Greetings from Narita, Tokyo!
My flights flew and landed smoothly, immigration gave me a shiny new ID card, customs smiled at me with amusement for declaring $100 worth of souvenirs I’m bringing in, my dollars have turned into yen, and I’ve made it to my hotel, all while only breaking down into tears once! Not bad for a first day, I think :-P.
I’m fairly certain crying in front of skilled and efficient Japanese office workers is not dignified, even if they are friendly. In my defense, I’m a little jet-lagged despite the ten hours of sleep I got on the plane, I was disappointed at how hard it is to communicate in a foreign language your first day in that country, it hadn’t hit me yet (still hasn’t) that I’ve moved to the other side of the world, and I was plain overwhelmed. And I might be a little attached to (and feel responsible for) the subject of my lacrimal lament: my rabbit, Tummy (Mr. Tumnus). If you’re a TLDR-type, you may want to fast forward through this part until after the last large quote-thingy below.
Turns out there is a LOT that the internet at large and the telephone conversations in particular do not tell one about importing a pet to Japan. The American side of things I was kind of prepared for, though exasperated by. After researching, emailing, and calling United Cargo PetSafe Shipping, they still managed to misinterpret “LIVE BUNNY” (written by one of their own employees) as “rabbit fur shipment” until my brother straightened them out. Despite appearances, there’s actually much more than just fur to the little fuzzballs, believe me ^_^.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the Japanese side of things! I knew from the maff and AQS websites that the quarantine would take one complete day, and I should plan for the day on either end of that to involve drop-off and pick up procedures. I also knew they only paperwork required was the APHIS-certified health certificate for the bunny, issued within the last ten days. I knew from calling the airport that it would help them if I also faxed it over, which I had. What I didn’t know was what I needed to do, if anything, to get the rabbit into quarantine and where I should go to get him out again. “No big deal,” I thought, “I’ll just ask at the animal quarantine counter after I claim my bag. ^_^”
I asked at 2:00. 3:00 saw me sitting at United Cargo’s offices after several kindly employees found me wandering the labyrinthine streets on the backside of the airport. Tummy’s flight was to arrive at 3:10. At 3:45 the other Animal Quarantine Office called the United Cargo Office to say they had no clue who I was and that I needed to fill out some paperwork. At 4:30 I was signing paperwork there and thinking that my friend Judy was landing and would need to be met at the other terminal soon, and that I had no way to let her know where exactly to meet because of a lack of wi-fi (I’ll have to write on the pros and cons of not having a foreign phone plan sometime). At 4:45 the Animal Quarantine Service told me they close at 5:00 and it was too late for the rabbit to get in, so he’d have to wait until the next day and I’d have to pick him up on Friday (I’m supposed to move-in two hours away from here on Thursday). At 4:55 I was back in the United Cargo Office calling AQS about what they would charge to care for the bunny an extra day, if there was any way they’d change their minds, who was going to feed him that night (“Can’t you do it?” the lady asked. “Can I? Am I allowed to see him?”), and if he could possibly be let out of his crate sometime in the now three-and-a-half days he’d be confined. At 5:05-ish I burst into tears, at 5:15 the nice lady brought me to the animal holding room to pet and feed my bunny (he was fine and well-tended by United PetSafe, for which I am very grateful to their people ^_^ ), and 5:38 saw me being shown to Terminal 2 by the same very nice United Cargo lady (who speaks English and is sympathetic). By 6:00PM I had learned that Judy’s flight has shifted to where she’ll get in tomorrow instead, so she wasn’t lost somewhere on the busy streets of Tokyo. Tummy will stay at United Cargo overnight. I should get to see him again in the morning as I hop through more hoops hoping to get him properly quarantined and back on the road with me again.
So, here’s the question this has raised in my mind after my tears had a little time to dry — what was the point in crying? I honestly didn’t feel that emotional. Just disappointed things didn’t go my way. I knew that the Knoxes would be understanding of the delay, despite the inconvenience, I knew that I’ve got a comfy and secure hotel with good rates, I knew that Judy won’t mind the extra day shaking off jet lag and seeing a bit of Tokyo before we head on to Moroyama, I believed and still believe that God is watching over me and has shown that He’s got all this covered, and I know everything will be fine. I wonder if my calmness and humble acceptance of the situation, instead of tears and expression of confused frustration, would have brightened or uplifted those employees’ days? When and why is it ok to cry, and when does it just get in the way of adulting?
And for those of you shipping a pet to Narita:
- Fax a copy of the APHIS-approved recent health certificate along with a cover letter AND a quarantine form to the terminal quarantine service and to the other quarantine offices as well.
- Pack extra food for your pet and send it with him.
- You will need to show up in person at the appropriate company’s Cargo bay — if possible before your pet does.
- You will then be accompanied by representatives of the cargo company to the Animal Quarantine Services — Be ready for a LOT of walking! Pack light.
- Memorize your new address and phone number beforehand. Have all information about you, your pet, your flight, and the pet’s flight handy.
- Allow 2 hours during the work day for your pet to be checked in to quarantine.
- Be flexible in when you can pick your pet up. Allow extra time for everything.
- Expect extra charges.
- Be kind to the workers. They are doing their best and they will take the time out of their own days to walk you through things, even if it is not their department and they were on their way somewhere else.
- And, if possible, try not to cry. ()^_^