Visa to the State of Japan

I’ve gone to East Asia. I’ve already been to South Korea and one other country popular in East Asia is, of course, the land of the rising sun, Japan. I have dreamt of visiting Japan when I was a kid. Thus, I made sure to go and visit the capital of Anime. I am currently holding a Philippine passport. For a Filipino citizen to enter the nation of Japan, he/she should have a visa.

Visa is a form of documentation issued by the nation’s government allowing the bearer to enter or leave that country.

Japan’s Transit Visa

Japan or officially called as Nippon-koku or literally the ‘State of Japan’ is an island country in East Asia. It is located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies off the eastern coast of the Asian mainland and stretches from the sea of Okhotsk in the north of the East China Sea and China in the southwest. The symbol that make up the nation’s name which mean, ‘sun origin’, that’s why it is called the Land of the Rising Sun. Japan lies in the Pacific Ring of Fire consisting of more than 6,000 islands. The largest islands are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku.

I have a layover in Japan for about 8 hours and I would rather go out of the airport and explore the city than staying inside the boarding gates for the whole duration of the layover. So, I have decided to get a transit visa to see Japan. Since I live in Ohio, I have to check online where I can lodge my application. I found out that I have to send my requirements and paper application to Consulate  General of Japan in Detroit, Michigan. Here are the following documents that I needed to mail:

  1. Valid Passport
  2. Visa Application Form
  3. One Passport-sized Photo to be attached to the Application Form
  4. Proof of Current Address in the States of Michigan or Ohio
  5. Proof of Legal Residency Status in the US
  6. Documentation Necessary to Enter the country after Japan
  7. Flight Itinerary
  8. Release of Liability
  9. Self-addressed envelop with tracking system

Since the Philippines and Japan have a travel agreement, thus, Filipinos don’t have to pay for visa fees if they stay in Japan less than 30 days. Another additional requirements are if your stay exceeds one night, you have to provide itinerary in Japan and bank statement.

I mailed my application on the 18th of September and the consulate called me on the 21st, telling me that I got the transit visa to visit the country. I received my passport with the visa pasted on one of the pages on the 25th of the same month. The whole application was fast. Now, my bags are packed to travel and I’m ready to have a transit trip to Tokyo.

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A Brief Look of Cozumel

Before heading back to the United States, we had a day to spend in Cozumel. I’ve already visited Mexico a couple of years ago and I’ve seen the states of Quintana Roo and a little bit of the Yucatán Peninsula. Since our cruise ship docked in the port of Cozumel, what better to do than to have a brief look of Cozumel.

Welcome to Cozumel

Cozumel is an island and municipality in the Caribbean Sea off the eastern coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. The municipality is part of the state of Quintana Roo with the likes of Cancún. The economy of Cozumel is based on tourism. The place is famous to tourists for scuba diving, snorkeling and its beaches and shoreline. We were in Puerta Maya and was exploring the stores and places around.

Puerta Maya and me
Puerta Maya photo location with cruise ships as backdrop
Stores and more stores
Souvenir shops in hut
Refreshments in a hut

The port of Cozumel is so famous of cruise ships that everyday it is packed. It is busy with travelers. Stores are full of buyers and customers. It is indeed a good location due to the proximity back to the port of call in Miami, Florida.

Carnival Glory
Carnival Paradise with Cozumel’s shores

It was brief but I was slightly disappointed. I was really looking forward to swim in Cozumel. My expectation was set so high that I got dissatisfied with my visit. I really thought they would have a swimming area like what Grand Turk has.

Xunantunich Mayan Ruins of Cayo, Belize

Xunantunich is about 2 hours from Belize City. While we were on the road, our tour guide gave us some important facts. Xunantunich is a famous Mayan archaeological site in western Belize, in the Cayo District. It is located atop a ridge above the Mopan River, within sight of the Guatemala border which is less than a mile to the west.

photo credit: Google Maps

The journey began with a relaxing scenic trip to the Mopan River, passing several villages and towns along the way. We passed Hattieville and our tour guide, Maude, got our attention to look on the mountains that looks like a sleeping giant. The locals called it, the Virgin of the Sleeping Giant.

Virgin of the Sleeping Giant

We passed the intersection that will lead to Belmopan. Belmopan is the capital city of the country. It is located also in Cayo District at an altitude of 249 feet above sea level. Belmopan was constructed just to the east of Belize River, 50 miles inland from the former capital, Belize City. The government was moved to Belmopan and made it the capital due to the former city’s near destruction by Hurricane Hattie.

Crossing to the Belmopan Sign

I took a quick shuteye for about 30 mins and then, we got to Santa Elena. Santa Elena was used to be a separate village and was absorbed by the town of San Ignacio, making the latter the largest settlement in Cayo District and the second largest in the country after Belize City.

Santa Elena roundabout

About 20 minutes from Santa Elena, we arrived in San Jose Succotz. San Jose Succotz is a Maya village consisting mainly of people of Yucatec Maya descent. It is also the location of the famous ruins. After we got off the bus, we, then, took a 5-minute ferry ride crossing the river to access the remote ruins. Next was a van ride approximately 5-10 minutes to get to the site. We have to walk uphill and after few minutes, we finally saw the ruins. It was truly a sight to behold.

Xunantunich Sign
River crossing
Van ride to the ruins
My first sight of El Castillo of the Xunantunich

Xunantunich which means stone lady; xunan for stone and tunich for lady. This site was a major ceremonial center during the Classical Period composed of six major plazas and surrounded by more than 25 temples and palaces.

