I will try to relay as much of my arrival as much as I can, haha. 😅 As a warning, I won’t be covering going through quarantine, since I didn’t need to. Depending on which country you come from, you have to fill out a form upon arrival and go through a quarantine area. But, if you’re arriving from the United Kingdom, you just skip that step. For more information on quarantine, please check out the post I have linked further down in this post!
Firstly, I had no idea how humid Japan would be. At all. I knew it was going to be warm, but when the sticky air hit me, I knew it was gonna be something that will take some time getting used to, especially since I’m so accustomed to the cold weather in England. Fortunately, it’s not been too difficult, aside from greasy skin and fringes. 😪
After hopping on the shuttle train to the correct terminal, immigration was the first hurdle to get past. Luckily, it turned out to be a fairly straightforward process, with helpful English-speaking staff, but it did take a fair bit of time. But, that might have been because I made a couple of mistakes.
The first thing you have to do is fill out a disembarkation card. In KIX, there are small desks with pens and cards where you can fill these out; because I (foolishly) thought that passengers were filling out the customs declaration form we received on our flight, I didn’t fill one out and went straight to the fingerprint and photo desks. It didn’t cause too much of an inconvenience for me, but it’s best if you do that first, because these have to be submitted when you go through immigration.
To explain briefly, disembarkation cards (completed upon arrival) are to declare who you are and where you will be staying. I can’t remember a lot about it, but here is a very helpful post about disembarkation cards and arriving in Japan in general. It’s still relevant despite being written in 2014, so don’t worry!
The customs declaration form (received and completed in-flight) is for you to declare any items that may not be allowed in Japan. If you are coming as a student, you don’t have to worry too much about this part. Simply fill in your details and tick no for the boxes (that is, unless you ARE carrying the items listed. But I doubt you would be bringing guns or the like with you).
After that’s done, you have to queue to get your fingerprints and photo taken! I wasn’t expecting this part, but it’s apparently a part of Japan’s efforts to prevent terrorism, which makes sense. It was very simple, the attendant will ask you to place your index fingers on a couple of panels, and then ask you to look into a camera while they take your picture. Easy peasy.
After that, it’s more queuing to go through immigration. There are different desks for different types of arrivals, such as Japanese natives and Foreigners. As I am coming to Japan as a long-term stay student, I had to look for the desk for foreigners, which also distributed residence cards (在留カード). These desks will usually be clearly marked, but please ask an attendant if you aren’t sure. I had to wait a loooong time, as there was a 5 member family all waiting to get their residence cards ahead of me and a bunch of other people. At the time, I thought it was the only available desk that could give out residence cards (spoiler: it wasn’t), and ended up waiting ages until the guy in front of me asked whether if there was another desk (to which the attendant said there was and I promptly followed along hehe). So, please ask if you aren’t sure! Don’t be like me.
At the desk, you should provide them with your passport – which hopefully should also have your visa you got in your home country, and Certificate of Eligibility – and they will enter your details before printing your shiny new residence card. Also, the attendant will ask if you will be working part-time during your stay here; because I panicked (and, let’s be honest, because it’s true) I said no. But from what I overheard from another student at a nearby desk who did say yes, they give you the guidelines and regulations to working here as a foreign student (e.g. a set number of hours per week, no working in places like host clubs or bars). They will also remind you to keep your residence card on you at all times during your stay here, as it’s the main proof of ID you will be using whilst here.
After going through immigration (and picking up your luggage), you go through customs. At KIX, all I had to do was give in my customs declaration form from my flight, my passport, and I was set. I was then officially in Japan, yay!
Sadly, I didn’t take any pictures at the airport, but it was pretty empty because I arrived at night. Everything was clearly marked in both Japanese and English (as well as Chinese and Korean), so navigating wasn’t a problem.
Next step was getting from Osaka to Kyoto. The more popular and quicker way of getting there is by train, but I opted for the simpler (in my opinion; trains are already complicated to me in England so I thought to leave dealing with them here another day when I wasn’t so tired) and cheaper option of the limousine bus service, as the stops were right outside the airport exit. In-wall ticket machines are lined up near the stops, and each stop has the different routes and stops that the buses go to. After buying your ticket, you queue in the line that corresponds with your ticket; each stop can have multiple lines as there are multiple buses that in service at each stop! Starting points for these queues are clearly marked though so don’t worry. The bus stop attendants will then come and ask you which stop you’re going to be getting off at (in my case, Kyoto Station), and provide you with a ticket that you show them to collect your luggage at the end of your journey. The attendants are very friendly and helpful, but also fairly old. I felt bad that they had to stow away my very heavy and large suitcase, but they seemed to do it so effortlessly, I was impressed. Actually, I admire a lot of the elderly Japanese population’s vim and vigour, they all seem to remain very active in their daily lives!
After an hour long journey on the bus, a few minutes of walking through Kyoto Station looking for the taxi rank and hopping into one, I finally arrived at my bed for the night at a hotel. Because I had arrived at KIX past the allotted time for moving into my dormitory, I had to spend the night at a hotel and move in the following day.
Despite paying only 32 GBP for my stay and expecting a no-frills accommodation, it was pleasantly surprising! Everything was neat and tidy, the bed was pretty comfy and the room even came with a mini fridge (though there was nothing in the fridge). Maybe this is considered no-frills in Japan? Then again, the hotel seemed to be pretty fancy, there was a piano in the lobby.
Hmm. Anyway, it was good enough for a good night’s sleep after such a long journey. After all, I had another long day ahead of me: moving in day!