So this year, after listening to a great deal of nagging from my various family members, I decided to go back to the states for Christmas. This is my first trip back since coming to Japan. I am looking forward to it mostly for the food. Chunky peanut butter, those Reese's chocolate Christmas trees, turkey sandwiches to name a few. I am also looking forward to getting some shopping done as I have had to resort to using safety pins to keep my pants up. This is all beside the point though as I really wanted to tell you all about making travel arrangements.
When I originally thought to buy the ticket I first shopped online to compare prices but because buying anything online can be problematic I also visited two travel agents here in Japan. Namely H.I.S. and JTB. Both are known for international travel. The prices they offered were in line with those online at the time and had the additional benefit of being easily accessible to me so I decided to go with JTB. On the whole I am pretty happy with the interaction. The service, like most of Japan, was impeccible. They kept ahead of problems, including six time changes and a necessary one night layover in Toronto, for me admirably. I was also able to purchase my buller train tickets from them directly.
Some interesting things I noted about the travel agents were these. All of the agents at the counters are women but the manager is usually a man. Women are considered more desirable for service oriented positions like being a travel agent because they are considered to be friendiler. The agency also offered numerous travel packages broken down into three categories: travel within the country, travel abroad, and weddings/honeymoons. These categories are further sub divided. I have to say that I don't know how such things are divided up in the states but I was impressed with how orderly it all was.
That all being said I have to say that sometimes it was all too much. I recieved numerous additional phone calls about issues that seemed unimportant to me but they just wanted to tell me about just in case.
In order to travel out of the country and return legally I had to get a re-entry permit. I filled out a form bought a 3000 yen stamp from the post office and had my permit in about six minutes. The immigration officer took a moment to point out to me the expiration date on the permit and tell me to have a nice trip home and I was off. It was wonderful.
The last or the first thing I had to do involved filling out a form from my school and the board of education asking for a special leave to go out of the country. I had count up the number of days I would be gone, surrender my flight information, provide contact information for when I would be in the states, provide a reason for the travel, and collect three stamps to officiate the document. Then from there it was sent to the BOE to do whatever they do with it. Of all the things I had to do for going home taking the time from work was the most personally involving.
Well that's the story of leaving Japan with the intention of returning.