Tourist visum for Japan

So, you're thinking about paying a visit to the land of the rising sun? You might have already planned your trip, sought out the places you want to visit, the food you want to eat. Or you might have not, in that case check out my bundle with advice. But then you suddenly remember; I might need a visa!! Well, here you can find some information on how to check which visa you need for your next trip. 

First of all, while I can list some general requirements for getting a tourist visa here, it is important to remember that the rules might be different for different countries. Therefore it is important to check the most up-to-date information on the website of the embassy in your country. 

In general you'll have to comply with the following conditions

  • You need a valid passport (with an expiry date more than 6 months away)
  • You need two blank pages in your passport for the visa
  • You have to have a confirmation of an outbound ticket within the scope of your granted time in Japan
  • You have to know your accommodation address
  • You're not allowed to engage in paid activities
  • Short-term studies at Japanese language schools are allowed

Depending on the country you have to provide a lot more information, but these are the basic requirements (which are enough for Dutch citizens). 

Do you need a visa in advance?
68 countries don't need to apply for a visa, but can get one on arrival. Check here if your country is on this list. On this list are currently 9 Asian countries, Canada, USA, 12 countries from Latin America & the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Turkey, UAE, Lesotho, Mauritius, Tunisia and almost all European countries. 

For Brunei, Indonesia and the UAE, a 15-day visa is granted upon arrival, while for the other countries a 90-day visa is handed out. There are some notes for certain countries, so make sure to check the government's website. 

If you're from Austria, Germany, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Switzerland or the UK, you can apply for a visa extension of another 90 days at an immigration bureau in Japan. 

Another exception for these countries is that if you have more than 30 million Japanese yen in savings, you can apply for a 1-year visa for sightseeing and recreation. Read more about it here

Other countries do need to arrange a visa in advance. Since this can be different for each country, check the most recent and up-to-date information on the government's website





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14 things to know before visiting Japan!

14 things to know before visiting Japan!


Japan, the land of traditions. So you're visiting Japan and are ready for an amazing trip, but after all the stories about polite Japanese people you become a bit worried.... What is okay to do and what isn't? What should you avoid doing when eating? In this blog I will tell you about the most important things to take into account when visiting Japan. I've asked my Japanese friends for advice so that I wouldn't miss a thing, so here we go!


1. Don't stick your chopsticks (straight) in a bowl of rice while taking a break from eating
This is one of the most common things foreigners do (and I do it myself at home sometimes as well). Although it is very easy to just stick your chopstick into the rice, please try to avoid it! The name for this is tsukitate-bashi. At funerals a bowl of rice is placed at an altar with chopsticks in the standing up straight in the center. Therefore it's very impolite to do this at any other occasion since it will remind Japanese people of funerals. 

2. Don't pass on food from chopsticks to chopsticks
This is another funeral related tradition. However, at funerals it is not the food which is passed on, but the bones of the cremated deceased person. 

3. Tips are not necessary
Although things are changing in Japan, giving tips is still an uncommon practice. At some smaller bars and where young people work (for example at hostels), tipping sometimes happens, but usually at the normal Japanese bars and restaurants tipping is absolutely not necessary. People simply just don't do it, so by not tipping you can avoid uncomfortable situations. 

4. Paying the bill at the counter
Not really something that has to do with impoliteness, but more of a tip I'd like to give you. Often when going for dinner somewhere, you'll get the receipt at the table. Since in the Netherlands you almost always pay at the table I made the mistake of waiting or asking if you can pay but then being directed to the counter at the entrance. In Japan, you just take your receipt and walk to the counter to pay. Nowadays it's a practice I try to do in the Netherlands as well. It saves time waiting and is quite convenient actually!  

Of course, these are only the most important things. If you want to know more about dining etiquette, check out this page for example:

In public

1. Don't be loud!
Japanese are very calm and quiet people. They generally talk in this way too. Even though we, the Dutch, and many other cultures are used to speaking more loudly, it can be considered very rude in Japan. Of course it is difficult to talk in a more quiet way, especially if you're enthusiastic about all the awesome things you're experiencing, but try to be aware of the way you and your friends are talking, especially in public places like the subway, restaurants, etc. 

