Japan 2022: Traveling for Business During the Pandemic

Ohayou gozaimasu! (It's one of my often-uttered words in Japan together with arigatou gozaimasau, sumimasen, itadakemasu, oishi, and daijoubu. Google their meanings if you don't know.)

My recent travel to Japan was unplanned. First, it was during a pandemic. Second, I just recovered from COVID-19 on May 28. Lastly, it was for business, not pleasure. It was for business every time I visit. 

Japan is very strict in observing COVID-19 border protocols, but I was amazed at how easy and systematic the whole documentation process was. I had to make sure that I was already COVID-19-negative before flying. It was a last-minute decision to go because the first test showed I was still positive. I tried again after three days, and it's no longer positive! That was when I booked a flight through Japan Airlines. 

It was a seven-hour evening flight. I thought I would be able to sleep on the plane. I did, but only for an hour. I was tired and sleepy, but I could not manage to even close my eyes. Aside from that, the kind flight attendants would wake me up to offer snacks and breakfast. JAL's long list of meal options is inclusive, so I requested a vegan set. 

I arrived on a Sunday at 7 AM at Narita Airport. Very few travelers were there. I think our plane was the only one that landed. It was easy-breezy at the Immigration. I showed the staff my downloaded Japan COVID app. Japan classified countries based on color. Blue on the app means that I am a traveler from a "blue" country who has completed all the pre-arrival requirements. The other colors are yellow, green, and red (if I am not mistaken). 

Hello Kitty greets you after all the airport procedures are done at the Narita Airport.

The Tokyo Tower one sunny afternoon. I wasn't able to take a night photo.

The real test happened at the Customs Section. I brought with me 10 packs of coffee (250 g each). This is why I came to Japan. The Philippine Embassy invited VerraCoffee, of which I am a part, to attend the Philippine Independence Day celebration and sample our product to the attendees. The Department of Trade and Industry in Tokyo also organized a coffee-tasting event for Japanese coffee industry players and the media. We were also participants at the Philippine Expo. 

I was a bit nervous (just a wee bit) because the Customs Officer requested to open my luggage. He was very polite and apologetic. I told him that I understand he was just doing his job in securing the airport and the country. But my thought bubble was running wild: "What if the coffee won't make it to the Expo? What if bringing the coffee beans were not allowed?" 

While the officer was inspecting my things, he took out all the coffee packs and called his staff to bring them somewhere. Smiling all the time and smelling the coffee, he said that they are "fragrant". Then he interviewed me some more. I was thinking of submitting the FDA and all the other business documents. I showed him the invitation letter from the Philippine Ambassador first. That cut all the suspicions if he had any! He finally said I'm good to go. Phew!

Although it was not a bad experience at the Customs, I felt secure after going through it. They are efficient at their job. I realized how airport officials can be strict but courteous at the same time. (I experienced this same politeness at the Melbourne Airport. Although they would inspect your things and open them, no further searching is required if you give them a list of the stuff you bring.) Overall impression: Japanese airport officials are nice. One of them spoke to me in broken Tagalog because his wife is a Filipina. Haha! 

I'm the type of traveler who tries mixing business with pleasure. Even if it was a pleasure trip, my mind would think of a possible money-making venture I could begin when I am in another country. So, this visit to Japan is two-part. One is about doing our business there, and the other part is about the rest of my stay with my cousin. 

At Asakusa with my pretty cousin

Here is a video of our participation at the Philippine Expo 2022, the first of my two-part series for this trip.

(I will update this blog after finishing a two-part video).