{Windy Hamburg} Day 1 – ICE Train

Bismillah,

Our holiday started on Dec 21!

Our train was scheduled at around 12.30 PM leaving Berlin Hbf. Initially, we planned to leave the house at 11 AM because the bus that is going to the Hbf only comes every 20 mins and we don’t want to risk getting late. But – of course, that didn’t happen. There is always a messy affair before we leave the house for the holiday. SO MANY things to be taken care of. Starting from cleaning the dishes, prepping snacks and lunch during the trip, last minute packing, and of course, throwing away the trashes.

We only left around 11.30 AM and there was still drama of Husband forgot to turn off the heater. Luckily, we still managed to catch the next bus. Phew.

When we reached Hbf, the station looked a bit empty than usual. Perhaps people were already enjoying the start of the Christmas holiday. After buying some coffee to keep me awake, we posed for a pre-holiday picture.

At Berlin Hbf – posing first before boarding the ICE train

Our train arrived as per schedule. But there is no such thing as no drama for our family lol. We waited at the wrong platform so we needed to rush to the correct one which was a bit far at the end of the train. Not to mention we dragged one big suitcase and one stroller with two toddlers.

Alhamdulillah, we caught the correct platform just in time.

We booked the family compartment thinking that it’s reserved for one family only. But turned out, it wasn’t the case. One family compartment consists of 6 seats and anyone can book it – not only family with kids. Lol. Unfortunately, there was a couple booking seats in the same compartment with us. I prayed that the kids would behave cause Z and M were both so excited.

One hour into the trip, a conductor entered our compartment and checked our tickets. Z and M were given kids pass that can be exchanged with free toys :D.

With tickets that can be exchanged with free (well – half) toys!

The trip took about 2 hours. When we reached Hamburg, it was drizzling. And Hamburg Hbf was SO CROWDED. I am not sure if that was the common situation or it was just because people were rushing to go somewhere before Christmas. We were a bit lost on how to get to our hotel and Hamburg Hbf is not so stroller-friendly.

Turned out we needed to take another S-bahn to the station near our hotel so we bought single tickets for both I and Husband which by the way are so expensive (oh Berlin, I missed you already).

We were pretty much depending on Google Maps to travel around so we checked the shortest route from the S-bahn station to the hotel which was a big mistake. That route required us to go up and down the stairs. While it’s raining and we brought one big suitcase and a stroller.

Anyway, we reached our hotel, checked in, and dried our coats and jackets. The kids looked okay but we were pretty famished after the journey. Decided to take it easy for this first day and not going anywhere other than buying dinner.

Finally reached the hotel and ready to go to bed! (NOT)

For dinner, we chose to buy Indonesian food at Jawa Restaurant which is quite near to the hotel. I have read some reviews that it’s a Halal restaurant so Husband went to check it out. We didn’t dare to bring the kids out because both were having runny noses and Hamburg is so windy.

When Husband reached the restaurant, he sent me the picture of the menus and I was surprised to see that they are selling alcohol. Husband also told me that it doesn’t seem to be owned by Muslims. I was becoming was-was and almost telling Husband not to get the food from there. But since it’s getting dark and the rain was getting heavier, we opted to play safe and just bought some vegetables menu and fishes.

It was quite pricey compared to Indonesian food in Berlin – and sadly the taste was not something special.

After dinner, we got ready to go to bed. We had a long day and just needed some rest.

{Windy Hamburg} Get Ready!

Bismillah,

Hey ho! Happy holidays to all of you! Can’t you believe that it’s going to be 2019 – insya Allah – in less than a week? I feel like time just… flew by. I still remember I started 2018 with so much anxiety and unknowns and here we are, going to enter 2019 soon.

Anyway, enough of my sad opening! Time to start new series of our holiday whoohoo.

The kids are having winter holiday until the new year so we decided to escape somewhere less cold but still within Germany. Initially, we wanted to go to either Prague or Spain but the airplane tickets were crazy expensive so we decided to go somewhere near that we could reach with train less than 3 hours cause you know children like Z and M still can’t stand being in the confined space that long – even our journey from Singapore to Berlin last year was something that I dreaded.