El Castillo

The largest temple, El Castillo, has been excavated and partially restored; it is famous for its frieze, a banded stucco decoration that at one time extended around the entire pyramid. It is the second tallest structure in Belize. El Castillo is the ‘axis mundi’ of the site, or the intersection of the two cardinal lines.

Front view of El Castillo
Top of El Castillo and its intricate carvings, meanings and stories

Visitors can climb the ruins, sitting atop a natural limestone ridge, the site provided panoramic views of the hilly Cayo District and even a town in Guatemala. I got tons of photos and it sure was mesmerizing. It wasn’t as hot as Chichén Itzá since there are a lot of trees where you can rest under the shade.

View on top of El Castillo
View of Guatemala from El Castillo

The Introductory Site History and Display Centers is found at the entrance to the center and is also one of the major attractions in the ruins site. Guests can see more of the artifacts. They can get more and detailed information of the discovery and history of the Mayan culture.

Xunantunich Visitor Center
Artifacts

After exploring the ancient Mayan site, we returned to San Ignacio area for a local lunch before heading back to Belize City. We went to Hode’s Place Restaurant and Bar.

Hode’s Place Restaurant & Bar
Coconut chicken with rice and beans, fried plantain and coleslaw

We got the coconut chicken with rice and beans, a fried plantain, and a coleslaw. It was one of the best meal I had during this trip. It was delicious that I want to have more but we were on a tight schedule.

The whole Xunantunich Mayan Ruins trip was wonderful. Belize brought me great memories! I have learned few facts about the country and its rich ancient Mayan history. It was an amazing experience with whole bamboo chickens group of Maude, our tour guide.

Visit my YouTube channel for my Un-Belize-able vlog:

Un-Belize-able

The cruise arrived in Belize from Honduras at 0700H local time. Cruise passengers need to go to the tender port to get to the country. We took a ferry for 15 minutes to get to the coast. Cruise ships usually drop anchor outside the port and tendered by locals.

The cruise arrived in Belize from Honduras at 0700H local time. Cruise passengers need to go to the tender port to get to the country. We took a ferry for 15 minutes to get to the coast. Cruise ships usually drop anchor outside the port and tendered by locals.

When we got to the coast of Belize City, we were welcomed by Belizeans with smiles. We hopped to a bus right away and our Un-Belize-able journey began.

Flag of Belize

Belize was once called as British Honduras and was changed to its current name in 1973. The nation got her freedom in September 21st of 1981 and declared independence from Great Britain. Belize is as big as the state of Massachusetts. It has 6 districts with 200 islands. The flag of Belize consists of the Coat of Arms recalling the logging industry which led to the British settlement of the land. The mahogany tree represents this industry. The red and blue stripes symbolizes the two partylists running the country. The humans depicted in the flag is a mestizo (British) and an African descent (Belizean).

We drove around Belize City and flags were everywhere celebrating their coming independence day. We were in there last 09/12/2018. While we were driving around the city, our tour guide was also giving us some important information.Belize City is the largest city in the country. It was once the capital of the former British Honduras. The city is located at the mouth of the Haulover Creek, which is a tributary of the Belize River. The city is the country’s principal port and its financial and industrial hub. The city was almost destroyed when it was hit by Hurricane Hattie back in 1961. It was then that the capital of Belize was changed to Belmopan in 1970.

Central Bank of Belize

We passed through this building. This building is the Central Bank of Belize. It was established in 1982 and was built like a Maya temple.

CARICOM Flag Monument

CARICOM or Caribbean Community is an organization of 15 Caribbean nations and dependencies whose main objective is to promote economic integration and cooperation among its members, to ensure that the benefits of integration are equitably shared, and to coordinate foreign policies. That is the CARICOM Flag Monument in Belize.

Belize City Civic Centre

Belize City Civic Centre is located at the foot of the Belcan (Belize-Canada) bridge. It is the location for big and small events. This multi-purpose mega facility has airconditioned area with a seating capacity of 4,500. It has 3 practice courts, media boxes, offices, and multiple locker rooms. It has a basketball court with 24 hours access and a wide parking spot.

Roundabout sculpture of a hand holding a leaf

This sculpture is located in the Cemetery Road and it caught my eyes. It was intriguing. I wanted to know the reason and the story behind this sculpture but I forgot to ask the tour guide. Anyway, I still like it though.

Marine Parade Monument

This monument stands about twelve feet tall and is a replica of a Mayan site but it is surrounded by canons. The Marine Parade Monument is erected in one of the prized city areas facing the sea. The placement and design of this monument made a lot of controversies when locals agreed that it is out of place and out of touch and the roundabout would have been more appealing if it was surrounded with flowering plants instead.

Bhojwani Promenade

Bhojwani Promenade stretched from the end of the Sand Lighters Promenade to the traffic circle on Marine Parade. It is a little section, the actual sidewalk right from the Maya-inspired temple to the fish market. This area was named Bhojwani Promenade to honor the benefactor.

I can somehow track some of my pictures taken and these were random Belize City street photos.

Head Sculpture in George Price Highway
Building in George Price Highway
Street Vendor
Santiago Castillo

Santiago Castillo is one of the largest food distributors in Belize representing a wide variety of international brands. Its headquarter is in the city and it has built a reputation by continuously providing quality products at competitive prices with delivery service all throughout Belize for both wholesale and retail markets.

Random Photo

It was a brief road trip within Belize City. I was able to see the locals how they spent their regular day and I was amazed how clean their streets were. It was indeed an un-Belize-able day. Next post will be my trip to one of the most famous attractions in the country.