Monthly Archives: April 2014
Philippine Ambassador to Japan: The Land of the Rising Sun might offer visa-free travel towards Filipino citizens by June
Visa-free access to Japan may happen anytime soon’ – by Camille Diola
Citing Japanese officials, Philippine Ambassador to Japan Manuel Lopez confirmed that Japan’s grant of a visa-free privilege to Filipinos is in the works.
In an interview with dzMM on Wednesday, Lopez said that Japan, with whom the Philippines enjoys a good bilateral relationship, wants to boost its tourism by opening its country to Filipinos, Vietnamese and Indonesians.
“It seems na ili-lift nila itong June. May nakausap akong isang Japanese official this (Tuesday) afternoon who told me it may happen anytime very soon,” Lopez said in an interview with dzMM on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Tokyo-based news outfit Kyodo News reported that the Japanese government plans to waive visa requirements for Southeast Asian countries in a bid to entice spectators for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Japan’s goal is 20 million visitors annually, especially in the years leading to the Olympics, the report said.
In 2013, Japan’s tourism industry saw a rise in numbers after the country waived visas for visitors from Thailand and Malaysia. The numbers reportedly surged 61 percent to a combined 630,000 in 2012.
Lopez said, meanwhile, that Filipino travelers should carefully prepare for a trip to Japan by researching on the Internet and mapping commuting itinerary.
He also pointed out that Japan is among the countries in the world with a high cost of living.
“[Plan carefully] para hindi kayo mabibigla sa presyo,” Lopez said.
Filipinos should not hesitate to travel to the East Asian country as visa requirements for Japan are not as difficult to secure as other destinations, he added.
Well, I really think this is good news to me, to think that there is still a very high concentration of Filipino TNTs in Japan. Despite the TNT issues, I think this is still good news for me because finally, I could go to Tokyo Disneyland and Osaka Universal Studios and of course… plan a DIY trip to Japan with my very own itinerary. I think I should first tell this good news to my classmates in Japanese language class so that they will be HAPPY to hear it.
As you can all see, I am not ashamed to say this but Japan is my favorite country, more like of a second home to me. Not even the United States (whoops! No offense to my American followers here on WP) and Hong Kong could replace that.
Well, I won’t hesitate to look for inquiries in Japanese universities once I step in Japan soil without a visa… as a Filipino citizen. I really do not know why, but I think Waseda University is my first choice school. I won’t mind getting in other Japanese universities besides Sodai but… you know me.
Also, you all know (delve into my past entries first haha) that I made a story about Osaka Monogatari about a Filipina woman and a Japanese man being together. Well, I might have very high expectations of having a Japanese man as my husband (seriously, I am not joking), but the more you expect, the less it will happen. I guess, I have to embrace the ugly reality. LOL.
Why is Japan my favorite country… and more like a second home next to my native country?
Some of you do not know this, but before I delved in Japanese dramas, I used to be an anime fan. Yeah, I liked Japan more than the United States that’s why you’ll see why I was interested in learning Japanese (to think it’s too taihen, which is a fact). Also, despite the language barrier and of course, high cost of living (which are your two worst enemies once you visit the place), Japan has this charm that not even the US or Hong Kong will ever have. Also, if you’re going to ask me why I am including US and HK mercilessly (and mercilessly comparing them to Japan) is because my pops admire those two places for no valid reason at all (either that those countries made a significance on him… or he has solid connections. Also, he still has this irrational admiration towards China, despite he himself admitting the fact that it’s a bully country), and he thinks that Japan is ugly and there are things in the Philippines that are not in Japan.
Well, Japan is NOT a perfect country, and I understand that. There are some aspects of Japan which I do not approve (they’re still sexist and misogynist; South Korea surpassed them, so to speak–and they’re yet to approve the LGBT community, and they still discriminate inked people!), yet more and more good aspects of Japan are still showing.
Now I will directly tell you why I am now considering it as my second home.
1.) Many similarities with Filipino culture – As you all can see, Japanese culture, despite being completely different from Filipino culture, has its own share of similiarities. Both Japanese and Filipino people are hospitable and resilient, and you could see that the Philippine-Japan relations is very stable. Well, it just boils down to Filipinos being forgiving despite the atrocities of the Japanese during the second World War (this is the reason why the Japanese changed their fierce ways). The Japanese could also be forgiving, but an apology, whether heavy or light, is generally accepted. Sincere or not.
