Nihon go go

Going to Japan is not just a matter of hopping on a plane and buckling up, for me at least. Specially if one wishes to spend more than 3 months in the bedazzling country, some -and by some I mean more than a few sheets of- paperwork is required. If you’re a lucky citizen of Finland, you have to deal with the bureaucracy of the social services, too.

For a student, you first have to get accepted by a Japanese school. After applying to a school via your own school’s exchange program, or independently straight to the desired school you want to enroll, they will send you a Letter of Eligibility after approval. You will need to take the Letter of Eligibility with you when you go to the Consulate (which in Finland means a trip to Helsinki). The Embassy will also need a Visa application, which you will print and fill out the best way you can (I have no clue who is my recommendator or who invited me to the country). You also need to bring 27€ cash, your passport, and a passport picture. I went to get my visa yesterday, and now I have a certificate in my passport that should allow me to stay in Japan for a year. If I wish to travel elsewhere after arriving to Japan, I need to get a special re-entry permit. When arriving to Japan, I will hopefully also get an alien registration card.

Random break from all the bureaucracy stuff: art!

Knitted police car in Kiasma museum of modern art, Helsinki

On my visa trip I also met my friends going to their exchange, and two of my cousins! I also saw the car pictured above – all in all it was a good trip!

Back from the infomercials:
For the social services in Finland, KELA, you need to present a paper that your studies in Japan (or whatever target country) are related to your studies in Finland. These papers will be found somewhere from the Internet, and after printing they need to go through the school’s International Office before being sent to KELA. You also have to fill out a form stating that you’re leaving the country, but will be back in less than a year. When you get back, you have to tell them you are home again. I just happened to buy a one way ticket, which means I have no clue when I will be back in Finland. Therefore, after my school ends, I will be cut from the Finnish social security system. Nice.

Of course the school in Japan will want loads of information about you, even after you have been accepted. They want several plus a few more passport pictures, too. I was lucky APU only wanted basic health information and vaccination records (which were not easy to get in July from Manhattan), and not x-rays of my lungs, like some other schools.

I highly recommend a to do/checklist, so it is easier to keep on track of the progress of affairs. Studying some Japanese wouldn’t probably hurt, either! My next step is to buy a power adapter.

First glance at the Japanese bureaucracy

Applying for exchange in Japan has brought some interesting questions along. My friends applying for a different University than me have to send their x-rays as well as other medical information to their University, while Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific, where I am applying, has not asked me anything about my health. My friends have a week’s notice to send all the information needed (which means going to a private doctor, since there is no possibility of getting an x-ray in such a short notice). I have generous two weeks time to wait for my new passport and to figure out all the puzzling stuff, such as port of entry. I have no clue where I’ll be landing, or if I will be landing at all.

If I am just applying for the University, how can I know which scholarships I will use to fund my studies? The application papers include 6 pages dealing funding issues – how much money do I have myself, is someone bringing me money to Japan (and how much), who is my sponsor, how much is his annual income and how much does he have in savings. Of course it is important to be on track with the monetary issues and costs of living while being abroad, but how could I know about my scholarships if I haven’t even been accepted yet?

All this paperwork, waiting in the police office, getting statements from teachers I don’t really know, sending papers to the international office and, well, thinking about money, is interesting, weird and making Japan a bit more closer to me. I am one step closer to Nippon, whether I like it or not – assuming I do get accepted to the school. There also is a few pages about the accommodation, so I take that as a good sign. Why would they want to know how I’d prefer to live, if they were not going to take me?

But before Beppu, there is still another mountain to climb. One I’ve visited before, sometimes dreamed about, too: New York.