Author: Karim Moutchou
Editors: Akihiko Ozaki M.D., Yuki Senoo
In August 2018, I was honored to be invited to Japan by the MRIG group for 3 weeks. In my previous articles here (My clinical exchange experience in Japan, Visit to Fukushima Prefecture), I detailed the main goals of that tour and what I learned. It was a great pleasure to learn at Juntendo University Hospital and Kobe Medical Center and visit institution near Fukushima. Moreover, I was pleasantly surprised that my trip’s positive impact continued for a long time after that because of the Japanese visa that allowed me to enter the country.
I am Moroccan, and the Henley Passport Index ranks our country’s passport as one of the weakest worldwide. A passport’s strength is measured by the number of countries that a holder can enter without a pre-delivered visa. For example, a Moroccan passport holder such as myself can visit fewer than 70 countries without a visa.
In contrast, Japanese passport holders can visit over 170 countries without a visa, which is the largest of any passport worldwide. For this reason, Japan ranks first in the Henley Passport Index. This indicates that the vast majority of Japanese travelers do not require additional documentation to enter any sovereign nation except some unstable regions around the world.
When I was in Japan, it surprised my Japanese friends when I told them I had to apply for authorization to travel. I explained to them that it is increasingly difficult for people from third-world regions to travel. The process varies from one destination to another. I had to apply for a passport every time I left Morocco, and it has always been a severe financial and logistical inconvenience for my family and me. The fees can be as high as 350 USD for some countries, and candidates must provide a dossier of various documents such as bank statements and work or study certificates.
Any visa request can be rejected for many reasons, and the consulate usually has no legal obligation to inform the applicant of the reason for refusal. However, everyone understands that the rejection or acceptance depends on the extent to which the state trusts that the visitor will not disturb the public peace and respect the period stated in the recognition. This system is based on multiple factors, including financial resources, professional status, and the reason for the tour.
One crucial factor is having other visas guaranteed by that country or other first-world countries. That is how having a Japanese visa helped me for more than a year after my visit. I had to apply for 3 passes, and I visited 7 countries, all in the EU, after my trip to Japan.
The first time I noticed the privilege of having a Japanese visa in my passport was when I arrived at the port of Tarifa in Spain by ferry from Morocco. When the police officer checked my documents at the airport, he stopped at the page with the Japanese visa. He asked when I went and why I visited Japan and then shortly after my brief answer he stamped my passport. This immigration process was by far the shortest I ever experienced.
In addition, after my visit to Japan, every time I applied for a visa to visit other countries, it went quite smoothly, as all I was ever asked during the interview was about my trip to Japan. Embassy workers in the 3 European countries expressed positivity about my having visited Japan. The experience was similar every time I passed through any passport checkpoint or immigration office.
It has become clear to me that having a Japanese visa in my passport helped me a great deal after my trip. Japan’s high standards make its visa reliable and trustworthy for other countries.