Our trip to Japan ended as we took off from Narita Airport on April 27, 2019. We had a wonderful time visiting the many cities and castles, shrines and sites in that amazing country. From the very beginning, when we were greeted warmly at the Tokyo Station Hotel, until the end, when discussing concerns we had with personnel at the Japan Airline counter, we experienced gracious and courteous service and help from everyone with whom we came in contact.
Our flights (three in total) took us from Narita to Shanghai, where we stayed overnight, which leads me to explain why we were in discussion with staff at the JAL counter. As we were on the bus, traveling from Yokohama, our port of disembarkation to Narita, I asked JoAnn, “do we need a visa to enter China?” I recalled, apparently all too late in the scheme of things, that to enter China one needs a visa, something we didn’t think to get. Better to ask now, on the bus to Narita, than to be surprised at the airport. Were we going to be allowed to board or weren’t we?
The JAL staff were very nice but not sure of the answer to our question. The pleasant young lady who was helping us reached out to a supervisor for help. Together they consulted their computer, spoke to one another, then told us we should be okay. The pain in my stomach was easing and JoAnn’s anxiety was waning. Still, there was a small lingering doubt in our minds but they were issuing us boarding passes.
Ultimately, we learned that if one is flying into Shanghai you can get a 144 hour temporary visa. The document itself, which is pasted into one’s passport, says it is a “Temporary Entry Permit” and is for those in transit. Here is how it worked: Once on the ground, in the customs hall, we needed to complete a temporary visa form which stated, among other things, where we were staying and when we were leaving. As long as everything was in order we were allowed to enter.
From Shanghai we were off to London and, after another overnight stay, then to Philadelphia. Not the best flight plan but we fly British Airways and we always pass through London. All flights were good and, in the end, we spent almost a day on airplanes. When you think about it, the world is really small and shrinking all the time.
In addition to the lovely people of Japan, we have never been to a place, let alone a country, that was so clean. It puts the rest of the world to shame. Pride of place is evident at every turn. No graffiti on the walls, no trash on the sidewalks, and imagine this, no trash cans on street corners.
The cities, especially Tokyo, are vibrant and alive. People everywhere, all in a rush to get somewhere else. Yet, no matter their hurry, they all wait at the corners for the traffic light to signal it’s okay to cross the street; it’s the calm in the eye of the storm.
Would I return to Japan? You can bet on it! We barely scratched the surface; so much more to learn and experience. Which leads me to the title of this post. How many times do we meet people who say, “I’ve been there and done that.” That may be how some people feel but the reality is that no matter where you visit, you cannot truly learn about a place and understand the people with a day, a week or even a month in most places. So, to those who say, “I’ve been there and done that,” I suggest you rethink your approach to travel. There are places in the world where a year and a day would not be enough.
But, its better to travel, experience a place for a day than to never have visited at all. Japan is wonderful and deserves as much time as you can give it.