We were torn between Frankfurt, Munich, or Hamburg. All three are quite expensive cities compared to Berlin so price-wise, not that much different. But weather-wise, Hamburg looked better (as in, not too cold for us the tropical creatures lol). So we decided on it!

Accommodation

Here comes the options: Airbnb or hotel? Since we need to eat halal food, in the past we always opted for Airbnb cause we can cook if we needed. But when we looked at the prices in Hamburg during the holiday, we rolled our eyes lol. Not only they were pricey but they were also located far away from the center of the city.

We took a look at our other option which is staying in the hotel. Surprisingly it was a bit cheaper than Airbnb and they are located near the center of Hamburg. So we went with the hotel.

Transport

This is a no-brainer – we opted for the train. Specifically ICE train. Z was so excited when we told him that we are going to Hamburg with a super fast train (his words – not mine).

We booked a family compartment that we thought it’s going to be one compartment = one family. Turned out… it’s not really. I will get to that later.

So we booked accommodation and transport – all set and ready to go!

[Tokyo Day 2] Fail Hakone :(

One of Husband’s dream destinations in Japan is to visit Hakone and to see Mt Fuji. But sadly, it failed big time..

First, we woke up quite late. Second, we struggled to find the ticketing place that sells one round trip to Hakone (Shinjuku IS confusing. I should have learned my lesson). And third.. it rained the whole day and when we reached Kawaguchi-ko, the last ship already left since sun was already set really early. We wasted 20,000 JPY just like that. So heartbroken.

That’s why we only have few pictures from day 2 – since we couldn’t really see anything.

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Shinjuku-bound
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Hakone bound.

We were really hungry but we didn’t really bring anything to eat. Little guy survived the day through some oranges and onigiri, and he nursed a lot.

See. This trip is so fail that we don’t have even pictures from Kawaguchi-ko. Sigh.

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He’s not supposed to be doing this, gosh. But I didn’t have energy left to chase him 🙁

 

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Happy guy – completely unaware of other things. On our train back to Tokyo.

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We were so tired at night that we didn’t even bother to look for Halal restaurant. Luckily, there was a Turkish restaurant Husband found accidentally. So he spent 3,000 JPY for a set of kebab (I guess?). We finally had a decent dinner.

It was a very disappointing day.

I still feel bad until now that I make a promise to myself: next time we come to Japan again, we HAVE TO see Mount Fuji.

[Tokyo Day 1] Tokyo Tower and Meeting Kak Dian

(previously here)

After some walking-back-the-memory-lane moments at Toudai, off we go to our next stop: Ueno Park and Ameyoko for some oh-very-delicious kebab!

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Nothing much to do in Ueno Park. It was a bit chilly for us tropical creatures.

Then because we’re already hungry – and because I want Husband to try my all time favorite kebab – off we went to Ameyoko!

(Seriously, I never had any kebab that is as delicious as the one in Ueno!)

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Kebab, kebab, kebab! *chants*
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Pardon my face. The kebab is still as spicy as I remember.

And then, because some people *cough* were still hungry, we went to Chicken Man to dabao lunch. (Heh, even in Japan I still brought my Singlish thing)

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Zal waited impatiently for Chicken Man. Thank you Adek for the cute picture!

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After everyone had their shares of Chicken Man, we said our goodbyes to Afwa and Adek. Going to miss them a lot. Hopefully they are coming to Singapore one day and if we’re still here, we’re going to treat them with awesome food as well! 🙂

Our next stop was actually to visit Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Sky Tree. But eventually, we dropped the Sky Tree because … it looks boring. I was curious to see it because well, my love for Itazura na Kiss ~ Love in Tokyo is that much, but after I saw it with my own eyes from a far, I decided it’s not worth it.

Hence, we walked to Tokyo Tower!

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The majestic red tower! *sigh* *super in love*
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There was some kind of bazaar in front of Tokyo Tower – and the garden was decorated with everything about mini Tokyo Tower. So cute, no?

Mandatory wefie!
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And poor boy had no idea that he’s standing right in front of Tokyo icon.

Initially we had no plan on going up to the observatory, but Husband went and checked the price which was not as expensive as we thought. So we bought the tickets!

(FYI, I had never been to Tokyo Tower before. Heh. Yes, I was a hermit during my 1.5 years of staying in Tokyo)

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Tadaaa! Tokyo from the eyes of Tokyo Tower.

