Wednesday, 26-11-2014. Day 98.
Back to the Embassy
We got up early and were out the door in order to get to the Chinese Consulate by 9:00 a.m. We made it right after they opened. I thought security would be a long process, like it was in Hong Kong, but it was a breeze. We went up to the third floor and showed a woman what we had. She looked it over and told us that it was complete. We even had too many photocopies. Then we got in a line and I handed our four applications and our passports over to another woman. She looked things over as I pasted (with a glue stick) a passport photo onto each applications. Then she took everything back and told us we could come back tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. to get our passports back, complete with China visas inside.
We opted for the express service, so the whole process ran us ¥18,000 per person (¥15,000 for the visa, ¥3,000 for the express service). In total, that's about $600 U.S., and it had to be in cash. That's right—it costs us a good chunk of change to visit China, but it was still cheaper than we would have paid if we'd used the expediting service in Hong Kong (that would have about $750 U.S.). Interestingly, the same visa would cost Japanese citizens only ¥24,000 ($200) and citizens of other countries ¥28,000. ($240).
And we were done. That's the one thing we had on the agenda for the day, and it was over in less than 15 minutes. We started back to the apartment, stopping at an ATM on the way back for ¥72,000 to cover the China visa fees.
It was raining pretty hard, and we were hungry, so we wanted to find a restaurant to hole up in for awhile. Interestingly, there are no breakfast places around our apartment. We'd planned on grabbing some lunch after our visit to the Chinese Embassy, but most everything opens at 11:00 a.m. n the neighborhood, so on the way back to the apartment we stopped at a Lawson's and picked up a breakfast of rice balls (which were triangular), coffee, and some pastries, including pre-made, pre-buttered, pre-wrapped pancakes.
Japan Rail Pass
The other big event we'd been waiting for the delivery of the exchange orders for our Japan Rail Passes. The Japan Rail Passes are a great thing. They aren't sold in Japan (at least not someplace where you can walk up and buy them), but they gave us unlimited use of Japan Rail (JR) services (which go pretty much everywhere in Japan) for seven days. Our passes cost us $732, and after we totaled up the fares for all the trains, it would have code us close to $1,400.
We'd ordered ours online a few weeks in advance and arranged for them to be delivered via FedEx (from London ... weird) to the apartment while we were there. And they were supposed to arrive that day—but we didn't know exactly when.
We didn't want to miss the delivery. We had a tour booked for the next day, and we were leaving the apartment on Friday, then leaving Tokyo via JR on Saturday, so if we missed the delivery we weren't quite sure what we were going to do.
We waited for a while, but everyone was getting a little hungry. Our breakfast hadn't really cut it, so we decided to risk a walk a nearby restaurant for an enticing bowl of popcorn soup (which was great). Just as were getting ready to leave, there was a knock at the door. This could only mean one thing ... we opened it up and there was the FedEx delivery man with or Japan Rail Exchange Orders.
So in the last two days, we'd gotten tickets to the Ghibli Museum, were well on our way to getting visas for China, and we secured our Japan Rail documentation (all we needed to do was exchange them for tickets, which we could do at Tokyo Station. It was such a sense of accomplishment that I celebrated with a Zima at lunch.
As we were finishing up our lunch, I got a call from my cousin, who'd been living in Japan for more than 22 years. We hadn't seen each other for something like 35 years, and I was looking forward to meeting up with her. She happened to be in our neighborhood, so she picked us up after lunch and took us to her house. She had two kids, and our gals got on famously with their second cousins. We played some games, had some dinner, and enjoyed some adult conversation while the kids played with Nerf guns. It was a great night.