I decided to take a chance on the “passport renewal by mail” since the Embassy said it was safe. So easy!
1. Download the filled-in form from their web site.
2. I took my own photo on my iMac and printed it off.
3. Got a $110 international money order from the post office and sent it with my old passport and a return “500 yen letter pack” envelope.
10 days later I just got my new passport – without having to go to the embassy, which I always hate doing.
So now my passport is good until 2023.
Here are my photos from both passports. I think I look better 10 years later! 🙂 (New photo on the left)