It's just a little after noon here and I've already had a pretty productive day. Considering I've gotten in the habit of rarely being conscious at this time of day, I'm pretty pleased with myself.
The reason for my early start was that I had to apply for a Russian visa and the embassy is only open from 9.30 to 12.30 M-F, but not on Russian national holidays. If you look into getting a Russian visa it seems like quite a daunting tasks. The requirements vary by consulate and a lot of it seems to hinge on paying some middleman to provide various paperwork. Also, the US citizen application requires a lot more information than the application for other nationalities. They want to know where you went to school and who you've worked for. Also, it's best not to be a drug addict.
I was up at about 8.30 making sure I had all the forms I could possibly need. Tourist invitation form: check. US citizen application: check. Regular form for the embassy in Japan (just in case): check. Extra passport photos (conveniently there are passport photo booths near many convenience stores in Tokyo): check. Blank backups of everything (in case I filled something out incorrectly): check.
I get off at the subway station closest to the embassy around 10am. It's raining and I immediately get lost and wander off in the wrong direction. Half an hour later, I finally get to the iron gate in the wall with a plaque that proclaims it to be the Russian embassy. The gate is closed. I curse myself for not looking up the Russian national holidays.
But then I notice that an inner door is open and discover that, while closed, the gate is not locked. I let myself and follow the arrow through a narrow, winding entryway towards the visa office.
On the door to the visa office is a sign proclaiming that "we will be using a new visa application starting this Wednesday". No date is given and it's impossible to tell how long the sign has been there. This seems like a bad sign.
There's no one waiting in the office and just a single man sitting behind a bank teller-esque window. I approach and state that I'd like to apply for a visa. He slides open the exchange tray thing. While I wouldn't call the man friendly, he speaks fluent English and is probably more helpful than most American government employees I've had to deal with.
During the 5 or 10 minutes he looks over my application a Russian woman joins him at another teller window and a few people come in to pick up forms and such. The man seems satisfied with my application, asks when I need the visa by and hands back the unnecessary Japanese form and a ticket. He tells me to take the ticket to window 3. I'm a bit confused and ask if I return later with this ticket. He says "No, take it to window 3 now" and points to the woman sitting 2 chairs away from him in his small room.
So I take the ticket move over two windows and give it to the woman. She requests 4100 yen and gives me a receipt instructing me to return in two weeks. When I emerge from the visa office, I'm pleased to find that it's stopped raining.
Since it's now pleasant outside and I'm nearby, I decide to head over to the Reiyukai Shakaden Temple. Leo and I discovered this strange/cool temple the day we went to the Tokyo tower. It's visible from the Tokyo Tower and stands out b/c unlike most temples, it has modern architecture and looks kind of like a space ship. This picture doesn't really do it justice since you can't see the top half.
Anyway, the day we went by it was closed for the evening, but I got to go inside today. The inside is at least as impressive as the outside with lots of marble and a giant main room with some people meditating on benches.