With Backpack

One World in One Lifetime

¥5,000 in 日本

Posted by Heliocentrism on June 2, 2010

May 28, 2010

All Pictures

excited for ramen

おつかれさまでした (Otsukaresama deshita/Good Work)

When Mark and I left Thailand we pooled together all our baht. It came up to roughly 235USD. This was going to be all the money we would spend in Japan. This was great since I thought that we really only needed about 100USD each for a day in Tokyo. I thought maybe we could even save some of that for Chicago.

All our luggage couldn’t fit in the taxi.

As you might already know, we had some problems getting Mark’s passport back. During the time the office was closed because of the protests, Mark’s visa had expired. The lady at our company said that it would be alright. It wasn’t.

Mark had overstayed his visa. When we got to the airport the authorities wanted him to pay a fine. Mark tried calling the lady at the office who told us that it was “no big deal” but she didn’t pick up her phone. When Mark explained why he was still in Thailand past the visa’s end date the officer offered two solutions. He could pay the fine or he could cancel his flight and stay in Thailand one more day.

How would that help? Mark overstays his visa and to fix it, he just overstays it a little more?

We paid 75USD to keep Mark from going to Thai prison. If this were the Philippians I would have let them take him away and hoped that he ended up at the Cebu prison I’ve seen on YouTube so often. But from what I know, Thai prison is far from being that wonderful.

Leaving Thailand

Once the fine was paid, they let us on our way. About 10 hours later we were in Japan, the country in which I first overstayed a visa. And yes, the immigration officer did threaten to drive me down to Tokyo and throw me in jail, but I didn’t believe him for a second. But that’s a story for another day… or later on in this entry.

Tokyo Subway

We had about 17,000YEN after paying Mark’s fine, but it didn’t really matter. We only used 10,000YEN of it between the both of us. If things were cheaper we might have spent more money, but since they were kind of expensive we hoarded most of our cash.

Once in Japan we hopped on a train and went to Akihabara. I’m not exactly sure where the best part of Akihabara is, but we were wandering around for while. Rather than waste all our time at one spot we decided to go to Shibuya to look for Hachiko.

Hachiko, you waited for me?!

Once we found the metal dog, the plan was to walk to Harijuku and find one of the biggest 100-yen shops in Tokyo. A 100-yen shop is basically a dollar store, but way better. I love 100-yen shops in Japan. They are one of the greatest things that this country has brought to the world.

Harijuku = Shopping!

We did get lost a few times, and had a little trouble figuring out the best way to get back to Narita but we made it in time for our flight. We could have stay out a little longer because the flight was delayed for 2 hours.

Don’t look so happy. This is serious!

Okay, here’s the story

I had just finished up my one year contract working in Japan. My last day of work was November 15, 2006 and my visa expired November 15, 2006. My flight was the next day.

It never even occurred to me to check the date on my visa since I was leaving the day following my last day of work. Usually when you get a visa, you are either given more time than you need or there is a grace period in which you can overstay.

When I was stopped at Narita’s passport control, the lady informed me that my visa had expired 6 hours ago. My first reaction was, “that’s not a big deal, right? I’m obviously leaving.” As I was  escorted to a little office on the side, I realized that it was, indeed, a big deal.

You could go to jail!

No one at GEOS, the company that I worked for, mentioned this. There was no memo saying, “By the way, you might want to stop by the immigration office at least a week before your last day and get an extension on your visa, so you don’t get in trouble.” And GEOS loved faxing over stupid memos!

One of the guys at the head office even asked me if I planned to do any travelling around Japan before I went back home. He never mentioned that I needed to get an extension on my visa if I planned to work on my last contract day. Mind you, that I have to work on my last contract day…

My last class ended at 22:00. Narita airport was 1.5 hours away from my town, Togane. The last train out of Togane leaves a little past 22:00. There was no way I could have made it to the airport in time to not overstay my visa.