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The little guy just wanted a view from Tokyo Tower.

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When we walked around the observatory, we saw this info robot (?) circled around! Wanted to take picture with it, but this is the closest thing we could get.

We were only there for like half an hour. And one thing I need to note is how troublesome it was to bring your stroller to the observatory! Going up was not really difficult, but going down was another story. There was no direct elevator going down from the observatory to the ground level – instead we needed to take some stairs two level down and then from there we could take an elevator.

It’s so troublesome. Imagine if it’s a baby sleeping inside the stroller!

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Anyway, since it was autumn, night came so fast. It was only 4.30 pm, and it was already this dark!

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Cue Sailor Moon catch phrase, “With the power of Moon, I will punish you!”

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And I swear my inner otaku tingled when I saw this shot. As a CLAMP fan, this brought back so many memories! The battle of earth from X (was supposed to) happened here. The final judgment from Card Captor Sakura also took place here. CLAMP is famous with their love affair with Tokyo Tower, and not gonna lie, I felt giddy just seeing it.

Ah well. Let’s get back to reality.

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After saying goodbye to Tokyo Tower *sobs*, we went to Roppongi. We had a dinner appointment with Kak Dian, Husband’s (and my as well) high school friends at one of Halal yakiniku restaurant around that area.

Ah, Roppongi. So many memories there.

When I was in Japan, the only place I could watch an English movie is Toho Cinema at Roppongi Hills. And it was also where I had my very first experience gazing at the stars.

There is also this famous sculpture called “Maman” in front of Roppongi Hills. It’s a giant spider that’s often used as a meeting point.

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(photo from here)

We were a bit late for meeting Kak Dian, so we thought about letting her know and have the dinner reservation to be shifted 30 mins later. But horror oh horror, our pocket wifi was running out of battery and our powerbank apparently didn’t work! We didn’t have local number so we were lost on how to contact her to know where she was.

Luckily, coin phone in Japan is still usable. And by usable, I mean it’s really really useful. With only 100 yen, I can call her mobile!

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Saver of our dinner. *applause*

So we called Kak Dian and yay, finally we met near ‘Maman’ 😡

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We had dinner at a yakiniku restaurant named Sumiyaki-ya. You can read my review on our Halal Food in Japan review. All I can say is that the food is awesome~ It’s a bit on pricier side but it’s totally worth it! The waiter is sooo nice and kind to Zal 🙂

We chit-chatted for about an hour then we called it a day. Final picture of the day!

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Thank you, Kak Dian! Hopefully we can meet again if we’re visiting Tokyo in the future 🙂

[Tokyo Day 1] University of Tokyo with Friends

I was once a research student at University of Tokyo for 1.5 years. And although I didn’t pass the entrance exam for Master program, this place still holds special place in my heart. So we went there on our first day in Tokyo and met some friends 🙂

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We also had picnics with friends 🙂

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Zal enjoyed playing around! He even made friends with some Japanese kids 🙂

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And while we’re there and surrounded by friends who are amazing photographers, they took some pictures for our family shoot as well. Love them!

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The scenery is really really beautiful. Husband really loves the ambience.

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It was really an enriching moment 🙂 And we were also happy to meet our friends again. Hopefully we will be back to Toudai again someday.

[Tokyo Day 0] Narita-bound

Our flight to Tokyo took off at 7 am, so we should be at Changi about 5 am for check in.

Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy to be ready at 4 am when you have a very active toddler who refuses to sleep early. We ended up only slept at 1 am, and woke up around 3 am.

We didn’t really plan to wake Zal up, but we really needed him to put on some extra clothes for the flight. Well, he ended up being awake anyway.. so off we went to Changi!

Changi!

We checked in quite early and we were told that we will be getting the bassinet later. The lady also said that we were not guaranteed bassinet on our way home. Eh. We would think about it later. We’re not even sure if we’re going to use the bassinet anyway.

Once we checked in everything, off we went to find some food! The only 24 hour around Terminal 1 is… Texas Chicken. It’s OK. Some chicken and some biscuits plus hot Milo.

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And some wefie while waiting for Papa who went for Subuh.