2. Don't eat or call while in public transport
Eating or calling over the cellphone should definitely be avoided when in public transport. While eating is generally alright on the shinkansen or long bus rides (try to avoid smelly food or food that makes a lot of noise though), it is not okay to eat on the subway. The same is true for making phonecalls, although I feel like these should be avoided in all kinds of public transport. 

3. Wearing a (surgical) mask 
Although it might feel weird to you, it is very normal and considered polite to wear a mask in Japan when you're feeling sick. In the hard-working society this can be a way to still come to work without putting co-workers at risk of becoming sick too. However, the mask can also be used to prevent yourself from becoming sick. If you want to know more about these surgical masks and why people wear them, check out this article: . 

4. Responding to irrashaimase
Okay, to be fair, this doesn't really have to do with politeness or etiquette I believe, it's more of a funny addittion. When I was in Japan I went shopping sometimes (doh...!) and I was always greeted by several shop employees calling irrashaimaseeeee, which means something like "can I help you" although it is just meant in a welcoming way. It took me weeks to figure out how to respond to this. Although I'm a bit ashamed to say this, the first couple of times I just responded by saying Irrashaimase back to the shop employees which means that I was responding to a loud "Welcomeeeee" by saying "Welcomeeee" haha. Then I thought maybe to say Arigatou, which means thank you. But after observing other people in the shop I realised it is perfectly normal to say nothing at all! Just let the people welcome you like they welcome everyone and continue your shopping like nothing has happened :) 

Conversations/Visiting a Japanese person

1. Take off your shoes before entering someone´s house
This is very important. Keeping on your shoes is a definite no-go. Houses are kept very clean, so shoes don´t belong there. This rule is also important for temples, in many changing rooms in shops, or in more traditional restaurants. A way to know whether you should take off your shoes is buy looking around. If you see a small elevation in the floor with for example tatami, you should definitely take off your shoes, if you see pairs of shoes without there owners, that could be an indicator too ;) but usually the elevation in the floor is the main cue. 

2. Use "name"-san when talking to someone
When you meet someone and adress this person, or adress another person when talking about him/her, use the honorific -san. This is the most commonly used, so also the most safe one to use. There are other ones like -chan and -kun for close friends or family, or -senpai/-kohai for colleagues or fellow students. However, -san is used in a way like Sir/Madam and therefore a polite way to address anyone new. Using -san is also the easiest way since it's used for both men and women. Therefore, really try to use it. The Japanese have many many honorifics for all kinds of relationships, so not using one is quite strange and I think kind of implies that you both are totally equal. -san provides the safest option for avoiding this. Never introduce yourself with the honorific -san though! To use -san, you simply put it behind someones last name, however once you get a little bit more familiar, it is fine to use it with the first name as well. So, for example, Löwenhardt-san or Hannah-san are both fine. 

3. Try to avoid sarcasm
This is really something I experienced first-hand. I'm used to being sarcastic since it's quite a common practice in the Netherlands, however in Japan being sarcastic can totally be taken the wrong way. Japanese friends please correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe there is not such a thing as sarcasm in Japanese language. Therefore really be careful with making sarcastic jokes for example. I have offended people in this way because they took it seriously, which really wasn't my intention. Luckily I was able to explain it, but it's better to avoid these situations in any case. 

Onsen etiquette

1. Always wash yourself properly
The most important things when visiting an onsen is to really really wash yourself before going in. These bath houses are kept as clean as possible, by the owners and the visitors. When you go into a bath house, it is obligatory I would say to first spend some time washing yourself. Not just 2 or 3 minutes, but really for at least 5-10 minutes. Wash every part of your body and if you have long hair, tie it up. It is perfectly normal to bring soap, towels, shampoo, a toothbrush or other things with you to clean yourself. 

2. Be aware of the rules for tattoos
Tattoos are still a taboo in Japan unfortunately, do to their association with the Yakuza (Japanese maffia). Onsen are one of the most traditional places and I think especially because of that and because of the nakedness still very strict in their tattoo rules. Nowadays there are some onsen which you can enter with tattoos, however, be aware that in most you can't so you'll probably have to ask or read the signs before going in to avoid any uncomfortable situations. 

