Saturday, 27 February 2010

Visa forms submitted

Well, I'm in London right now, and have returned back to my friends' house after taking my CoE to the Japanese Embassy. I had heard from other Interac-ers that they asked you to come back in about 5 days, so I decided that it would be easier to turn up armed with a pre-paid envelope. This process was traumatic enough on its own - nobody around Green Park seemed to have any idea where the nearest Post Office way. In the end I resorted to texting 63336 to ask (ahh, the primitive methods that we must employ when we don't have an iPhone). Turns out that it was about a minute's walk away from where I was standing when an official city guard told me to walk to Holborn. Luckily I hadn't taken his advice, and I merely turned left and walked 100 yards.

After getting my pre-paid, special delivery envelope, I took a deep breath and started down the hill towards the grand building with the Japanese flag. I didn't know what to expect on the door - should I bow and say "konnichiwa"? Wait, no, it was before 12, it would be "ohayo gozaimasu"... would they search me? Oh Gods, my bag was full of underwear because I'm staying at a friend's... as usual, I didn't need to worry. The man on the door was white and English anyway, and they put my bags through an x-ray scanner rather than rifling through them.

After security had ascertained that I was no threat, a very enthusiastic little lady beckoned me over to her desk. She told me where to get an application form and a ticket. I walked through a glass door into a room with several wooden desks and seats, as well as a lower table surrounded by leather sofas. I panicked at first because all the forms that I could see were in Japanese, until I realised that the English ones were hiding behind them. I sat at a leather seat and produced my crumpled print-out from Interac detailing their address and other important details for the form. I leant down to fill in the form, onto the table which was significantly lower than my back was happy to bend. Upon completion, I realised that the several wooden desks were for this purpose, and felt wholly stupid.

I took my ticket, anyway, and waited. I was called to a desk within a few minutes, where a woman checked my forms and asked me whether I had a photocopy of my Certificate of Eligibility. You guessed it... nope! She directed me out of the building, to a small shop around the corner. So, around I went towards Shepherd's Market, to a photo shop who directed me to another shop. Here, I was able to get two colour photocopies of the certificate for £2. Whew! So back I went to the Embassy... my bags were scanned again.. and I collected another ticket.

This time, the wait was longer. The place was getting busier. I busied myself by watching the TV, which was showing golf.. not very exciting, but in Japanese! I made myself happy by being able to read the hiragana, despite not really knowing what it said beyond the sounds. The programme then switched to a news style programme... the highlight of which was a graph, showing quite what I don't know, but I was very excited to recognise the Kanji for "man" and "woman"! Seriously, I can recognise a total of about 8 Kanji and the others are Yen or numbers... so it's quite rewarding to find that you've remembered something.

Eventually, I was called to a desk, where I handed the nice lady my form, my CoE, the photocopy, my passport, and a photo. I asked whether I could give them the special delivery envelope and £6 now, which she said was no problem. I handed everything over and was given a receipt and a reference number. I left with a shy "argiato" and went on my merry way!

The story doesn't quite end there, though. I was then to meet a friend for lunch. I met him on the same road, only to realise that my purse was not in either of my bags. I panicked. Two minutes in London and I'd lost my purse? There would be no time to get a new driving license or debit card... at least I only had about £4 in there... luckily, I was able to retrace my steps back to the photocopying place, and it was there. PHEW!!! Quite a scare, though. So we had some coffee and overpriced lunch (hey, it's London) and I amused myself for the rest of the day by wandering around shops. I found some more great omyiage (London tourist shops have fantastic stuff!) and wandered around Chinatown, marvelling at weird Japanese cakes (and really wanting to try them but thinking "no! I must wait until actual Japan!")... I'm very excited about the food.


  1. Aaaah I'm so jealous of everyone's fun adventures going to their embassy! I just freaked out waiting at home haha.
    So glad you found your purse! What a disaster that could have been!

  2. The London embassy sounds very thorough. I came into the San Francisco consulate with a big bag of electronics for work. I asked if they wanted to check them and the security officer was like "eh," and waved me through. They didn't even want to check them. Though I do suppose I have a very non threatening character.

  3. Sounds stressful! By the way, courtesy returned, you're the first to grace my blogroll now :)

  4. Wow! Yours was such a hassle to obtain. I went to the SF embassy with "backtojapan" aka Keith, total time it took: 5 minutes max. And I didn't need a photocopy of my CoE. Good thing you found your purse, this is not the time to be losing anything! =D