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When we were finally done with Subuh, we rushed to our gate. Oh, and I changed Zal’s diaper before we boarded the plane. We were kind of nervous on handling toddler with a 7 hours flight, but hopefully some of tricks we gathered earlier would work.

On The Plane

Our flight was tiring. We were lacking of sleep and sleeping on the plane was not really satisfying for both of us. The in-flight meal was also horrible I really wished I had brought food onboard. It was some sort of very very fried curry rice. Sounds weird but trust me it tasted that way.

Ah well. What we needed was some sleep anyway.

Good thing was, Zal was asleep most of the time! I guess the combination of white noise and being sleepy really helped. I got a pretty good sleep about 2 hours as well. Not sure about Husband but he didn’t look really tired when our plane finally landed.

Narita!

It hasn’t changed a lot since the last time I saw it back in 2011. Still looks old and cold.

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(Please excuse my super tired face)

After a long immigration (should have had our embarkation card filled in the plane to save time), we waited for our baggage. I really can’t remember if Narita has signs near the belts to let us know which belts belongs to what airplane. After we waited for 15 minutes, our baggage is nowhere to be found. I became really suspicious that we were waiting at the wrong belt omg.

After a while, someone approached us and asked us which plane we came with. And apparently, our baggage was separated from others since we were not transit passengers! Oh, how should we know that? 🙁

The staff escorted us to the corner area and there we found our turquoise suitcase.

After saying thank you to the staff, off we go to our next stop!

Breakfast and Pocket Wi-Fi

We didn’t really eat anything on the plane, so of course we needed our breakfast. After did some research before going to Japan, we decided to head to halal Udon at Terminal 2! More on that on our separate Halal Food in Japan review!

After we were finished eating (omg, I am salivating thinking about the udon. It was so yummylicious!), we headed towards Post Office. And no, we weren’t going to send anything from Japan (yet). We were going there to pick up our pocket wifi!

Yes, people. Pocket wifi is a must when you are a foreigner in Japan who can’t read Kanji. You will be lost so many times. When I was in Japan, I relied a LOT on online route finder like Hyperdia cause really, you don’t want to spend your time figuring out train routes and where you have to change trains and etc and etc. Trust me, internet is your best friend.

By the way, we ordered ours from here. We chose standard 75 mb package that can connect up to 10 devices since we’re bringing our iPad as well.

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The post office is located at the same level at the Halal Udon restaurant. So convenient! When talked to the lady in the counter, I used my very very veryyyy basic Japanese to let her know that I was there to pick up my pocket wifi. As instructed in my email, I gave her my passport to be checked. 10 minutes later, I was out with our package.

Prayer Room

Next stop was prayer room.

Oh this one was very tricky to be found 🙁 We thought it would be easy based on the map we saw earlier, but when we reached the level and place we thought it is, there was nothing!

Confused, Husband reached what looked like a tourist center (?). After 10 minutes, he was not back yet so I finally came and I saw a Japanese man tried his best to explain to Husband on where to find a prayer room. My very very veryyyy basic Japanese didn’t help either. Until the guy finally talked to a lady, and the lady said in broken English, “Please follow me”.

She escorted us to the elevator and brought us to… the same level where we ate and took our pocket wi-fi.

T___T

It’s very sweet of her but I really think we wouldn’t need to disturb her if Narita had a better map.

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As I entered the prayer room, I suddenly remembered why this place felt so familiar. Then I thought, “Oh hey, I prayed here before!”.

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Super clean ablution space!

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And here’s Zal after he changed clothes. We put extra inner and legging and also flanel shirt. The journey to our airbnb place was going to be a long one.

Taking Direct Bus to Tokyo

We were discussing on how we should get to our rented place from Narita. It’s going to be something convenient and spacious since we’re bringing a toddler and one big luggage. I proposed taking a train, but it’s not convenient with our luggage. Taxi was definitely out of option. That left us with a bus.

Then, Husband found this website. One of its stops is Ginza, which is just a few stations from where we were going to stay. We still need to change trains, but it’s not going to take long and still manageable. And most importantly, the fee is quite reasonable! 1000 JPY per person, and since Zal was not going to get his own seats, he didn’t have to pay. So yay!

The stop for this bus for Terminal 2 is bus stop no.31. So after we finished praying, we went to look for the bus stop, and there it was, just outside the terminal!

