scoring cheap airline tickets and of course, getting a tourist visa. I made sure to have money available and saved up any extra money six months before the trip. I read and re-read blogs and attended travel fairs. While I cannot control the outcome of my visa application, being ready and preparing for the application has made me more sane and more confident on my chances to get the visa. All the hassles and heartbreaks and stressful moments preparing for the trip has made me more determined than ever.

To give back to the many blogs and forums that helped guide me during my visa application process, I am sharing some tips based on my experience in getting that coveted Japan tourist visa.

REQUIRED DOCUMENTS
First, the list of document requirements — Submitting a completed requirement is winning more than half the battle and in my opinion, will probably dictate the processing of your application. Here are the documents that you will need to prepare:

1. Visa Application Form – downloadable here and here. Note that applying a visa to Japan is only possible through the following accredited travel agencies: Friendship Tours (the one I used. Highly recommended!), Universal Holidays, Discovery Tour, Rajah Travel, Reli Tours, Attic Tours and Pan Pacific Travel (for applications without Japanese guarantor).

Travel agency contact details here

Some tips:
* It’s up to you to choose the embassy of your preference. Note that, technically there is no cost in getting a single entry tourist visa to Japan, but since you have to do the application through an embassy, it is only understandable that the agency will collect a handling fee. Handling fee varies depending on the agency — when my sister applied for her first visa in 2013 via Reli Tours, she paid close to PHP2,500. We only paid Friendship Tours PHP1,200 for our most recent visa application and my sister was even issued a multiple entry visa!
* Fill up the Visa application form electronically – It’s neater and more presentable. Avoid erasures and do not leave blank spaces. Put N/A when the question does not apply to you. Remember: First impression counts!
* Have your photo taken on a professional photo studio. Just tell them that you need visa application photos — more established photo studios have a format already for visa requirements of different countries. For Japan, measurement is 4.5cm x 4.5cm with white background. You will be asked to remove your jewelry. If you are wearing a tank top or collarless blouse, you will need to borrow from the studio’s collection of blazers. If you have a thing against wearing other people’s clothes, I suggest you wear a professional looking top when you have your photo taken.

2. Passport – should be valid for more than six months. I know people who didn’t realized that their passport validity is up until the very last minute, so I suggest you go OC (even for a bit) and check your passport validity before even booking that flight.

3. National Statistics Office (NSO)-issued Birth Certificate and Marriage Contract (if you are married) – The certificates have to be issued the year of your visa application. Avoid the hassle–do not use your old NSO birth certificates, I assure you the agency will double check if your documents are recent. If you can spare a few thousand bucks to go to Japan, I assure you — you can spare a few hundred to get new documents.

If you already have an existing visa to Japan (used or not), you no longer need to submit this. You may skip this part.

4. Tour Itinerary, also called “Schedule of Stay” – there is a recommended format of this downloadable on the travel agency’s website. Bottom line, the Tour Itinerary will be used by the agency to gauge if the money you have is enough based on the activities you plan to do. The schedule of stay contains your whereabouts on the dates you are in Japan, your accommodation options, your contact numbers — in short, it’s your schedule while you are in Japan.

Take note: what you put here is not set in stone. This is just a guide and a reference.

For example, for our five day stay in Tokyo, I indicated the places I will visit per day (but not too specific — just general places no need to indicate specific sites or areas of interests if you are not too familiar). But since I am also a bit OC, I also indicated the possible time where I will return to the hostel.

Just my two cents: if you don’t have too much money in the bank, then do not too much pricey places or attractions. For example, you can’t claim that you will be going to Disneyland, Disney Sea, Hello Kitty Puro Land, a day tour in Mt. Fuji then stay in a posh Shibuya hotel with less than PHP50,000 in your travel budget.

5. Proof of Financial Capability – this is your Bank Certificate, indicating your current bank balance. If you are a BPI bank account holder (like I do), you can get your Bank Certificate in less than an hour. A PHP100-processing fee applies.

Some of you might ask what constitutes an acceptable amount of savings account in the bank in order to qualify for a visa. Honestly, I do not know. I only had PHP7X,XXX in my bank account and yet, I was issued a visa.

6. Proof of strong economic ties to the Philippines – this is to prove that you have a reason to go back to the Philippines. These are usually your Employment Certificate and your most recent Income Tax Returns. For the love of God, please do not be tempted to submit a fake employment certificate. It will be very embarrassing for you if you are caught.

Since I am also traveling with one of my good friends from high school (we were friends since we were 13!) who works independently and does not have an ITR, I was actually a bit nervous if she will be issued a visa. What I know is that she submitted a letter explaining why she doesn’t have an ITR and an employment certificate. I will have to verify with her what she said in the letter. I guess, it also helped that my friend has tons of immigration stamps on her passport already since she is a keen traveler.