I asked an officer who spoke a little English what happens next and he told me that I needed to pay a 5,000YEN fine. No big deal. I pulled the money out of my wallet and put a 5,000YEN note on the table. An older,  higher ranking officer came out from the back room and handed my money back to me. “No. This Serious! You maybe go jail”

What? Me in Jail?

The first officer disappeared into a back room leaving me to listen to the older officer’s jail ranting on my own. He held up my passport, pointing to the expired visa. He nodded at it and shook his finger as if it had been a naughty little visa. “This Serious!” He took my passport and the offending visa into a back office. I thought it was very funny.

I looked around at the other people in the room. “He can’t be serious? My plane leaves in 45 minutes. It’s not like I was trying to stay in the country.” No one around me spoke English. Most of them seemed to be doing worse than I was. One lady was crying hysterically. Maybe she was actually going to be sent to jail or at least thought she was.

I’m to pretty for jail!

The older officer came back out with my passport and another man. They discussed my passport in Japanese passing it back and forth as if there were something completely unbelievable on it. Every now and then the older officer would look up at me to remind me that, “This serious!”

How long should we keep her in jail?

It had become too over the top. With all the theatrics, there was no way I could actually be heading to jail. I figured that it might help if I played along. As long as they got this show over with in time for me to get on my plane, I guess I could join in. I stopped smiling and looked at my feet. “Golly gee, I can’t believe that I might be going to jail. Woe is me!”

Please have mercy on me. I am but a wretch with an expired visa.

“Okay. Okay.” The older officer said to me. “You first time. Pay goh-sen-en.” I handed him the ¥5,000 that I had given him half an hour ago. He took out a little visa stamp and placed it in my passport. Then he wrote a little note on the page and handed the book back to me. “Now, may stay 15 day more!”

(The pictures are actually of Seodaemun Prison in Seoul and do not reflect the Japanese immigration office at Narita Airport in any way unless you have a sense of humor.)

All Pictures



How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.







  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to ask whatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan. I’ve never been a tourist.)


How to get there:

  • 35°40’53.0″N 139°45’58.1″E

From Narita Airport –

There are many ways to go from Narita Airport to downtown Tokyo. The way we chose was the cheapest yet slowest way.

Buy a ticket on the Keisai line (京成本線, Keisei Honsen) to Nippori (日暮里駅). This will cost less than 1100YEN and take about 1.5 hours.

You can buy a ticket to Nippori and then buy another ticket to another station in Tokyo or you can buy a ticket all the way to what ever station you want to go. You will check out of the Keisai line and then check back into the subway system. If you don’t have any money left on your ticket you will not get it back.

If you are lucky you will be able to get on a rapid train that skips a few stations.



  • Everything is expensive!



How to get there:

  • 35°41’55.6″N 139°46’27.1″E

From Nippori Station (日暮里駅) –

Check out of the Keisai line (京成本線, Keisei Honsen) and go to the Yamanote Line (山手線, Yamanote-sen). It’s the green subway line to Akihabara.

To buy tickets:

  • Look for the English subway map and find Akihabara.
  • The number next to the station is the amount of money you need to get there from the station in which you are in currently.
  • Find a machine and press the English button.
  • Specify how many people you are buying tickets for and how much money you want on each ticket.
  • Put you money in the machine and take your ticket(s) and change.




The Statue of Hachiko
(chūken Hachikō)

How to get there:

  • 35°39’32.7″N 139°42’02.1″E

By Public Transportation –

Go to Shibuya Station (渋谷駅) on the Yamanote Line (山手線). The are many signs telling you which exit is the Hachiko exit or “Hachikō-guchi”.

There will many people getting their picture taken with Hachiko. Just stand in line and wait your turn.


  • Free


  • Always available


Harajuku’s Daiso

How to get there:

  • 35°40’17.1″N 139°42’13.4″E
By Public Transportation –
Go to Harajuku Station (原宿駅) on the Yamanote Line (山手線). Once you exit the station go straight passed the Family Mart. Soon you will see the Daiso on your left.




  • Usually 9:00 – 21:00


  • Be careful when entering Diaso. I always go in to just look and come out with hands full of things I didn’t know I needed.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: