Today is the first day of the ICU Spring holiday, so I got up at 9am to go to Roppongi to apply for my Chinese tourist visa at the Chinese Embassy for my holiday.
There are lots of different types of visa for China, but I needed an L-visa, which is a tourist visa. Not all countries need a visa just to visit, for example Japanese citizens don't need one, but British people do. I was worried about whether I would be able to get a Chinese visa as I was living in Japan, but there was no problem.
To apply for an L-visa, you need:
- a valid passport, valid for six months after the date of application
- completed Application Form with recent passport-style photograph attached (Page One, Page Two, or you can fill it in at the Embassy)
- photocopy of your passport main page and alien registration card (can do it at the Embassy)
- proof of booked return flights
- hotel reservation (although I didn't need one)
The Chinese Embassy in Tokyo Consular Section (which handles visa applications) is very inconveniently open only from 9am until 12 noon. Luckily I only live about an hour away from Roppongi so I didn't have to get up too early.
I had copied a map onto paper from a website, but it turned out that the roadside maps were much more helpful, because the map's scale was a bit strange. It looked much closer to Roppongi station than it actually was!
Because I had a bit of difficulty finding the place (I overshot the turning at one point and had to backtrack) I took some photos that will hopefully help anyone going there!
This is the route I took, I marked the roads with red, and the Embassy is the red circle in the bottom left hand corner.
And here's a plain version of the map.
Coming from Roppongi station (there are only subway lines) you either take Exit 1a from the Hibiya line (日比谷線, Hibiya-sen) or Exit 3 from the Toei Oedo line (都営大江戸線, Toei Ooedo-sen). Both exits come out on the same main road, but the Oedo line one is slightly further away from the Embassy.
From either exit, you turn left along the main road with the elevated highway in the centre of it. You follow that road past the Roppongi Hills shopping centre, with its huge glass building. You need to turn left onto TV Asahi Road (TV朝日通り, TV Asahi doori), which is about seven minutes walk from the station. It's a very unimpressive road, which is why I missed it, I didn't think such a normal looking road could have such a grand name, and there were no roadsigns, as is often the case on smaller roads in Japan.
But this is what the road looks like at the turning from the main road. The construction work on the left won't be there forever though, so it might look drastically different in a few weeks!
You follow this road for the rest of the way (it's easy once you're on it). You can see the Roppongi Hills tower for most of the way, but you're heading away from it.
Along the wall there are nice bamboo trees, although this photo was taken looking back towards the main road, so they're actually on the left hand side heading towards the Embassy.
You pass the Grand Hyatt Tokyo on the left, which has this nice water feature outside.
After those landmarks, just keep following the road south.
And after around ten minutes, give or take a few minutes depending on your walking speed, you'll see this building, which houses the Consular Section.
It's opposite this bright green sauna, which you definitely won't miss! Even though I nearly missed the Embassy, because there's just a small sign outside the front door proclaiming what the building is.
I was really worried I'd be late and have to do the whole journey again the next day. But I arrived at 11.40, with 20 minutes to spare.
I had my bag checked and went through a metal detector at the front door, and then was left to my own devices. There were windows along the wall on the first floor (that's Japanese first floor, British ground floor) so I went up to one and said I wanted to apply for an L-visa. I wasn't sure if I should use Japanese or English, because I don't speak any Chinese! But I used English, and the woman directed me to the third floor (again, Japanese third floor). I took the stairs, and entered a hot, crowded and slightly chaotic room.
It was 17C outside, and yet they still had the heating on. Obviously going by the mentality of: "It's February, therefore we need the heating on."
I had no idea what I was meant to do. There was a crowd of people to my left, who seemed to be lining up and waiting for a small window. Then there was this waiting area to the right. That seemed more like what I wanted, but I couldn't find a ticket machine to get a number for it.
I asked a Japanese woman who was waiting (she was holding her passport so I knew she was Japanese) where I could get a ticket, and she told me I had to wait in the long queue and tell the people at the small window what I wanted, and then they would give me a ticket for the windows.
So I joined what I assumed was the back of the line, but it was very hard to tell. There were some tables for people to fill out visa application forms, but thankfully I'd printed one out from a website (here's Page One, and Page Two) and filled it in at home. Much easier!
As I was waiting, I realised that most people were photocopying the main page of their passports and alien registration cards at machines in the corner. I wasn't sure if I needed to, but I decided to do it anyway, to save lining up all over again. The woman in front of me was having a lot of trouble, but I had no difficulty. You put in a Y10 into the smaller machine to the left of the photocopier and then press 'start' (スタート, sutaato). It was very simple. After doing it I just rejoined the line.
It moved quite quickly, and I was standing behind a British guy, so I felt comforted knowing I wasn't alone in this endeavour!
When I got to the window I showed them my application form, passport and photocopy, and told them I wanted to apply for an L-visa. (This time I spoke in Japanese.) They checked the documents and said they were fine, then gave me a ticket number and asked me to take a seat and wait for the main windows.
It calmed down a lot while I was waiting, and they turned the air con on, so it was quite pleasant to sit down and watch some of the kids running round in circles. It was the most interesting thing going on in the room!
They had only one window for visa application, and then five others for other things, but I couldn't read the Chinese characters for what they were doing. I hope my limited knowledge of Japanese kanji gets me through a little bit while in China. China uses simplified characters, whereas Japan usually uses the older more traditional forms. A notable exception is 国 (country, kuni), which is the same in China and Japan, but in Taiwanese the original character, 國, is used. Much more complicated!
I had to wait for ten numbers to be called before mine but I was only waiting for about fifteen minutes.
There were no problems when I went up to the window. The website I used to check what I needed to apply for the visa said that I'd need a hotel reservation, but I'm staying with friends so I didn't have one. The woman didn't say anything about it, so hopefully there won't be a problem when I come to collect and pay for the visa.You can collect the visa 4 days after applying, or you can pay to collect it after two days, but I didn't do that.
She told me that I can pick it up on Tuesday morning with a receipt she gave me. They kept my passport so they could put the visa in it.
So I'll go back to collect the visa on Tuesday, and hopefully there won't be any problems!