Thursday, July 1, 2010

Check It

Check your spelling. Check your mail. Check your breasts and testicles for lumps. No cross-checking. Check mate. Check your moles and birthmarks. Check your luggage. Take a rain check. Check your eyes. Check your teeth. Check your list, twice. The Czech is in the male. Check in. Check out. Check it off. Check it out. Check please.

And check your passport. Check it well before your trip, and check it even if you're already sure it's fine. I'm going on a business trip later this summer, and I thought was all set in the passport department. My visas are current, my re-entry permit is good and the passport itself is valid for another three years. Ritsuko took a quick look anyway..

..and the first page - the hard, laminated page with your picture and data on it - has cracked along the spine, where the page folds. It looks like the page could break loose the next time an inspector as much as looks at it funny. It's a manufacturing defect in these older passports and you should get a new one at the first sign of this happening.

So, I need a new passport. We discovered this in time, fortunately, so there should be no problem getting a new one before the trip. It's still a hassle, though; the only place where I can apply for a new passport is the Swedish embassy in Roppongi in Tokyo, about four hours total by train and subway. You have to apply in person and you can't do it at the consulate in Kobe, as they use some specific equipment to take your picture and fingerprints.

Early tomorrow morning I'm off to Tokyo and my very first visit to the Swedish embassy. Which is sure to be as breathlessly exciting as it sounds. I am already steeling myself for the inevitable posters of Dala Horses, maypoles and backlit shots of sailboats against the midnight sun.

They'll send all data to Sweden, where a new passport is made and sent to Tokyo. It should take a few weeks. I need to pick up the passport in person, but that is still possible to do via the consulate. I'll go to Kobe for the new passport, then directly to the immigration office in Osaka to have my visas and stuff transferred from the old one. I should have it all finished in plenty of time.

Which, again, is the point of this post: I have plenty of time because I1 actually checked the passport. It would have been distinctly not-amusing to see my front page detach, flutter happily through the air and gently land at the feet of some French passport inspector with a toothache, a third divorce and no sense of humour. While a day or two in a French immigrant holding facility would be an interesting experience, I'd just rather go to my intended destination if I can help it.

So check that passport.

#1 Well, Ritsuko did. As long as at least one of us remembers to check things like this we'll be fine.


  1. I'm living in Osaka and I had the same experience a couple of weeks back with a Finnish passport, although immigration officers in the U.S. and Japan pointed this out to me. I had to cancel a trip to China because of this. I got my new passport within two weeks after the trip to Tokyo. Since it was a materials issue, I even got reimbursed for the travel and the passport photos by the company responsible (Gemalto).

  2. The Swedish embassy does offer a free replacement. But it's a replacement, not a new passport, so it would only be valid for the same period as the old one. I'd have to apply for a new passport again in a couple of years. I figured it's better to apply for a new passport that's valid for a full period.

    This is not cheap, I've come to realize. The passport itself is fairly expensive when you get it via the embassy (it's much cheaper in Sweden), then add a round-trip to Tokyo to apply for it and another round-trip to Kobe to pick it up. I'm paying about 10k yen per year for the privilege of holding a passport, basically.


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