Please Come to Boston (10th trip change)

I haven’t been back to the U.S. in over three years. I was scheduled to to go in September, and even posted the other day about finally going ahead with it.

But my sister seemed uneasy about the plans, and after discussing it with her and my friend, Sue, in St. Louis, who I also want to see, it seemed best to postpone yet again. This is my 10th postponement.

The reasons are all practical covid-related issues, and include Japan re-entry restrictions:

  • Near the top of my list is that Japan still requires proof of a negative covid test within 72 hours of boarding your return flight, even if you are quadruple vaccinated and symptom free. The U.S. doesn’t require this anymore. With quickly spreading new variants it’s not unlikely to catch covid. If you do, afterwards, even if you’re fine, it could take 14 days to test negative. Delays like that when coming back to Japan, especially with my dog, are just not practical. Everybody hopes that Japan loosens that restriction sometime soon, like other countries have, including the U.S.
  • Because of the new variants, covid itself seems to be on the increase again here in Japan, and also in the U.S. It’s generally thought that the fall and winter and colder seasons are harbingers of covid and other diseases spreading even more. You can see what’s happening in Japan in this article.
  • There are all sorts of reports of flight cancelations and staff shortages and problems with flights in general still going on.
  • New vaccines for the new variants might be coming soon – but almost certainly not by September.

Anyway, it just seemed better, in the end, to wait until after the fall, and after the crowded holiday season, see what’s happening, and go in the spring. Maybe we can take part in more interesting activities during my trip if I wait. I’d love to also take a day trip to New York and visit friends there. That almost certainly would not be ok in September. And my planned side-trip to St. Louis should be safer in the spring.

American Airlines was again extremely helpful and friendly about it. I called their number and got a call back within 20 minutes (back in February I had to wait two hours), and the agent was super cooperative. With no penalties they credited back my miles and booked new reservations for next April. I even got the same non-stop JAL flights between Narita and Boston both ways. Same seat class. And they even made seat reservations for me. This will be my first time to travel non-stop to Boston from Narita. It should be a huge time saver.

Here’s a hint when calling American Airlines for help with your international flight: (1) Call the U.S. number not the Japan number at 1-800-882-8880 and (2) instead of waiting on the phone use the call back option. It’s super quick. I called again to ask a question and the 2nd time I got the call back even before hanging up!

Anyway, hoping things are easier and safer by April.

Passport renewal time!

After changing my reservations, I realized that my passport expires in the middle of the new trip next April! I can’t believe it’s been almost 10 years!

Renewal can be done my postal mail, and I went ahead and sent it in to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo on Thursday. It was surprisingly easy. You fill out the renewal application online and print it off.

I got the needed photo (no glasses, white background) at one of those photo booths by the supermarket.

These two photos are my current passport photo taken in 2013 (left), and the one before that from 2003 (right). The one from 2003 looks like a mug shot.

And this is the new one. Somebody said I looked glum. But I think we’re not supposed to smile for these photos.

You can now pay the passport fee online instead of getting a postal check like you had to do 10 years ago. That was a huge time saver, because it meant I could use my local post office, just 2 blocks away, instead of going to a bigger post office to get a paper check. You can even pay with your Amazon account!

So now I’m just waiting for my new passport to get sent back.

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