If you are in doubt regarding this requirement, do not hesitate to call your travel agency.

Since I am also shamelessly OC, I also attached the following in my application letter:
* A signed leave form annotated by my company’s HR department
* Return airline tickets (MNL-NRT-MNL via Cebu Pacific booked three months before the trip)
* Confirmed hotel reservations from K’s House Tokyo Oasis (rated number 1 on TripAdvisor’s Guesthouses in Taito)

HOW TO APPLY
1. Choose a travel agency and complete your documents even before you drop by the agency. By completing your documents, you have already won half the battle (cos the other half, I believe, is luck). Processing of application usually takes 5 to 7 days (mine took four days) so I will recommend that you apply for your visa a month before your trip.

2. Go to the agency and submit your documents. Pay for the processing fee.

3. Leave and start praying to the Travel Gods for a successful visa application.

Honestly, my travel time from my office in Bonifacio Global City to the Friendship Tours office in Dusit Thani Hotel in Ayala, Makati took longer than the time I have spent inside the agency office. Friendship Tours have very efficient and friendly front liners — who will check your documents one by one before getting your payment and issuing you a receipt. You will present this receipt when you claim your passport after five days.

finally.

finally.

FINAL WORD
If you are from Manila, I hope you will find this guide helpful as you make your dreams come true–the same way that I relied on the tips and tricks shared by others online. While there’s talk that there’s a big possibility that Japan will announce visa-free entry to tourists come June, I will definitely believe it once it’s officially posted on the Japan Embassy Manila website. This is a welcome development and something long-awaited by travelers and Japanophiles alike. In fact, I have already dreaming about my next trip should this happen — visit Osaka and Kyoto with the husband this December, perhaps?

However, I have to admit that I still have reservations should this happen. My only prayer is that, if granted, may this privilege be not abused by those who plan on taking advantage of the opportunity to seek long-term employment in Japan. I hope that when and if this privilege is issued to us, we will respect and honor the trust that will be given to us.

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37 thoughts on “A Quick Guide to getting your Japan Tourist Visa

  1. Rei says:

    Seriously your post totally helped me. I booked Osaka for 7 days (more like 6 days tour since I’ll arrive at night on the first day) out of my sense last March 2014. Hahaha! Probably because it was Cebu Pacific Piso Fare. I only paid 6K for a roundtrip. It will be on November 2014. I’m currently, employed. I can supply the requirements but my greatest worry is that BANK Statement! Based on my research, I always see 100K as at least the minimum. I don’t have that. I can’t even save that much until the first week of November! So I became worried. I can probably prepare up to 60K before November. I wonder if that’s good enough? My plan is to just tour within Osaka. I’ll save Kyoto, Tokyo and other places on my 2nd or 3rd trip (Hopefully!) Anyway, I’m not really an amusement park lover so Disneyland is out of my itinerary. My touring style is more like cultural studies so I’m more interested in doing normal lifestyle there. Hmmm… Given that, do you think it’s acceptable to have at least 60K to 70K?

    • lanilakwatsera says:

      Hi Rei! I am already excited for your Japan trip. Based from experience, I managed to stay alive (and enjoy Tokyo) with just 35K or about Y70,000 in my pocket.
      I got to visit Disney and enjoy the sights. I think having 70K in peso is okay already. But since you will land in Osaka, you will have to confirm your means going to Tokyo (and back). Are you going to take the shinkansen or the overnight bus? If you are on a budget and would like to save money…take the Willer Bus.

      Depending on your itinerary, I think 70K is good enough for 7days.

      • Hi! I need your help. Our tickets are for Kansai and we wanted to see Tokyo. We only have 6 days (and day 1 being the travel day). Is the time enough to go from Osaka to Tokyo? Or should I just go around Osaka?

        I wanted to do a DIY trip like yours cos we’re also in a tight budget :). However, I’m a Japanese anime fanatic. I would want to see Akihabara and that big Gundam ๐Ÿ˜› Please advise how I could reach Tokyo from Kansai. Thanksss โค

      • lanilakwatsera says:

        Hi Hazel! OMG! The large Gundam is so pogi! (How weird to call an inanimate object pogi?) heheh! If you have 6 days, you can split it between Osaka and Tokyo — travel depends on your budget. If you are on a tight one, check out Willer Bus. Your bus schedules will dictate your sightseeing sked between Osaka and Tokyo ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Rei says:

        Sorry for the late reply. Well, I’m not going to Tokyo. My whole 7 days will be spent in Osaka alone. ๐Ÿ™‚
        I’ll book a separate trip to Tokyo probably next year (2015).
        2 weeks ago, I saw a post in PinoyExchange forums who applied for tourist visa having only 40K as his bank cert.
        Guess what? He was granted so I guess it’s possible.