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It was only 5 pm, but it was already so dark! (sorry no picture of the bus cause we were quite busy making our selves warm, bbbr~)

We didn’t have to wait long for the bus. As expected from Japan service, the attendant helped us storing our luggage and our stroller to the compartment. So touched.

We paid the fee on the spot. Luckily we have small notes from buying food earlier (tip: always prepare small notes!)

Then, off we went to our home for the next 6 days!

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Good night, Tokyo!

What To Bring?

I wouldn’t mind much on what to bring if I travel alone haha. For my trip to Tokyo last year, I was even more concerned on stuffs I need to prepare for bringing my breastmilk back. Warm clothes what? 

But this trip is a family trip. Bringing non-essential stuffs is going to be inevitable 😓

OK, first thing first.

Clothes

We will be there for autumn; and the temperature is going to be around 14 degrees. I don’t think it will be a problem for me cause I had experienced worse before, but it will be an issue for Husband and Zal cause : 1) Husband has never experienced cold weather before, 2) Zal is not exactly resistant to cold weather either.

So it’s clear we need to have some ransom. Off we go to visit Uniqlo!

Oh btw, we love love Uniqlo stuffs! Of course they are a bit on the pricey side, but their stuffs are good for the price they are offering. Zal’s singlet are mostly from Uniqlo, and they are all really airy and soft. Perfect for him who’s sweating a lot.

After several trips to Uniqlo, finally we have our stuffs ready.

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I was thinking to get Zal a knitted glove, but this boy is not exactly someone who likes to wear extra stuffs other than his clothes. We’ll just buy one in Tokyo if needed, anyway.

As for our own stuffs…

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Look at my pity stuffs.. OK, I didn’t realise that I only bought one inner, one legging, and one coat! Compared to what Husband has bought, my stuffs looked so pathetic.

But in my defence, I am already covered from head to toe anyway 😉

Food

Food in Tokyo is expensive, and with Zal along, we can’t just keep eating konbini stuffs. So we are going to bring some homemade food as well. On top of my list are:

  • Instant noodles
  • Soy sauce
  • Sambal sauce
  • … and the list goes on.

Small pan, eating utensils, and washing sponge

This is a special case for us. Since we’re renting the place from non-Muslims, we’re gonna need to use our own pan and eating utensils when we want to cook and eat something at home. We also need to use our own washing sponge to wash them.

Chargers and travel adaptor

SUPER IMPORTANT. How can we survive without our gadgets in Tokyo? No really, when you’re not Japanese, you can only rely on your gadget to navigate your way in Japan.

Camera

We are planning to shoot a lot of pictures of Zal with momiji/ginko!

iPad

For Zal when he’s bored on 7 hour flights. We downloaded a bunch of apps and Youtube videos and we kept them from him so they would be a big surprise for him on the day.

Medicine and Ointment

Some basic medicines if we happened to get sick. Hopefully we don’t need to use them at all. And some moisturiser because the weather is gonna be cold and dry during our time there.

Bathing stuffs

Towels, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and Zal’s stuffs.

Passport + Important Documents

Including tickets to Disney Sea, Disney Land, and directions to our AirBnB place.

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The good thing with renting AirBnB is that we don’t need to bring a lot of clothes since we can wash regularly. In our case, we washed every day and the dryer function made it possible for our clothes to be ready the next day.

So yeah, that’s pretty much what we prepared for our trip. Next: itinerary!

Visa Application

When I told my colleagues that I am gonna need to apply for Japan visa, most of them were surprised 😓

What do you mean you need to apply for Visa just to go to Japan? I thought Indonesians don’t need to apply!

Well, sorry to burst your bubble… but yep, Indonesians DO still need to apply for visa (I know, sucks. But ordinary people can’t choose.)

My last two trips to Japan didn’t need me to take care of my visa on my own. When I went there for research student program, my visa was taken care of Japan Embassy in Indonesia. When I had my on board training last year, my visa was handled by my office manager as well. So this trip is going to be my first time applying visa on my own.

For something like this, I usually would do research first before preparing the documents, i.e surfing for other people’s experience; but since I didn’t really have time (lies, I know.), I decided to just go ahead with what I saw on their website for short term visit pass requirements.

