Entering an Unnatural Habitat: The Visa

To stay in Japan one will need*:
*Disclaimer: I can’t confirm this information is correct for everyone at every point in time. At the time of writing this is all I (a British citizen) require, however it is best to use a trusted source, such as the Japanese Embassy for further, reliable information.
– A passport (Valid for the duration of your stay)
– A suitable visa
As I’m planning on staying in Japan for about a year, I need a visa that isn’t the standard tourist visa (these last for 90 days). After much research I decided that the most suitable visa for me would be a Working Holiday Visa. This is how I got one.
What is a Working Holiday Visa?
The working holiday visa is a visa (surprise, surprise!) that grants the holder the ability to stay in a country for usually about a year, primarily for the purpose of having a holiday while being able to have a job in order to gain funds for the holder’s travels.
More specifically (the UK – Japan working holiday visa at least – I’m not sure about others) they are for 
– British Citizens
– Aged between 18 – 30
– Who have not previously had a working holiday visa 
– Who intend on leaving Japan within a year of their arrival
– Who are in good health
Based on this criteria and other research/recommendations, I decided that a working holiday visa would suit my needs and I began the application process.
The Application Process
To apply for a working holiday visa, I would need several items. Below I’ve listed and detailed everything that I took to the embassy when I applied.
1. Valid UK Passport
This one is self-explanatory! Remember to make sure that your passport is valid for the duration of your stay though. 
2. A Visa Application Form
The Application form can be found on the Japanese Embassy website. It is best to fill it in as much as possible, however I have read online that some people struggled to fill it all in but received a visa anyway.
In my case, the only spaces left blank were those marked optional (as they were not relevant to me) and the space for “I.D No. issued to you by government” as I was unsure what number this refers to. At the Embassy this did not appear to be a problem and I was not asked to fill this space in. 
3. A Passport Photo
This was a little confusing, as the website asks for a photo that is sized 35mm x 45mm while the form asks for a photo sized 45mm x 45mm. To be safe, I got both printed and stuck the 45 x 45 one on the form and left the rest loose. To get a 45 x 45 photo, you may need to go to a proper photographer, as I don’t believe the machines print this size. 
In my case, I showed the photographer the requirements I had, and he also did a little online research and captured a photo that would be suitable for a Japanese passport. This photo also needs to be from the last 6 months. 
4. CV
For this, you can just use a regular CV. Some people recommend shortening it to a page, although I left mine at its usual length. I also added the same passport photo to my CV, at my aunt’s suggestion. 
5. Outline of Intended Activities 
A template for this can be found on the Embassy’s website, however I found that this lacked space. 
Originally, I wrote out a brief overview of dates, plans and the city I intended on staying in, however at the Embassy I was told this lacked detail, and I was given a fresh, but different template to fill in. This time I added information about where exactly I would be staying, such as the addresses and names of hotels, and gave detailed examples of plans I had, such as writing “visiting sights such as Tokyo Skytree”, where I had previously written “sightseeing”. 
This seemed to do the job much better, however it is worth noting that the woman who looked at my documents said that they are all well aware that it is unlikely anyone sticks to their outlines, so while detail is required, perhaps honesty is not. 
6. A Written Reason for Applying
Think of this like some sort of personal statement. This needs to be an A4 typed sheet that details exactly why you want to spend a year in Japan. 
What I think you really need to focus on is why you need a working holiday visa (as opposed to a normal tourist visa or any other visa), why you want to go to Japan and why Japan would want you to visit. If it sounds cringey and stupid, you’re probably doing it right, and a little flattery of the country will go a long way. If you’re stuck, I’ll leave a link to my written reason below.
7. EITHER £2500 in Clear Funds OR £1500 and a Return or Onward Journey Ticket
My guess is that this is basically proof that you can afford to sustain yourself for your holiday, and, most importantly, leave Japan at the end of your stay. You need to bring a bank statement showing the past THREE months, this is so they can see that all the money is yours, entering your account slowly, and not just someone lending it to you for a day while you attempt to secure a visa. 
However with this, I had a problem. My bank could not give me an actual statement as it had not yet been released for that three months. Instead I used the last statement I received and my bank printed out the information of my account’s use from the last date on the statement to the day I went in. This seemed sufficient for the Embassy. 
For proof of a return ticket, I simply printed out the receipt for my return flight, and that was that. 
Going to the Embassy
The application for a visa has to be submitted in person, which is a bit of the hassle, but was a nice excuse for a day out in London. 
Once we got to the Embassy, things were a piece of cake. On entering the Embassy, we were asked to give ID and bags were scanned, general security stuff. We then were told to take a ticket and wait for the number to come up.
Sure enough, before long it was my turn (the Japanese are incredibly efficient!). I went over to the booth/desk thing and stated that I was applying for a working holiday visa. The woman at the desk flipped through my documents and pointed out that my outline of intended activities was too short, so she gave me a blank sheet to fill in and told me to take another ticket when I finished and just hand it in.
When I did this, all seemed to be fine and I was handed a piece of paper informing me to pick up my passport in a week. For this I am able to send a different person, with a signed letter saying I allow them to pick it up (they also need I.D.). The visa also costs £21, which must be given exactly, as they do not give change.
Useful Tips and Hints
There are so many other blogs out there, detailing other people’s experiences with the working holiday visa, I would recommend looking at as many of these as possible to see how other people have done it, as they may have information that I don’t.
For making the application, I dressed more formally and put on a little make-up. While this is probably not necessary, making a good first impression always helps. 
Further Information
The Embassy’s website
Japanese Embassy: Working Holiday Visa 
Some blogs I found particularly useful
James Ramsden: Applying for a Visa
Goats on the Road: How to Get a Working Holiday Visa in Japan
Inspiration for a written reason for applying
My Written Reason

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