Step 1: After take-off from Helsinki, a Finnair flight attendant distributed to all passengers 4 sheets of paper to fill in before the landing. 1 for customs, 1 for immigration and 2 Covid related.
Step 2: I filled them in directly and put them away with all the other documents (passport with entry visa and certificate of eligibility, 2 negative covid test results – yes, I made two tests because I wanted to make sure that I would have at least one within the requested 72 hours before my departure – , a residence track pledge signed by the company of James and stamped by the Japanese embassy of Switzerland, a print-out of my address in Tokyo, a print-out of my coordinator at James’ company)
Step 3: After the flight, upon leaving the plane, a woman – protected by face mask, protection glasses and face shield – made us passengers wait till everyone (about 20 people…) was out of the aircraft and then led us through empty corridors and past closed off toilets to the first station of the immigration process.
Step 4: Someone there checked our passports and then let us proceed to a makeshift counter.
Step 5: A person behind a plastic shielded counter checked my documents.
Step 6: After the check I was handed back my documents and was greeted by a next person standing a few steps away. He handed my a test tube and led me to a row with cubicles.
Step 7: There, a woman showed me to a cubicle and asked me to spit into the test tube up to a certain level. That took quite some time. To help salivate they put a picture of a slice of fresh lemon and a picture of a pickled plum on the wall with the hint “think of this”. It didn’t really help me…
Step 8: After having finally filled the tube , I handed it back to the woman, got a receipt with the number #0205 and was allowed to proceed to the next row of counters. The first “real” counters.
Step 9: There, another women re-checked my documents very thoroughly, filled in some blanks, asked some questions and added some Japanese characters to my writing. She put everything in a plastic cover and handed it back to me.
Step 10: From there, I walked to a woman who gave me my seat number A9 and showed me the waiting area.
Step 11: The waiting area were two times two rows of chairs situated on either side of a switched off escalator. There I had to wait for my test result. From time to time they would call a series of numbers. First in Japanese, then in English.
Step 12: After waiting for about 30-45 minutes, zero-ni-zero-go was called. I walked to two women who checked if my number really had been called and then crossed me from the list.
Step 13: Next stop, a short queue.
Step 14: Then another check of my documents. Additionally they had to be put in the right order. This was done by a man who then led me to the next counter hidden behind a makeshift wall. Probably due to privacy reasons.
Step 15: At this counter, which actually was a table, a woman checked everything again, took the certificates of my Swiss Covid tests and gave me a pink and yellow sheet of paper together with my documents. I wonder what would have happened if my test had been positive…
Step 16: From there I had to walk a long time along long corridors. Alone. Following signs.
Step 17: Finally, I arrived in a hall which looked like the usual immigration hall.
Step 18: There, a woman wanted to see if I had the pink sheet of paper and then let me through to a man.
Step 19: The man re-checked my documents. He also opened my passport and removed the staple from the certificate of eligibility, put the COE unattached back into the passport and handed everything back to me.
Step 20: Then, I walked past a woman who showed me to the next person.
Step 21: This next person, a man, kept me waiting a short bit and then pointed me to the next free immigration counter to which I was allowed to proceed.
Step 22: At the immigration counter, my passport, COE and entry visa were checked, the tips of my two index finger were scanned and a photo of my face was taken. For that I was allowed to quickly take of my face mask :-)
Step 23: The man from step 20 then showed me to a second immigration counter, where a women checked everything again, printed my resident card (!!) and handed me back my documents together with a paper explaining that I had to register with the local authorities within 14 days after arrival. Funny, as at one of the previous counters I received a paper explaining the 14-day-quarantine ahead of me….
Step 24: From there I finally arrived in the luggage hall where my 5 pieces of baggage already waited for me. Nicely arranged next to the conveyor belt.
Step 25: Having heaved everything on a luggage cart, I walked towards the last checkpoint, the customs. But of course, I was not through yet….
Step 26: I got stopped by a woman with a dog. Luckily, not the normal European scary type police dog but a cute little curious doggy. He sniffed all my luggage and apparently gave me his OK as the woman let me pass.
Step 27: At the customs a woman checked my documents a last time, took my customs form and asked me what I had in the different suitcases. Clothes, shoes, presents,…. She didn’t really seem interested in the answers – probably more in my reaction to her question – and let me go and officially enter Japan!!!!!