Brett and I thought we had all our future plans nailed down before we left Japan, but events have conspired to once again have us change those plans. It turns out we won’t be going to California in January after all, but back over to Japan instead, with a stop on Kaua’i along the way!
The big unknown for us now though is how long we’ll be staying in Japan this time.
Brett has decided to apply for a long-term visa to continue studying calligraphy. He loves the art and the discipline and is improving with each lesson. He has been sending work from his classes here in Portland to his sensei in Japan who told him he is indeed a serious student and suggested he apply for a cultural activities visa to continue studying in Japan. So, paperwork for the visa will be submitted in early October, while we’re in England, and Brett should find out if the visa has been approved sometime in early December. The visa is good for one year but can be extended for another year or two if studies continue and he is making progress. I would travel over to Japan with Brett and enter on a tourist visa, but immediately apply for a dependent visa once we’re in-country. Approval for that typically happens within a couple of weeks. The chance to live in Japan full-time for a year or more would be a dream come true for us, something we have long wanted to do but never thought possible. Best of all, in my opinion, because of our three-month stay this past spring we have a much better sense of what a long-term stay would entail, both the positive and the negative.
We also have a Plan B because approval of the cultural activities visa is not a given. If Brett’s application is rejected we will instead do another three-month stay like we did earlier this year, from mid-January through mid-April. Japan has changed its rules for the tourist visa and visitors can now stay 180 days total (maximum 90 days at a time) during a 365-day period versus just 90 days as it was before. This means we can potentially do long stays in Japan twice a year. We have some pretty firm ideas for what we’ll do after that which include a stay in Massachusetts at the end of May for WenYu’s graduation from Wellesley.
We have negotiated housing with the same landlord we used earlier this year. Even though the monthly cost of renting from her again would be higher than renting our own apartment for a year, by doing so we would not have to deal with setting up and paying utilities, buying furniture or household goods, nor incurring the very high upfront rental fees that are required in Japan (anywhere from three to five months rent, some of it non-refundable). All of those, if averaged out, would increase the monthly cost of living there to the same if not more than the cost of renting a furnished place with the utilities and Internet provided. We loved the location where we stayed before as well as its proximity to our son’s home. O-san said she would love to have us back again, and for now we know we have a place if we go for just three months, but she has asked us to inform her the minute we know whether Brett’s visa has been approved or not and she will extend the rental for us. We asked for a different apartment this time rather than the one we had before as we could not imagine staying in that one for a year – it was just too big and uncomfortable.
A few weeks ago I looked to see what it might cost us to go to Japan in January and was surprised by how low the fares were. Brett and I had also been talking about wanting to visit Kaua’i again to see friends and prices for flights from Portland to Honolulu in January also turned out to be very low. So, after some discussion with Brett and with our friends, and deciding on dates that worked for everyone, we went ahead and purchased tickets to both Japan and Hawai’i. We’ll be staying at our friends’ home in Kapaa for nine days (and they have a car for us to use so no rental car!!), and then we’ll be flying on to Tokyo from Kaua’i. We are greatly looking forward to being on the island once again and seeing what’s changed in the time we’ve been gone as well as catching up with friends there. I’ve already got my fingers crossed for good weather (January can be iffy), but even if it rains every day we know we’ll still have a good time and enjoy every moment.
By purchasing our tickets early we were able to afford to fly first class to Honolulu and economy plus for the long flight to Tokyo all while still staying well below our budget! I had enough Hawaiian miles to cover the flight for both of us over to Lihue from Honolulu, and the fare from Kaua’i to Tokyo included the trip back over to Honolulu from Lihue, which saved an additional $40 over what we would have had to pay if we booked those flights separately on Hawaiian. The total price per person for the both long flights was less than a typical one-way first class fare from Portland to Honolulu, and less than we used to pay for roundtrip fares in economy for the girls to come home to Kaua’i at Christmas. Plus, the two long flights also include two free checked bags for each of us, a nice option especially if we end up going to Japan for a year’s stay (however, we unfortunately will have to pay to get our bags from Honolulu to Lihue on the Hawaiian flight). The upgraded seats are worth every penny to us because after our very uncomfortable 11-hour flight from Tokyo to Portland in economy where we couldn’t cross our legs, let alone move, we vowed that if all possible we would do no more long-distance flights unless we could afford to purchase more comfortable seating.
来年日本に帰国します Rainen nihon ni kikoku shimasu – we are returning to Japan next year! We are so excited – not only will we get to be in Japan, and see our son, daughter-in-law, and grandkids again, but we get to return to beautiful Kaua’i as well!