2.) They won’t hesitate to help you in spite of the language barrier – That’s what you won’t see in HK or the States. I have better experiences when I entered Tokyo Narita Airport and Kansai International Airport — the immigration officers are very professional–but the one in Osaka was a great experience (laid-back vibes, something you won’t see in fast-paced HK).
3.) The salespeople – I won’t hide this fact, but when I visited Yodobashi Camera, I simply purchased a circular polarizing filter for my DSLR lens. Oh my… this salesman is sooooooooo HOT, considering that he is not flawless. LOLs! Anyways, that was the greatest experience when I told him, “Eigo onegai-shimasu” rather than the “osoi hanashite kudasai” thingy. Good thing they’re consistently honest and professional. They show you the change and they count it. AND they don’t force you what you don’t like. Haha. The most memorable Japan experience so far. LOLOLOLOLicons. Again, you rarely find that in HK and the States.
4.) Better than China – How many times did I tell you that even though I love siomai and Chinese/HK movies, I still do not consider China and HK as a second home to be? Do you know this “Parang Pilipinas lang” vibe? In English, lemme tell you that it is a place where there are many people who are going in there, or lezzay that almost everyone (every Filipino, so to speak) is going there. Even my Filipino-Chinese acquaintances would be very honest that Japan’s better than China (of course, Filipino-Chinese people have a posh mentality and they’re more practical haha, not simply because afford nila ‘yan). Also, Japan is not a bully country at all (except if you’re one of the countries that Japan formerly invaded for a very long time), unless the Japanese PM visits the very controversial Yasukuni Shrine, where class-A war criminals are enshrined (that’s why HM Emperor Akihito never visited the said shrine ever since he became emperor).
Japan is also better than China, speaking of err… being tolerant. Except if you had a track record of taking illegal drugs in the past. Once you are involved with illegal drugs, especially if you’re a Japanese celebrity, you will be harassed by the media! I feel sorry for Komukai Minako-san for being harassed by the Japanese media simply because she became a fugitive for being involved with drugs–she’s now staying in the Philippines for refuge (hey, she’s always welcome in the Philippines, just like Noriko Sakai who is welcomed in China despite her history of drug involvement, to think that China’s laws regarding drug trade is more dangerous than Japan’s).
And don’t you know that I side with Japan when it comes to the Senkaku Islands? China is currently bullying Japan, that’s why I side with Japan, speaking of being prepared in terms of being “attacked” verbally by a bully country. Not only that, Japan still has this “never give up” mentality that will make their country stay stronger… than yesterday. Haha.
5.) There are things there that HK and the US does not have at all – Frankly speaking, Hong Kong and the United States are only good if you’re going to shop for H&M (sorry guys, I am still a Forever 21 girl), brands that you cannot find in the Philippines, or if you’re simply going on a vacation. They’re only good when you’re on a retail vacation. Other than that, no more. Pardon me for my “very posh” mentality, but ever since I have visited Japan, my travel standards have increased. Like almost everyone’s going to the United States and Hong Kong, which is something I am not even proud of. Once I visit Tokyo Disneyland and Osaka Universal Studios, that I really could tell that I have a very posh mentality, which is often misinterpreted for being elitist. Well, not under-estimating HK and the US, but if you happen to settle for less, HK and US are the only options (haha, beeyotchy mode on).
6.) Japan is an introvert’s paradise – Well, extroverts have a possibility that Japan could be their second home since I know some people (though not personally) who are extroverts but have lived in Japan for quite some time. However, silence is a virtue in Japanese culture, that’s why if a person is an introvert, of course automatic they will consider it as their second home.
7.) You don’t need to visit Tokyo first if you like Japan as your first foreign country destination – Believe it or not, expat forumers think that Osaka is way, way better than Japan. I can tell it to you by first-hand experience. Osaka is laid-back and the peeps (the Osakans) there have higher level of patience as compared to Tokyo-ites, who appear cold–due to the capital’s fast-paced nature, but Tokyo is an English-friendly city (though it’s optional to be an Anglophone there).
8.) You have Hiroki Umeda-san (HAHAHA, this is not a joke, I love him!)