        Thanks for the advice. Right now, I’m more worried of my vacation leave approval than the visa approval. Hahaha!
        Let God decide what will happen on November.

      • lanilakwatsera says:

        Hi Rei! Good luck! Yes, do not worry about the Visa approval — claim it and it will be yours! The Universe will conspire to bring you the visa. Just complete your documents and the battle is already half-won ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I’ll be needing this soon, Just booked a piso fare and planned to pay over the counter…. then I realized no banks today (Independence day) hahahahah I’ll try again if it’s still available LOL. I look forward for your future posts.

  3. Meann says:

    I really enjoyed reading your posts about Japan. Hoping to read more of your posts about your Japan trip. I was able to book a ticket for 6k rt via cebupac Narita airport for March 2015. Thank you for the informative post. I know at least have an idea where I would go for a reliable visa agency. Thank you so much

    • lanilakwatsera says:

      You’re welcome! You will enjoy Tokyo, I promise. My tip is for you to really decide on what you want to see and where to splurge or save money on. Good luck and I am happy that I was able to be of help! Gambatte Ne! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Chel says:

    I impulsively booked a flight to Osaka yesterday for less than 7K pesos. Haha. And the amount of money that I currently have in the bank is only 50K++. I will be waiting for the July 15 payday before I get a bank certificate so I can come up with at least 70K++ balance. From the other blogs I read, they said the minimum advisable amount is 100K++. Your blog lessen my kaba and takot, seriously. Thank you very much! My solo trip will be for 4 days lang pala this October 2014! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • lanilakwatsera says:

      Hi Chel! Good luck on your Japan trip! Wow! Osaka — that’s my next target. If you are a Harry Potter fan, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is now open at Universal Studios Japan — you might want to have a look-see! ๐Ÿ™‚ Let me know how it goes. I am a big Harry Potter fan so all I can think of now is planning a trip to Osaka next year ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Pingback: How I survived Tokyo with PHP25K in my pocket | YOUR WANDERING GIRL

  6. Dana says:

    Hi! This is very much helpful for us. We already have a guide when we go to Japan this Jan 2015. Can wait to visit Japan. I hope I can also spend 25k. Ehehehehe

    • lanilakwatsera says:

      Good luck, Dana! Sorry for the late response. Feel free to use my post as a guide. If you identify what’s essential for you (theme parks, Old Japan, etc) then you’ll find ways to enjoy Tokyo without breaking the bank ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Lyka says:

    Hii. Ano po mga common question sa pag aapply ng visa to japan? Mag aapply oo ksi ako bukas ee. Nakaka kaba lang! Hayss sana mbigyan ako ng tourist visa. Pray pray lang kay god!

  8. hi, I am just curious if your friend without ITR and employment certificate was able to get a visa? Thank you! I enjoy reading your blog, you give hope to people who like to travel but with limited budget

    • lanilakwatsera says:

      Hi! yes, she was able to get a visa. maybe it helped that she had a lot of travel stamps in her passport. thank you for the compliment — that’s really the reason why I made this blog. I want to prove that one does not need to spend so much just to travel.

  9. Mel says:

    Hi Lani, would it be possible to ask what your friend indicated in her letter re: not having an ITR? 2 od my friends also do not have itrs as they are doing online jobs. Thanks!

    • lanilakwatsera says:

      Hi Mel! Thanks for visiting. I think she she indicated that she is working online, and presented a COE sent by her parent company abroad.

  10. Reimarie says:

    Hi,

    I’m also planning to go to Tokyo next year, and I have reading tons of articles right now. Your post is the most helpful one ๐Ÿ™‚
    It will be my very first time travelling abroad, my passport is new and doesn’t have any stamps yet.

    I just want to ask what your friend wrote on her letter since she doesn’t have ITR or certification of employment. I have the same case as hers, and I’m a bit nervous that this will affect the approval of the visa when I apply in the future.

    Can you give me a sample template or a copy of letter she sent?

    One more thing, will it be ok to get a visa first before booking a flight?

    Thanks and more power to you,
    Reimarie

    • lanilakwatsera says:

      Hi Reimarie! Thanks for visiting and for appreciating my blog. Unfortunately, I do not have a copy of her letter but I think (based on what the friendly staff at Friendship Tours told me), it can be as simple as stating why you want to go to Japan and then explaining why you don’t have an ITR. My friend though has a COE, supplied by her client from abroad. Sure you can get a visa first before your flight, the only trouble there is finding affordable plane tickets especially if you have a flight date in mind. I think you need to use your visa within three months upon issuance. Thanks!