Based on the link, I need to prepare these documents:

  • Passport (original) – OK. Should be easy. Considered done.
  • Visa application form and 1 passport-sized photo – A bit challenging to fill up. More details below.
  • Certification of employment (original) – Need to request this to your boss. But OK, this one is easy as well.
  • Flight itinerary – printed out the e-itinerary.
  • Updated bank statement – printed out from e-banking. Actually from the explanation on the website, PRs don’t need to submit bank statement if we can produce valid Certification of Employment; but we still printed and brought it anyway, just in case.
  • Identity card (photocopy) – Done.
  • Letter of Authorization – Husband needed to sign this as I was the one submitting the visa application on behalf of him.

Right, sounds easy. Should be OK. But the fact is, we encountered some minor problems when we tried to complete the documents.

❗️ Some columns in visa application form are questionable for us. Like, Japan guarantor details. We even needed to fill up the DOB of the guarantor 😨  We don’t have a guarantor for this trip, what should we do? After searching for other people’s experience and asked my friends, finally we just filled up those questionable ones with ‘N.A’

❗️ There is also a column of ‘ID Number issued by your government’. At first I thought this was supposed to be your passport no. But below that column, there is also another column to fill up your passport no! So, we went and fill it up with our Citizen number (KTP, if you will). As for Zal’s application, we just wrote ‘N.A’, because although he’s Indonesian, he doesn’t have ID number yet – not even Indonesian birth certificate.

❗️ We had some doubts with Zal’s documents. Obviously, he doesn’t have some documents listed on the website, e.g Certification of Employment, Bank Statement, etc. So I sent an email inquiry to the embassy, and they replied with this list as per below (really fast!)

  • LETTER OF SPONSORSHIP – A letter of sponsorship from the financial sponsor. (From mother/father. In Zal’s case, I will be his sponsor)
  • PROOF OF RELATIONSHIP (Photocopy) – Documents such as Certificate of Marriage and Certificate of Birth are required to be submitted if the sponsor is an immediate family member of the applicant. (I submitted his Birth Certificate which has my name there as his mother)
  • OTHER REQUIREMENTS OF SPONSOR – Sponsors should submit their personal bank statement or updated bank passbook showing the latest 1-month’s banking transactions, together with photocopies of passport and Singapore I.D (i.e. Permanent Resident I.C., Employment Pass, Work Permit, SV Pass or Dependent Pass). (I didn’t submit my passport copy and only my IC copy)

❗️ Passport-sized photo is also a problem when you have a toddler. It’s so difficult to take Zal’s photo without him moving around or trying to take away the camera from you. So I finally resorted to use his photos from his latest LTVP’s application back in April. He was crying in that picture, but I figured it should do anyway.

❗️ Since we’re going to use AirBNB for our accommodation, I also printed out our booking confirmation for our rooms. I also wrote down the address of the AirBNB accommodation for our Visa application form.

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Short term visit pass to Japan is applicable for 90 days. Since we’re going to travel in November, it should be safe if we apply for it in October. But being a kiasu people that we are, of course we decided to submit earlier. Like, a month earlier.

So we decided to apply by end of September. I took one day leave just to apply for it cause in my mind, it would be very crowded and I don’t like the feeling of being chased by time and rushed back to work. Moreover, the visa application operating hours is only from 8.30 am – 12.00 pm, so I really need to rush.

I don’t know why but in Singapore, embassies are always located in a location far from everywhere and it’s usually very very secluded. Like for instance, Indonesian Embassy. You will still need to take bus from nearest MRT station, and then you still need to walk about 15 mins from the bus stop! This is why I am always so lazy to visit ANY embassy in Singapore. The fastest way to reach embassy is by cab, and it’s gonna cost me a lot!

Japan Embassy is no different. It’s at 16 Nassim Rd, and if you take a look at Google Maps, you would soon notice that it’s again located in a secluded area near Orchard. But I had no choice. So I promised myself I am gonna wake up early and reached there early as well hence I don’t need to take a cab at all.

Obviously, it didn’t happen. Having a toddler that goes to sleep around midnight does make you question your ability to wake up early 😓

I only woke up at 8.30 am on D-day, and I still needed to pump cause I couldn’t bring Zal with me (damn you haze), so I ended up only leaving house around 10 am. And of course, I took a cab. There goes my plan to save money 💸

Anyway, this is how Japan Embassy looks like.

