Tuesday, 25-11-2014. Day 97 (Part One).
We had two prime goals for the day—apply for our Chinese visas and get some tickets to Museum Ghibli. We only succeeded in one of them.
The Quest for China Visas
We'd been trying to get our visas for China since Bali. It was turning out to be challenging. Every time we tried to move forward, we ran into another roadblock. After our visit to the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, we still didn't have the kids' birth certificates, but we thought we'd give a shot at getting the visas directly from the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo.
The application for China visas is four pages long. Our apartment had no table, so we walked to a nearby cafe where we had a little breakfast and filled out four different four-page forms. It took quite a while (there are many questions), and when we were done I still wasn't sure if they were filled out properly, but they'd have to do. So we packed up and headed off.
The Travel China Guide, which is a really good resource, gave the hours of the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo as 9:00 to Noon and 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. We'd already missed the early window, so our plan was to get there right when they re-opened up at 2:00 p.m., but first ...
Ghibli Museum Tickets—The Ordeal Continues
We had some time to burn before 2:00 p.m., and, since we were unable to get our Ghibli Museum tickets in Hong Kong, we looked into getting them in Japan. The easiest way to do this was to use the Loppi machines at Lawson stores.
We'd done our homework and found out how to buy the tickets from these machines. The good news here is that there's a Lawson on every other corner in Tokyo. So we picked one nearby, fired up the Loppi, and went through the steps.
But there were some subtle differences on the machine we were using compared to the diagrams we'd seen online. Primarily, it didn't like our credit cards and if we didn't pay by card, were presented with a screen clearly meant to collect information, but we couldn't read it at all.
We tried a few different Lawsons (thinking maybe the machines were different, but no) to no avail. And then Samantha noticed a little tab at the top of the screen that read "Information." In English. We punched that and unlocked the secret English language menus. We were in! Moments later, we had four tickets to the Ghibli Museum.
Feeling lucky, we headed off to the Chinese Embassy in the rain.
Chinese Embassy, Take One
When we arrived, though, the doors of the Chines Embassy were closed. And this is when we learned there were no afternoon hours; the embassy was only open from 9:00 to Noon. Stymied again. But at least we knew we could show up first thing the next morning and run these things home. Fortunately, our apartment was a short walk from the embassy.
As we tried to figure out what we wanted to do next, we noticed a small shop next to the embassy that offered visa application help. We thought it would be a good idea to see if they'd be willing to help us figure out if our forms were filled out properly. We went in and showed the nice gent working there what we had. He looked over our paperwork and said it was "perfect." Direct quote. He advised we make a copy the pages of our passports that had our 24-hour China visa stamp, but other than that, we had everything. Even better, he didn't charge us.
So there we were. On the streets of Tokyo with no plans. It had stopped raining, so we looked at our Tokyo wish list and after a little deliberation started a 30-minute walk over to the rabbit cafe.
Yes, the rabbit cafe.