Peach Press: The Path to Kyoto

Heian Doll with Screen

Transcript from the episode:

The Path to Kyoto

Without a doubt, coming to Japan to travel, study or work is an opportunity desired by many.

No matter what you plan to travel to Japan as… whether you plan to only stay a few days or make this country your long -term home, there are many options available.

The wealth of knowledge and culture in Kyoto is boundless, and for those seriously considering a trip or a significant stay here, I would like to use this episode as a means to tell you about the number of visa options available to you. Please check the annotations or credits for further resources.

We’ll start with the most common one: A Tourist Visa.

Tourist Visa

Tourist Visas are the most common visa, as they are given to anyone coming into Japan on holiday or, most obviously, as a tourist. The length of time you can stay in Japan on a Tourist visa depends entirely on the country you are coming from. In some cases, the alloted amount of time is only 14 days, as in the case of China, but you can be granted up to 6 months if you come from countries like the UK, Germany, Switzerland or Australia. For citizens of the U.S. and Canada, a typical tourist visa gives you a 60 day period in which to go sight-seeing. You are not allowed to work, under any circumstance, under a tourist visa.

Working Holiday Visa

For a rare few countries, there is a wonderful program in Japan that allows you to work for up to a six months on a one time renewable visa. It is known as the Working Holiday Program. Under this visa, citizens of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, The Republic of Korea, France, Germany, the UK, Ireland, Denmark, Taiwan and Hong Kong are given permission to work part time in Japan to supplement their travel expenses. It is a visa that can only be issued once.

Student Visas

There are two student visas available to those looking to study in Japan… the first is a Pre-College Visa, which allows foreigners to attend high schools or short-term programs aimed at teenagers, and is available in periods of 6 months or 1 year. If you are interested in studying abroad in Japan as a junior high school student or high school student, check with your local school to see if there are exchange programs available in your area or check out as a starting point. It is more likely that there will be programs that come to Kyoto in your area if you live in one of Kyoto’s sister cities. Kyoto has 11 sister cities, including Boston- Massachusetts, Paris- France, Cologne- Germany, Florence- Italy and Guadalajara- Mexico. Of course, you can always apply directly to one of Kyoto’s many high schools, but keep in mind that international tuition rates can be quite pricey, sometimes double the cost of a basic private school tuition.

The second student visa is the College Student Visa. These visas are given in increments of 1 or 2 years. Study abroad programs become far more accessible in college, both in your own college and in Japan. As with the high school programs, you can either apply through one of the many universities in Kyoto directly, or talk with your school counselor. There are also many services that offer school placement. A simple search on Google will yield many results. If you wish to work on either student visa, you must obtain special permission from your campus administration.

On both of these visas, it is possible to do a homestay, if your Japanese university offers it, which will set you up with a Japanese host family that will assist you in acclimating to your new Japanese way of life. As well, there are a great many scholarships available to students coming to Japan. Some links are offered below.

Culture Visa
The culture visa is a lesser known visa in Japan which is given in quantities of 6 months or a year, depending on the activity you are engaged in and how much money you have to support yourself at the time of applying. The cultural visa is given to those wishing to study a traditional Japanese art such as kendo, flower arrangement or other traditional or martial art so long as they can find a guarantor in Japan that is willing to legally or monetarily assist you should the need arise. In recent years, due to the high number of foreigners who have come to Japan to abuse the availability of this visa, the government has become stricter, and typically only gives this visa to someone who has documentation showing that they have practiced the art they wish to study in Japan in their own country for at least six months. It is generally a good idea to go to immigration with an amount totaling 600,000 yen in savings for every six months you plan to stay.

Working Visa

For those planning to stay in Japan for a considerable length of time as a professional, the working visa is the most solid choice in visas. These visas are given in periods of either 1 year OR 3 years and require a minimum of a B.A. or B.S. degree OR three years relevant experience in the same field you plan to work in. It has become harder in recent years to find companies that will sponsor a work visa, especially in the independent sector, and in many cases, you must already be hired when you enter the country. Links to job hunting resources can be found in the annotations below.

In Summary…

There are a number of other visas available, but most are reserved for spouses of Japanese citizens, celebrities or diplomats. While this guide is meant to be useful as a starting point in your research, it is by no means an official guide. Please visit the MOFA website for official documentation.

My last piece of advice is to keep as much documentation as you can, for any of these visas. There is no such thing as submitting too much paper to the Japanese government, and in many cases, their definition of “Supplemental Documentation” is poorly defined. If you go to immigration or contact them by email, be aware that depending on the day and who answers your email, you may get a different answer to you question, and those answers are not always congruent. It is important to try and make the processing part of the application as concise as possible, so you are not given the run around every time you go back.

I hope this miniature guide was helpful to you. Peach Press will be returning to its cultural and historical episodes next time. See you then!