Although I had planned on arriving in Japan on September 1st, the process of securing a visa has delayed those plans. The timetable for applying, being accepted, worrying about visa papers, registering, finding a place to live, paying tuition, etc. has been extremely compressed. I'm not sure how everyone can keep up with this pace, it requires several communications per week with the school. The visa process works like this. Once I fill out paperwork about myself; my family; references; ability to pay the tuition; photocopies of such things as passports; and additional pictures; I am then forced to wait for the school to apply for a Certificate of Eligibility on my behalf, and then to have that shipped to me. There is apparently no way to get the proper visa without that certificate, and no way to speed up the process. I can't even go to Japan on the normal three month tourist visa, and then get the visa changed to the student visa status according to the Japanese Consulate here. Once I receive the certificate, it will be another week while I wait for the Japanese Consulate to actually issue my visa.
It's difficult because with all of the unknowns, I haven't been able to nail down a date of departure, which means that my tickets are going to become more and more expensive. I'll probably just try to guestimate a date, and make a reservation which can be held for three weeks. At least I have the possibility of guessing right and paying less in that case. I asked if I could make two reservations and then cancel one of them, but unfortunately the travel agency said I couldn't. I'm planning on using this agency (http://www.sankeiseattle.com/). If anyone has suggestions for a different one I'd appreciate it. I have nothing against Sankei Seattle, I've used them before and they were great. I just like to have alternatives.
I'm having problems finding an apartment there before I go too. The school even recommended one to me, but then I haven't figured out how to setup a lease while I'm still in America. I'm working with one of my professor's graduate students right now, so hopefully he can help me out. Also, there is this weird requirement that my registration papers be handed in, in person. I'm not allowed to mail my papers directly to the school unless I am getting a doctorate degree. It seems like an odd requirement, that I have to find someone who lives near the school in Tokyo and mail them my registration packet so that they can then turn it it.
Despite all of these difficulties, I'm still very excited about going. I wish some of these obstacles would get resolved a little sooner, but I'm fairly immune to stress so it's not a huge problem for me. Also, this Friday is my last day of work, so I will finally have some time during the day to sort these sorts of issues out.