Last week I made the trip to London. This wasn’t to behold the world-famous landmarks or to have a nice relaxing day around the capital but do undergo the excruciating process of applying for a working holiday visa to Japan. I’m pretty excited to jet off to the other side of the world in just under a month to train as a ski instructor and spend the season out there floating about on the oodles of powder, but all that fun depends on obtaining a valid visa. To do this I had to take a day off from work, go all the way to London on a three-hour coach, walk over to the embassy, hand over some papers and then make the arduous journey home. In this day and age of advanced technology you would think there would be an easier way of doing this. Australia, for example, have been using electronically admissioned visa’s for nearly ten years so you would expect a country as technologically advanced as Japan to be able to figure out someway of doing the same thing that wouldn’t require me to take a day out of my life to travel to London to spend five minutes filling in a form. Japan has gifted the world with the inventions of the laptop, Nintendo and square watermelon so it seems ludicrous that the officials over at the embassy won’t accept an email with all the relevant information, instead of making me print them off and hand them over in person.
Between the intermittent naps I tumbled in and out of on the megabus from Gloucester to London I was surprisingly upbeat about my days excursion, I thought I’d joyously hand over my documents and be free to take in the amusements of the big city, but as it was a plan contrived by myself, it never happened. Even before I got to the embassy I was already agitated by the sheer business of the London streets, full of slow walking tourist dawdling towards Buckingham Palace. As the embassy was the other side of the famous monarchic residence I thought I’d swing by and have a mosey around, but this proved to be a terrible idea as the changing of the guards closed off the roads and attracted crowds of zombified sightseers to clog up the pavements. After a little boogey to the tunes of the Band of the Welsh Guard I was finally free to carry on to my intended destination. And this is where things got complicated.
All my cogitation about how simple a process it should be apply for a visa was demolished upon my first attempt at applying. I got to the embassy easily, sailed through security and got my little ticket to get called to the counter trouble free and then approached the official at the desk. The man waiting for me picked the application apart like a vulture. Insufficient statement of intent, dubious bank statements and the complete lack of a passport photo and I was sent back to street with the mission of rectifying my mistakes. A passport photo would be easy enough to obtain from the nearest tube station, or so I thought. On inspection of the underground station I was unable to locate a booth and was sent instead to a small shop around the corner. Luckily Timpson’s were able to help me out and took my photo, and then their printer broke. As I waited for the repair and my photos, I sat at the counter and filled out my unworthy applications until I was finally good to go. The only hurdle left to overcome was my bank statements. The Japanese embassy requires an amount of £2500 to obtain a visa, but after paying for my ski course I didn’t even have 10 percent of that, so the day before I took a small loan from the bank of mum and dad to get my visa. This raised a few eyebrows at the embassy as they questioned the source and reasoning of the payment whilst I tried to explain, but they accepted the rest of my paperwork nonetheless. As I handed over my passport on my second attempt the unthinkable happened, a crisp £20 note tumbled out into the official’s hands. I’m not sure what the punishment is for bribing a government official in Japan, but I am sure I do not want to find out. As I craved for the ground to open up and swallow me the man slid it back sheepishly with a sceptical look darted in my direction and I was allowed to go.
With the ordeal over and done with, other than some banking doubt, I was free to explore the streets and sights until the time came to get my bus home. Having worked up an appetite over the visa debacle I wandered back through St James Park to have my lunch. I must have looked like one of the kids on a school trip as I pulled my packed lunch out of my rucksack and tucked into my ham sandwiches, but after my day I didn’t really care. I got some interested looks from passers-by, but the unwanted attention really came when I made the deadly mistake of dropping a few of walker’s finest prawn and cocktail crisps. Within seconds of potato snack meeting pavement all the pigeons in the world flocked to get a taste of Gary Lineker’s dreams, and with them came the blackbirds, wrens and tits. Before I could move I was stuck in the middle of Hitchcock’s ‘Birds’. As I plotted my escape the don of the park waddled over, a big, hungry looking goose with a taste for saturated fats and confused adolescents. The public stopped, the footpath waited, all in anticipation of what the bird would do. As he shuffled closer and parted the sea of animals I hid my food. The goose got nearer, I froze. Just as the predatory poultry entered attacking range I clenched my fist, and I’m not going to lie, I was fully prepped to punch it. I was ready to jab a goose right in the beak and run. With the theme tune to Rocky bellowing in my head it looked me in the eye, then the empty lunchbox, and scarpered. I was saved the embarrassment of a bird based brawl, the subsequent police interviews and featuring on the six o’clock news- and that is why Japan should use electronically issued visas.