      • Reimarie says:

        Thank you so much for the reply and for the advise. Ok, now I have an idea on what to write regarding the ITR thing ๐Ÿ™‚
        Due to some circumstances, I’ll be going to Tokyo next year by January ๐Ÿ™‚ I hope they approve my tourist visa, I will be provided with a Letter from Guarantor in Japan. Do you think that will give me a high chance of being approved even if I don’t have an ITR?

  11. Valerie Siongco says:

    Hi, i have been reading blogs regarding japan travel.. I really wanted to go to japan, it would be my first out of the country trip if ever.. Id like to ask help lang regarding the itinerary.. I have no idea where to go to.. Can you help me out?

    • lanilakwatsera says:

      Hi Valerie! Thanks for visiting. One thing that helped me is identify where I want to go and what activities I want to do. Tokyo is a very navigable city and their transport system is really cool and efficient. What are your interests? (culture? theme parks? Old Japan?) from there, you will be able to craft an itinerary that is perfect for you.

  12. Jessica says:

    Hi. We’re planning to go to Tokyo and Osaka in August 2015. I’m a bit nervous on applying a tourist visa because I am planning to have my resignation on my current job early 2015 and if I would probably get employed on my new job, I am only a probi employee by then. Is it a big factor if my employment certificate would indicate that I am a probi employee? Thanks!

  13. Jennilyn canete says:

    Hi! Your blog really helped me to be confident enough that i could really visit Japan next year! I will really claim it! My boyfriend works there and its been 13months that i havent seen him. So i am really exiceteeeeed ๐Ÿ˜Š. I would just like to ask if you have taken package tours from Friendship tours? Like a 3 day ” Osaka free and easy tour “as described in their site where you have the option what to do and visit. I am planning to get that tour. And also, did the immigration asked you questions before your departure? How many days were you given for the single entry visa? Thanks so much!

    • lanilakwatsera says:

      Hi Jennilyn! Yes, claim it! Things will work out for you as long as you prepare for it. Personally, I don’t like arranged tours so I arrange all my trips on my own. Tokyo (and most likely, Osaka) is very easy to navigate as long as you have plans set in place as well as a trusty map or guide on your phone.The Japanese transpo system is very efficient and tourist friendly. No questions given by immigration here — maybe it helped that I have many travel stamps. Most likely it will just be the usual Qs – how many days, why are you going there, etc. Good luck and happy new year!

      • Jennilyn canete says:

        I am planning to get the Osaka free and easy tour where you can chose what to do for your stay. My boyfriend works in Nara. I am thinking i would get the tour and i can stay with him after 3 days. Is it a good idea? I reckon the tour is my access to get the visa easier. Would the immigration questioned me if stay for like 12 days? Will they still look for itinerary seven if you already have the visa? Im afraid if i declare the length of my stay in the application, my visa will be denied. My boyfriend will finance my stay there but i dont have his credentials. What to do you think? Happy new year! And thank you for the help! ๐Ÿ˜Š

  14. Lala says:

    Hi, I hope you can further expand on this portion of your post ๐Ÿ™‚
    Since I am also traveling with one of my good friends from high school (we were friends since we were 13!) who works independently and does not have an ITR, I was actually a bit nervous if she will be issued a visa. What I know is that she submitted a letter explaining why she doesnโ€™t have an ITR and an employment certificate. I will have to verify with her what she said in the letter. I guess, it also helped that my friend has tons of immigration stamps on her passport already since she is a keen traveler.

    Me and my best buddies since highschool are planning to go to Japan this November. We are also concerned with our friend who has frequently travelled to singapore and hk, have sufficient money in the bank but does not have an ITR. We would greatly appreciate it if you can ask your friend as to the contents of her letter, I suppose she was able to join your trip in Japan?
    My friend is quite nervous to apply because of here lack of ITR.

    Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. carr1edaway says:

    I wil go to Osaka and Kyoto (claiming it!) this October and just like most comments here, I was dead worried about not having enough money in the bank as proof that I can support my trip. It’s a relief to know that I need not to have 100k to get approved. Thank you so much for sharing ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Mitch says:

    Hi. I just want to ask if the bank cert has to be under my name? Can I use my mom’s bank account? I am traveling akone though. Also, my brother is currently studying in Kyoto so in the itinerary, I will state that I will stay at his place. Do they need proof of this? Thank you!

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