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Picture from here.

If there’s no plate outside with the writing “Japan Embassy”, I swear no one would ever thought that that place is an embassy.

I went through the guard and told him that I was there to apply for visa. He checked my IC and let me pass. Went inside and I found out the room for visa application is just on my left. That was handy.

Once inside, there is a queue machine. I took my number and sat on the chairs. There were only quite a few people there, surprisingly. I didn’t take a picture inside cause I thought it’s not allowed.

I only waited for about 10 minutes until my number was called. The lady asked how many applications I was going to submit. Then she asked me to remove the passport’s cover. First she checked my husband’s documents, then she moved to Zal’s documents, before she realized that I am his sponsor.

💁 : “So, you are the sponsor for your son?”

😸 : “Yes, I am.”

💁: “OK, then I check yours first.”

Then she took my documents and checked mine. When she’s done with mine, she went through Zal’s documents once again.

💁: “Ohhh, why is he crying?” *points at his picture*

😸: “Errr. Not easy to take his picture.”

And then, that’s it! Done. I was given three receipts to take the visa 3 days after. I thought I am supposed to make payment on the spot, but apparently, the payment is when you fetch the visa. 

I went outside when it’s done. Feeling happy that the whole process just took me about 15 minutes. I wonder why it can be this fast in Singapore but not in Indonesia?

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Will update this post later when we received our visa! 🎉🎉

Update by 30.10.15

Yay, got our visa, alhamdulillah! They only gave us 15 days, but it’s already more than enough 🙂 Now, off to itinerary!

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Japan Visa Application

Where to apply : Japan Embassy at 16 Nassim Rd

Fee : 35 SGD / visa (payment when you collect the visa)

Visa application time : before lunch

Visa collection time : after lunch

Youkoso Tokyo : Where To Stay?

Once we’re done with the tickets, we’re rushing to book accommodation. First, we were looking for hotels around Tokyo. But most of them are either too far from the city or too small for a toddler to play around. And when we found one that’s perfect for us, the budget is waayy over.

So we decided to look for another option: AirBnb. A friend of mine once tried it when he was on holiday to Tokyo, and it wasn’t bad.

(Oh, btw, I super love AirBnB website! Sleek, clean, and super easy on the eyes!)

I never tried AirBnB before so this might be a good chance.

Husband is more excited than me for this trip, so he did a lot of searching for our accommodation. The thing is, he’s way too excited about this trip, I think. He only knows Shinjuku and Shibuya, so every time he came up with a new location of an apartment, he always asked,

“Is this place near Shinjuku or Shibuya?”

Haha, so cute. I need to explain to him several times that any place is OK as long as they are near any station in Tokyo. To be honest, I don’t really favor places near Shinjuku nor Shibuya. Knowing how busy those two stations are, I don’t think to stay near any of those two is going to cause a headache for people who need total silence when they are sleeping. *coughs Husband and Zal*

So after several rounds of searching, finally he came up with this place at Nishi-azabu. The price is quite OK as well. We paid around 900 dollars for one week stay. And after that, I found out that the house is actually quite near my ex-boss’ place. Haha.

Oh btw, these are our notes when we look for the house:

  • Family friendly neighborhood
  • Kids are allowed
  • Light cooking is allowed
  • Has at least two beds (cause I will be sleeping with Zal on one bed)
  • Near train station
  • Most importantly, no sharing with host/other guests.

Yeah, we are pretty private family. And light cooking is a must for us because although I and Husband have no problem eating outside, it’s not going to be always the case with Zal. So you know, in case he doesn’t want to eat anything from any restaurants/konbini, we can still cook something for him.

After several rounds (ok not really) of searching, finally we settled for this place:

The host is pretty nice. After we confirmed our payment, they sent us a pdf containing a detailed guide to their place. It’s near Roppongi station, and the neighborhood looks pretty okay.

Some things that are still questionable for me is it seems I can’t keep any food in the fridge. Well, it’s perhaps not suitable for Muslims like us.

We are planning to cook, so maybe bringing (or buying) some simple kitchen utensils from Daiso, haha. We’ll see.