3. Go in naked
Yes, just do it! It's an onsen, and the best way to experience this, and probably even the only way, is to go in naked! Nothing to worry about, the (wo)men there are used to being there and seeing each other naked. It maybe takes some time to get used to, but just focus on the bath and on being there, not on possible thoughts in your head. Going in with bathing clothes really doesn't happen, maybe at some very big 'onsen' or spa houses, but there you won't get the proper traditional experience.

Well, these are in my opinion and my friend Yusuke's (see picture below!) opinion the most important things you should no when visiting Japan. Don't stress, however, people are super nice and friendly and if you do make a little mistake you always have you foreign looks to make up for them so you will be forgiven!



Volunteering in Japan

Volunteering in Japan


When looking for volunteering opportunities you can find an overload on the web, from free to paid. In this blog I will try to give an overview of free volunteering opportunities in Japan. Of course there might be many other opportunities, but this blog can be a first step in finding the best options for you and you can use it as a starting point for further research. 

WWOOF offers worldwide opportunities for organic farming, so as well in Japan. The farmers can list the opportunities themselves so it can be really small-scale, but farms can also be huge. You have to pay around 55 euros to join the community for a year, but then you can apply for all the opportunities on there. Often you will get free accommodation and food, sometimes you even get paid (probably not in Japan though). I have never done it myself, but I have heard many good stories. It's a great way to get to know the local culture, lands and food! So if you're into farming, definitely try it out!


2. WorkAway
WorkAway is something similar to WWOOF, however, it is a platform not just for farming, but for all kinds of work. Offers range from working in a hostel to teaching English to children of just one family. The range of job types is huge, which can make it really fun. However, it can be important to check reviews since some jobs or environments might not suit you. Sometimes you get free accommodation, sometimes free food, but getting paid never really happens I think. I have found some great opportunities in Japan so I would definitely recommend you to check it :). You have to pay a fee of 32 euros a year for a single person and 42 euros a year as a couple. You can even buy workaway as a gift for someone going to japan and wanting to volunteer. 


3. Volunteering at an animal shelter
The first time I went to Japan, I was looking for cheap volunteering opportunities. Since I love animals I decided to look for animal shelters in Japan and ask them whether volunteering there was possible. I ended up volunteering for a week at Animal Refuge Kansai (ARK). It was an amazing, rewarding experience. Animal care is not that big in Japan. While many Japanese people love (dressing up) animals, especially when they are young, when the animals get bigger, they often are abandoned since they don't fit in the house anymore, are not cute anymore or are too dirty. Of course, this only counts for a part of japanese people (I also know many Japanese that would never ever do this), it does happen and the couple of animal shelters present have to take care of all these abandoned animals. ARK animal shelter is owned by an English lady who has a passion for animals and who works together with an almost all Japanese staff. When I was there (7 years ago already) she lived in the middle of the shelter and I stayed with her. However, usually you will stay at the volunteering house for free if you work every day. The work consists of walking the dogs, cleaning and socialising the animals. I truely enjoyed it! This is also a good opportunity if you just want to volunteer for one day! They won't let you stay, but if you have a car you can visit them in the morning and walk the dogs or play with the cats I believe. They also have an office in Tokyo, but I think they won't offer you free accommodation if you volunteer there. Sometimes they also need volunteers for translating, social media promotion etc. 

p.s. they have some beautiful animals in the shelter and they are up for adoption, even if you live on the other side of the world. 


Another place where you can volunteer is Japan Cat Network. They need help at their two animal shelters, with the events in Japan and you can even help out from home through social media. Even though their name suggests that they only have cats, they also have dogs at their shelter that need help. The animals are truely beautiful and working with them would certainly be fun. 


4. Disaster relief volunteering
I don't know so much about this topic. What I did read is that giving money to local organisations working on disaster relief is still one of the most important things. But if you do want to help out on the ground I would like to refer you to this blog:
They know a lot more about this topic and the website is regularly updated I believe. So check it out if you're interested in this type of volunteering. 

Well, I hope you have enough options now to start with! Volunteering in Japan is a unique experience. However, do keep in mind the behavioural code and politeness a bit to make sure that you have the best volunteering opportunity! 

Any questions? Let me know!

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