Happy News! We are now fully capable of traveling again.
Our first order of business upon returning to Japan was to get new passports. Even though they were not going to expire, we were both about to run out of pages. The standard passport the US government normally issues has no where near enough pages to last 10 years, so our choice was to ‘add more pages’ or ‘get a new passport’. For a mere $30 difference, we opted to get new passports (this time with 52 pages instead of 28, which, by the way, is the same price). Also given the strength of the yen, it felt like we were getting them at a 25% discount.
The whole process ended up being incredibly easy and miraculously FAST (especially considering it involved both US and Japanese government agencies). All I had to do was call the US Consulate and make an appointment to drop off our completed applications (I could have mailed them, but I just didn’t like the idea of putting our passports in the mail). I arrived at the Consulate building about 10 minutes before the assigned time. I had to go through an XRAY machine, buzzer locked doors, and wait in a jail like room until exactly 2pm. They told me it would take about 3 weeks, maybe sooner, since it was a slow time of year. I passed the necessary documents and payment through a small window and was on my way. To my delight our new passports arrived at the school 10 days later. It was like I had gotten express-service for free!
However, after checking our new passports out, I was pretty sure we weren’t quite done since all our ‘important’ Japanese documents were still in our old (and no longer valid) passport. After some failed inquiries to our business office, Chieko came to my rescue and was kind enough to call the immigration office to find out what we needed to do. It turns out we had to go back to the Ward office ASAP and inform them, since our Alien Registration card now had old information on it. We thought they’d have to issue us new cards, but the 10 minute procedure simply meant filling out a form and having the new information written on the back. The only other thing we had to do was to go back down to the Immigration office at the airport and get our ‘important’ documents transferred into our new passport. We filled out another form and about 30 minutes later we were done. Amazingly, neither the Ward Office or Immigration Office charged us for the services.
We are quite excited we have 9 years before we need to worry about our Passports again, and that we have a LOT of pages to fill!