Now, fingers crossed that the place is indeed OK.

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Art Loft in Nishi-Azabu Central TKO

Check in : after 3 pm

Check out : after 12 pm

Booking fee from 20 Nov – 27 Nov : 909 SGD

Youkoso Tokyo : Where To Go?

I have always been a very organized person when it comes to my life, including budget control. That’s why, when I got married, I immediately take control of Husband’s budget and well.. do budgeting for our family every month 😏

One of our monthly budget is family holiday budget. We had a plan to have an annual family holiday. It doesn’t need to be overseas or somewhere far; as long as we can get out from our routine for at least a week and spending time with family. But of course that needs a fund, so we set aside 50-100 bucks each every month, and we’ll see what we can get by the end of the year with our holiday fund.

This year, alhamdulillah, our budget is enough for tickets and accommodations to…

🇯🇵  TOKYO 🇯🇵

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So, just for my notes, I am gonna break down on how we managed to secure the ticket with a slightly cheaper price!

When we decided to go to Tokyo, we started looking for a promo ticket. These are what we scoured to get our tickets.

#1 – Deal sites

LOL. Yeah, we’re cheap that way. But we got our honeymoon ticket to Bali via a deal site, so we thought it’s worth to check. The thing with deal price is, sometimes you can get a full package with a not-so-bad price. Considering we’re not that familiar with looking for accommodation in Tokyo, we figured if we could get the full package, that would get rid of one headache (among many).

We checked Groupon, Deal, and whatnot, but unfortunately, we couldn’t find the one that fits our timeline, our budget, nor our preferences. So we chose to go to option 2.

#2 – Ticket price aggregator 👍.

There are a lot of them now, so just take your pick.

Ok, so no full package for us from the deal sites. So we thought let’s do this one by one. First, we need to secure airplane ticket first, cause that’s where most of our budget is going to.

We wanted to go to Japan before the end of the year so we can plan our annual leave accordingly. Winter would be a big no for us; cause while I am pretty confident I can handle single digit weather, I don’t think Husband and Zal are ready for it. Hence we ended up browsing for some tickets for autumn.

(Here’s the fun fact: although I had lived in Japan for 1.5 years before, I NEVER experienced autumn! I went back for holiday in October 2011 when autumn began and only came back to Tokyo when winter started. So I am pretty excited too!)

We know that airplane ticket for autumn is going to be a bit pricey than summer/winter, although a bit cheaper than spring, but we tried to find one that fit our budget cause we really really want to see momiji! 🍁🍁🍁

Here’s a trick for you when you tried to find your tickets via aggregators. After checking each aggregator, check the price directly to the airline website. Because based on our experiences, sometimes the airline will give you a cheaper price than the agency’s price.

But in our case, this time turned out ZUJI gave us the best and affordable price! After comparing their prices with the airline itself, ZUJI was still few dollars cheaper. LOL. OK, so it wasn’t really a big difference, but every dollar counts 😜 We ended up buying tickets for November 20-November 27 flying with Delta Airlines! ✈️

I took Delta before, and although their service was not really first line class like SQ/JAL/ANA, it was decent. We had another option with United Airlines, but I hate United. Their food was blah, and the movie selection was really really old and bad.

After confirming your tickets with the agent

If you have special requests, contact the agent immediately so they can relay your requests to the airline. I emailed ZUJI immediately to request for Muslim food for three of us and a bassinet for Zal to sleep.

I must say, ZUJI’s customer service is really fast and efficient. They always reply to my queries within one day, and they are really trying their best to accommodate my requests.

I got a confirmation from them that my Muslim food requests are approved, and my bassinet is also ready. But think twice when you want to request for a bassinet and check the airline’s bassinet size. Because when I got the email back from ZUJI, I just realized that Zal is too big to fit in the bassinet. But I still leave the bassinet option as it is, haha. Who knows that we may need it anyway.

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Delta Air Lines Airfare from Singapore to Tokyo

2 Adult Airfare(s) 760 SGD
Taxes & Surcharges 344 SGD
1 Infant Airfare(s) 38 SGD
Travel Insurance 102 SGD
Zuji Booking Fee 50 SGD

Total : 1,294.40 SGD