He may not be very handsome by Filipino or Japanese standards, but hell, Steve Aoki might be set aside for now. LOL.
9.) Hong Kong is only good if you’re a beginner/starter on travelling abroad – I ain’t kidding, I have been to Hong Kong 4x already, but then I still do not consider it as my second home. As a matter of fact, if you’re going to travel overseas, I suggest Thailand would be a great option for a first-time traveller (yeah, Thailand’s much greater than Hong Kong 100x more than you think).
10.) Meanwhile, the United States also has this “parang Pilipinas” vibe, meaning to say that there’s nothing really good to see, except if you’re going to tour around the whole of the United States – I really do not get the hype why lots of my fellow Filipinos think that once they have entered the United States, it is already an achievement. If you are going to settle for less, Hong Kong or the United States (not the whole U.S. of course, I am pertaining to major cities) are the only two places you’d want to get into.
Never mind if you have never been to Hong Kong or the United States–after all, it’s better to visit a country with a high cost of living and at the same time does not have a good command of the English language. You are on a vacation and you’re on a leisure travel, not on a shopping spree (#RealTalkBuddy).
11.) Love for WEIRDNESS – You don’t see a huge Gundam in HK or in the States. Well, in Japan, weirdness is the norm. Whether you wear extreme fashion or you do quirky things, nobody cares.
12.) Hong Kong and the United States (pertaining to major US cities, except Las Vegas since it’s the only city I liked in the U.S.) are over-rated (like, everyone’s going there and it’s kinda bland lol), as compared to Japan – I hate to say this, but Thailand is also overrated–nonetheless it gives you second home vibes, which HK and the US has failed to give to tourists. I’d rather visit Tokyo Disneyland and Osaka Universal Studios just to make sure that Japan is something worthy to visit after a long walk to the historical sites (castles, significant places in history) and of course… major places of worship. Haha. (Bitch mode on, don’t care.)
Remember: Over-rated destinations would never give you a second home vibe, but there are lots of exceptions! Thailand is only becoming overrated is because many people are going ga-ga on the hype on its cost of goods, et cetera. It’s more like Forever 21/H&M hype, tbh (no offense to the Thais, can’t be help’d). But it’s a better destination than Hong Kong.
What’s next for Japan?
Before you visit Japan, here are some things I would like to tell you:
1.) Learn some Japanese basics – The locals will surely be impressed if you’re going to use the basic Japanese phrases like “arigatou gozaimasu” and “sumimasen” while inside Japan. If you cannot comprehend what they’re saying in Japanese due to their fast speech, just tell them, “Eigo onegai shimasu” if your Japanese is really bad. Lol.
2.) If you have learned Japanese formally, then you’re ready to go – Practicing Japanese as your second or third language will surely impress the locals. No kidding, you will never have any problem communicating with the salespeople on places outside Tokyo, which happens to be a city and a prefecture at the same time (LOL, so much for having a special status).
3.) Learn to use chopsticks! – Not really a must, though it is the usual thing that is used to eat Japanese food, including ramen. If you were to ask me, it’s better to eat sushi and sashimi with chopsticks (hashi is the Japanese term BTW).
4.) Try to avoid doing eye-to-eye contact – Remember, doing so is rude. Only a few accept this body language/gesture as A-OK, yet most of them still think it should not be done.
5.) Follow Japanese customs if you’re entering a Japanese person’s home – The usual: Bring a safe gift (food, wine or flowers will do… they’re very particular on gifts, and it’s rude not to give your host a gift) and remember to take off your shoes before going inside their home. Slippers are usually provided and when entering a room with a tatami mat, take off your slippers.
6.) High cost of goods (not only high cost of living since that is already given) and the usual language barrier are your two worst enemies – You do not actually need to be rich or fluent in Japanese to enjoy Japan. Remember, Japan is a very costly country to live in mainly because they’re export-oriented and at the same time their natural resources are very scarce, and of course its homogeneous population has still yet to embrace the outside world, to think that part of their country is Westernized. But hey, Japan isn’t so expensive at all when it comes to goods. It’s actually cheaper to buy Japanese KitKat and of course Pocky there–buying an imported Japanese KitKat in your home country would cost more, prolly double. Haha. As a matter of fact, most parts of Europe appear to be costlier (comparing UK and Australia, the former is still costlier, to think that the latter has more expensive major cities).